I was listening to the latest Group Quest podcast this morning, and heard DeGei mention the fun and games we had over the Thanksgiving weekend doing some cross-server friends list leveling.

I was on my low level Warlock having a blast, and DeGei was on his Panda Warrior of about the same level. He saw me on, and suggested we group up and run some instances.

On the podcast, he made the point that this is something to be thankful for, that Blizzard has continued to grow the game to this point; that two people can be friends and follow what they’re doing regardless of what server they choose to be on (or originally rolled), and can group up together to run quests, queue for instances, and even do raids, so long as they aren’t current content raids.

I completely agree with DeGei on this. Maybe people take it for granted, or think there never should have been split servers to keep friends apart in the first place, but we are now at a point where if you are friends with people anywhere in your geographical area, you can meet them and play with them in almost everything the game has to offer.

Freaking amazing.

The cross-server raids I’ve been doing have been some of the most fun I ever had in game… at least, until Pandaria came out and kinda depth-charged the concept. Level 90 has made most old stuff so trivial it’s hard to find things for a large group to do.

My point though is I was able to group up with a friend and do some runs together. By the way, DeGei is an extremely good tank. He led two different groups through Blackfathom, and if asked beforehand I would have said I never wanted to do that one ever again. He actually made it fun, by knowing exactly what to do and where to go and how to tank. Such a blessed relief, especially at low levels. And without Heirlooms!

Now, let’s contrast this with last Saturday.

It was time to get our Moguvaults raid going, and we were once again short a ranged DPS. The wondermage that we had was a no-call, no-show, no-mail for the second week in a row.

Now, we asked in guild if anyone wanted to join us to DPS, but nobody was available. We really wanted to play with friends, so since guild members were out, we turned to our friends lists.

Several of us had friends who were available, and volunteered to join us.

The problem? You guessed it I, bet… they were all on other servers.

And you cannot have people from other servers in your raid to do CURRENT content.

End of story.

So, we were unable to bring in a friend, someone known to us, to join us in playing together. In order to continue our raid, Discobiscuit had to resort to, [shudder], Trade Chat to find one more.

This time, we were successful. The new DPS player had the lowest DPS in our raid, but they were friendly, paid attention and tried their best. With them added to our ranks, we felt the thrill of victory over the first two bosses in Mogu’shan Vaults again, and even had a fun go at da troll dude, mon.

As icing on the raiding cake, we had the pleasure of killing the stone dogs with jaspar chains up, and let me tell you, it’s a true feeling of satisfaction to struggle with a mechanic and then conquer it. Our first successful kill had been without the jaspar chains, so there was certainly some “we must overcome this” tension going through the group. Hah! Take that, you silly dogs, you. I wave my private parts in your general direction.

So, we ended up with a complete stranger in the group, but it worked out for us. This time.

This gave us a chance to meet someone new on our server, and potentially make a new friend. So, good thing, right?

But this came at the expense of a chance to play with an existing friend, build a stronger bond and develop more shared experiences. What was the more valuable opportunity? To have grown an existing freindship or start a new one?

I want to talk about this a bit, because of the recent comments by Ghostcrawler on Twitter about cross-server grouping for current content.

They’re worried about what it might do to guilds. 

Okay. That’s very reasonable. But with that given as a reason, can we talk about it?

What could having cross-server raiding on current content do to a specific guild, or guilds in general?

I’m trying to think about this, and I’m running right up against the age-old question, “What is a guild?”

A guild is a social system with built-in tools to easily communicate between members and organize group activities. There are additional tools available to aid the group, such as a storage system for items useful to the group, rewards for being active within the group, and methods to visually display your allegiance with your guild.

There is also the visual tag you can show proclaiming your membership in that group.

People can use this social system for whatever purpose they want. You can invite anyone in the server and have the purpose be a big social circus, try to only invite people with common goals or interests, or limit membership to known friends or family. Whatever you want.

I have a question. Can you queue with cross-realm friends to do current PvP battleground or Arena content? it’s something I don’t know.

