Blizzard Beats Early WoW Blues With Cross-Server Zones

By Nathan Grayson on May 11th, 2012 at 9:00 am.

Victory! Or robo-chicken.
In my more youthful days – back before my body and face began displaying my clear Yeti heritage – I was a dedicated member of WoW’s legions. After a couple years of raiding and impatiently waiting on new expansions, though, I washed out and up onto the shores of games that didn’t consume my every waking hour. Still, it’s evolved into an odd fascination for me – like driving past my childhood home and marveling at how much it’s changed, or something. And I have to admit, it’s pretty incredible how thoroughly Blizzard’s been rolling out the red carpet for old players to revisit their old stomping grounds. But what about new ones?

In addition, of course, to quicker leveling and perhaps too much convenience, Blizzard’s now introducing cross-server zones to breathe some life back into ghost town starter areas. Blizzard explained on WoW’s official blog:

“For many years now, the significant majority of the player population online at any given time has consisted mostly of characters at or near the level cap.  This has resulted in an environment where characters that are leveling up experience a world that has fewer other players to interact with than what the world was designed for. Cross-realm zones give us the capability to ensure that level-up zones retain a population size that feels more like the high level areas of the game, leading to a more fun play experience for characters of all levels.”

“[Precisely which zones will be shared] can vary from realm to realm and relies on how densely populated (or underpopulated) an area is. Capital cities and areas with regularly high populations will not be eligible for area sharing. You’ll be able to interact with players from within a select pool of realms which will make it possible to run into a player in Redridge that you already ran into within Westfall.”

If it all goes according to plan, this could be completely brilliant – not just for WoW, but MMOs in general. Depopulated zones can grind the level treadmill to a snooze-inducing halt, but – in many cases – full-on server mergers would only make the ratio even more lopsided. Now then, if Blizzard can just dream up some tech that crosses Burning Crusade’s zones with, you know, goodness, we might be in business.

 

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80 Comments »

  1. wodin says:

    Is it me or is it really starting to look dated visually?

    I personally would never subscribe to play a game so have no idea on how this sort of game plays out. I do have a feeling though WoW is slowly wheezing it’s way towards either F2P or on a very long and painful walk to it’s demise.

    • Torticoli says:

      It’s always been dated visually. WoW’s engine is basically a modified Warcraft 3 engine, from what I’ve heard. Graphics were never the strong point of that game, and while Blizzard used to be able to hide it with clever art style and design, it’s just not possible anymore. It is just an ugly-looking game.

      Note, though, that the image pictured above only features Vanilla races and zones, whose textures and polygon counts are 8 years old. The current stuff looks way better, even though it’s still way behind current standards.

      • Wreckdum says:

        “If it all goes according to plan, this could be completely brilliant – not just for WoW, but MMOs in general. Depopulated zones can grind the level treadmill to a snooze-inducing halt, but – in many cases – full-on server mergers would only make the ratio even more lopsided. Now then, if Blizzard can just dream up some tech that crosses Burning Crusade’s zones with, you know, goodness, we might be in business.”

        Could be brilliant? Yeah it was brilliant back when arena net started doing it in GW1 and then implemented it into their open world GW2 game… Every time a new AAA MMO is about to drop you see WoW start to absorb all their new ground breaking features. I still remember when WoW blatantly ripped off most of Warhammer Online with Wrath of the Lich King. Most noticeable queuing for a battleground from anywhere, getting experience in BG’s and the death knights death grip was a blatant rip of the White Lion and Marauder ability.

        I’m convinced the Blizzard team that works on WoW has absolutely no creativity left in them. Ever since TBC all their expansions have been stolen features from other MMOs that are in beta.

        • nanowired says:

          Well, considering that everyone who made Blizzard GREAT to begin with has left the company, Yea. No creativity.

        • Nevard says:

          How dare they implement features that everyone loves, they should just leave their game in an outdated and less enjoyable state in the name of artistic integrity.

        • Nevard says:

          How dare they implement good features that lots of people enjoy, they should have left the game in an outdated and less enjoyable state purely for the reasons of artistic integrity!

