As mentioned in a recent article of mine, over the past past year Blizzard has been making strikes to evolve World of Warcraft into one single massive world. As in the case with EVE Online this means that instead of players being quartered off into different servers, the game is being opened up so the barrier of communication and gameplay is being done away with. For a game like World of Warcraft where there are over eight-million players this isn't a walk in the park to implement, but Blizzard is definitely up to the task, and its latest announcement furthers the progression.
Blizzard has posted an article which confirms that cross-realm zoning will be making its way to the next major Mists of Pandaria beta patch. Wondering how this will work? Blizzard explains:
When you’re in a zone that is set as a ‘cross-realm zone’ you’ll notice that in addition to the players you’d ordinarily see from your realm, you’ll also see (and be able to play with) players from other realms. This will happen seamlessly, and players will be able to group and quest as they normally would with players from their own realm.
As far as the reason behind such a monstrous development goes, World of Warcraft's age takes most of the blame. Not only has the game suffered around a two-million subscriber fallout, but now that the level cap is so high the sub-85—soon to be 90—experience is spread thin. Blizzard described the circumstance with the following:
For many years now, the significant majority of the player population online at any given time has consisted mostly of characters at or near the level cap. This has resulted in an environment where characters that are leveling up experience a world that has fewer other players to interact with than what the world was designed for. Cross-realm zones give us the capability to ensure that level-up zones retain a population size that feels more like the high level areas of the game, leading to a more fun play experience for characters of all levels.
I am a huge fan of EVE Online's single continuous world, and seeing World of Warcraft head in the same direction is exciting. Leveling has become quite a grind now that the level cap is so high, and Mists of Pandaria will make that even worse. Thankfully, it appears that the cross-realm zones will be released at or around the time of Mists of Pandaria's 2012 launch. Not only will that make it more bearable to go back and level a Monk or Pandaren, but the 85-90 experience will be playable across-realms.