Across The Universes: Cross-Server WoW

By Alec Meer on May 18th, 2011 at 8:21 pm.

What next - goblins laying with gnomes?

Splitting players into different servers has always been one of the strangest decisions an MMO can make, even if it’s obviously an entirely practical one. We hear all about WoW’s 11-odd million subscribers, for instance, but it’s not like it’s a virtual world populated by 11 million people – instead, it’s a series of clone-worlds with a few hundred thousand folk trotting about. A few games have, of course, gotten around it in various ways – most famously and effectively Eve’s division of system in shards, but others have various instancing or the option to switch between servers on the fly. It’s perhaps too late for WoW to do that, but what it has now introduced is the option for players from different servers to meet for the same dungeon. No matter where you’re from, no matter who you are, you’ll be able to beat up trolls skeletons together. Join hands across the worlds, everyone.

It all happens via Battle.Net’s RealID system (no, not the controversial real names stuff, just the cross-game/server Blizzard login thinger), and allows for five-person adventures in supported dungeons. There’s a controversy, of course. There’s always a controversy. In this case, it’s that this will be a ‘premium’ feature, requiring extra real-world monies paid on top of the standard WoW sub to access it. On the plus side, only the player inviting others to his dungeon of choice need be paying for the service so it’s not going to be a five-way wallet-raid. It arguably seems a bit rich to ask for money to play a multiplayer game with other players, but then Blizzard’s always asked a fee for folk to transfer their characters across servers, so it’s hardly unprecedented.

Anyway, here’s a Blizzard official forum mod blokey’s description of the planned service:

“With the continued popularity of the Dungeon Finder, many players have been asking for a way to group up with real-life friends who play on other realms to take on instances together. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about a new feature currently in development that will allow players to invite Real ID friends of the same faction to a party regardless of the realm they play on, and then queue up for a 5-player regular or Heroic dungeon.

“As this is a fairly complex service to develop, we don’t have a release date to share quite yet. It’s important to note that as with some of the other convenience – and connectivity-oriented features we offer, certain elements of the cross-realm Real ID party system will be premium-based, though only the player sending the invitations will need to have access to the premium service. We’ll have more details to share with you as development progresses.”

I have mixed feelings, and the WoW forums seem to replicate that. I’m no fan of games attaching an extra price tag to features – and especially when it’s a feature that should really be an inherent part of a subscription-based massively multiplayer world anyway – but I would absolutely have killed for this service back when I was deep into WoW and had friends on distant worlds I longed to /dance with.

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65 Comments »

  1. The Hammer says:

    One of the things that irks me about this the most is the fact that Blizzard are using almost every available avenue to charge their customers more and more money. If they can attach a price tag to it, they will. It is a way of treating customers as statistics, by rarely, if ever, handing out freebies.

    Blizzard’s philosophy (and, if you follow the greed trail, Activision’s philosophy) seems to be that, if you want extra stuff, you pay for it. Contrast that with indie developers, Valve, or Bioware (who recently gave a free copy of Mass Effect 2 away to everyone who bought Dragon Age), and it’s a totally dislikeable system. You cannot separate the ‘money making business’ persona from Blizzard.

    • PanzerVaughn says:

      Alot of studios seem to be giving away free games, or cycling through discounted sales and bundles of stuff recently. (There was a weeklong sale of EA games on steam, right after they announced they had lost several billion in profits that year, or some such)

      My assumption was theyre trying to eke money out of people that would normally just go without, because theyre losing money.

      WoW is raking in the dollars, so they dont NEED to discount shit to try and coerce you to buy it. You’ll buy it anyway.

    • The Hammer says:

      I totally don’t think they’re losing money. No, no, no. There is nothing to suggest Blizzard is making any loss at all.

      I just think that the exchange of money is part of pretty much every interaction Blizzard has with its customers, and it stinks a bit.

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      I think he meant EA were losing money, not Blizzard.

    • The Hammer says:

      Oh, so he was.

      I AM MR IDIOT.

    • dadioflex says:

      Businesses making money from… customers? What the? Where do they come up with this stuff.

      Still cheaper than Dragonrealms.

    • bleeters says:

      Oh my, yes. Reckless pursuit of ever increasing income never has any kind of lasting consequence.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Well the thing is though, this stuff is by no means necessary and entirely optional. Sure it’s still greedy, but only the people using it are being gouged. I’m not saying I condone the practice but at least it’s not like free to play MMO’s that make you pay money to even be able to seriously make it anywhere or raid in the game, which often ends up more expensive than a monthly fee. So as long as Blizzard sticks to that I don’t really care. Though I would like to be able to do at least a server change without paying, or at the very least something a lot cheaper than $20.

