I want to be clear that cross realm zones as a new game feature are just not working for me as a player. I won't try to speak for anyone (other than my wife who has explicitly said I should post about our experience on the forums) as I do not possess that authority. I can only say that while leveling a pair of panda monks with my wife that the issues have been significant enough that I'm very upset and my wife is contemplating quitting WoW, all together. This is a woman who's played since vanilla with two realm firsts, got the Insane title when it was TRULY an INSANE feat, is an avid pet and mount collector and someone who is known on our server as a resource for all things holiday. And yet, in less than two weeks, her experience has been SO BAD that she's ready to abandon all of that work and walk away.
So, why do I say that Cross Realm Zones aren't working for me (and her)?
Firstly, even several weeks in, it feels like the first fews days of the Xpac while leveling. That's bad like going for a colonoscopy or root canal bad.
Why is it bad? Plainly speaking, the level of self-interest is staggering. Even giving space for the very slow render time of mobs, players and items in CRZs which can lead a person to go for a node without realizing they're poaching, the incidents of pure, unadulterated, selfishness with respect to nodes, herbs, quest mobs, and quest items has been just overwhelming. And that's just based on what I've witnessed. Not in the continuous six years I've played have I ever experienced behavior this bad. (Well, maybe TBC launch… HFP was extraordinarily bad those first two days) Moreover, as one levels one cannot focus on learning the intricacies of the class and spec because so much focus is spent on mob tagging and being first to the next quest item. As conscientious levelers, we've both been frustrated as we knew we weren't learning what we needed to be learning because of all the questing nonsense. Usually it evens out after the impatient ones burn their way to max level. The problem is that with CRZs, even in lower level zones, the experience of having to wade through that behavior rather than be able to quest, become immersed in the lore and enjoy discovering what I find a fascinating class and spec has turned leveling into a chore.
More accurately, it's turned leveling into a frustrating chore.
At least when folks are all on a server and someone behaves badly, there can be consequences. They might be in a guild and repeated bad behaviors can become a guild matter. Or the person might obtain a reputation and have difficulties getting invites to PuGs or have difficulties selling items in trade or on the AH.
This has brought all the problems of the LFR…home.
Secondly, it's made playing as a group tremendously difficult. One of the biggest problems has been inconsistent phasing. My wife's toon will literally phase in and out right next to me in the middle of a zone. Sometimes in combat. She sits right next to me as we play and yet, she sometimes has to look at my computer in order to see where I am because we're out of phase in the same zone, on the same quest. It's worse in combat when she's trying to heal me and she can't target me until I move and I come back into her phase. It didn't seem to be area based because after killing the mobs, I'd test the area.
Thirdly, we've both had a ton of problems with our inability to tag mobs. As in, we cannot even click them. My wife nearly died laughing when I sat there for about 10 minutes swearing up a storm in Mt. Hyjal trying to save 10 critters only to realize far too late that I was trying to save an "unclickable" mob. Funny for her that one time. However, when we have to log out of our toons at least a dozen times per play session due to this issue, it becomes unfun really quickly. It's especially problematic for me if a mob aggros on us and I can't click on it to hit it. Thankfully, I realized that Keg Smash will simply work if ANY mob is in range and then auto target. Won't help other classes though. Which leads me to the next issue.
Fourthly, it's really frustrating when these issues cause an inability to loot mobs. Even if I can use Keg Smash to engage a mob, an unclickable mob will not allow me to loot it. Period. I can use target of target to do things like drain the scorpion in Uldum or perform some other function on the corpse. But I still can't loot. I'd go free for all except for the next issue.
Fifthly, far too many quests have not been updated for groups such that groups have to grind exponentially more mobs. This is an issue because the respawn timers aren't always seemingly cognizant of how many toons are in a zone at any particular time. That, of course, leads to the less than generous kinds of behaviors that make the game really not fun. It is especially problematic for end of quest line mobs. Some of those mobs are seemingly on regular mob timers, so it's not unusual to see a crowd around the mob spawn point and then to have everyone break out in a tagging frenzy. We counted toons from SEVEN different servers camping the Ogre in Deepholm on the Alliance Airship. Group invites are denied. In the past two weeks, I think only twice has an invite been accepted to allow for mob sharing and both times it was from people who expressed relief because they were tired of having to fight to tag mobs.
Sixthly, again and again we've seen significant phasing issues with respect to quest items. It was less of an issue before we could mount or even before we could fly. However, once we could fly, no matter how low we flew, quest items regularly wouldn't phase properly. We've gotten into the habit of doing a "fly and wait" in order to allow the render of quest items, players from other servers, etc to happen. Let me just say that in a cooperative environment, this might be less of an issue. However, when the WoW community for the most part pretty much takes a "me first" attitude to questing, losing lots of time to out of phase quest items is frustrating.
Seventhly, my wife the avid pet and mount collector was VERY upset when doing her JC quest in Storm Peaks to find people from 4 different servers (that we saw) clearly hunting the TLPD. It was already hard enough to farm such a rare beast or any rare. Now we have to hunt rares across our entire data center? I mean, we've seen people from all 3 battle groups (Nightfall, Retaliation and Stormstrike) that are housed in the New York data center that also domiciles our server. That's a MASSIVE game change that every hunter and mount collector in the game should know about. That also opens up a host of issues related to the Cross Realm Zones relating to rares that we just haven't gotten answers to. What server are we actually on? When was the last spawn time of the rare we are hunting *on that server*? When CRZs are implemented, are the rare timers reset? If not, how can players determine when rares will spawn? For those zones taken out of play, are their timers reset? With this CRZ implementation we went from being able to have a plan to not being able to have a plan. Hunting for rares now is pure camping. We can't look at timers and use our time wisely. We can't be diligent. Again, Cross Realm Zones has turned something fun into an exercise in frustration.
Lastly, in order to quest together, we've tried to take advantage of my wife's 2 person mount. Tried. The problem is that it would have been helpful if not for getting dismounted from 2 person mounts when changing zones. So, instead of being able to have the wife take us to the next quest hub, we're stuck waiting until I'm back at my computer.
All of these things have turned the leveling process into a frustrating chore. Now at level 84 (I'm old, but not quite that old), I can't say that I've reveled in playing a Monk or specifically a Brewmaster. I can't say that I've enjoyed revisiting old content or even seeing some of the quests redone for Cata that I'd missed last Xpac. I can't say that because these 84 levels have been my wife and I trying to find enjoyment in spite of the game rather than because of it.
We're not young people. We don't jump to these conclusions capriciously. But we've seen enough to draw these conclusions:
Cross Realm Zones don't work for us. However they're intended, they don't work. My wife and I were using this launch to spend some time together as we approach our 23rd anniversary. Had I understood how much CRZ would change the fundamental leveling experience, I think I would have picked a different activity. We started this game in 2006 leveling two toons from scratch to max level. Vanilla leveling was tedious, but fun. With MoP, we wanted to revisit that somewhat. What we found is that we no longer have a server. We play on a data center. Even in Stormwind or in Orgrimmar, there is no respite from the CRZ. We were told that the CRZ was ONLY for Low Population zones. Well, even when SW is full to the gills and most certainly NOT a low population zone, it's still chock full of folks from multiple realms.
If the goal of Cross Realm Zones was to bring players together, it is failing. I do NOT want to play on a data center with millions of people who will have no accountability for their actions. I want to play on a server which is a community of sorts. Each server is different. There are most certainly ways to improve the quality of play, more efficiently allocate server resources and foster player interaction without federalizing the game.
If all that matters is this new tech and the enjoyment of players going forward is allowed to be collateral damage, then I'm sure this will fall on deaf ears.