WoW Wednesday – Cross Realm Zones
By Meredith Watson
World of Warcraft‘s Cross Realm Zone feature feels a bit like how things used to be in classic and TBC and not in a good way. Zones are now packed with players mostly in the low level areas but higher level areas can be affected as well. We had gotten used to levelling a new character in relative peace and quiet with all the mobs and resources to ourselves. I don’t recall anyone over the years saying “I sure wish this zone was heavily populated.” Which begs the question: Why has Blizzard done this?
Cross realm zones, according to Blizzard’s mouthpiece, were introduced as “a new technology that allows players in under-populated areas of the world to meet, group up, and adventure with players from other realms. This technology effectively populates low-level zones and other previously uninhabited areas, resulting in a livelier game world.”
However noble the intentions were behind cross realm zones it seems this feature has turned into a bit of a stinker with the community at large. There are no doubt a few who enjoy it, particularly in Pandaria where CRZ isn’t available unless you are grouping with a Real ID or battle tag friend. This is actually a very nice feature for Pandaria but the real problems are in the 1 to 85 content.
As an example, I am levelling a new human warlock. Northshire Abbey has multiple players now whereas a few months ago (and for the past few years) the zone would be dead. It isn’t that big of a deal given the amount of mobs in this particular area but where it really became an issue for me was in Goldshire. Yes, Goldshire has always been a pit of depravity but now so even more. Today, at one point there was a sea of names in Goldshire and the vast majority had the asterisk behind their name indicating they were from a different realm. I thought I would move on to Night Elf lands hoping it wouldn’t be as crowded. I was wrong. Dolanaar was every bit as crowded with more players than I had ever seen in that area – most of whom were duelling outside the inn.
Surely this isn’t such a bad thing? On the face of it, no. The more the merrier except this is WoW we are talking about which has a notoriously horrible community. So now that we have CRZ we also have more kill stealing, fighting for resources, quest items and rare or quest mobs. While on my little warlock I was fighting mobs directly on the quest item I would need to loot but, of course, someone runs in and loots the item themself. I finish killing the mobs (you are welcome) and, needless to say, had to wait for the item to spawn.
Talia, a level 90 paladin says “Blizzard seem to have this notion we are all happy go lucky players and that we will help each other out as far as grouping for quests, etc. goes but with most people this isn’t the case.” Feiyra a level 86 mage who has recently been levelling in Northrend on an alt had this to say “I didn’t notice CRZ so much going through the level 70+ zones. They weren’t that populated so it must be more of a lower level thing but it does make me wonder how CRZ will affect a new player”. How the community behaves can affect new players. Recently I was talking to a woman who had tried WoW but didn’t continue with the game past the starting zones because of the rudeness of other players. Populating low level areas, the first thing a new player encounters, may not be the best of ideas.
The problem is, like with cross realm LFG, players know they aren’t likely to encounter the same players again and there is a sense of anonymity allowing them to act badly whereas their behaviour could affect their reputation on their own realm. With CRZ there isn’t any common decency. It is a free for all. Maybe that is what Blizzard means by “a livelier game world”.
“We understand that players are concerned about CRZ potentially impacting the sense of community. Cross-realm zones were intended to make lower level zones feel less empty, but may also impact other more populated zones. With more populated areas, we’re aware of concerns over increased competition for resource nodes as well as quest and rare mob spawns. This is something that we’re in the process of evaluating.”
Aside from the actions of the players there are the lag and performance issues to contend with as well. Blizzard has recently stated they are aware of and are continuously working on the issue. That is great that they are working on the technical side of things but one has to wonder what the point of all this is.
It is clear that cross realm zones are here to stay and that Blizzard will likely ride out the criticism but what would be nice is the option to not participate in CRZ. Many have used the paid character transfer service. Would this mean they are entitled a refund because they no longer may be on that realm at any given time?