Cross-Realm Zones: Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

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All the way back in patch 3.3.0, World of Warcraft introduced a nifty little piece of gaming wizardry known as the Cross-Server Dungeon Finder tool.  Before its introduction, players looking to run dungeons were forced to stand in various capital cities and sending out the once-ubiquitous cry of “LFM {dungeon name here}, need tank and heals, PST” until either the group was filled or they gave up — in the case of lower-level players, it was typically the latter while looking for runs of earlier game content that most other players on the server had already completed.  Eventually this tool was expanded to cover raids, PvP battlegrounds, and holiday world event bosses.  The overall item level of gear currently equipped by players in the queue is taken into account, locking undergeared players out of more advanced content to ensure that nobody gets the proverbial free lunch, and class composition is nicely varied.  Players who either leave or are kicked from the group are easily replaced by another of the same role in the multi-server queue.  Because of this newfound ease in assembly, queue wait times for even the earliest of instances are often negligible; the number of players looking to run instanced content has grown by leaps and bounds as a direct result of this tool’s implementation.

Because of this, I earnestly believe that Blizzard meant well in patch 5.0.4 when they introduced Cross-Realm Zones (hereafter referred to as CRZ because I am exceedingly lazy and words, man, just… words).  After all, if opening up instanced content to multiple servers within a battlegroup made such a positive difference in gameplay, surely doing the same with questing zones would mean double the success, right?  Said Satan himself, apparently.

I’d like to take a moment to apologize in advance to whoever it was that is responsible for birthing the abomination known as CRZ.  At its very core is a truly remarkable piece of code that required an insane amount of ability to create, which is highly appropriate because I’m pretty sure that they were insane to think that this would be anything but the Rosemary’s Baby of WoW.  Regardless, I know I certainly couldn’t have written something as involved and technologically impressive as this, and for that reason alone, I would like to let this unnamed talent know that despite the fact that I will be alternately referring to him or her as Satan, a potential sadomasochist, and the Sha of Misery, I have nothing but the utmost respect for them and their work.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to point out that if CRZ was a fairytale, the moral of the story would be “just because we have the technology, doesn’t mean we should use it.”  For other examples of this, we can look to Japan’s lifelike sex helper robots, their not-so-lifelike sex helper robots, and, letting poor Nippon escape mostly unscathed for the moment, Daikatana.

Okay, so maybe that last one was too harsh of a comparison.  I’m sorry, unnamed code monkey.  I didn’t mean to lash out at you like that, but sometimes you just make me so angry.  Why do you make me hurt you?  Why?

The intention of CRZ was to make it easier for players to interact with each other and share their gaming experience, whether that be while questing, roleplaying, or having hot sexes chats in the Deeprun Tram.  Before elite quest mobs were hit with the nerf bat in defense and damage output, in the days when named “boss” mobs only gave credit to the first player to tap them, this would have been an absolute godsend.  Nowadays, however, these group quests have been largely phased out; I could probably count the number of quests requiring 3+ players on both hands, which, when compared to the astonishing total number of quests in the game, is a drop in the ocean.  The more major group quests still in existence, such as the Ampitheater of Anguish and the Crucible of Carnage could easily be integrated into the Dungeon Finder, much as they were in the LFG tool that it replaced.  The reality of CRZ is that questing areas are now too overpopulated to be efficient, rare battle pets are less rare and more unobtainable, and hunters trying to train special pets are often left out in the cold, especially on already high-population servers.  Given its relative uselessness at the current time — Blizzard could always surprise us in the future with some epic addition that would make it a necessity — and the level of infuriation it causes, regardless of how impressive a piece of code it may be, CRZ has sadly been outdated since its inception.