        • nearly says:

          don’t forget the new achievement system they added which bore more than a passing resemblance to WAR’s Tome of Knowledge. that must have been when they added titles too.

    • Toberoth says:

      Dunno, at over 10 million players I’d say the walk might be long, but it’s certainly not painful (for Blizzard’s wallets at least). But you’re certainly right that that’s a very ugly screenshot. There are areas of prettyness in WoW, even by modern standards, but there’s only so much (admittedly brilliant) design trickery they can do to hide the low polygon count and low-res textures.

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        jrodman says:

        Well….

        In truth, blizzard keeps upping the texture rez, and has repeatedly reworked the world detail — though only once in a really obvious way.

        That screenshot is dire, but with high settings in most locations, it looks a lot better.

        I’m not a wow lover by any stretch of the imagination, either.

    • Shivoa says:

      Screenshot is not representative of current WoW on a modern computer. It will always be a lower poly cartoon drawn world (get hundreds of players in a city area for why you’re never going to see high poly characters or props) but the game was lucky to have specular highlights around launch (I seem to remember it didn’t launch with but the assets were clearly built with that in mind and was switched on early in life) and since then textures have all been up-ressed and reworded here and there and the engine has slowly been upgraded with more modern niceties (projected shadows/new lighting model, dense foliage, dynamic weather, etc).

      WoW doesn’t look incredible but it is a solid stylistic take, if showing a bit of age in the poly counts and some texture work. I really enjoy it in stereoscopic 3D, which gives the low poly style a papercraft feel.

    • Nevard says:

      Don’t take the header screenshot as an example, that looks like quite an old one.
      If you just google Mists of Pandaria you’ll see that they actually have been working on their graphics engine. It’s still stylistic and behind things like Aion and Guild Wars, but it’s by no means as bad as the header picture.

    • AgamemnonV2 says:

      It’s interesting how you think F2P is sort of “the way of the Dodo”. I used to have this same line of thinking and then I took a closer look. Most American MMO markets aren’t going completely F2P, but are using a hybrid model that was popularized by Turbine with their two MMOs (essentially appearing to offer the entire game for free when, in reality, you would either need to utilize the store or you could continue to subscribe). Blizzard is slow on the uptake because it probably believes they would lose money in a bid like that, despite every single sign in the industry telling them the opposite.

      Hell, I’m not even interested in WoW and if it went into F2P I would certainly give it a try. What Blizzard doesn’t realize is that there’s tons of people like me out there that have always wondered what the hub-bub is about but never wanted to shell out the dough to see. Giving people the illusion of the cake when you’re really just giving them a taste goes a long way to drawing in new customers.

  2. Themadcow says:

    How is that going to work with questing? I guess you’ll automatically disband as a party when one of you crosses over into a zone that isn’t cross-server…

    • Obc says:

      the FAQ was posted on MMO. you won’t disband. the group will work just the way it does with RID friends or RaidFinder Grouping. everything is seamless. so no loading screens inbetween. high populated areas like lets say the first month of mop starting area will be split if necassery.

      i really like the idea. leveling is so much more fun when there is someone around.

      • sneetch says:

        Also when there aren’t too many people around. It’s a very good idea.

  3. RF says:

    Oh, yeah, but they’re definitely sitting on 10.5mil accounts. DEFINITELY. Not like they heavily fudged those figures.

    • jealouspirate says:

      Those subscription numbers aren’t just PR that Blizzard is putting out. It’s what they’ve reported to investors at shareholders meetings. Are you really suggesting that Blizzard is outright lying to their shareholders? That is quite illegal, of course. But hey, I get it, it’s cool to hate Blizzard these days.

      • iteyoidar says:

        It’s not uncommon for companies to lie to their shareholders, though in this case it’s probably more playing with the numbers and definition of an account holder than an outright fabrication. But I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

        • nearly says:

          yes, yes, not uncommon to lie to shareholders, this is true and something easy to observe and find documented in the world.

  4. Tei says:

    Theres a alternate universe that want to pug with you. But all these people are squids and his computers are made of jelly.

    *insert here image of tentacle and human hand high fiving*

  5. Sinkytown says:

    This is a cool feature!

