Looks like Round 6 has been announced to go off on Monday, November 4th, but there are a couple of changes:
- Gul’dan getting hooked to Black Dragonflight/Skullcrusher has been pushed to Round 7.
- Lightning’s Blade getting linked with Burning Blade/Onyxia and the new Winterhoof/Kilrogg connection have been pushed to Round 8.
- Daggerspine is getting added to Aegwynn/Gurubashi/Hakkar in Round 6, which was previously unannounced.
- Dentarg and Whisperwind, neither of which were connected before, are also being hooked up in Round 6.
So Round 6 will now look like this:
- Haomarush + Detheroc/Dethecus/Blackwing Lair
- Stonemaul + Bloodscalp/Maiev/Boulderfist/Dunemaul
- Daggerspine + Aegwynn/Gurubashi/Hakkar
- Tortheldrin and Frostmane
- Dentarg and Whisperwind
More analysis on those connections to come, but let’s also sound off the complete lists for Rounds 7 & 8. I think it highly unlikely that these rounds will take place before BlizzCon on the 8th/9th, so there’s certainly a good amount of time for stuff to change.
- Scilla and Ursin
- Undermine and Anvilmar
- Malorne + Firetree/Rivendare/Drak’Tharon
- Quel’dorei and Sen’jin
- Echo Isles and Draenor
- Fizzcrank and Aggramar
- Gul’dan + Black Dragonflight/Skullcrusher (pushed from Round 6)
- Lethon + Detheroc/Dethecus/Blackwing Lair/Haomarush
- Smolderthorn + Chromaggus/Garithos/Anub’arak
- Gorgonnash + Balnazzar/Warsong
- Lightning’s Blade + Burning Blade/Onyxia (pushed from Round 6)
- Cairne and Perenolde
- Winterhoof and Kilrogg (pushed from Round 6)
- The trend of CRs only gaining one realm at a time continues; as I asserted in the previous post, it doesn’t look like Blizzard plans to take CRs and connect them together. Instead, CRs will get incremented with a new realm in successive rounds. Probably less possibility of bugs in the process.
- Kilrogg/Winterhoof getting pushed back to Round 8 leaves Nesingwary/Vek’nilash as the only PVE CR, but Rounds 7 & 8 both end up adding a lot of PVE realms into the mix. It’s notable that Nesingwary/Vek’nilash isn’t getting a realm added to it in these rounds, despite having an altogether low population compared to other 2-realm CRs; compared to all of the other PVE CRs from these new rounds, it’s at the bottom of the pack in terms of raiding population. However, with the exception of Dentarg/Whisperwind, all of the PVE realms look primed to get more connections down the line.
- There doesn’t seem to be any significance to the number of realms being connected into single CRs; the Dethecus/Detheroc CR, with five realms, has still only got a small fraction of the populations on the larger CRs. There’s no way to tell what Blizzard thinks is an upper limit on the number of realms that CAN be connected to one another, but with both the Dethecus/Detheroc CR and the Boulderfist CR at five realms each at the end of Round 8, there’s no sign of really stopping.
- Rank 35 Whisperwind picks up Dentarg, one of the lowest-ranking PVE realms, and consequently takes the prize for largest population in a CR yet. It’s ahead by a mile over the three other largest CRs, and again resets the goalposts in terms of what Blizzard might consider to be a healthy population. Unless the numbers of the two realms are somehow grossly exaggerated, this might presage even more additions coming to the Boulderfist CR, which is lagging in 4th place for raiding population amongst CRs at this point. It’s notable that the 5-6k range for raiders boosts these CRs to within the top 30 realms for raiding population.
- The seven connections taking place in Round 7, followed by six in Round 8, signals that Blizzard is going full-steam ahead with the connection process. Granted, those numbers might be inflated from what was initially going to be a six-realm push in Round 6, but given that Blizzard backfilled with Daggerspine and Dentarg/Whisperwind, it seems like they’re not letting anything really stop the inexorable progress. It’s still possible that they might be keeping things light while priming up for BlizzCon and we’ll see stuff go fast and furious after Veteran’s Day.
- As a follow-up note from my write-up last week on faction imbalances, the data for these rounds clearly demonstrates that tendency in action: all of the PVE realms have a notable Alliance bias, while all of the PVP realms have a notable Horde bias.
- I think it’s significant that realms like Anvilmar, which had a dramatic Alliance advantage, saw the ratio brought down dramatically with the addition of Undermine; again, this appears to be done more to give the disadvantaged faction a larger playerbase to draw from simply so that play can take place, as opposed to attempting to balance the factions on the server.
- However, for some of the super-high-pop mega-realms that have 99:1 ratios, I don’t see CRs being a solution, but Blizzard might ultimately be okay with certain realms being hugely biased to one side if there are enough players able to participate. If you’re Alliance on Illidan or Mal’Ganis or Horde on Sargeras, you just might be out of luck.
The last week has seen some more dramatic bugs crop up in the connection process. The issue where all but one realm in a CR group has an issue where character avatars aren’t appearing properly on the forums hasn’t been resolved. After Rivendare’s connection in Round 4, several players reported losing mail attachments after the realm restarts. And worst of all, players on Nesingwary started seeing all manner of wackiness happening with their characters lists after Patch 5.4.1 was applied: active characters had disappeared or were locked, preventing them from being accessed, and long-deleted characters appeared unexpectedly. The issue has at this point been resolved after a bunch of intensive work by the tech teams, but it’s certainly a sobering reminder that this is still a new process and there’s still a lot of risk to all of the existing CRs and the realms being added to them as the operation continues.
I feel like I should stress that problems like this aren’t really possible to anticipate, and that Blizzard only has a handful of testing realms that have virtually nonexistent populations compared to live realms. As such, Blizzard hasn’t got any testbed big enough to really ensure that these problems can’t occur when they push it live. Bugs happen. Unexpected code interactions cause unexpected reactions. I think the management of the Rivendare and Nesingwary events demonstrates that Blizzard is taking the process very seriously and has all hands on deck to make sure players are able to get back into play without too much disruption.
But some disruption is almost certain to take place. We just need to be patient and be confident that at the other end of this process, everyone is going to be on realms with playerbases large enough to participate in any content, and that’s on the whole going to be better for the game.
I expect this coming week might be light on CR news with BlizzCon taking place, but I’m confident we’ll get some commentary from the devs on how they think the procedure is going, and maybe how things are going to play out in the future.
And hell, there’s just going to be a lot to talk about during and after BlizzCon. Stay tuned. ^_^