See, the thing that I’m wondering about is why we would only block current content raiding from including personal cross-server friends, but not other activities. If current PvP content is also blocked, then it would seem a consistent policy for progression-oriented guilds, be they raiding or PvP.

Let’s simply look at the consequences of blocking cross-server friends.

If you’re short someone for your raid, this does force you to find someone on your own server.

If the person you invite is on another server and can only be invited through your friends list, then for everyone else in the raid that person is a “friend of a friend”, seperated by at least one remove. The rest of the guild only knows him through you, and can only chat with them or play with them if you are on and willing… until the cross-server friend shares their Battletag around.

If a guild is a social system to ease communication between members, then the cross-server friends list goes against the spirit by isolating the friend from the group.

If you have to resort to a stranger that exists on your own server, though, then everyone in the raid has the chance to spend time together, develop a bond, and possibly find mutual ground to consider joining the guild or making some other kind of lasting bond with multiple people from the guild.

Limiting current raiding, which is probably one of the most popular guild group activities, to same-server players has a better chance of growing the guild itself from adding people frmo the same server, and allowing for multiple personal connections to form.

So… the issue is the limitation of the technology. If we had the capability for cross-server guild invites and communication, then those same connections could form. It might be a bit harder initially, since the ‘getting to know you’ period would involve Battletags unless yuo gave them an isntant invite, but it would also strengthen the role of guild websites and matchmaking services for recruitment and trying out new potential members. 

Right now, if you party or raid group with someone else, it pulls everyone into the same server group. I say go one step further, and if you are NOT in an existing party or raid, then everyone in the same guild could be effectively pulled into the same server.

The guild as a social system would be restored. In fact, you’d have a greater chance to grow, by having strangers from multiple servers available to invite into your runs when you needed someone.

With cross-realm guilds, if you meet that great person in a PUG, you would be able to chat with them as you do now, but you could then say “Hey why not hit me up on our website, we can run some more stuff sometime as a group”. That person could become a guildie, and not just “that great tank we had last week, wish he was in our guild.”

I freely admit this is all rampant speculation. I’d love to hear more speculation on what the benefits or challenges would be.

And now, just to be contrary, I’m gonna turn to the only real argument I’ve heard against cross-server guilds.

I’ve heard that a big problem with cross-server guilds would be guild bank access shared across servers, places with different economies. I believe the argument is that would allow guilds to have the potential to become the East India Trading Company, doing triangle trade deals across servers, and placing ‘normal’ players at a competitive pricing disadvantage.

Imagine for a moment the rise of mercantile guilds, guilds of auction house traders purchasing cloth cheap on Azuremyst, selling it at higher prices on Kael’thas, using the profit to buy cheap Darkmoon Cards on Kael’thas and flipping them high on Vol’jin, and then buying cheap ore on Vol’jin to sell at a profit on Azuremyst.

Umm….

SO WHAT?!?!

Shit man, go for it. I’d love to see another, deeper aspect to the game economy emerge.

If you’re upset because you like the status quo, you’ve got a good thing going and this would make your gold-making system fail, well, I have no sympathy for you. You want to rule the auction house in a changing economy, adapt or die. Don’t try to throw up roadblocks to change to protect your own interests… or at least, acknowledge that you’re basically mirroring the real world business model by trying to stem the tides of change when that change isn’t in your favor.

Never forget your first principles. Things will not sell for more than people are willing to pay. But if there is a ready market for your goods at a price you are willing to accept, that means there are people in the market eager to buy. Opening up new markets for your goods means that true fairness is that other people have the same opportunity… but it’s up to them whether they take advantage of it.

God, wouldn’t it be a thing to see?  Might even tend to bring market stabilization over the long term.

Let Blizzard develop a regulatory agency, and we’ll just go the rest of the way to having a true world government within WoW.

Okay, we’re just being silly now, but there is so much to chew on in the subject.

For every problem, there is a potential solution, and also many things to fear. The first step is deciding what constitutes a real problem. Are we simply afraid of what may happen, and is that fear stopping us from adopting change?

All I see from what Ghostcrawler says is that they worry what it would do to guilds. Nothing in his statements says they have made a decision against, or that they aren’t considering how to implement it to address those worries.