    It would serve smaller games well, going some way to remedying the ‘all-or-nobody’ player-base issue.

  6. f1x says:

    Welcome back Barrens chat, time to shine again!

    In a more serious note: This is a very nice feature

  7. Hunchback says:

    To be honest, the idea is brilliant, it’s just too bad that they came up with that so so late… Hope other future games adopt this though, if they will be using a level-based system (boo).

    Zone population is one of the biggest fails in level-based games, and that’s one of the big reasons why games like Ultima Online and EVE will always remain better designed than WoW/Other-Random-Clone.

    • LionsPhil says:

      If I understand what they’re talking about, some other MMOs already do do this.

      Fragmenting the userbase along hard server lines has always been idiotic for a MULTIPLAYER, SOCIAL game because for any nontrivial group of friends chances are you’re not all going to be on the same server.

      • Hunchback says:

        I suppose the server separation was mostly due to technical difficulties. Clustering was not all that popular back in the day when WoW came out. Other games have more or less gone around the empty-starter-zones problem by in-game mechanics, such as actual lack of levels and leveling zones (UO). Others have gone further and actually run their whole playerbase on one huge server AND have the in-game mechanics to make it theoretically worth-while for people to visit all the “zones” of the game world.

        My guess is, in the future online games will be more limited by their design and mechanics than by technology, with the easy access to server farms, clusters, clouds and all that…
        One can almost imagine Battlefield 6 running real world country sized maps with up to 200-300k players per map.

  8. andytizer says:

    This seems like a very interesting way of combating the low zone density issue.

    Blizzard should just take this idea to its natural conclusion.

    New players join clusters, not servers.

    Choose to migrate to any server within that cluster, anytime.

    Implement Diablo III’s Battletags so names don’t overlap.

    • Phantoon says:

      But then they couldn’t charge for server transfers nearly as much at the cost of $55 with a faction switch.

    • formivore says:

      It would be kind of a counterpart to EVE’s time dilation. In EVE once population reaches relativistic number time slows down. In WoW, instead, space would branch out.

      MMOs: tweaking space-time to reduce server load and enhance player experience.

  9. byteCrunch says:

    I do not see why this really matters, it really does not take long to hit 85, 60 takes about 20 hours. Seems a pointless addition, the lower zones are empty thanks to Blizzard’s design, if anything WoW is designed so that more people in a zone makes it worse because they steal your kills.

    • Toberoth says:

      20 hours to level 60? Are you on speed?

      Saying that, I haven’t leveled a character from 1-60 for a few years, so maybe it’s much quicker now, but I remember it taking at least 60 hours or so back in the day, if you’re playing at a normal pace and not rushing through everything.

      • f1x says:

        its not 20 hours I can tell you, but maybe its possible

        but its definitely much, much faster as they reduced XP requirements per level, increased XP gain, etc

        on wow vanilla, of course it could take “months” to level to 60, specially if you were as bad as me regarding gold saving, I bought my first horse at level 50… (avaliable at 40, but 90g..)

        • byteCrunch says:

          Tauren Paladin, took about 21 hours for me to reach 60, of course after Cataclysm, this was just me blitzing zones which is how I level in WoW because there is nothing of interest, also being very efficient with my time, making loops completing as many quests as I could before turning them in. Tauren starting zone -> Silverpine, then just worked my way south through the zones, going back to East/West plaguelands, then Searing Gorge, onto Swamp of Sorrows, then finally Blasted Lands.
          Slowed a heck of alot from 60-85.

          • Obc says:

            but for what reason are you power leveling. if you do it like this of course it will be boring. why not try to explore the world and level along the ride. there are a lot of new funny/epic quests all around the new cata world. of course leveling can be tedious a lot of times, but many of the new stories are really interesting, like illidan stuff in felwood, or the day i met deathwing quest. the nuke quest with garrosh dismissing that one guy xD

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            jrodman says:

            People stop smelling the roses while leveling because it’s the fourth time they’ve done it. No shock.

          • byteCrunch says:

            I didnt do the Felwood quests since I was only in Eastern Kingdoms, but I did do the Day I Met Deathwing, Silverpine has some good ones linking the Worgen in, there are some fun quests I won’t deny, but they are few, for every fun quest there is about 20 grind ones.

