A Single World: Good or Bad?

This is Blog Azeroth’s shared topic for this week and the first shared topic I’ve participated in. Technology has moved on a lot since Warcraft’s debut in 2004. Realms or servers were necessary then as there wasn’t another way to handle the population, or if there was it wasn’t a feasible option back then.

It’s something that I don’t really appreciate most of the time. I was 14 in 2004 and so it seems like only a couple of years ago to me, it was high school and that’s very recent, but it’s not. 2004 was eight years ago, nearly a decade, and in technology terms that might as well be hundred years with how fast things advance now. Did I even have broadband in 2004? I don’t remember as it seems impossible that I haven’t always had it.

So if it isn’t technology that is holding back the single world what is?

What is a realm?
So many parts of the game are instanced and cross-server already; dungeons, raids, battlegrounds. What is left on a realm? There’s quests, arenas, guilds and the auction house. Quests will soon be going quasi instanced with cross realm zones being implemented in Mists. Are these cross-realm zones the beginning of the single world?

I wrote a post a while back where I tried to put my swirling thoughts of the ‘perfect’ mmo down into a coherent form. One of the criteria was a single world without realms so that you can always play with your friends. That is the big plus sign hanging on the single world idea and also a big negative from blizz’s point of view. Right now blizz has the paid character transfer service, if there was a single world then there would be no need for such a service, and I wouldn’t have paid blizz to move eight of my characters.

An argument against such an idea, that I read today, was that it would hurt the immersion value. Therefore you wouldn’t be in Stormwind, you’d be in Stormwind 47, and if you wanted to go sit with your buddy in Stormwind 10 you’d have to toggle it. I don’t actually think that this would change anything. As I just said above I server transferred to play with a new guild about six months ago. I was expecting somehow the world to be different, that Stormwind would have like a different light or colour or something. However it didn’t, it was exactly the same. I can’t actually see any difference between my new realm and my previous one which I’d played on for two years. They’ll still be people running around in each instanced form, each instanced form will look the same. It’ll be exactly like the current realm system but you’ll be able to change which realm you’re on so to speak.

The economy
A single world would mean a single auction house, is that good or bad? Well, if you’re on an extremely unbalanced server which has no economy to speak of it would be very good. If you’re on a regular server with a regular economy then it’ll be about the same. The only difference that I could see is that there would be a lot more activity with multiple people trying to buy the same thing at once, the computer would have to sort that one out. Apart from that it would be exactly the same only on a larger scale.

Right now you have supply and demand, and if the auction house went global, you’d have the same proportion of supply and demand. It would make it harder for one person to completely dominate a market but the principles would be the same, there’d just be more players. Everything would increase in number but the factors and proportion would be the same. You have a ratio of supply to demand and that ratio would stay the same.

I don’t think it would destroy the economy. Maybe I’m being naive or I’m misunderstanding something critical, but I think it would be the same just larger. Those economies that are struggling would struggle no longer and there would be balance, or as much balance as there is right now.

So what are the arguments against?
Personally I think any arguments against are either selfish, or rooted in a mistrust of the technology. I can understand both of them though I think some of the more selfish arguments contain a logical fallacy. Take rares for example and the fact that on a single world there would be more competition – true or false? I’m going to say false because the world would be instanced like we have realms now. Yes people can swap instanced areas but why would they unless they were told that the rare was there? Why would someone tell them that? It would surely be dead before they got there.

The mistrust of technology is completely understandable. I’m on the Mists beta and the cross-realm zones are causing havoc with certain spawns. You can fly between Elwynn and Westfall and there’s critters marked as pet battles on either side. As soon as you get close to one they disappear. I think we’ve also all experienced ghost nodes, of herbs or minerals, where phasing has been implemented. However, this just proves that the technology is there it just hasn’t been perfected yet. If they were ever to roll it out in a huge way – like a single world – then it would be perfected.

The only quasi legitimate argument that I can think of is character names. My character Taitrina is the only character in Europe called that. However, most character names are a little more generic. The technological issue with the same names have already been solved. It’s rare to see but it is possible to group with somebody in LFG or LFR with the same name as you. It allows it as it tags the realm name onto the end so rather than being just Taitrina I’m Taitrina-Bronze_Dragonflight. The new battle tags system works in a similar way, you pick a tag like Taitrina and the system adds a number to it like Taitrina#1234. There should still be a limit on the number of people with the name like the number of realms now. Put that in place and then add the unique identifiers on and then you’re good to go. These unique identifiers would hardly ever need to be displayed to the user except when there is a conflict between character names. Even then it doesn’t have to be done in a super obvious way so as to hurt immersion.

The final point
I don’t really have any arguments against which makes this quite an unbalanced post. I just don’t see any downsides. Having instanced versions of places would be like realms only you could swap around to be with friends. I miss my friends from my old server, so I suppose you could say I’m looking for the best of both worlds. Realm first raid achievements would no longer exist but perhaps they could be implemented in a different way? Say there are 50 realms, well the first 50 groups that kill the boss would get the current realm first kind of title.

I just really can’t see any downsides to it. I’m trying here to make the post better but I really can’t see the problem. It would be just like it is right now only with the artificial limitation of the realm removed. Almost everything is instanced already, this would just break down the last barrier. In case you hasn’t guessed I’m very much in favour of this idea.

If I had to guess there are a number of factors that are holding blizz back from implementing this. 1) Tradition and the fact that the game was built with servers in mind, to essentially remove them completely would require rebuilding vast amounts of the game code. Warcraft is an old game and it would likely not be profitable to do this. 2) Losing the secondary source of income from character transfers. 3) The backlash from the vocal players who disagree. Some players are very vocal and their lack of tolerance in accepting others views can get nasty. Even if I don’t agree with somebody I respect their right to hold the opinion that they do, these vocal players don’t allow that. They’re right and everyone else is wrong and they can be quite nasty with it. This sort of change would cause division in the community and I wouldn’t blame blizz for not thinking it was worth it.

To conclude a single world isn’t going to happen, or is very unlikely too. It’s possible that through encroachment we’ll get to almost be there. However, I very much doubt that they’ll even be a ‘server merge’ announcement. Think what the ‘wow is dying lulz’ crew would do with that. I really can’t stand the ‘wow is dying’ crowd. I try and respect people’s opinions but honestly if you don’t like the game anymore just leave, why stir up drama like that? Anyway, I think it would be a good idea but very unlikely to happen.