An Open Letter to Blizzard Regarding Connected Realms:
I am a long time player/subscriber of World of Warcraft. I have been playing since November, 2008, which makes me a “Wrath Baby” by online definition. I love World of Warcraft. It is my favorite game, my favorite online community, and a great source of relaxation and enjoyment for me. I wanted to get that out of the way so that you would understand that as a consumer of your product, I feel my opinions about the future development of said product is worthy and should be considered.
Recently I came across more information regarding the exciting ” Connected Realms” feature. I was happy to see that you had come out with some concrete information on such a game changing feature. I had, in fact, asked for more information on the forums in this post just last weekend in this ignored post. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/9572527994 I am not taking it personally, because I did notice that many, many posters on the forums had the same standard questions. I am sure that there are so many that you cannot keep them all addressed. I did see, however, that the same types of questions keep popping up.
~”Which servers will be linked?”
~”Will my _______ server be joined to _________ server?”
~”Will I finally be able to mail my heirlooms across realms?”
~”Will we be able to merge guilds?”
~”Will I be able to send mail to someone on a connected realm?”
These questions should have been addressed with some definite answers in the recent press release. Instead, we received an ambiguous update where we learned that:
1) Virtual Realms are now being officially called “Connected Realms”
2) Players will have a pound sign (#) if they are on a connected realm, as opposed to an asterisk (*) from a CRZ, LFR, or battleground.
3) This action is being taken in response to tie together lower populated servers so that they do not lose their server “identity” but can join guilds and use a merged auction house. (I don’t agree with the part about losing server identity, but more on that in a moment.)
4) It will use the same technology as the Cross-Realm Zones, but you really haven’t figured out the particulars, and it will happen sometime AFTER Patch 5.4 drops.
This type of corporate speak is great for insurance companies, oil barons, lawyers, and politicians. When it comes to an important feature in a community-driven game, a game that is not only purchased but then subscribed to on a monthly basis, then the consumers deserve to have some answers to their questions. “We don’t know yet” is pretty disrespectful.
I’ve worked in the corporate world before. I know how project management proceeds. When a project is in the development stages, then it is kept confidential so that expectations and confusion are not allowed to foster. This is especially important when it will take a long time to develop–or, it will affect a great number of consumers whom are asked to pay for these changes. If someone leaks the behind-the-scenes information, it is only with the blessing of management and only when most of the final decisions have been made. Blizzard, it does not seem that you follow this fundamental project development rule. Things are “leaked” all the time, the players get excited, start questioning or expecting the final product, and then are disappointed when it does not meet those expectations or does not come to fruition at all.
Blizzard, do I really have to remind you about the promised “Dance Studio?” How about updated character models? We were promised those at the last Blizzcon two years ago. New models were coming with Mists of Pandaria! Yay! I deleted a troll druid in anticipation of having updated features similar to The Sims 3. Rift, Guild Wars 2, and most other PC games on the market. I wanted sliders to make her prettier and more original, since there’s only one female troll face that anyone uses. That was the type of technology that we in the community hoped for. I still notice just as much anticipation/discussion about the new models today as there was when this was announced two years ago. Nowadays, however, there’s a cynical tone to these discussions, because players are starting to think that they will never see the updated models.
Instead, we got CROSS REALM ZONES and TRANSMOGIFICATION! (Caps added to echo the excitement and fanfare these features were given).
Transmogging has been a hit in many ways. We are able to wear that armor we slaved for grinding through Molten Core. My mage regularly wears her ICC gear with the same pride that she wore it with three years ago when she earned it. Others have used the old content to challenge their soloing abilities. We routinely go into raids and dungeons that, without the chance that those desired shoulders might drop, we would not have bothered. Transmog has even started side industries for some people as they sell the low-level pieces on the auction house. Yes, this feature has been a wildly popular success.
Cross-Realm Zones have not been as universally popular. Blizzard, you had a nice idea–help low-level servers by joining them with other servers so that they will seem less empty. People can make new friends and work together to take on challenging content. In truth, the technology has been buggy, and communities have been altered permanently. I have only had negative impacts on my game play due to the cross-realm zone feature.
Prior to Mists of Pandaria, I left a server (Turaloyn-US) because I was tired of immature, inappropriate talk in chat. The trolls had taken it over, and I cringed every time I entered a city or a busy starting zone. I found solace in peacefully leveling my toons in quiet areas. The only chat I saw was from people I CHOSE to speak with–my guildies. As my guild fell apart from people leaving the game, I felt more alone. The only people on the server seemed to be the “Trade Chat Trolls.” I left the server to them and found a community I enjoyed on Wyrmrest Accord-US. I spent a great amount of money (over $100–on top of my $15 monthly subscription fee!) to move my toons to Wyrmrest. I joined a guild of supportive, mature people. Trade chat was more witty, and informative, as we talked about (shock!) LORE. Then, Cross Realm Zones dropped in Patch 5.0.4. Wyrmrest Accord, a heavily populated Role Playing Server, was then linked with other role playing servers such as Sisters of Elune, Cenarian Circle, and the most infamous (and highly populated) RP server, Moon Guard. Blizzard, this move seems to show a complete lack of understanding of the servers’ communities as well as a departure from the whole purpose of linking servers together.
- While Wyrmrest Accord’s population was a more mature, more role playing focused community, Moon Guard’s is completely opposite. It’s infamy encourages game play that other server populations usually discourage and report.
- The smaller realms have been swallowed up by two large behemoths.
- If Cross-Realms was truly meant to link low populations together, why would the two highest populated RP Severs be linked?
The community was forever changed. People who had no desire to play on Moon Guard were now forced to play with Moon Guard cross-realm. Slowly, RP all but disappeared on Wyrmrest. Griefing and trolling are now more common occurrences.
My guild fell apart and I was left alone. Friends were playing Alliance Toons on Nordrassil-US and invited me to join them. Since I can no longer afford the high cost of transferring toons, I rolled new ones. I found out that CRZ realms had made an impact on little Nordrassil as well. Nordrassil is linked with more servers than I can keep track of. The starting areas in particular are overcrowded. I have never had to wait my turn to complete a quest, or had to fight for murlock kills in Westfall before. I gave up questing at about level 20 and started soloing dungeons.
Blizzard, something that would be good for you to do is to invest in community managers who spend time playing on different realms and can give you advice on the nature of the communities. When you blend two or more very different communities, then a new community is born. This can be less painful if the “parent” communities are similar. When you take two very different personalities and force them together, there will be conflict and animosity. Can you really afford more animosity, Blizzard, with subscription numbers down?
One more suggestion I would like to make is to please be upfront with which realms are being joined. There is STILL, a year later, no definitive list of the realms joined together by cross-realm zones. It is safe to assume, with the limited knowledge that we have about Connected Realms, that they will draw from the CRZs. In theory, Nordrassil will be connected to Korialztraz, Norgannon, Nessingwary, etc. It would be nice to know that for sure prior to the permanent connection. People will roll toons on the soon-to-be connected realms if their own eleven slots are full. Then, they can join their guild, etc when the feature is released. It will even help with heirlooms–if, in fact, we will finally be able to send heirlooms cross-server.
Connected Realms are a good idea and a move towards one universal WoW community. There have been and will be growing pains while this happens. The challenge for you, Blizzard, is to make sure that the growing pains we suffer are easily managed by band aids and aspirin–not something so malignant that we cut the game completely off.