Are Connected Realms the Answer to Population Issues in Warcraft?
Blizzard today announced “Connected Realms“. Earlier when first announcing patch 5.4, they mentioned Virtual Realms, to which I discussed on episode 8 of LowPoPWoW podcast. Connected Realms aim to bring an end to low population realms, while not merging them, it appears Blizzard will be having several (number not stated) connected. These connected realms will act like one realm, while each realm remains its own. On these connected realms, players will be able to access a single Auction House, players from different realms on the same connected realm will be able to join the same guilds and arena teams. Also on the connected realms will be able to team up to run the same Raids, Dungeons, and complete quests.
There is a thriving community of players who enjoy being on low population realms, they like the close knit feeling and self policing many realms enjoyed before the Looking For Dungeon tools were introduced. Other players on low population realms are certainly looking forward to seeing their realms come to life once more, especially those who have stayed on the low population realms due to perhaps financial reasons for not server transferring. Needless to say several low population servers will undoubtedly be split on whether this is a benefit for them or not.
Blizzard stated they are doing this instead of merging because players coming back to find their server missing may be confused, or merging would require some people to be forced into changing their character names or perhaps even guild names as well. This option lets people stay on the realms they have played on since the beginning. Characters on your connected realm, but not part of your physical realm will have a suffix of (#), for example if someone from another server runs into me who is not on the server they will see “Ceraphus (#)”. So players with this option will keep their identity. I am wondering how 2 players with the same character names who join the same guild who are on different physical realms are being handled.
My other questions lie with high population servers, which there are a handful that do experience queue times. Connected realms seem like a solution for low population realms, but maybe not high population realms. Now perhaps pairing a high population server with say 2 low population servers will allow the high pop realm to share resources that are not in use by the low pop realms alleviating some of the queue issues.
Also how would realms be able to relate to connected realms? Will there be connected server group forums on the official Warcraft site? How will recruitment work, or conversation about who is recruiting? Will one be asked to type in the (#) after a name to invite into a guild or to an arena team?
I have a lot of logistical questions around how this will work, but for myself, I see this as a good thing, I feel Blizzard is striking a good balance between server identity and making the world of Azeroth feel alive with a thriving population. Sure some will complain because they don’t want competition for rares, minerals, herbs but I would argue this is a MMO, meaning its a Massive Multiplayer game, this move should bring the massive back to the population. We will find out more about how this feature works in the live realms sometime after patch 5.4 is released, but is this truly the right long term option for World of Warcraft?