I have become fascinated by the Connected Realms process that’s been going on since shortly after Patch 5.4 was released. It’s compelled me to create a table and do a bunch of analysis. ^_^
For the uninitiated, here’s the deal on Connected Realms. The idea is to address the problem of low-population realms by combining them together to create healthier populations. This combination will link the auction houses, chat channels and visible populations of the connected realms, to the degree that there’s very little difference between a connected realm and a normal singular realm. If you happen to run into a character or guild with a duplicate name, it’ll be denoted with a # to differentiate, much like characters from other realms (when accessed via LFR/LFD/CRZ) are denoted with *.
What’s been so interesting for me is watching which realms Blizzard is connecting together in each successive round, and trying to get a sense for their methodology as they go through what’s a pretty big implementation. I know that doesn’t really sound super-interesting at the outset, but go with me on this for a moment.
Round 1: Boulderfist and Bloodscalp
Our first two contestants have some interesting profiles to them.
Looking at the data, both are Medium pop realms with a notable Horde bias. Bloodscalp doesn’t really have a cohesive raiding environment, while Boulderfist is at least breaking the top 75. From all indications, they were combined as an initial test to see what kind of errors cropped up from an implementation on live realms, with larger populations than the tiniest of realms in order to try and catch any unexpected errors that take place. At the same time, the populations are small enough that if something catastrophic happened, not that many players would be dramatically impacted, meaning Blizzard wouldn’t need to blow a lot of revenue on granting gametime refunds to impacted players.
All told, aside from some weirdness involving web-side apps like the Armory and forums not displaying some stuff correctly, Round 1 came off as a success.
Round 2: Black Dragonflight and Skullcrusher
Our next two contestants feels like a sanity check following the initial round.
Again, both realms are Medium-sized, Horde-biased, with higher populations than the first round and both are within the top 50 ranking. My take is that this was primarily meant to ensure that Round 1 wasn’t just a flash in the pan, and Blizzard willing to scale up and put more at risk in order to see if more active realms might end up revealing more errors. The fast turnaround into Round 3 makes me think that nothing really presented itself.
Round 3: The Bigtime
Now, instead of just testing the stability of the architecture, I think that Blizzard is now shooting to take the results of their initial rounds of testing and apply them to some of the most low-pop realms. It seems, though, that there are multiple new tests taking place at this stage.
- Boulderfist and Bloodscalp are getting merged with Maiev. This is the first three-realm connection we’ve seen attempted so far, and Maiev is a comparably small realm being added to the mix. You can see on the red table that combination totals up to ~120k characters, with a slightly better A/H ratio than the initial combination had. Given that a realm of that size would put this Connected Realm among the top 30 realms for overall character population, this could possibly be the last connection for these realms.
- Aegwynn/Gurubashi demonstrates an example of a truly dead realm being linked with one that’s significantly higher in ranking. In this case, the A/H ratio is thrown out in favor of giving Gurubashi-A access to at least SOME raid-capable players. This supports the idea that helping players get access to bigger communities will, in some cases, trump maintaining the server-wide faction ratio.
- Dalvengyr/Dark Iron, while similar to Aegwynn/Gurubashi in the sense of a no-ranked realm getting linked with a well-ranked realm, does so while preserving the A/H ratio. It might be notable to point out that this Connected Realm is the only one with an Alliance bias.
The rest of the data speaks for itself; out of the five new connected realms created in Round 3, four of the realms had zero raid-capable players on the Alliance side. After this round, all of those realms will have at least some players to draw from. However, it’s also notable that all of the Round 3 realms are still substantially smaller than the Round 1/2 realms… in most cases, the new Round 3 Connected Realms are smaller than most of the Medium-sized realms BEFORE they were connected. This leads me to believe that, based on the results of the three-realm connection we’re seeing tested with Boulderscalp/Bloodfist/Maiev, we’re very likely to see the Round 3 realms connected with other realms in subsequent realms to get closer to the population density that Blizzard is targeting.
Is Blizzard shooting for a realm pop of 120k characters, with raiding populations of about 3-4k split between the two factions? The results of the first three rounds appear to bear that out, but I think we’ve got a long way to go.
What do you think? And hey, anyone on any of the affected realms got an opinion about the connection process? Let me know. ^_^