Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Private Universe

When Blizzard first announced that Connected Realms (Virtual Realms) was being introduced I was very pleased with the concept, but as time goes by I am starting to have my reservations. I found a blog post titled "Are Connected Realms The Answer TO Population Issues In Warcraft?" expecting to find somebody had done all my thinking for me.  Unfortunately the post although succinctly put, only addresses the reasons and not the implementation.

I say this because on paper Cross Realm Zones sounded like a good idea, but I still dislike the implementation and the results. I think we all know the reasons for the impending functionality, but just for the record, here are my thoughts.

Reasons for Implementing Connected Realms

  1. WoW is still in terminal decline and if the predictions of a Bell curve are accurate then the projected number of subscribers is going to hit 4 Million in another 4 quarters and 2 Million after a further 2 quarters.
  2. Blizzard already have the infrastructure in terms of servers so it is unsure how they will benefit from de-commissioning servers but each server will have a maintenance cost attached in terms of patching hardware updates etc....
  3. A reduction in numbers of subscribers will make the game play of a MMO less Multiplayer and all grouped activities will be become harder to complete.
  4. Discrepancies in server numbers is a problem, and the need to try and balance Horde and Alliance numbers.
  5. Low Population servers have advantages of farming materials but a difficulty in both buying a selling goods in the Auction House.
  6. Higher Population servers will have more competition from Sellers but will also have increased Demand from Buyers.
  7. Merging servers is unpopular due to the requirement of Unique names of players and Guilds, and the bad publicity surrounding realm closures
Freefalling numbers will peak again with an expansion but the trend is a downward spiral

Issues with Cross Realm Zones

  1. Cross Realm Zones were very buggy when first introduced, stories of people plunging to their deaths and game crashes when crossing zones. The General chat - originally was multiplied by the number of Realms combined together. A simple "hello" would spam itself 6 or 7 times.
  2. There is a delay whenever moving between zones, most zones have an artificial cutover between zones which is fine when on the ground but is not very good when on a flying mount. If you want an example of this just fly near the larva flows between zones in the Barrens.
  3. Fights and abuse over farming of lower level resources and Rares.
  4. No accountability or reputation to uphold because you would be unlikely to see them again (lack of community)
You might question why I am even talking about Cross Realm Zones when the topic is Connected Realms. What is a Connected Realm? the Blizzard answer is "Building on our cross-realm technology, a Connected Realm is a set of two or more standard realms that have been permanently and seamlessly 'linked, these linked realms will behave as if they were one cohesive realm, meaning you’ll be able to join the same guilds, access a single Auction House, run the same Raids and Dungeons, and join other adventurers to complete quests." Please note the word seamlessly linked, because CRZ is far from seamless and the all important use of Building on our cross-realm technology. Until this point I liked the idea, now I am having doubts. So what are these doubts?

Issues with Connected Realms

  1. The major issue is the expansion of CRZ technology, It didn't work that well when first implemented, it was poorly tested on the PTR, because by it's very nature it needs multiple realms to be joined
  2. How is the load balancing going to take place, is Stormwind on one realm and Ironforge on another, or does it not matter because nobody is left in Ironforge
  3. Just a feeling that the realms will be stuck together by tin cans and piece of string, as shown up by the implementation of the inhouse voice system. Mumble and Vent manage it at the same time as WoW is playing. If Auction Houses become buggy, the Goblins are not going to be happy
  4. How realms will be connected? we honestly do not know and then we have the issues surrounding dwindling numbers and further uncoupling and coupling taking place to even out the numbers

I would just feel happier if Blizzard shared some of this information with us. It is not like you can opt out of these mergers.



  1. I think certain information like subscribers and server "health" are things that they will never share. There are various reasons for this. One being that they need to make things seem like they are okay to stockholders.

    It would not be in the best business interest to say some servers have less than 5 people in the shrine or stormwind during prime play times. They will always fall back on, we have less subscribers but we are still making money because that is really all that matters from that end of the spectrum.

    From our end of the spectrum, as players, it would also be bad for them to say there are issues like that and release the data. Just check any of the forums around the net and see how many "wow is dying" threads there are on any given day. Add that information to the public and they will be tenfold and it might actually scare people away. They are better off pretending they can fix it.

    I agree with you that the CRZ was horribly implemented. I've made many posts about it. However these new connected (virtual) realms are basically a server merge and if done correctly can at least make it appear that they have stopped the bleeding with a little bit of the good old smoke and mirrors trick.

    In the end, as players, all we will ever really care about is that we have people to do the content with. Until that becomes a problem for most (already is for many) they can keep playing the "everything is fine" card and they will keep playing it as long as humanly possible.

    1. Are you not worried by "Building on our cross-realm technology" statement? based on the last installment of CRZ

    2. Worried, yes. But the only thing we can do is hope that they do not screw things up even more than the CRZ did to start.

      I really wish they would think a little more before adding stuff like this and them delaying virtual realms shows they might be doing just that. So I will reserve judgement for the moment, but I admit I am a little worried.

  2. My main issue with CRZ is that it aimed too low. The only thing it seemed designed to do was to make previous expansion zones feel more "active". Problem is, that activity was the only upside, the downsides were the bugs and especially the increased competition for quest mobs, gathering nodes, etc. That increased competition could only ever hurt you if everyone else in your zone was from another server, it's not like those resources would end up on your AH. It was also only limited to old zones but I wouldn't have minded the ability to have CRZ when standing alone in front of Nalak at 6pm on Tue wishing 39 other people would magically appear and help me kill him. Other servers he's killed as soon as he spawns all the way into Fri night. There's just too much difference between a highly populated server and even a mid-tier one like mine (and mine is literally mid-tier, half the servers are LESS POPULATED than mine... I have trouble even envisioning what that's like).

    The reason I think connected realms could actually work is because it's what CRZ should have been originally. It should, hopefully, be the equivalent of moving to a more populated (but hopefully not overpopulated - no queues please) server without incurring the transfer fee. I don't like the name overlap solution, I'd prefer whoever had the name first gets it and everyone else can get a free change, but most of my names are semi-unique so that shouldn't be much of an issue for me and I try not to argue on behalf of others, maybe they don't care.

    As soon as CRZ went live it meant that all servers were virtualized at that point... I don't think it will change their hardware requirement one bit when they toggle connected realms on. That heavy lifting is already done.

    Blizz has also said that they aren't factoring faction balance into their connected realm decisions, it will strictly be population-based. Most of the imbalanced realms are PvP realms, though, so they'll all end up connected together in some way, things will probably average out somewhat in that process just by random chance.

    I do wish they'd just offer a free realm transfer to mid-tier realms for those at the lower end, from now until connected realms comes in... anyone who doesn't move will just get connected at that point, same as it would be now.