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Patch 5.4 Feature Preview: Connected Realms

Blizzard has released a preview for one of the new features that will be coming out some time after the lauch of Patch 5.4: Connected Realms. Although Blizzard hasn’t directly (and probably wouldn’t) blame it, but with the decline in subscription numbers and the inevitability of realm population decreases, it looks like Blizzard hopes to address the problem of the low population realms with this new feature.

It’s the second feature to be implemented that has a cross-realm feel to it, with Cross Realm Zones being implemented with the Mists of Pandaria expansion. Cross Realm Zones or CRZ was built to populate certain zones with players from multiple realms. This affected most zones, bar major cities and some PvP dedicated zones. However, the feature didn’t exactly get implemented without a hitch and the player population took some time to accept it. Even to this day, not all players are satisfied with the results.

We believe that CRZ was the building block for this new feature in Connected Realms. With Connected Realms, not only will you see players from other realms out in the wild, but now you’ll be able to join Guilds, run the same Dungeons and Raids, Quest together and even share a single Auction House with certain realms. This is all part of delivering a better playing experience for those that strive for the Massive in Massively Multiplayer Online.

It’s not yet known what realms with be connected together, or how many. Blizzard will probably need to assess each realm individually and combine those they believe to be low-pop.

From our perspective, we see it to be a mostly positive change in an ever-evolving community that constantly needs to be addressed. Friends will be able to group up, players will be able to join more active guilds and the community feel that seemed to have wained in recent years should be somewhat restored. Though we’re not without our concerns.

Our number one concern is the effect on the Auction House and the economy. We see this as a double edged sword. First, it may be beneficial to those who like to buy. With more items and more competition, we should see a decrease in prices, so buyers will be able to get more for less. However, the Seller could be the sufferer here, with many more players to compete with on the Auction House, their items may end up having to go for less. This really depends on the items you’re selling of course. I’m in no way an Auction House expert, so we’d love to get other peoples views on this.

Overall, we’re excited about this feature, not so much for ourselves, but for those suffering in those lonely towns on those low population realms.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this new feature. If it experiences the same issues and player opposition that CRZ did, then I’m afraid it may cause more realms to become low pop realms.

Blizzard has provided us with an FAQ, featuring multiple questions that you might ask:

Originally Posted by Blizzard (Source / Blue Posts)

Q. Why are you implementing Connected Realms?
A. As WoW has evolved, we’ve seen players naturally gravitate toward a subset of very active realms, leaving behind lower-populated realms. Due to the massively multiplayer nature of World of Warcraft, certain kinds of gameplay experiences simply aren’t well-suited to a low-pop realm. By allowing players from two or more lower-pop realms to play together, we hope to give more players more opportunities to participate in group-oriented activities, helping to foster a more vibrant in-game community.Connected Realms also allow us to link populations in a way that’s not disruptive to players, and that doesn’t negatively impact players’ sense of identity and character. Other alternatives such as merging realms would require us to force character name changes if there were conflicts, and could lead to confusion for returning players who’d log in to find their realm missing from the realm list. Some players also feel strong ties to their realm’s name or history, and we don’t want to erase that.Q. Why implement this now?
A. Our cross-realm technology has continued to evolve since it was first developed for joining players in dungeons. It’s now at a point where we can create seamless worlds made up of multiple individual realms, and we think there are some really positive benefits to that.

Q. How can I tell if someone is on my Connected Realm, but from a different realm?
A. We want the experience to feel seamless so we won’t be indicating player’s home realms in the game world. In certain places, such as chat, players’ home realms will be displayed next to their name.

Q. Which realms will be connected as Connected Realms?
A. We haven’t decided yet which realms will be made part of a Connected Realm, or which other realms they’ll be connected to, though realms will only be connected to other realms of the same type (e.g. PvE to PvE, PvP to PvP, RP to RP). In the end, we’re considering a number of factors, including Battlegroup, population, and faction balance.

Q. How many realms will make up a Connected Realm?
A. We don’t know how many realms will make up a Connected Realm yet, and it’s likely to differ from Connected Realm to Connected Realm. Our goal is to create a vibrant and fun online experience where you can join guilds, access an active Auction House, and band together to take on group content.

Q. Will Connected Realms have any limitations?
A. There should be no limitations. We want the experience to be seamless, and we expect it work as if you’re suddenly part of a much more active realm.

Q. When will Connected Realms be available?
A. We haven’t yet determined when we’ll be creating the first Connected Realms, but we expect it will be some time after the launch of Patch 5.4.

Originally published on August 16th, 2013 by on HealingWoW.com, Last modified: in the News category/s.

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  • predprey

    Nice article! There is one group of players being left out including me:

    Will Virtual Realms be used to help with faction imbalances on large realms, or just to help out the lower population realms?
    For now, it will exclusively be for lower population realms. Obviously any realm that is already queued or close to being queued isn’t going to be a realm that we want to merge more servers with. It wouldn’t make sense to connect them, as it would create a worse playing experience for everybody. I happen to play on a queued server, and it isn’t super fun to sit there for 45 minutes before you get into the game. For now, it will only be targeted towards realms that need more players. In doing so, we certainly will be looking at faction balance, and trying to use the connectedness to balance those as much as we reasonably can.

    • predprey

      I play on Frostwolf Eu with 800 players on alliance side and about 15-20k on horde. I can’t sell stuff on the AH and I can’t buy stuff. There are no guilds or community. I put all my hopes in the virtual realms just to be let down in the end.qq

    • This is a very good point. Faction imbalance could play a large part in player’s experiences. I can’t imagine what might happen should two or more imbalanced realms are joined. Imagine two 4:1 faction ratio realms connected. The faction imbalance would grow further!

      • Dale Howey

        If you mix a 4:1 realm with another 4:1 realm then the ratio would still be 4:1, doesn’t make the issue any more of an issue although Blizzard would be idiots if they didn’t use this new feature to balance factions.

  • Chickory

    honestly, this entire thing pisses me off, the entire reason i transferred to my server was i enjoyed the small server, i hated the large server, the log on waits and all the people everywhere, i like the fact i can log in and go find 5 or 6 rares in a row and not have competition with them, i like that my server is small enough i can have a reasonable amount of control on my AH, i like that there is less farming competition,

    All in all, i think blizz is being beyond unfair to the population of people that not only play small servers, but play them on purpose, i paid good money to transfer multiple toons to my server, and i want it to stay small, and blizz is just screwing it all up.