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Waging WAR: The taboo of cross-realming

Greg Waller

What happens when you take Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (which offers arguably the best PvP in any MMO currently available) and mix it with controversy, corruption, and a heaping helping of taboo? Well, for one, you get this week's topic for Waging WAR: cross-realming. Today's issue takes a look at the what, why, and how of it all.

Recently, during a conversation with a guildmate, it was suggested that achieving renown rank 80 was a simple matter, requiring little time or effort. At the time, I was flabbergasted. There I sat, at RR74 (after having spent innumerable months getting there), listening to someone tell me that all my effort was somehow misplaced. It was no coincidence that we were also talking about what my guildmate referred to as "organized dueling." It is my unwavering belief that WAR is not balanced nor designed to be a system of careers and classes based on 1v1 (or similar) odds. Thus, dueling in WAR has always seemed to me to be an effort in futility, and every time the subject comes up in the realm's general chat, I've been outspoken against it. I believe the addition of a duel mechanism would be detrimental to the base concept of RvR, and would inevitably detract from the very essence of group-based, organized combat. Indeed, my vision of dueling in WAR would resemble some sort of fight-club held in one of the old, abandoned Fortresses far away from any keeps, warbands or sieges, as combatants from both realms enter a pit from which only one will emerge as the victor (the other emerging a few moments later, after shaking off the effects of resurrection sickness).

"But Greg," you ask, "doesn't that sound more like cross-realming to you?" Indeed it does. Let's talk more after the break.

My first experience with cross-realming came when I was playing World of Warcraft way back during the winter of 2004. During that time I was told that the reason for not being able to understand what the alliance characters were saying to me was to prevent cross-realming. Before then, I thought the language barrier was there to keep PvP somewhat civil. Being that I was on a PvP server, this made sense to me, even way back then, when there were no tangible rewards for PvP at all. There was no honor system using ranks, points, or token currency. There were no battlegrounds. All of that stuff was still in development. The only rewards for PvP were recognition and bragging rights. But what did I know? Cross-realming? What the heck was that?

In the years since then, I have come to a much better understanding of cross-realming through WAR than I ever did in WoW. In WoW, cross-realming was consequential only immediately after the original honor system was introduced, before diminishing returns were patched in shortly after, which effectively nipped the problem in the bud. You see, in that very short window of time, a pair of players could team up in some remote area of a contested zone and farm each other for kills to gain points indefinitely, but that time was short-lived. Alternatively, in WAR, cross-realming is still quite serious (as serious as gaming can get, anyway) even with diminishing returns on repeat kills in skirmish-based combat. Because of the nature of renown and the way the realms are set up with skirmish contributing to victory points, cross-realming is still a very real problem for WAR. Additionally, the issue is exacerbated by the fact that players are also able to trade guild standards to the same effect. Players can kill each other for a while, then trade standards until the diminishing returns have reset for kills, and so on, so forth, ad nauseam.

When we're faced with the long-term, uphill battle that renown rank 80 is, it becomes quite simple to see why players might be willing to break the game by cross-realming. Indeed, when it comes to MMOs in general, it's almost a de facto rule that players will nearly always find the shortest path, or path of least resistance, to a set goal. Some people illegally buy or sell in-game gold or currency. Some use power-leveling services. Others are even known to buy pre-leveled characters outright. WAR suffers from all of those general MMO problems and adds cross-realming on top, like some sort of twisted dark cherry on a proverbial black forest cake of corruption.

I also have a hard time pinning down how I feel about cross-realming. I look at the issue through three sets of goggles: as a player of WAR (subjectively) I feel anger and resentment toward those that use cross-realming to gain renown artificially; as a gamer in general (objectively) I recognize the difficulties in detection and enforcement -- it is not illegal to use forums, voice chat, or own a second account; and, as a member of the media (journalistically) I feel a responsibility to open dialogue on issues, regardless of how taboo they may be. I suppose, ultimately, considering all three, I have to declare the topic anathema and should probably scrap this issue of Waging WAR altogether, but I refuse to, since doing so would only further entrench the subject's taboo. I'm sure simply talking about this issue is probably going to resemble yet another bad review, but it really isn't. This is me, a long-term player of the game that cares about it very much, opening dialogue on an issue that clearly has no simple solution or fix.

So what can be done about cross-realming in WAR? The short of it is: not much. I've seen people toss around the term and use it as if it were on-par with insults like "Nazi" or worse. But those who take part in compounding the issue are never outcast or even taken seriously. In fact, the topic of cross-realming is often just glazed over after a few frustrated words are thrown around in anger and spite like so much monkey poop. It seems even the developers are stumped about how to fix the issue. They wanted to go with the "can't beat 'em, join 'em" stance and tried to relax rules regarding characters, realms and servers in patch 1.3.6, but the community raged against it. Perhaps so many people regarded it as a negative change due to the cooldown that was proposed for switching realms. Beyond that, it seems everyone turns a blind eye to the issue. Popular ignorance is collective bliss, I suppose. If you have a suggestion on how to fix the issue, or a comment about an experience or opinion you would like to share, leave a comment. Taboo or not, the first step toward a solution is dialogue.

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