I was initially a little bit critical of the whole Connected Realms phenomenon when Blizzard announced that their first connected realms were going to be the US realms of Boulderfist and Bloodscalp. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of this and I think it’s a great way to merge populations without all the hassle of people losing or changings guild and characters names, nor do they “shut down” servers, thereby avoiding the negative associations that come with shutting down servers. It’s really a genius idea. My concern was really limited to the reasoning behind connecting those two realms, in particular.

It’s been just over a month since Boulderfist and Bloodscalp were connected and, I have to say, things look much clearer after a few more of these connections have gone through.

Blizzard has since added Maiev and Dunemaul to Boulderfist and Bloodscalp, with Stonemaul coming to that group soon. They’ve done a lot more, but let’s focus on this initial cluster of Connected Realms for now.

Boulderfist + Bloodscalp gave an approximate total population of about 112,000 (characters, not players!)

Adding Maiev to those two added another 60,000 characters or so, totalling around 172,000 characters. Dunemaul was also another 60k characters, so the rough total of characters on that cluster is 232,000 characters. Remember, again, this is characters, not players. The actual population is likely a lot smaller than that. Stonemaul is slated to join them next, bringing about 41k characters, so that cluster will have approximately 273,000 characters. (I don’t think anyone except Blizzard has numbers on how many players that means, though.)

My initial hesitation was that they were starting with two servers that, at least in character population, weren’t too badly off. I questioned leaving Chromaggus, Balnazzar and Gul’dan to languish.

Since that first realm connection, Chromaggus and Garithos have been linked, while Gul’dan will be joining the cluster with Skullcrusher/Black Dragonflight. Balnazzar has been linked with Warsong. Great to see!

I also had a lot of questions, many of which have been answered.

1) How many realms will be in a Connected Realm? At least five, by the looks of it. This could theoretically be a LOT, especially if subscribers decline substantially at some point in the future.
2) With which realms will others be connected? Are they going to tack Chromaggus on to Tichondrius, for instance? Or will they do it by lumping together five to ten low-pop realms to be one large Connected Realm? Lumping together low-pops seems to be the plan.
3) Will Connected Realms have names? Not as of yet. That said, they’re considering making forums for each connected realm, which I would think would earn them a name. Imagine going to the Boulderfist/Bloodscalp/Maiev/Dunemaul/Stonemaul forum… I would guess we’ll see forums (and thus, names) closer to when certain clusters are “done” with adding connections.
4) Will players be able to transfer to a Connected Realm (and then get randomly dropped on a server within that VR) or will they continue to transfer to individual servers? I think things are still server-specific at this juncture.
5) What is the ideal population size of a Connected Realm? I don’t think this has been mentioned.
6) When will the actual lower-population realms start to be connected to others? Very shortly after the first two realms were successfully connected, apparently.
7) What’s the approximate cutoff that makes a realm “too big” to be connected, if such a number exists? Unknown.
8) Is there any interest in making sure factions are better balanced? Not exactly, no.

After seeing so many realms be connected in such a short period of time, I started wondering if connected realms were limited to battlegroups or even datacenters. The answer appears to be no. Dethecus and Detheroc are connected, but Dethecus is in the Rampage battlegroup and Detheroc in the Shadowburn battlegroup. Granted, those are both in the Chicago datacenter. However, on the list of connected realms are Laughing Skull (Vindication, in Chicago) and Auchindoun (Retaliation, in New York). Unless they’re moving servers to different datacenters during these connection maintenance periods, it looks as though there is no technical limitation regarding server location or battlegroup, which is great. It really allows Blizzard to examine which realms are in need and address that without worrying about other factors, like that one of the servers is across the country from the other.

Something else that’s interesting is that PVE realms are sneaking into these connected realms. The first few connections were all PVP realms but Nesingwary and Vek’nilash seem to have been connected this week and Winterhoof and Kilrogg will be connected in the next round. All four are PVE realms, so I would presume this means we’ll see more PVE (perhaps RP?) connections in the coming weeks. The lack of transparency as to the actual population of various servers is bothersome (I’d love to know if Eldre’Thalas is going to be connected anytime soon, for instance) but the connections tend to happen within a week or so of the announcement, with new connections happening every week. I would imagine most connections will be done, barring catastrophic technological failure, before the end of the year. I’m sure they’ll keep an eye on things and will add realms to connected clusters as needed, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t have the majority of servers who need population boosts taken care of by the end of the year.

Overall, I think this whole project is going swimmingly and I think it’s a fantastic idea by Blizzard. Of course, what I’m entirely incapable of discussing is how the people on these realms actually feel about these connections. Any of you out there on a connected realm? Problems? Good thing? Bad thing? Let me know! :)

While you’re here, would you do me a favour and take a second to fill out a quick survey for me, please? It’s really just one question: what do YOU want to know more about in regards to being a kick-ass raider? Thanks so much! :) In case you can’t tell, I’ve been working on my forthcoming Kick-Ass Raider guide and have a new Sneak Peek up!

And finally, the Epic Giveaway I’m hosting on Facebook has literally six entries so far. Your chances of winning are spectacular! All you have to do is like the Facebook page (before 11:59pm ET on November 3) to be entered for a chance to win the full epic version of my GM Guide. Go ahead, you know you wanna!