  2. PanzerVaughn says:

    I would be interested, if all my RL other-server friends weren’t all baddies.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      I think it would be really interesting to be able to do cross-faction dungeons using this. Quite honestly if they are charging $7.99 just to use it, they should allow you to do that. That would be more worth the money.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    Does this mean they will soon be removing the region restrictions on SC2? I do not personally know anyone that I can’t play with because of the restrictions, but I do know that there are a few EU RPS players and a few US RPS players, which would make some RPS players if combined. Ignoring that, it is a ridiculous restriction, particularly when the ancient original let you select whatever region you wanted to.

    As for paying for it, nope. Even more crazy when you already paying a subscription.

    • DK says:

      “Does this mean they will soon be removing the region restrictions on SC2?”
      This. It’s a fucking travesty that so called journalists are sucking Blizzard off over SC2 and don’t have the balls to call them out on this.
      It shouldn’t be surprising but the fact that RPS is just as compliant with it as every other outlet is disgusting.
      “No Oceans on the Internet?” how about calling out Blizzard about people on the internet not being able to play with other people on the internet because they live in a different country instead of publishers releasing a game a week later for some people?

      They are restricting online play in a game that came out in 2011 on a region basis for no reason whatsoever. If you are not calling them out on it and you’re calling yourself journalists YOU ARE NOT DOING YOUR JOBS.

      You’re supposed to be on OUR side, so BE on our side and advocate for the consumer for fucks sake.

    • iviv says:

      Oops, didn’t see this when I replied, I totally agree with you. That said, the RPS article seems to be completely wrong when they talk about cross server WoW, I don’t see anything like that in the article. It seems to talk about cross-realm. As in realms but all on the same server, ie Europe.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      Region locking is, at least in part, due to the payment plans for SC2- in certain regions, SC2 was released as a ‘pay as you go’ service, with Singleplayer and Multiplayer being sold seperatly, as well as Multiplayer being offered as a subscription based servce. This was to compensate for the fact that alot of people in other countries simply do not have 60 USD to spend on videogames.

      Furthermore, different countries have different regulations reguarding online content, and lets be honest- Activision Anti Piracy had some involvement too i’m sure.

      Reguardless, region free multiplayer is a bit more complex than region free distribution.

      That, or they just wanted to give people in the US a chance to feel good about themselves before getting crushed by Koreans in the tourneys.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      @TsunamiWombat: I don’t see where that’s not Blizzard’s doing. Hence why they could not have done so differently. Or why it’s a valid complaint to not do it at some point in the future. Let people play together.

  4. Jumwa says:

    What the heck else are you paying $15 a month for if it’s not this? This is a basic function to connecting friends with each other to play their game. Isn’t that the whole point of their game?

    Most MMOs don’t even charge for what they already do and either earn their money from micro-transaction vanity items or initial/expansion purchase fees. WoW has initial fees, expansions, monthly fees (multiple ones now for various features like the mobile auction house which other MMOs provide as part of the basic service) and sells you vanity items that used to be part of the monthly fee but have dried up since they realized they could make people pay even more for them.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Ahh, but that’s it you see, other MMOs have micro-transactions, WoW has macro-transactions
      ;)

    • Jumwa says:

      Well played!

      At this rate they’ll make up for all the bungling and loss of customers by bilking the entrenched hardcores for endless amounts of fees.

    • afarrell says:

      There is, in fairness, no indication that this is a separate premium fee to the mobile-related one.

  5. Serious J says:

    For the low low price of $7.99 and your dignity

  6. Alez says:

    Oh my god, Blizzard are taking notes from the assholes that make World of Tanks.
    You need premium account in order to play with your friends. Just like here, the premium guy can invite non premium but it’s still insane to pay monthly(or in wow’s case, pay extra besides the monthly fee) just if you wanna play with a friend…in a multiplayer game.

  7. Duffin says:

    It seems almost deliberate this post was juxtaposed with the Guild Wars one below ;)

  8. cmc5788 says:

    I don’t see how they can reconcile making this feature “premium” with their policy of wanting to make their games more social. What’s more social than being able to easily play with your friends?

  9. Freud says:

    This is why I don’t think Blizzard are particularly worried about losing a few subscribers. They charge money for what should be included in the game. Server transfers, name changes, this, pets and god knows what else.

    I have to admit I am a bit worried about Blizzards attitude of coming up with ways to charge money from their players. I think it is bad news for the players of Diablo III. Hope I am wrong.

