Look at what's happening to the gaming community as a whole, and then look at server technology and the massive increase in power associated with backend technologies therein. If you don't want to read a lot, just think about how insanely different the world of computers are since 2004. But if you want to get down into it a bit, first, the difference in the community:
- Fractured communities revolving around "shards" are essentially gone. There is no such thing as server loyalty anymore, and while there are a few big servers, many are at the same moderate state (and please leave all this 'my server is dead' talk outside -- until you've played a dead game like EQ2 you have no context, and then if you did you wouldn't be complaining).
- Blizzard is moving the game's social dynamics continually towards a unified model. From the early integration of Battle.net friends, to the grouping cross realm, to even the inclusion of battlegroups themselves way back when -- we have been on the steady course towards a single realm. CRZ and virtual servers are the yummy sub-icing on the cake. The real goodness will come when the concept of a server dies.
- Players themselves, and communities they've built up around themselves, work towards getting rid of the virtual bounds of a multi-server system. OpenRaids, Twitter friends, etc... all those exist as part of a larger community of players that are beyond server designation. Blizzard knows this, and they clearly see the writing on the wall (in the favor of these communities).
Next, there's been marked developments on the server and technology end. We can't speculate intelligently about a lot of this stuff, but we can talk about some things:
- Broadband internet access is the norm now. Remember back in 2004? WoW supported dial up internet. 28.8k. I raided with a few people on phone-based modems that used modulation in sounds to convey where their warrior was positioned and what his shield was doing. What. The. Heck. That seems insane nowadays. Yet that was the system WoW was originally coded for. The excess bandwidth available to WoW's clients cannot be overstated in its evolving importance. Crazy things are able to be done with more space on the virtual tubes for WoW's client and server to talk to each other about the game. Crazy things like ... a single unified server.
- Tomes have been written and rewritten about the way for large virtual communities to interact with each other on a technical end. Blizzard has been a pioneer here, and they know better than anyone else in the business how to optimize the game's server communication systems to handle millions of players at once. In 2004 (really 2001/2002 when the base systems were being designed) not much was known about how to handle this many people. No one had to do it. There was some theoretical ideas on how to, mainly based on the models that established the basics of the internet, but there was nothing on how to get everything communicating with each other in a gaming-like system. Now? You can buy software packages that handle the MMO backend for you; the knowledge and systems are that common. Back then it was the undiscovered country.
- Phasing. The ability to phase, which was originally stumbled upon as a server accident (or so the story goes), allows not only amazing story telling potential, but also lets multiple people exist at the same location, each with in-game objects that are only seen to them. Think of how many thousands of people are running around in that little farm area. And the only things you see are yourself and Yoon.
That last point, the ability to phase the game in such extreme measures, leads me to believe that it's very possible to see a single unified WoW
server in the near future. Granted there are a lot of technological hurdles to jump over before it's doable, but if you can phase thousands of players, then there's no reason you can't phase millions. It's just a simple issue of scale and sever communication bandwidth.
The social dynamics are ripe for this change as well, and while doing so would no doubt cause a lot of upheaval in terms of the economy and guild dynamics, at the end of the day WoW
would look like EVE
's community -- connected to each other, engaged with one another and everyone else
, and dealing with a much fairer economic system that while is still subject to capitalistic regressions, is at heart one of the most accurate virtual economies in existence (if not the most accurate).
's economy and server structure are something that I know many people at Blizzard drool over. One day this is going to happen to WoW
, and I really think we're only an expansion or two away from The Great Merger.
you left Dune out, Dune it's marvelous
Dune is amazing, and I even enjoy all the followup novels. The dinner chapter in Dune, where they're all sitting around a table with various diplomats and dignitaries, is one of the crowing achievements in all of literature I believe. Such expression and pose, it is full of bombastic subtlety.
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