I’ll admit, when I first saw MMO Champion tweet about a stunning MoP Cross-Realm Zones revelation, my only response was, “What the hell is that? No, really, what? Why? And again, what?”
I could copy/paste the official text from Blizzard, but I think I can safely bottom-line this.
Leveling zones are empty. Capital cities are full. This is a problem.
If we combine servers, leveling zones would have more players and feel more populated, but the capitols would be crushed in bored max level characters, and you would never find a mailbox again.
So, we will leave capital cities and high-population areas alone on separate servers, but combine the populations in the leveling zones.
Why will we do this?
Time for a direct quote.
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.
Before I even get into my opinion on this or talk about it, I want to address that statement.
There is one HUGE assumption in that statement. The assumption is, a crowded level-up zone provides a ‘more fun play experience’ than a low population one.
Did anyone ask you if you liked having the mobs and quest drops in a zone all to yourself? Did I miss a poll? The zones aren’t empty even now, they’re just lightly populated. Their new cross-realm zones won’t add people that weren’t there before, it’s just going to take the people that were already there, and pile them in tighter.
Maybe Blizzard is correct in saying that it will be more fun, but that was a statement of fact. They will do this, and it will make the game more fun. Period. End of discussion, because a flat statement like that doesn’t leave any room for discussion, there was a fact, and they are acting on it. If you disagree, then you are opposed to more fun for other people, you meanie, you.
Moving on from semantics, I’d like to talk about this concept like an adult for a few minutes.
I know it’s a stretch, work with me here.
What Blizzard has been coding and testing is a fact. They already had the idea, discussed it, committed resources to it, and have apparently gotten to the implementation stage for the big reveal.
But what made them think of it in the first place?
What I’m wondering is, what was the original intent. What benefits were intended to be gained, and who is going to reap them?
The normal image of a dev workshop is of a group of people tossing out ideas on improvements to the game. The goal of such an imaged gathering is to focus on new ideas that would please the existing customer, and retain them.
This could have come out of such a gathering, but there is another possibility that occurs to me.
They could have been having a meeting to discuss what they could do to try and retain the new players on a free trial account.
Any benefit to long term players who are already at max level would be incidental. We’ve already been through the zones, we’ve reached max level, we are at end game. We likely are in guilds, have friends, can get Heirlooms, and don’t need to group to complete quests in zones that had group quests and encounters nerfed.
It’s a subtle distinction, but this feels like a move intended to address the question, “How do we try and MAKE the world feel vital and alive to new players, when the existing players are all in capital cities?”
I’m going to take a moment to use a real world example to explain why I think this, and why I think it’s a very smart move.
Do you ever watch cooking shows? The ones where Gordon Ramsey goes to some failing restaraunt to tell them why they’re bollix? Or nightclub scenes?
One of the pieces of advice I’ve found fascinating, since I can test it myself when out and about, is to confine the space for the number of guests you’ve got, through things like moveable wall sections or dividers.
By keeping the space cramped, by pushing people close together but not too close, you build an artificial feeling of intimacy, of vitality.
Instead of large, echoing empty spaces that leave the area feeling like a lifeless void sucking all the music out of the room, you cram ’em all together, bumping into each other and chatting and hearing other people having a good time, noise and movement and energy, vitality.
People enter that kind of environment and feel that they’ve made a good choice; just look at all these other people that are having a great time, I made a wise decision to come here and have a good time too.
The idea is, you can have tons of space, but don’t open it up until the place is really jammed to capacity. People getting crunched in is better for overall business than a few people upset that they feel overcrowded.
That’s why I think that this came mainly from think-tank discussions on how to entice and retain new players, not from a discussion on how to improve the game for the existing playerbase as a whole.
I’m fine with it, I think it’s a good idea. I get that they have long had technology that increases spawn rates based on use… lots of people mining nodes increases spawn rates, that sort of thing. I’m not worried that, after fine tuning, we’re going to have a worse time trying to complete quests competing for drops. I LIKE having people in zones to bump into.
I think it’s a very nice improvement, and I love that the way it’s being implemented, when added to Real ID, means you can have friends leveling alts together and questing together even when they are on two different servers. That freaking rocks.
My point to bring this up, is simply to point out that aside from what is developed and goes live is the question, “Why might they have come up and invested time and money in this?”
That is always a good question to ask. It reveals what a game developer feels is an issue important enough to spend some real money to address.
You can say all sorts of things, but I like the glimpse I think this gives us of what they are worried about…. and what kind of action they’re going to take.
I won’t say I love it just yet, until I get a chance to try it live, but I’m one of those that likes to feel as if I’m part of a living, breathing, vital game world full of people having fun.
With most everyone playing max level characters, server population being what it is means that yes, there are tons of people playing alts… but they are the minority on any given server. By bringing them all together, why, I get to play with others instead of being all alone.
I bet the PvP servers are going to have a blast.
The best thing, the very best thing to me is maybe this will stop Blizzard from their repeated attempts to FORCE max level characters to spend time in low level zones to give a false sense of vitality in areas low level character inhabit.
The games played with removing portals, adding portals, moving portals around, forcing us to go through the Dark Portal to get to Shatt, to take the boat to get to Northrend, to keep us flying and riding around, to design professions that force us to fly all over the world back and forth through leveling zones for dig sites…
Please, stop trying to shoehorn forced zone populations. Let it stop.
Connect the servers up like this, let all the people actually interested in playing in a zone together BE in a zone together, and the World… will be a happy place.
*bonus game… how many assumptions did I make in my analysis? See how many you can count!