    • The Hammer says:

      Ugh. I hope you’re wrong too. :(

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      There was a quote, must’ve been about six months ago, where Jay Wilson (I think) was talking about the need to “monetize” Diablo 3 and Battle.net. Doesn’t bode well.

      It’s like somebody says “look, we can make more money if we do this and this”, and nobody makes the point that “yes, but it will make us look trashy and cheap, and gradually squander a fair bit of goodwill”. Even if it’s trivial crap like Portal 2′s store, it tarnishes that premium brand image which Blizzard, Valve, and BioWare once had.

      Yes, games are fundamentally commercial, and that’s fine. But we’re veering rapidly towards the crass end of that spectrum.

    • Rii says:

      I don’t particularly object to charges for server and name changes. Players should be discouraged if not actively prevented from doing such things too often, and of all the ways of doing that one can hardly blame Blizzard for opting for the method that also makes them money.

      This is certainly beyond the pale, however.

    • lamzor says:

      i sure hope there will be hats in diabloIII !

    • ScubaMonster says:

      In regards to Jay Wilson’s comment:

      “Diablo III director Jay Wilson said today that the company does not have a great desire to charge a subscription fee for the upcoming revision of its multiplayer client Battle.net. However, the developer did note that Blizzard will likely monetize unknown features of the game.

      “We are going to monetize features so that we get to make them,” said Wilson. “We kind of have to.”

      Wilson noted that whatever the content would be, it would have an appropriate value to users.”

      To me that doesn’t sound like fees for battle.net. Not that I think whatever they are doing will be good, but it sounds to me more like secondary features not necessary to enjoy the game, which is kind of what they are doing here with WoW. Greedy? Yes. Important features vital to the game? No.

      Of course, the article I quoted states “no great desire” which can be interpreted any number of ways, which I think is poor journalism. They didn’t bother to clarify what exactly was said concerning that. If they are going to throw something like that out there they needed to provide a direct quote so it wouldn’t be taken out of context.

  10. Joof says:

    While I agree with charging for server changes and what not, because they limit people’s behavior, I can’t say I like a charge for this. This is kinda lame.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    As long as they don’t let us pay for content (extra BG, zones or instances/raids) or player progression (levels, items) I’m not bothered that much.

    • lonesock says:

      You mean like buying 3 expansion packs?

      (They see me trollin…)

  12. Howl says:

    Borg-like, Blizzard assimilates another MMO’s “good idea”.

    It’s an especially good idea for WoW as it’s not been ‘massively’ multiplayer for years. The servers are glorified lobbies for mini-games so they might as well let you team up with the other 11 million that play.

  13. trjp says:

    It’s important to remember that realms exist because it would be physically impossible for a game like WoW to work without them.

    Think of it this way – each player exists in a microcosm, a circle (usually) where he’s the centre and the radius is the distance he can see players, NPCs, monsters etc. Every time a player’s ‘circle’ overlaps another, the server must update all ‘overlapping’ players with each other’s position/actions and the status of enemies and NPCs they may be interacting with. Now imagine a city centre with 100s or even 1000s of people – and every single one must update every single other one if they start walking, stop walking, dance, attack, whatever – that’s a LOT of data and the server will slow down, stop, break…

    The alternative approach is only to instance meeting places/busy areas BUT this means that the ‘world’ you’re exploring won’t always be the same ‘world’. You can even go as far as Guild Wars – but then Guild Wars is not an MMO, the world is not persistant, you get a new copy everytime you leave the city.

    I actually quite like the realm system, they’re just big enough (when the population is active) to keep you playing and yet most servers have a bit of a family atmosphere as you see players you recognise/met/quested with etc. over time. I was a DraenorDrama man myself – and I miss the place

    Anyway – cross-realm battlegrounds have been around for years and it’s EXACTLY the same technology on offer here (create an instance, populate it with players) so the idea of charging for it is a pisstake.

    This charging nonsense is Activision at work IMO, Blizzard would never have considered charging for it, would never have sold ringtones, charged for the Armoury App or offered things like faction change either. I’m just amazed we don’t have “Level 85 – £99.99″ yet…

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Hell, cities are already laggy as hell as it is. Adding hundreds of players in a single realm would completely lock up the game, not to mention questing would be near impossible.

  14. shagen454 says:

    The problem with Blizzard is they know they can charge and get away with it. For instance, if you go into Best Buy you can still buy the Diablo 2 set for like $20 or $30. I’m pretty fond of that game and of course have lost Diablo 2 twice. They probably have it on Bnet these days so it will be attached to my login but I know I’ve paid for that game twice – most games disappear or go down to $5. Not Blizzard games – they know they’re games are quality and people will pay.

