We know that Blizzard is playing around with a virtual server technology (based off the cross-realm zones) that would have several features:
- Virtual servers would allow for multiple realms to be virtually linked together. So, my realm of Elune would be virtually linked to at least several other PVE servers to form a mega-realm.
- You can easily raid current content with anyone on your same virtual server.
- For guilds, this has the benefit of being able to join another guild on your “virtual” server, without having to pay money to transfer to the actual server.
- Resources such as auction houses are also shared across the same virtual realm.
- This builds off the cross-realm-zone technology that is currently used for many parts of the game that allow for cross-realm grouping of quests and 5-man dungeons. PVP guilds can also benefit from changes that increase the ease of cross-realm grouping for BGs and arena teams.
So, as an officer in a 25-man guild, my thoughts are about what virtual server technology and associated game support systems need to be in place to help raiding guilds maximize the benefits of this change:
- There needs to be an easy way to recruit guild/raid members based on your virtual realm. This includes the need for new recruitment forums for each virtual realm, a better in-game recruitment system, and other recruitment supports to make it easy to find people to join guilds and find raiding groups. The realm-specific forum is almost always a better recruitment tool for my guild compared to the general recruitment forum (where every single guild in the US is trying to recruit people). So, we will need a recruitment forum for each virtual server to have a chance of raiding guilds being able to successfully recruit new members.
- In-game chat tools used for guild/raid recruitment will also need to work across the whole virtual realm so you can find other people to join raids and guilds. It needs to be easy to communicate with other people on your virtual realm. This includes having chat channels like General and Trade tied across the whole virtual realm – even if it attracts trolling. We may also need a new in-game chat channel (given the failing of the guild recruitment “tool”), to keep recruitment for guilds or PUG raids out of trade/general chat (e.g., have a recruitment in-game channel for guild recruitment, and a “grouping” channel for forming 5-mans, raids, or pvp teams). Having an increased number of topic-specific cross-realm chat channels will increase the ease of connecting with other like-minded people without overwhelming general & trade chat (e.g., people wanting to join a guild can join “looking for guild”, people looking for group can join “looking for group”).
- The cost of transferring to a new virtual (or actual) realm needs to be significantly reduced. It currently costs $25 to transfer one character to a new server. It costs an additional $30 to faction change. The $25 to $55 real money cost to transfer to a new raiding guild (and upwards of a hundred dollars if you want to transfer multiple characters) is one of the bigger hurdles that have made it incredibly difficult to recruit members into 25-man raiding guilds outside of the most hardcore raiding. Even for 10-man guilds, transferring servers has a huge cost and a huge risk. The new cost of transferring virtual realms and faction changing needs to be significantly reduced – as the physical realm becomes less meaningful, the cost needs to reflect this change. With new virtual servers, changing to a new realm should be no more than $10, and faction changes should come down to about $15 or $20 at most. With Blizzard moving to selling vanity items (toys and transmog gear) for real money, reducing the transfer costs permanently (and allowing ease of moving to new guilds) can breathe new life back into the game without hurting Blizzard’s monetary bottom line.
In conclusion, the new virtual realm technology can potentially increase the ease of guild recruitment. However, the support systems and real life monetary costs associated with joining new raiding guilds also need to be adapted to fit this shift in technology. I really look forward to how virtual servers may make my job of guild recruitment easier. I just hope that Blizzard keeps guild recruitment in mind when they polish their virtual realm implementation. What do you think Blizzard needs to do to support guilds in this time of huge changes to server technology?