A number of concerns have popped up since cross-realm zones were introduced to live realms, and we want to take a moment to explain how they work. We also want to address some of the anomalies you may be experiencing, including some recent bugs that we've hotfixed, or are currently investigating.
Cross-Realm Zones 101
Cross-realm zones are a new technology that allows players in underpopulated areas of the world to meet, group up, and adventure with players from other realms. This technology effectively populates low-level zones and other previously uninhabited areas, resulting in a livelier game world. Cross-realm zones allow players to form a group with other players from within a select pool of realms in order to quest just like they normally would, while still allowing the social structures of their home realms to remain intact. Cross-realm zones populate an area with players from other realms based upon the following criteria:
When traversing Azeroth, players may encounter players from other realms who share their same realm type. PvE with PvE, PvP with PvP, RP-PvP with RP-PvP, and RP-PvE with RP-PvE.
The exception to this is that players are freely able to invite Real ID and BattleTag friends to join their party, even if their realm types do not match. In this case, players will be randomly placed within a party member's realm. While it might be a little disconcerting to know that players from non-RP realms are adventuring in RP realms, or that players from PvP realms are exploring PvE realms, this is working as intended. Those players are in the company of friends from the target realm.
Please keep in mind that if you choose to group with Real ID and BattleTag friends, you may be placed on a different realm type depending on the members of your party. As such, we recommend grouping with players who belong to realm types you are comfortable with experiencing (such as PvE or RP).
When we initially looked at the North American time zones, we didn't think that the time differences would have much of an impact on players participating in cross-realm zones. However, the inclusion of some Oceanic realms was an oversight. Following a recent change, players will no longer be placed on a realm with a time difference greater than three-hours. We'll watch the results of this change and if three hours still feels too odd, we can continue to iterate.
Currently, realms are coalesced by language, meaning that players on Spanish-speaking realms will be placed in coalesced zones with other players on Spanish-speaking realms, and Brazilian realms will be placed in coalesced zones with other Portuguese-speaking players. This separation by language wasn't initially in place with the launch of patch 5.0.4, but has since changed so that we can provide a better gameplay experience in each region. Players on Oceanic realms, while English-speaking, are also only coalesced with other players on Oceanic realms in order to prevent players from being placed on realms with a local time difference greater than three hours.
Lack of Realm Community
We understand that players are concerned about CRZ potentially impacting the sense of community. Cross-realm zones were intended to make lower level zones feel less empty, but may also impact other more populated zones. With more populated areas, we're aware of concerns over increased competition for resource nodes as well as quest and rare mob spawns. This is something that we're in the process of evaluating. We've already taken some steps to address it by increasing the spawn rates of most rare spawns. If a zone becomes too populated, we're capable of adjusting how many realms are able to connect to it. Just keep in mind that we do choose spawn times of creatures and profession nodes with a certain zone population in mind -- CRZ affords us the ability to better maintain those populations.
Please note that Pandaria zones will not have CRZ enabled when Mists of Pandaria is released, but players can group up cross-realm in Pandaria with Real ID or BattleTag friends. The Wandering Isle, the pandaren starting area, will also not have CRZ enabled at launch, though we'll have multiple instances of this zone running as needed for each realm, in an attempt to prevent overcrowding.
Low Population Concerns
Cross-realm zones are the first step toward improving the play experience when leveling on a low-population server. The world will be more populated, opening up the possibility for you to make BattleTag friends who you can then invite on future adventures. World of Warcraft is meant to be a massively multiplayer role-playing game, so we want to give players on lower population realms access to a larger community to play with.
Cross-realm zones won't fix economy-related issues for lower populated realms and it wasn't intended to. Regarding the suggestions for a cross-realm auction house, this is something we can evaluate at a future date. However, great care must be taken and we must carefully evaluate its impact on realm economies if such a change were to occur.
Known Bugs and Resolved Issues
We're working behind the scenes to look into and address many of the recently shared CRZ concerns. In addition to the hotfixes that have already been applied to help streamline the player experience, we have some additional hotfixes on the way to address some of the known bugs.
Tol Barad and Wintergrasp Concerns
We unfortunately didn't identify some of the issues with these PvP zones because these areas didn't see much activity during the beta testing period. An early bug allowed players from multiple realms to participate in Tol Barad and Wintergrasp battles, or quest in these zones in between battles; however, this has been addressed and these zones should never be coalesced. We'll consider offering full CRZ functionality for these zones in a future patch when we can solve some of the logistical issues coalescing initially brought about.
Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza
In the case of the weekly Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza, we also found that players from other realms were able to jump to a realm in a different time zone to get a head start on fishing, allowing them to win their home realm's tournament as soon as it began. This isn't fair for anyone and will require some new tech on our end to ensure the integrity of timed competitions. Unfortunately, this change will require a client-side patch, so we are disabling the fishing tournaments until we can deliver the fix for them in a future patch.
Ignoring or Reporting a Player from Another Realm
We understand that players want to be able to ignore and report players from other realms, and we're working to identify and correct any issues currently preventing this. We take harassment very seriously, and if another player is harassing you, you can report them using the right-click report option so that we can investigate your report.
Cross-Realm /who Requests
This is something we'd like to do, and we're looking into it.
Realm "Hopping" by Changing Party Leaders
While it might sound like fun to go exploring in other realms by changing party leaders, this was not intended, and allowed some players to take advantage of bosses such as the Darkmoon Rabbit and challenges such as the Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza. As such, we've made a fix that will stop groups from being able to do this.
Chat, Achievement, Skill Spam
We're aware of chat, achievements, skills, and World Defense announcements being spammed in cross-realm zones and are working on a solution for this. We agree: it's annoying.
Every bit of assistance you can offer us in tracking down bugs and squashing them would be invaluable. After reading this, if you're experiencing any issues with CRZ that pretty clearly seem unintended, please provide us as much detail as possible on the Bug Report forum. If you're curious as to what entails a "good" bug report, please read this simple, yet effective guide
We're definitely keeping tabs on this thread and ones like it, and will continue to roll out hotfixes to address any remaining issues as quickly as we can, so keep an eye out on our list of hotfixes
for further details.
The bottom line is that cross-realm zones are meant to improve the leveling experience in lower-level zones while allowing you to quest with your Real ID or BattleTag friends. We're currently in a strange part of the patch cycle where the level cap is 90, but everyone is still stuck at 85. We believe that most of the concerns about competition are having a larger impact now because everyone is waiting for Mists of Pandaria.
Please provide any additional feedback you have below. We're continuing to read the concerns and bug reports you've been sharing. We're committed to polishing the cross-realm zone feature so that it provides the best possible gameplay experience for all of our players.