    Though, these days the only reason to play WoW is to help me fall asleep. But, I have found something better to go to sleep too – ambient tracks of rainwater in a forest.

  15. Allegos says:

    Let’s see. Not only does cross-server matchmaking within a Battlegroup already work for free every time you sign up for a Battleground or a random dungeon, but chat with RealID friends and Bind-To-Account mail to yourself already work for free across the Battlegroup barrier. So what is there to pay for, exactly?
    Even to give the Blizzard techs, who have better access to the game code than I ever will, the benefit of the doubt: this feature was a free part of Battle.net during the Diablo II days. Did they break it? Did the people who got it working the first time move on to work for other employers? Again, what is there to pay for?

    ETA: After looking at replies, I may have been mistaken about the ability to mail Bind-To-Account items across servers. I’ve never used heirlooms myself, I’ve read Blizzard posts about working to make that happen, and I probably got my wires crossed. It’s all timey-wimey and spacey-wacey.

    • Joof says:

      You can’t mail cross server. You’re limited to your server for mail.

    • The Hammer says:

      Uh, yes you can Joof: with heirlooms and bother Bind On Account items.

    • Icarus says:

      @ The Hammer

      No you can’t. Bind on Account items are still limited to characters on the same realm, just not on the same B.Net account. So I could (for example) mail heirlooms between my Alliance character on one account and my Horde characters on the other, but only if they’re both on the same realm.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      In order to transfer Bind on Account items you have to do a server change. There is absolutely no cross server mail. You said cross battlegroup… do you mean cross faction? That’s different. If you meant cross battlegroup as in server battlegroups, then no.

  16. Bilbo says:

    Fucking ridiculous that this is going to be a “premium feature”. Shove it blizz.

  17. iviv says:

    Forget cross server WoW, when am I going to be able to play Starcraft 2 against my friends in the US, as we were promised? :(

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      Wait, you can’t do this? Really? Owned.

      Your ass – by Blizzard that is.

  18. Metonymy says:

    We all want to support good games, but the bottom line is that Blizzard is a money machine now. SC2 was the first game of theirs that was crafted out of brand recognition (and esport money) rather than creativity and love. It should serve as a wakeup call: the glory days are over, the parasites have gained territory.

    The only way to shut down Blizzard permanently is to stop buying their games, especially subscription services. (This would be a smart idea even if they were the best developers on earth: A WoW subscription is $180 a year, plus box expenses.) The truly great developers won’t suffer, they will still have great jobs, lots of money, and lots of opportunities. They do NOT need Activision, or you, to make great games.

    Pirates may be thieves, but they also vote with their wallets, and I believe they are right about not paying money for crap. I will not pay for something unless it is actually worth what they are charging.

    • Thants says:

      We all want to support good games, but the bottom line is that Blizzard is a money machine now. SC2 was the first game of theirs that was crafted out of brand recognition (and esport money) rather than creativity and love. It should serve as a wakeup call: the glory days are over, the parasites have gained territory.

      I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. You don’t have to like SC2, but to suggest that it’s just a cynical cash-in with no love in it is just absurd. And you calling for Blizzards demise because of it is straight-out trolling.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Shut down Blizzard by not buying their games? That would work really well, just like that really effective Modern Warfare 2 boycott. Whether they are starting to nickel and dime doesn’t change the fact that they produce top of the line games. And to be fair, the stuff they charge for is entirely optional and in no way affects the game experience or enjoyment of said game.

  19. Rii says:

    I’m with the pitchfork brigade in this instance: this is naked profiteering. And it’s only going to get worse as the subscriber base declines and Activision demands that more and more be squeezed from those players remaining. Of course, we all know what Princess Leia said about that.

    @Metonymy: if you are the Haply I’m thinking of, you might remember me from the Mage forums as ‘Prejudice’. =)

    • Metonymy says:

      Yeah, its me. I quit, not when I got tired of the game, but when I was getting lengthy bans for every other forum post I made. Apparently the ‘do not ban this troll’ mandate was no longer being conveyed to the PR grunts. I swore to take indifferent vengeance upon them, then moved on.

