A few days ago, Blizzard unveiled a new Mists of Pandaria feature that will in itself redefine the way modern MMORPGs work; Cross-realm zones (follow the link to read the complete FAQ).
In the World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria beta, we’re introducing a new technology that will enable players to meet up and group with other players in under populated areas of the world such as low level zones or areas that other players may have outleveled or moved on from. This technology will allow players to form a group with other players from within a select pool of realms in order to quest just like they normally would while still allowing the social structures of their home realms to remain intact.
The introduction of this feature isn’t a complete surprise to the community since there have been discussions on cross-realm phasing technology ever since this cryptic statement by Zarhym in February:
Having said all that, yesterday we discussed low-population and faction-imbalanced realms with our developers. They have some pretty bold and spectacular plans for addressing this in anticipation of implementing some of the features we plan to in Mists. I just don’t have a lot of information to share with you at this stage of programming and development.
I remember the guys on Legendary came to the conclusion that the blues must be talking about cross-realm phasing technology because everything seemed to be moving towards cross-realm lately (with the LFD/LFR, cross realm grouping, etc) and what else would be “bold and spectacular”? Just merging and/or shutting down low population realms certainly wouldn’t be.
What is this?
Basically there’s been a problem in WoW for many years now (which got worse with the introduction of LFD back in WotLK) that most people spend most of their time in the game inside a city. If you’re Alliance you’re always in Stormwind and if you’re Horde you’re always in Orgrimmar. This is because there isn’t really much need for you to go anywhere else, you can just queue for dungeons, battlegrounds and LFR right in the city.
The effect of this is that most zones in Azeroth feel totally deserted and if you’re leveling up characters through questing then you will feel more like this is a singleplayer game than an MMO… Obviously, that’s not a good thing.
So, enter cross-realm zones. Now underpopulated zones will merge together across realms. Perhaps you’re the only one in Silithus, well, no more. Now there will be at least 2-3 of you! In theory most zones will feel adequately populated instead of totally empty.
This technology also enables splitting of overpopulated zones. So if you’re on a massive realm like Silvermoon (EU) then maybe there’ll be several version of the same zone just for the people on that realm.
Cities well be exempt from cross-realm merging due to them always being popular zones.
This all sounds great right? Sure, a lot of zones will feel more alive now and that’s cool. But this doesn’t really solve the problems of underpopulated realms at all, which is probably what they invented the technology for in the first place.
First off, if cities are exempt from this then my realm will still feel deserted because rarely are there more than 10-30 people in Stormwind (and I hear there’s even less people in Orgrimmar). This also means there’s literally 0 people in the other cities and in most zones and that that the Auction House feels a lot like the Neutral auction house, as in, pretty empty.
If this technology was implemented, we’d not see any more people in Stormwind, the Auction House would remain dead but at the same time there’d be more people in farming zones so there’d be more competition for all types of materials which would make them spike in price even more on our realm or disappear completely which rare materials and/or fish has already.
The one benefit of low population realms is that it’s easier to get rarespawns, but with this technology that will now only be a fading memory. Instead you can expect to compete for rarespawns just in the same way as they do on popular realms.
Cross-realm zones as it is now, will only hurt low population realms, not help them. I beg of you Blizzard to adjust it to prevent the dying realms from taking their last breaths. Add in cities so we can feel like our realms are alive as well and make the Auction Houses be shared across battlegroups or something similar. If people will share the same areas for farming materials then they should share the same market place as well.
What do you think? Will cross-realm zones harm the low population realms? What can Blizzard do to make it better for these realms?