I’m glad they worry what it would do to guilds. If they didn’t give a shit but just changed things and hoped for the best, we’d be in deep trouble.

I hope that, in the end, we do move towards something that opens the world up even more, expands the guild system to be more inclusive of people regardless of what server they are on, and that the technology and bugs get worked out to address the issues people have with CRZ right now.

I have no conclusions. I lean towards the “let’s implement it and deal with the consequences” side, but I don’t know what other obstacles or concerns they may be considering.

Maybe they’ve run studies that suggest if people could raid with others from a friends list, it would tend to exclude people new to the game and uncertain how to find a guild. I don’t know how, what with the rise of matchmaking cross-server raiding websites, and in-game Blizzard-sponsored assistance/welcoming guilds, but maybe it could.

I’m just saying, it’s fun to think about, and every time I have ever played with friends cross-server, whether in an instance or a raid, it has been an absolute joy, and I hope to see more growth to expand it further in the future.

Now…. now is your opportunity to tell me how strongly you disagree with me. :)

12 Responses to “Single-Server, Cross-Server, All Server?”
  1. Theodoxus says:

    The only real disagreement I can see (because wow, having a global economy would rock) is the loss of profit for server transfers. Really, that’s the only thing I see killing that prospect.

    Blizz is hoping you find that omg awesomesauce tank on Kael’thalas and hope to convince him to migrate to Azuremyst. Thats $$ in their pocket – and pure profit, since I know it doesn’t take a lot of manpower to do the switch.

    Everything else is easy peasy. But messing with a legitimate money stream = never gonna happen. Though we see how often NGH turns into ‘Patch blah blah, it happened!’

    Social pressure might work. I’m skeptical, but I’ve been known to be wrong before :)

  2. If this wasn’t eight years on we’d have a better chance of getting some kind of resolution to this problem, but I do sense that Blizzard won’t touch this issue because they hope that people will pay for the transfers. Those who can’t or won’t will simply ‘make do and manage’ in the meantime, and the more attractive Blizzard make this I suspect will push more people into considering throwing down the cash. Putting the pets into the old instances was a stroke of genius as a result.

    It really doesn’t have anything to disagree with, this plan. The problem is, like it or not, that Blizzard are shafted by their own success. They can’t fix Economics: they can try and alter some of the baseline conditioning factors, but in the end any major change to the delicate ecosystem they have could well result in them destroying the game by accident.

  3. Celendus says:

    There could be a financial incentive to it, too. The world-first crowd spends money moving from server to server to join top-end guilds – probably a fair amount of coin, even. Without the need to server transfer, that revenue stream disappears. Not that I think an MMO operator is totally entitled to that sort of revenue stream as a profit center, but it probably does subsidize the creation of raid content to some degree.

    It’d also be one more nail in the coffin of the server community, but I always saw that as a concession to technological limitations anyway. Wasn’t the idea behind an MMO to be as many players in one world as possible? I suppose there’s some value in a tight-knit community where it’s not outrageously hard to become well known, but that ship mostly sailed with LFD.

  4. Bristal says:

    I look at it like taking a bunch of small colleges and making them a big university. Or any of a number of pond/fish rural/urban clichés that could change the game in unknown ways to many different types of players. Your AH example of mercantile guilds makes me shudder (and think of EVE). And contrary to making the game more inclusive, I believe it could easily become more exclusive, and leadership and organizational skills would concentrate where they are less needed.

    For example, your /trade guy would have been excluded from your group, while your cross realm (talented and likely well connected) friend was able to find a raid (or form one) on his own server if he wanted one. How many players would lose the chance to play current content because it is now easy to fill raid spots with better players? I see better and more successful raid groups, but fewer of them.

    It may seem like just a convenience to you, but Blizzard apparently sees it as a potential game changer, and I agree. The vitriol over CRZ isn’t just about tech problems, it’s a we/they thing as well. Players value that small town feel. Would cross realm raids affect that? If players feel like they are competing with every other player in the game for an occasional raid spot, surely some would stop trying.

    So the question is, would the game itself be better off?