            And I was powerlevelling a Tankadin for raiding, as the person above me said this was my 5th character, nothing is that interesting anymore.

  10. Phantoon says:

    Didn’t Arenanet announce Guild Wars 2 was going to do this first?

    • Dominic White says:

      No, GW2 does it much better. You can play on any server at any time in every mode but World Vs World PVP, where you’re locked into representing your home territory.

    • Nerokis says:

      No, not quite. You’re referring to one of two GW2 features:

      1). Overflow servers. This is an anti-queue mechanism. Every zone is instanced, and when a zone is full, you’re thrown into another zone instance.

      2). Guesting. This allows you to play with a friend on their home server.

      WoW’s incoming cross-realm feature primarily solves one problem: underpopulated zones. Neither of the above things solves that problem. Considering the highly social nature of GW2′s PvE, it would actually be pretty wonderful for ArenaNet to eventually incorporate a similar feature.

      • FootlingSummers says:

        I wouldn’t expect them to, not at launch anyway. In GW2, the way your level changes depending on what zone you’re in should largely fix under population.

  11. bobgold says:

    So if you make friends with someone leveling up you have to give up that friendship once you cap out or transfer to another realm.. Sounds like make-believe-mmo imo.

    • affront says:

      Yeah, this.
      That’s why GW2 guesting sounds a whole lot better to me – if they make it work like they said, anyway. Sounds like this’ll end up with people equaling scenery like with the dungeon finder, as chances are you won’t see them again even if it was fun, as actually transferring costs money and leaves your other friends behind.

    • Obc says:

      to be honest, rarely do you keep the firends you leveled with.

      secondly you can still add that person to you realid friendlist and do dungeons and raids with them thanks to crossrealm dungeon/raid stuff.

      above all else its better to have known that person to not ever having known them.

      its not a perfect solution but its still better than nothing.

      • Vorphalack says:

        First, that just not true. Meeting people while questing as a newbie is often the route into a guild with those people. At least it used to be before you could level past 60 in under 20 hours without skipping anything or seeing another player…..

        Secondly, not everyone wants to give out Real ID information to people they only just met. It hasn’t been so long that the Real ID feature has achieved widespread acceptance. A lot of people will never use it around people they don’t know in real life, a lot more will simply never use it at all.

        • drdss says:

          …which is why they’re using Diablo 3 battletags instead.

          You could add friends in the Diablo beta and see them in WoW, but ATM you can’t properly maintain a friends list from within WoW itself. I’m betting very soon after Diablo goes live that will change.

  12. Simon Hawthorne says:

    As someone who has never played a subscription based MMO and only a F2P one for an hour or so, I have no idea what this article is about. I assume it is a good thing though, so well done Blizzard.

    • f1x says:

      In WoW like in many other subscription based MMOs (and some F2P) player base is segregated through multiple servers, since WoW has shitloads of players it has.. I dont know… 70 or 80 servers? maybe not so many now
      anyway the point is in the open world you only share it with players of your server, so this change will implement it so some zones are shared between all servers or a cluster of servers, that will make low level zones less lonely

      I hope you got my explanation ;)

      • Simon Hawthorne says:

        Thank you. Now I see why someone people think it’s not such a good idea!

  13. Bahoxu says:

    Nooooo! Leave my levelling characters alone.

    That copper vein is mine!

    Seriously though, i’m not sure i see the point of questing in a crowd of people from other servers. Its not like there is a need to team for anything while levelling and also not like we are going to form lasting friendships.

  14. Premium User Badge

    jrodman says:

    So when are they going to remove the idea of players being locked to specific servers at all?

  15. Premium User Badge

    Phinor says:

    I don’t like this idea. WoW (to me) was always about the people on your server, the two factions on your server. So what happens when a group of 30 lvl85 horde players decide to take a run at low level alliance zones? Do they end up in the cross realm server with just random people from five different servers? Does every server get alerted about their presence and when five different high level alliance groups join the zone, the zone just splits into two because there was too much people in the zone?

