But it turns out, 18 months later, that I was wrong. I'm happy to say so, too, I was flat wrong, misguided, incorrect in my optimism and early happiness. Where CRZ have added world PvP back into zones, it seems to be pretty universal ganking without consequences. There's no point going to get my main to flatten that 90 who killed all the level 20s time and time again, because I'll probably end up on a different shard where he isn't. And while I'm leveling, the spawns are so slow that it's a case of waiting and frantically clicking to get the first tap on a quest mob or node. CRZ is not doing good. In fact it's doing quite the opposite, it's encouraging players to try to avoid it, to work around other players. If WoW was designed so you were happy to see other players, it'd be great. Alas, the opposite is true.
So it was with great happiness that I learned one of the deader US realms I play on was to be connected. And as the connection takes place, and more players flood into the auction house and the cities and the world, making it feel more like the busy EU servers I used to play on than the desolate US ones, I begin to wonder. What is CRZ even for any more?
Repopulating low-level zones
This is the original stated purpose of CRZ, and at the same time, where it falls down the hardest. The reason why is that populating low-level zones helps nobody except the gankers. World PvP happens, it's fine, I have no problem with it, I just want a chance to retaliate. I'm not sure how long it'd take my level 58s to kill a level 90, but so far it seems to have taken far longer than it takes them to kill me. It's cool, it's no big deal, I just want to be able to get my own 90s and have my revenge. And for questing, too, the last thing you want is other players. They take your nodes, your spawns, generally make questing harder to do.
Where do connected realms come in? Well, by merit of having more players overall in one world, the lower level zones are repopulated. They aren't just combining the level 90 populations, they're taking whole realms and connecting them together. And what's more, the population levels in lower end zones are "natural" -- without the influence of CRZ they will populate themselves like they used to, back before the influx of artificially added players. You'll see players around, just far fewer. And that's no bad thing. Desolace will return to its desolate state. Just how I like it. Spawns and nodes will be as the designers originally intended.
There really isn't a strong argument for keeping CRZ for world PvP, in my view. Despite the initial hike, it has done nothing apart from making ganking easier. You come in to a group of servers, kill some low levels, and disappear, maybe never to return. What might work is groups of servers being forever linked via CRZ, so you know that if someone from Area 52 kills you, you can have a chance of seeing them again and killing them right back. But what's the difference between this and connected realms? In my opinion, nothing.
Honestly, I always try to shoot for balance in my articles, to present both sides of the story. But in this case, I can't think of a single compelling reason why CRZ shouldn't be wholly replaced by connected realms. Maybe you can, maybe there's something I missed. I do realise it's highly unlikely that Blizzard will actually pull them out of the game, but I think they should as more and more realms get connected. If it's even possible to do so, and keep world bosses cross-realm. Maybe world boss zones only. CRZ technology has done great things, allowing cross-realm groups to do so much, but its original purposes are no longer valid, in my eyes at least.