  5. Herr Drache says:

    “It’s complicated” ;)
    Part of me thinks “well, it would be great if I could ginvite across servers or at least raid current content with Jane Doe” – and I think you and I are on the more friendly side of raiders/guilds. I can easily see the problem that “E&J, Inc” guilds will form, and that they’ll be able to bully on multiple servers. And potentially the problem of “no, guildie X doesn’t get to go, RL friend Y from another realm gets his spot”

    More choices for people, more ways to abuse things.

    Of course, cynical “me” thinks “well, they won’t take the motivation away to spend $25 per migrating toon…”

  6. Shaft says:

    A cross server guild would destroy the economy and your suck it up and controlling the AH comments are a load of nonsense. I use the AH in a medium/high pop server I have seen how duping and bots can put the economy on its ass for months at a time and a cross server guild would be in a much better place to do horrible things to one of the economies it inhabited. The reason that Blizzard won’t allow it is the same way they won’t merge or shut down dead servers – money. I have 5 level 85s trapped on a pointless server with a dead economy and even deader raiding situation to get them on to the server and faction of my new main means me dropping something like £150 to Blizzard because they can’t get their servers right. I know about 5 guilds of decent size who took the transfer option which is just a huge profit bump to Blizzard for pretty much failing. So I guess both of us will continue to be disappointed.

  7. Rades says:

    I think cross-realm current-tier raiding would be detrimental to guilds because guilds would not have to build up their own talent pool, or recruit new members, if they could just grab someone’s friend off another server. This would make it very difficult for someone looking to join a raiding guild, since most guilds would never *really* NEED more members, since their extended CRZ roster is (potentially) limitless. Personally, I think it would be harmful to guild camaraderie as well – it’s one thing to kill the Lich King after working on him for weeks with your 9 (or 24) guildies, brothers/sisters-in-war, earning that kill, etc. It’s much less satisfying to down him and look at your kill shot with 3, 4 people who half your guild doesn’t even know, or 3-4 people who have the LK on farm and are 10x better geared than the rest of you.

    I also think it could potentially create a “raider for hire” atmosphere where extremely skilled/geared players hire themselves out mercenary-style to semi-carry struggling guilds through fights they’re stuck on. We already see this dynamic at work with progressed guilds selling Madness of Deathwing kills, or Firelord titles, etc. And while it wouldn’t be quite like carrying one wealthy player to their desired objective, even a single top-level player can make a significant difference for a struggling guild. And if it’s 2 or 3 players, even more so. In other words, how much would guilds pay for the #1 DPS player from Blood Legion to carry them through fights for a night? Or to get 3 of Paragon’s healing comp to breeze them to a Sha of Fear kill? Etc.

    • bigbearbutt says:

      What yu say sounds reasonable, except… lockouts would mean each raider can only raid with one group per raid instance each week, and everyone would have to do their raiding somewhere. I think there is a finite limit on how many geared, leet raiders can be found lurking on some server somewhere ready to be called in. I just don’t see there being so many unaffiliated, geared raiders hanging around without their own teams that it would be a destabilizing force.

      Now, if we were talking the tail end of a dead expansion with no new content for, oh, 12 months, that would be a different story. But not right now. Instead, you;’d have people who were only available because their main team was taking a week off.

      You do have a great point about raiders for hire, though. I could see that.

      Not sure if I’d put that solidly in the bad thing category, though. I don’t have any objections on moral grounds to someone offering their services as a raiding expert to help raid teams work their way through a difficult encounter. Would be a better situation to me than the top raiding guilds that hire out ‘carry runs’ to other people on their servers, as far as I’m concerned. One is helping touch a group how to do it themselves, while the other is just carrying one person.

  8. Perrin says:

    One thing to consider as well is gold farmers.

    As yet, Blizzard hasn’t been able to stop them, and one of the checks and balances they have is corralling them into servers. There’s a 50k gold limit on transferring between servers, and this prevents large gold transfers from high cash servers to low cash ones. If your guild bank is cross server, especially the gold deposit, then it opens up the floodgates of filling low cash servers with significant reserves from servers where the value of 1G is lower.

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