This week has seen a flurry of activity: over the last couple days, Blizzard has started the connected realms implementation in the EU and also announced next week’s plans for two successive rounds of further connections.
It also appears that they’re going to use the blog format for keeping a comprehensive list of realms that have already been connected in addition to announcing upcoming connections.
With that in mind, let’s look at what Rounds 5 & 6 are going to look like for the US:
- Detheroc/Dethecus + Blackwing Lair
- Chromaggus/Garithos + Anub’arak
- Firetree/Riverdare + Drak’tharon
- Blood Furnace and Mannoroth
- Nesingwary and Vek’nilash
- Haomarush + Blackwing Lair/Detheroc/Dethecus
- Stonemaul + Bloodscalp/Maiev/Boulderfist/Dunemaul
- Tortheldrin and Frostmane
- Winterhoof and Kilrogg
- Gul’dan and Skullcrusher
- Lightning’s Blade + Burning Blade/Onyxia
First off, one of the predictions I made before was that we’d start to see some of the existing pairs from Rounds 3/4 get added together. If these two successive rounds (as well as the European rounds) are any indication, it’s seems like Blizzard is only going to increment one realm at a time while growing these connected realms together. This does help indicate which realms are going to get pulled each week, since successive rounds are more likely to pull unconnected realms either into an existing 2+ connection OR into a new connection with another unconnected realm.
Business note: I’ve altered slightly how the data is displayed here. There is now a A/H ratio for the WoWProgress raiding population, which is listed alongside the overall character ratio taken from RealmPop. I wanted to include this ratio for a couple of reasons: first, this is a strong indicator of the discrepancy between the data taken from these two sites, and second, if we’re going to be using the raiding population as our chief point of comparison, it would be better to use the ratio of those characters rather than the overall population.
- The Boulderfist CR picks up Stonemaul, a mid-ranked realm with a low population size and a solid 1:1 A/H ratio among raiders. This brings the average on the Boulderfist CR up to .70, and contributes to the idea that maybe Blizzard isn’t super-worried about maintaining existing faction imbalances. I’ll go into this more a bit later.
- Something else that upends my previous expectations is that the Boulderfist CR has now crested past the 5000 raiders mark, bringing it into the top 30 realms for raiding population. Three other CRs will be this size as of this round, which again changes the goalposts in terms of what Blizzard’s looking for as a destination size.
- Our first two PVE CRs are up, both with solid Alliance biases and one (Kilrogg/Winterhoof) already hitting that supposed target zone of >5000 raiders. Nesingwary/Vek’nilash is about at 60% of the target, which makes it likely it’ll see at least 1-2 more connections before this is over.
- It’s notable that a number of realms in the top 50 are the subjects of connections this time around. Mannoroth is the highest-ranked realm to grab a connection, with a dramatic Alliance bias that is cut in half by the addition of Blood Furnace. At over 4000 raiders, I don’t think they’re done quite yet, but it’ll be a huge boon to both factions on Blood Furnace to increase their pools by such a degree.
- Another note on high-ranked realms picking up connections: Frostmane picking up Tortheldrin and Kilrogg taking on Winterhoof demonstrate a high-ranked realm hosting an exceptionally low-ranked realm. This might be indicative of Blizzard taking the feedback that connecting low-pop realms to other low-pop realms isn’t fully demonstrating the scope and purpose of this plot, and so (now that they’re confident that they aren’t going to break a realm by connecting it) they’re creating CRs from the host first and will pick up the smaller realms up in successive rounds…
- …OR it could be indicative that this was Blizzard’s plan all along; healthy realms can take on the populations of the low-pop realms and integrate them into a working ecosystem, which is a much better plot than taking a bunch of realms with wildly imbalanced economies, communities that haven’t had a good raiding circuit for awhile, and blend them all together, hoping they figure out how to invent a better environment if they just add a bunch of people to it.
On Faction Imbalances:
Faction imbalance has been a big topic since the Connected Realms process first got announced, but something that Blizzard made evident in their first responses was that the goal of the project was to elevate the overall populations on the realm to a healthy level, not to get parity between the factions. Once the first connections started happening, there was an outcry from people who noticed that it was mainly Horde-dominated realms that were getting connected first.
Now the quick explanation for this is that Blizzard started with realms that had exceptionally low populations, which are (for the most part) PVP realms. PVP realms are historically Horde-biased, so it makes sense that starting with low-pop realms would naturally mean starting with Horde-dominated realms. But in response to the outcry that the connections wouldn’t balance the factions on those realms, the response of various CMs was, essentially “faction balance is a factor, but it’s not the most important factor.” Faction imbalances exist because players gravitate towards the “winning team” on a PVP realm, so given the behavior of players it would be impossible to maintain a perfect faction parity over time.
Nonetheless, the pattern that emerged in the first few rounds were that realms with similar A/H ratios were getting joined up. However, what’s become increasingly obvious over time is that coming up with a population that can properly support all kinds of community on both factions on a given realm is more important here; many realms that started off with single- or double-digit numbers of Alliance raiders got connected with realms that had a more substantial Alliance population. Because of the historical bias of PVP realms being Horde-heavy, there just aren’t many examples of PVP realms that have an Alliance bias to speak of, so consequently, very few of the CRs produced in these first rounds express an Alliance bias. But as demonstrated with the addition of Stonemaul to the Boulderfist CR, Blizzard might throw existing imbalances to the wind in order to make sure both factions have the right size community to play with.
So what’s the result? Blizzard’s movement to the blog structure in lieu of forum posts communicates that they may be getting into a pattern of how they’re going to distribute updates on the CR process. Having it in a blog format allows them to denote updates readily (as Rygarius does regularly with patch notes), but it also diminishes the facility for conversation. To an extent, stifling conversation isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the successive forum threads contained a lot of duplicated information and argument about the process, where detractors aren’t going to be satisfied until they see more results, and inquiring players are mainly looking for a comprehensive list and any notification that their realm has been added. By having the blog format, that information will always be time-stamped at the top of the page rather than somewhere in the forum, and thus the conversation isn’t hugely necessary.
This movement also signals that we might have the pattern for connections going forward: 5-6 connections taking place, with some of those being new connections and some being existing CRs being augmented with an unconnected realm. It’ll take some math to figure out how long it’ll take before all of the medium/low-pop realms have at least one connection, but even that might not be a clear indicator for how many weeks this process will take.
All told, stuff is accelerating, and that’s good news for people on low-pop servers.