In compiling a list of legitimate arguments against CRZ, however, I feel it important to note that I cannot, in good conscience, include the several minor bugs that have sprung up with its introduction.  Because this feature is still relatively new and so wide in scope, it is unreasonable to expect it to be 100% flawless straight out of the gate.  Even with rigorous QA and beta-testing, not all variables can be accounted for, as this is all done in a relatively “closed” environment.  Until it is released to the general player base (and thus to an infinite number of possible scenarios), it is impossible to find and remove every last bug, although the major ones that affect gameplay are usually worked out long before then.  I would, however, like to address a particularly soul-crushing moment when, after hours of camping out Shatter Scar Vale in Felwood to try and get a Minfernal of my very own, I left for a short time to take care of some things in Orgrimmar and then flew back to Whisperwind Grove.  This flight path takes players directly over Shatter Scar Vale, and as I flew over it myself, the minimap absolutely lit up with battle pet spawns for the elusive Minfernal.  As soon as I landed I ran over to get one and found that once CRZ had kicked in upon landing, I was no longer seeing my “home” server’s plentiful spawns, and instead was faced with an empty spawning location.  I’m sure that I’m not the only player to experience such a disappointment, but it still strengthened my distaste for the entire CRZ system.

As I mentioned previously, the influx of non-native players into our collective faces has made the simple act of questing a major annoyance.  Non-named mobs required to complete quest objectives are often camped into oblivion, leading many players to exhibit some less-than-desirable behavior, such as kill-stealing and running ahead to grab an item when another player is in the process of clearing mobs away from it.  I’m not sure what the technical term for that is, but I usually call it “extreme dickery.”  It is understandable, though; when it takes so long to complete a simple quest, especially when it comes to dailies (which are some of the most painful quests to complete now as a direct result of too much CRZ and not enough spawns… looking at you, Fatty Goatsteak), many players simply feel a certain sense of desperation and desire to just get things done and get the Hell out of Dodge.  Blizzard currently appears to have been going on a small campaign to promote politeness and helpfulness among its players, but this Douchebag Effect arising from the overpopulation caused by CRZ flies directly in the face of it.   There is also an overall feeling of invasion, that these players showing up from other servers are intruding and encroaching on the game’s experience.  I, myself, enjoy yelling “GET OFF MAH LAWWWWWWWN” from time to time when I see a player from another realm.  It doesn’t really accomplish much, but it’s a great way to get out some of the frustration.

In my previous post I promised that I would not blindly criticize elements of the game without offering real, thought-out suggestions.  There are many who call for the complete removal of CRZ, but I feel that this is too much of an arbitrary solution, and if Blizzard is in fact preparing to release new content that will make all of the aggravation completely worth it, much too premature.  I would like to suggest to nobody in particular that players be given an option to turn CRZ off and on at will, perhaps with a warning of sorts that removing themselves from the grouping may make completing certain quests more difficult.  Without this feature, it seems as if the game is forcing us all to be overtly social creatures, something that I, myself, do not appreciate very much — I prefer to pull myself through the levels on my own without other players to slow me down, at least until I start running dungeons and raids.  Blizzard would be better served to cater to all play styles, social or otherwise, lest they risk alienating the “antisocial” among us.

For now, we will have to adopt a “wait and see” approach to see if a more efficient and less anger-inducing solution is in the works, but until then, I think that the vast majority of the player base can agree, cross-realm zones make us rather… cross.

/sunglasses

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9 responses »

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  2. I do trust all of the concepts you have presented in your post. They’re really convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are too brief for newbies. Could you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

    • True that I do write assuming the reader to have some existing knowledge of the game, but to cover every single aspect for someone with NO WoW experience whatsoever is a rather daunting task. It’s a very dynamic, multi-faceted game — I could write for a week straight and still not touch on every single point. Not to mention that I’m not yet a game designer, and not at all a code-monkey, so I’m hardly qualified to go into lengthy technical discussions with regards to implementation. Everything is simply from a layperson’s point of view.

      That being said, I’m happy to answer questions or offer clarification as requested, so if you’re confused about anything, don’t keep it to yourself!

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