    This feature is just another on the list that has turned WoW into something I really dislike ie. you no longer play with people you know, instead, you have five different LFG tools that automatically put you into groups with complete strangers from servers you have never heard of. You just play the game, do the same twenty dailies, kill some dudes and that’s a day’s work.The sense of server community has pretty much died in the past few years thanks to all these new features and it’s probably the main reason why I no longer play the game.

  16. Lemming says:

    Yeah I’m not seeing why this is a good idea. It’s basically saying the deserts and barrens are about to get a whole lot less deserted and barren.

    They are already teeming with mobs, and that’s always bugged me.

    I’ve always thought a desert zone in a game should be instanced with only 2-3 players max, or whatever group you bring with you.

    Kudos to Blizzard though, they’ve found a way to make fighting over resources and mobs that much harder so the levelling takes longer, while making it sound like they are doing everyone a favour. More sub-time for them I guess!

  17. abraxas says:

    Ah yes, who wouldn’t love the idea of leveling the n-th alt character and instead of being able to blast through the starting quests in a jiffy because you’ve seen them a billion times already, you’ll have to share your quest mobs/quest items with random people from random servers you’ll probably never see again.

    Even for someone who is only just starting to play WoW now (and god only knows why anyone would start playing WoW these days instead of literally any other MMO out there), it’s going to be annoying to sit around and wait for quest mobs to spawn or for the other 200 people to get the hell outta there so you can do your stuff.

    I mean, has anyone seen the starting zones of new expansions when they’re released? A terrible clusterfuck where nothing gets done because there’s 5k people waiting to kill one named quest mob. Who can click on ‘em the fastest?! Always a pleasure. This is what I imagine this to be like, only not for new content but for old shit everyone would rather skip, anyway.

    Just offer people the choice of skipping to level 60 directly instead of trying to rejuvenate the boring and dull early game of WoW.

    • drdss says:

      It helps if you RTFA. From the Blizzard site:

      Q. What about zones that are already overpopulated, like new race starting zones?
      With this technology, we can also flag zones to allow for more than one copy of that zone per realm.
      A: Players on that realm will be split among those copies in order to alleviate problems due to overpopulation. Players won’t normally see or interact with those on a different instance of their zone, although joining a party will relocate all party members to a single instance of that zone.

      Q: I really don’t see any reason to group with others when everything is so easy to do at the lower levels. All these other people will be doing is killing my mobs and taking my resources.
      A: The game is specifically designed with variable respawns, and huge influxes of players on launches. Having very few people in a zone is actually not what the game is supposed to be.

      • abraxas says:

        I just wrote a really long and wordy reply to you but then, at the very end, I decided not to post it because it’s goddamn World of Warcraft and I don’t give a flying fart about that either way. I stopped playing about a year ago and have absolutely no interest or intention on coming back, so none of these changes affect me in any way.

        I think most of the stuff sounds good (especially the “several instances of overpopulated zones” part) but the low-level (0-60) shared zones are stupid and unnecessary and will do more “harm” than “good”.

        If you feel like I should explain myself more then feel free to tell me and I’ll ralph out another longwinded (but more detailed!) reply.

  18. Bostec says:

    A little too late, maybe it would of been good idea a few years ago when you had, you know, eilte mobs and quests you had to group for but now? when its all soloble? Pointless feature.

  19. mjig says:

    I thought this was going to be an announcement for a Progression Server.

    Both disappointed and a little relieved, since I don’t really need to get sucked back into that place.

    Also, this is a horrible idea, WoW’s constant streamlining and destruction of sever communities and its interaction is what made me finally quit. The Dungeon Finder was easily the worst thing to ever happen to the game. Cataclysm’s leveling paths reflected the new linearity of the whole game.

    Everquest felt like a world that players were just thrown into. WoW was a little more streamlined, but still enjoyable, still built up communities, but over the past couple of years it has become a quick jot through the game in a bid to keep players addicted. They may as well just give out instant 85s or whatever the level cap is now.

