Raid Desi… Hold That Thought… Cross Realm Zones?!

I was literally 3 minutes into writing my Dragon Soul raid review when I get this tweet:

@matticus: CROSS REALM ZONES. http://ow.ly/aPKti

Jaw drops. Mouse clicks, and this week’s article gets put on hold for a bit.

My first reaction to this as I read the details was one of joy. Low levelling zones would no longer feel so desolate. Real ID invites possible. Similar system to cross-realm raiding and battlegrounds. Rainbows.

Ok, no rainbows… but still, this looks promising.

Like many WoW players, I gave Star Wars: The Old Republic a shot. The storyline was great. What felt off about SWTOR was how “empty” the levelling zones felt at times. Mind you I started playing a couple of weeks behind the initial rush. Being along had its advantages when it came to waiting for quest target mobs to pop, but otherwise the levelling experience for me felt very single-player.

Cross-realm zones is the answer to this problem and I greatly approve. It creates the solution to the problem of the MMO experience feeling less massive in the early game. That’s great, sure… but here’s something to consider.

Why would I group in a low-level zone with players on other realms, let alone my own?

Confused what I would ask that? We group up for dungeons, battlegrounds, and LFR. We’ll be grouping for Scenarios when those go live in MoP. So why wouldn’t questing lend itself to the same habits?

Simply, because group quests were removed from the vast majority of the questing experience. If I’m not mistaken, there simply are no group quests in Cataclysm 1-60 content. I’m pretty sure group quests have also been tweaked to be single player quests in Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King zones.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on this change. It doesn’t harm the average player’s quality of life much while levelling. It’s just that besides seeing more general activity in a levelling zone, it doesn’t do much to improve it either.

Let’s look at both sides of the coin here. How will cross-realm zones truly change how we play?

Roleplaying Renaissance via BattleTag or Real ID: This will make it easier to enjoy the levelling experience with friends and family who may not have their characters on your realm. Outside of current tier raiding and interacting in the capital cities, it would be possible to do almost anything in the game with the players you want to play with.

Let’s take this a step further. There’s a niche section of the player base that not only plays on RP realms, but actually roleplay their characters too! Who’d have thought?! Now, imagine a multi-realm roleplaying community that uses Battletags to form groups (or even raids) to participate in roleplayed activities outside of capital cities. There’s potential here for a renaissance in RP.

Hm. I do feel bad for any realms linked to Moon Guard’s Goldshire zone though. Yikes.

World PvP: While I do participate in an occasional random BG, I’m not a huge participant in PvP. I wasn’t around during the “good ol’ days” of WoW when Tarren Mill vs. Southshore was the talk of the town. Quite a few people miss the days of abundant World PvP. Wintergrasp and Tol Barad just don’t quite do it. They’re glorified battlegrounds more than anything.

With cross realm zones, this changes. Areas like Tol Barad, Wintergrasp, and whatever comes in MoP will no longer have a faction imbalance should Blizzard put the technology in those zones. Great change. For PvP realms, this is a huge plus.

As a far more experienced blogger stated on his Twitter feed:

@matticus : Cross realm zones means more lowbies to gank…. right?! =D

(by the way Matt, if you’re reading this I swear I didn’t know about the name of your blog before I started mine, honest!)

This change certainly ramps up the risk and adventure for PvP realms. Will Level 85 (or 90) escorts be vital to surviving the levelling experience? Possibly. Fortunately players will have more resources to pull help from.

On a quick aside, I’m curious how zone wide chat channels will work here. Will they be limited to realm, or will all realms “connected” to a common zone share the zone chat channel. Food for thought.

World Bosses: I did just mention that group quests are a thing of the past. PvE gameplay does receive an interesting bonus from cross realm play though. While new world bosses have only been announced for Mists of Pandaria zones, this change makes the possibility of engaging world bosses in any zone, old or new, more viable.

Should Blizzard decide to throw a new world boss in an older zone, the word will spread faster to a larger pool of players that the boss is up, setting the stage for epic encounters where players from several realms can take on challenging content.

For all we know, this technology might be used in the MoP levelling zones to make fighting those world bosses a more accessible task once the majority of players have finished bringing their mains to Level 90.

Node Gathering: This is one subject that will have to be watched closely. I can only imagine the QQ on the forums from people who get their node “ninja’d” from someone from another realm. This isn’t really a big deal for PvP realms, as you have a course of action available should you wish to punish that miner who just got the ore with your name written on it in gold letters. Seriously though, for PvE realms I could see this becoming a point that the ever vigilant “vocal minority” complains about. We’ll just have to wait and see. Grab your popcorn.

What I’ve touched on is only the tip of the iceberg. This news is only an hour old as of posting this. I look forward to seeing what develops from here.

Comments, questions, or suggestions? Feel free to email me at RhoWoW@gmail.com.

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