With 5.4 we will be getting Virtual Realms. That is a clever way of merging a two (or more) realms without actually merging them. This is a clever solution as it keeps each realm’s identity without having the bad press surrounding realm mergers which would undoubtedly have the naysayers proclaiming WoW was dying. But is it that? Is there more to this than meets the eye? I’m not sure to be honest. But I will share my thoughts with on this as it is liable to be a major talking point until it does go live, and probably beyond that too.
Before I go further, I need to define the use of the word server and realm in my discussion below.
- Server: This is a large computer that Blizzard use to host the files so we can play the game. It is NOT the place your character calls home (e.g. Shadowsong EU in my case).
- Realm: This is the place your character calls home (e.g. Shadowsong EU in my case).
Lets take a look at some of the problems and concerns that such a change will bring, and their potential solutions:
The vitualisation of realms where the same faction imbalance exists:
An unfounded concern I suspect because while Blizzard may make what weem to some as a stupid decision they really will know best in most situations and this feature is being implemented to resolve this very issue not exaggerate it. I am also hoping that this will not only apply to low pop realms as there are high population realms that would also benefit from being virtualised with a high pop realm with the opposite faction imbalance. Two realms I know of that would benefit this way are Kazzak and Silvermoon on the EU side of things.
Duplication of character names would cause chaos in chat and the mail system:
This is possibly one of the biggest headaches that Blizzard will have to resolve. But we work things out in real life quite easily (sadly not 100% perfectly) by using other identifiers like surnames and geographical identifiers. Warcraft already limits us to a unique first name on our realm and that realm is also unique within our region so that process is made easier as the addition of our realm name as a last name makes that also unique. So a mail being sent to email@example.com is always going to end up coming to me whereas a mail sent to firstname.lastname@example.org would never reach me.
It does however mean that we, the players, need to adapt and also that Blizzard help us by making the relevant changes to the UI to force us to change.
The merging of the auction houses will ruin the economies on the realms:
Not sure that ruin is the right term but it will change the way the auction house looks on virtualised realms. Buyers will end up with more choice of who to buy from which is good if you’re on the wrong end of a realm faction imbalance or generally on a low pop realm. The other good news here is that folks on low pop realms will actually see certain items on their AH.
The flip side is of course that sellers will face more competition when selling their wares, but they will also have more customers and markets. Unless the sellers are greedy or stupid will result in more sales which surely isn’t a bad thing.
People who selected a PVP realm and joined the majority faction specifically to avoid ganking will now have to worry about PVP:
Life is hard and when you sign up for a PVP realm you know the rules. What would happen if the faction balance switched naturally? This could also be resolved if Blizzard allowed a month of free realm transfers from PVP realms to PVE or a heavily discounted “move all toons” option (buy 1 get 10 free?).
No single server in the world can hold the population to play ALL that content from lvl 1 to 90 in hundreds of zones and dungeons:
No single server has done that even back in Vanilla there were instance servers, servers for Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor and even chat servers. Hence the term “world server is down” during the AQ Gates opening for players on Kalimdor while Eastern Kingdoms based players continued on without issue.
I’m sure that now there are at least 1 physical server per continent and the way CRZ works makes me suspect that this may be even localised to zones.
Working as a server admin for a telecoms co we have virtual servers that can function seamlessly as the virtual server moves from one physical server to another in order to address performance issues. This is just an extension of this technology and as the world is progressing into cloud based virtual servers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vblock) Blizzard are most likely just moving to the same tech.
The servers Blizzard use may not cope with the load:
I doubt the hardware WoW is run on would be taxed by such a merger. After all servers like Blackmoore EU (40k total pop) and Stormrage US (53k pop) don’t struggle now and they are the most populated EU and US realms. Stormrage also has a 99% Alliance player base so the load is all imbalanced there.
Also note the answer above.
It will mess up server progression lists for raiding guilds:
Yes it will, but does this really matter? All it will lead to is more highly progressed raiding guilds on the virtual realms. It will also mean that guilds can easier to recruit the right calibre of player for their raid team
Blizzard are just doing this to avoid realm mergers:
Any announcement of realm merger would create drama both on the realms to be impacted as well as a load of bad press. Blizzard quite rightly don’t want either and as the world is moving to Cloud computing Blizzard are just bring the same tech into WoW.
However, I’m hopeful that this move is only the beginning of the future. With cross realm zones and now virtual realms we are moving closer and closer to the ultimate of having a single unified Azeroth. OK so with 4 different rule sets that is never truly likely to happen but I do firmly believe that the next step (if it isn’t this one) is to have 4 virtual realms in each region (PVE, PVP, RP and RP-PVP) before we end up with the same 4 realms globally.
Personally I welcome the change, and I’m hoping that there is a way of getting my Horde character and Alliance character on the same virtual realm if only so I can share my account bound items with them as currently my Alliance characters are all on Shadowsong EU (PVE) and my Horde are on Defias Brotherhood EU (RP-PVP).
Do you think that virtual realms are a good thing? What excites you about virtual realms? What scares you about virtual realms? Where will it all end?