    • Bostec says:

      The dungeon finder tool really is the worst thing that has happened to the game. Grouping up with random strangers who can’t even muster to say ‘Hello’ Wiping on a boss and instantly 2-3 people just leave the group. I’v had levels of abuse from people because they looked at my gear and I had 2 or 3 gems that were classed as ‘wrong’ in their pig eyes. They shortly left the group after that. The random insults, the pulling of mobs that causes wipes, it goes on and on.

      Back in the day when it was just server side dungons at least you knew who was a ninja, who you could trust, who was good at healing etc etc but now..

      It really has brought out the worst in the community.

      • f1x says:

        Thats sadly true,

        What irritates me the most when I was still playing was the lack of talking, I mean at least a “hello” or a “good morning” would be nice, I dont know.. else I get the feel I’m playing with bots or either creepy psycopaths

        What happened to me once:
        I was the tank and I died on a boss (5 man heroic) some other pro from the group tanked the last 5% of the boss and the boss died, so OK, kudos to him but then the guys just left to the next pull, the priest also, and they didnt even bother to ress me, and I typed “ok, I sucked and I died but could you at least ress me?” and nobody repplied they just teleported to the next zone of the dungeon (it was one of this new dungeons based on teleporting around)
        so basically I left the group and I think that was the last time I played or one of the lasts

    • Mordsung says:

      At this point, the MMO community is a different beast than it use to be.

      The type of people who now populate MMOs make strong server communities a thing of the past. It sucks, but games now must deal with the demographics they have and that means instituting stuff like this else content just doesn’t get done.

      Good server communities are dead. Now it’s about surfing the ocean of piss and trying to have a good time.

      • hench says:

        Yeah, the community has changed. But that’s only because the game shapes the community and thanks to Blizzards design choices it has only gone more and more towards DotA/shit tier community.
        Not all old-school MMOers have abandoned the ship nor do I believe that all new MMO players are of such low quality but there haven’t been any good MMO that breeds a strong community lately.

        • Mordsung says:

          I just believe that these games have permanently changed the MMO community so that there will never be enough good, courteous players on a server to make that community good.

          They will always be outnumbered.

          The only MMO I’ve played recently with a good community is EVE, but EVE is a different beast.

          Hardcore MMOs, with consequences for your actions, generally foster a superior community because being a dick has consequences.

          In a themepark MMO, there will never be a good community ever again.

          • hench says:

            I still think that the game shapes the community and if a new MMO that follows the old hardcore style were to be released and the devs don’t cater towards the newer generation, the fanbase wouldn’t become a cesspool.
            And like you said, EVEs community is still great because the devs stay true to their design.

          • briktal says:

            EVE’s community is terrible. Maybe it’s harder to notice in a game where you never work with random players.

          • Mordsung says:

            Eve’s community is only terrible if you stay quiet and keep to yourself. If you actually communicate with the people around you, you’ll find EVE’s community is quite nice.

            I have never found a community of players so willing to teach a new player the ropes such as I have in EVE.

        • PopeJamal says:

          “Yeah, the community has changed. But that’s only because the game shapes the community…”

          Nonsense. If you take a look at a sample of the internet community at large, go on the official WoW forums. It’s flooded with whiny teens and twenty somethings, grumpy 30-40 year olds, and general run of the mill internet trolls. Blizzard didn’t create these people, and they didn’t create the culture. You know who created the ridiculous lolcat/mad bro/me!Me!ME!!! culture that permeates MMOs today?

          slashdot
          boingboing
          4chan
          digg
          reddit
          lolcats
          and any other “flash in the pan”, “internet darling” social website.

          Blizzard has made quite a few mistakes, but it’s not THEIR fault that we’re collectively a bunch of trolling assholes. That self centered mentality is what drives people on the internet and therefore drives people in internet games.

          The only reason the internet was “nicer” and the community in your favorite game was “better” before is because it was a much smaller group of people overall.

          EDIT: And one more thing: Don’t expect an MMO to foster a “strong community” whenever we don’t have “strong communities” in real life.

          At least as far as the USA goes, the “community” in any urban area with a population that’s equivalent to a maxed out MMO server is complete shit. As a society, we generally don’t value community. Things might be different in other parts of the world, but any “strong community” that develops in an MMO will still be brought down by American asshat culture because we pretty much taint anything we’re associated with.