      It’s taken me months to catch up on other games I’ve missed due to WoW, but very soon now I’ll need a new MMO to terrorize. As long as it has a simple and consistently effective class, populated primarily by bland and uncreative players, I’ll be able to focus my rage and contempt in a meaningful fashion.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      I can’t say Blizzard is in the wrong for banning you without seeing what you posted. If you posted things in a constructive manner, you wouldn’t have been banned. Not saying they never make mistakes but getting banned every other forum post sounds like you were in the wrong. They’ve always banned trolls and they should. No forum should let trolls run rampant, though I know there are still plenty of trolls running around, but many more are banned now than they used to be.

    • cmc5788 says:

      Hark fellow oft-banned mage forum buddies.

  20. aerozol says:

    As long as people give them money for it, they will keep charging for it.
    I can’t 100% say I would do differently, even if I had a choice, which Activizzard don’t, because they’re a business with shareholders behind them, which narrows their obligation down to: make money.
    People on RPS obviously are long-sighted enough to vote with their wallets, but it’ll be interesting to see if the general gaming populace will have the foresight to do so too, as time goes on/ this becomes more predominant.

  21. Laephis says:

    So glad I’m done with this game, as are my group of close friends. I have no intention of rewarding this company with even more of my money.

  22. Premium User Badge

    tomeoftom says:

    Solution: do not play World of Warcraft.

  23. bleeters says:

    From the lightning and the tempest, ArenaNet deliver us.

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      Chants in response: “From the World and the Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 deliver us.”

  24. Leelad says:

    I can’t see how it’s complicated for them to implement when the dungeon finder is already cross-realm.

    Quite obviously actinazis are reeling from 600k less subs.

  25. Wyrm says:

    Doesn’t matter, despite many improvements I tired of Cata very quickly and now I’m just looking forward to GW2. My sub, along with the extra I pay for the remote chat / auctionhouse app, is soon to be terminated. This insistance on paying extra for every tiny little thing has certainly helped to finalise that decision. Blizzard are too greedy for their own good.

  26. bonjovi says:

    It’s normal business practice. You have reached a peak of subscribers, now you need to sell them value added services, nothing wrong with that. If you buy a car you have option to pay more for leather seats and what not. Why should it be different for games?

  27. ScubaMonster says:

    “It all happens via Battle.Net’s RealID system (no, not the controversial real names stuff, just the cross-game/server Blizzard login thinger)”

    RealID includes real names, so I’m not sure what you mean. Yes, only your friends (and their friends) can see your name, but still though.

    • pirusu says:

      They actually changed it, so you can set it so friends of friends cannot see you.

  28. pirusu says:

    I don’t see what the issue is, honestly. They aren’t forcing you to pay. It isn’t changing game play.

    “But, my friends! I should be able to play with them!” So…transfer to their server? Or have them transfer to yours? That costs money, too, but I’ve seen a lot of posts with people saying “server transfers I can understand)

    Don’t like paying money at all? Roll a character on their server. Or have them roll one on yours.

    And Blizzard DID give a ton of stuff away for free. Remember how they revamped all the old quests? That wasn’t just change a few words here and there.

    And you didn’t have to pay anything for that. You could come fresh into the game from plain old Vanilla World of Warcraft, and had access to all that new content.

    So many self-entitled people!

    • Deano2099 says:

      It wasn’t free. It was £8 a month. Not free. That’s the thing, I don’t mind paying for this stuff, but I already am.

    • pirusu says:

      Deano: Fair point, you’re paying for the re-done stuff in your subscription fees. But they could have done what they’ve always done, and leave everything but the new content alone.

      It’s not like they’re giving you the Final Fantasy XI system where the server you wind up on is random, and then saying “oh, but if you pay us extra money, you can totally play with your friends now.” You can play with your friends without paying any money.

  29. Deano2099 says:

    Put me in the WTF? group

    Long time WoW player, recently lapsed.

    Fully supported Blizzard in paid character moves and renames (there’s a time and admin cost involved, and they want to stop people from doing it too much to foster some community).

    I was fine with the $15 rainbow ponies (if people want to pay I don’t care).

    Hell, I’d have gone for this had the reasoning been “cross-server play puts an increased load on our servers, so we’re trying to discourage it by charging, while still keeping it as an option for those that really want it”.

    But development costs? Fuck off. Release another $15 flying mount and make a few million in a few hours, then spend that on developing this. Or stop developing something else and do this instead.

    Further, I can see a slippery slope here. If this is some sort of ‘premium sub’ that is 50% more expensive, then where will it stop? I normally hate slippery slope arguments, but if you’re Blizzard, and you’ve made something new and awesome, won’t you stop and ask “so shall we give this to everyone or just premiums?” – it creates a class system in the game and that is unpleasant.