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A Primer on Connected Realms

by - 11 years ago


In the lead-up to releasing Patch 5.4, a feature called Connected Realms (initially announced as “Virtual Realms”) was announced as Blizzard’s answer to the problem of low-population realms. Since late September, Blizzard started slowly implementing that process, leading to dozens of realms getting collapsed together to create stronger, healthier communities that can accomplish far more than they could with fewer players. With over 240 realms in the North American region alone, there’s clearly still a lot of ground to cover, and the process hasn’t been without its stumbling blocks. But if you were at all curious about this process and what it can mean for you, regardless of what realm you’re on, read on.

The first question is what Connected Realms entail, which is fairly simple to answer: Blizzard takes two (or more) realms, and links them together in such a way that players on those realms see each other in all zones, can party up, join guilds with each other, share an auction house and chat channels… everything you can do with someone who is on the same realm with you today, you can do with someone on a realm that’s connected with yours.

The second question is like “so who’s getting connected?” This a little more complicated to answer, but the short version is unless you’re on some of the very highly-populated realms, like Kil’jaeden, Mal’Ganis, or Area 52, you’re going to get connected. Since the objective of Connected Realms is to address low-pop realms, realms that have very high populations don’t have any need of the service. However, since the vast majority of realms have medium-to-low populations, most realms are going to get connected.

Next up: “what can I expect on a connected realm?” Aside from what it says on the tin (more players, bigger guilds, more world PVP, healthier economy, etc.), there’s one major perk to consider: players on Connected Realms are able to circumvent the “eleven characters per realm” limitation, since they can create characters on each realm in the CR. So to speak specifically, if you’re on Boulderfist, and want an additional character, you can create it on Bloodscalp, Dunemaul, Stonemaul, or Maiev, and as many as you like up to the account-wide limit of 50 characters. This unforeseen byproduct has brought some folks out of the woodwork, claiming that people on high-pop realms won’t get the benefit of having additional alts, but as it stands, Blizzard hasn’t stated if they plan to do anything about it.

The implementation has had some speedbumps. With the number of realms that need a connection in order to get to a healthy population, Blizzard’s implementation has been painstakingly slow; most weeks have only 4-6 connections take place, which could be new connections between two realms or a realm getting added to an existing CR. So there are players bemoaning the fact that their realm isn’t one of the few picked up during a particular week. And between the Thanksgiving holiday in the US and the many other holidays lined up in December, it’s unlikely that Blizzard will implement many more connections until after the new year.

Meanwhile, players on the realms that have been connected or have been announced to be connected in short order aren’t all overjoyed; there are a few examples of bugs and other strangeness. Following their connection to Vek’nilash, players on Nesingway experienced some very odd behavior with characters disappearing from the selection list, and/or deleted characters reappearing. Other strange bugs have emerged, ranging from players losing the contents of their mailboxes post-merge to a GM suddenly sharing the Guildmaster position with another player. And in the wake of their connection, players on Winterhoof took to the forums to report rampant systemic harassment from resident Kilrogg players.

So what’s the verdict? Overall, the process has been slow, but it has also demonstrably improved the populations on many of the realms that have been connected so far, with the clear implication that many CRs still need to pick up more realms to be “complete” and there are scores of realms left to link up. There have been bugs, but Customer Support has been quick to not only respond, but also to escalate the issues that their Tier 1 support isn’t able to address, and while a few players have been dramatically impacted by the bugs, the vast majority of players either aren’t experiencing those bugs or aren’t reporting them. So it’s really too soon to pass any kind of judgment on this process; it is clearly being done with the best of intentions and a healthy amount of caution on Blizzard’s part, with the stated goal of improving the game for all players, and it is on track to do that… eventually.

Are you on a realm that’s been connected? What’s been your experience? Sound off in the comments!

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JR Cook

JR has been writing for fan sites since 2000 and has been involved with Blizzard Exclusive fansites since 2003. JR was also a co-host for 6 years on the Hearthstone podcast Well Met! He helped co-found BlizzPro in 2013.

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