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.