          So again, your game’s community isn’t shit because of the developers, it’s shit because of the people in the community.

      • JerreyRough says:

        I’ve found SWTOR’s community to be really, really damn fantastic. It might be the gem in the rough though, in terms of server communities in MMO’s today.

  20. Juan Carlo says:

    Yeti heritage?

    Are you saying that you are turning Nepalise as you grow older?

    What does that even mean?

    Your whimsical turns of phrase confuse and infuriate me!

  21. Premium User Badge

    MerseyMal says:

    Dark Age Of Camelot did something similar years ago when they started clustering servers.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Surlywombat says:

    Can’t this been seen as server merge in disguise?

    Merging servers is always seen as one of the big signs a game is in decline, but it necessary for gameplay reasons. It’s been 18mths or so since I was in WoW but even then most realms where skewed to certain factions, its not hard to imagine realms with massive alliance populations having their own Stormwinds but sharing Ogrimmar with a couple of other realms (and vice versa).

    Essentially they can start turning off hardware while still keeping the names in the realm list, even when in effect the realm shares every zone.

    • briktal says:

      I don’t think this, or the other existing cross-server features, are quite the same as server merges or show the need for server merges. As time goes on, fewer and fewer players have any use for the leveling zones, even on “healthy” servers.

    • Nevard says:

      You could say that, but as they recently released server figures still vastly higher than almost any other game around, I’m not sure it’d hold much water :P

  23. cassus says:

    “population size that feels more like the high level areas of the game”

    So.. Essentially empty, then? Last time I played (about 7-8 moths after cataclysm) the servers where I played, super high playercount servers whenever expansion packs hit, were just empty.. And judging by a friend of mine and her guid, people are just sitting around hoping for server merges, cause there’s fricken no one around.

    Only pride keeps blizzard from merging. Maybe also the fact that they have an expansion pack on the way. My guess is they’ll keep servers separated until the pack hits, and 2 months later when all the old players who come back in for a month of two every expansion pack has moved on yet again.. Merging time. They have to do it, or the numbers will just decrese more and more until it’s not even playable anymore. Last time I played I was in queues for BG’s for AGES. Supposedly worse now. Most players are just guilds hanging out, chatting. WoW is like VIMUE at this pount.

  24. trjp says:

    If we ignore those who failed to find the social aspect of WoW compelling and ended up bitter and throwing insults at their ex – what we have here is a lovely idea.

    I dropped back into WoW recently and had a great time – the only reason I didn’t stick around is a growing pile of ‘things to do’ which wouldn’t be helped by wanting “just one more level” right now.

    Knock the figures and the graphics all you like, it’s 7+ years old and it’s still the biggest subscription MMO on earth – it may never be equalled in that respect either.

    The world created was amazing – it’s entirely possible no-one can afford to better it (certainly many, many attempts haven’t even come close).

  25. Moraven says:

    Should have pointed out more than one instance of a zone on a realm, like Guild Wars is based on.

    “Q. What about zones that are already overpopulated, like new race starting zones?
    With this technology, we can also flag zones to allow for more than one copy of that zone per realm. Players on that realm will be split among those copies in order to alleviate problems due to overpopulation. Players won’t normally see or interact with those on a different instance of their zone, although joining a party will relocate all party members to a single instance of that zone.”

    This will be great when the expansion launches. You either had to get ahead of the gold rush or wait 2 weeks so you were not fighting over the same quest mob. They did make a lot of that easier (more than one person can tag the same unique mob for credit, quest mob drops item on ground for all to loot) but this will make it better.

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  27. Dances to Podcasts says:

    The amazing thing here is not the concept of what they’re doing, which as pointed out Guild Wars did years ago. It’s that they’re doing this in the same game they started back in 2004. Other games that want to innovate have to go the sequel route (Guild Wars again…). WoW does it in the same game, the same world, the same code. It’s actually what MMOs promised to be: ever evolving worlds. In every aspect.

    • Shooop says:

      Doing the sequel thing does have advantages – sometimes it’s a better idea to make new code instead of tack more onto old and hope it works OK. And obviously it prevents you from looking more and more like Minecraft every day.