Blizzard finally released information about the way in which they’ll tie servers together after patch 5.4. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/10551009/Patch_54_Feature_Preview_Connected_Realms-8_5_2013
In a nutshell:
They’re not saying which realms will be connected. They say it will depend on factors such as population, battle groups, realm type (PVP variants vs Roleplay variants), faction balance.
They’re allowing players from “two or more low population realms to play together”.
I’m glad they finally wrote about it at length. I like the name Virtual Realms better because it makes it seem like sort of a cloud based realm where you meet others and can share everything the server offers including guilds, auction houses, banks, and hopefully the ability to ignore those maroons who “don’t exist”. Connected Realms sounds impermanent, tenuous, and like they could snap it apart and connect it someplace else anytime. Maybe they will do just that as they adjust for population shifts. Nah, you can’t have half your guild suddenly poofed over to a new realm connection.
Here is the long set of paragraphs in which they really don’t reveal anymore than that :
Over the years, World of Warcraft players of all kinds have naturally migrated to different realms to play with their friends, find new guilds, strive for Heroic boss kills, search for the most competitive PvP experiences, and otherwise try to find the right place to call home. Over time, these shifts in player population can sometimes create a less-than-optimal play experience for those on less popular realms, making it tougher to find guilds, conquer group content, and get what they’re looking for from the Auction House and in-game economy.
In Patch 5.4, we’re looking to address this with a new feature called Connected Realms. Building on our existing cross-realm technology, a Connected Realm is a set of two or more standard realms that have been permanently and seamless “linked.” These linked realms will behave as if they were one cohesive realm, meaning you’ll be able to join the same guilds, access a single Auction House, run the same Raids and Dungeons, and join other adventurers to complete quests.
Our goal with Connected Realms is to give players on lower-population realms more opportunities to group up, compete, and connect with other players to take on Azeroth’s bigger challenges. That sort of interaction is a big part of what makes World of Warcraft fun, and this feature will help us deliver that experience to even more players.
We’ve prepared a short FAQ to answer a few questions we’re sure you’ll have, and we’re very eager to hear your thoughts and collect further questions in your comments below.
Q. Why are you implementing Connected Realms?
A. As WoW has evolved, we’ve seen players naturally gravitate toward a subset of very active realms, leaving behind lower-populated realms. Due to the massively multiplayer nature of World of Warcraft, certain kinds of gameplay experiences simply aren’t well-suited to a low-pop realm. By allowing players from two or more lower-pop realms to play together, we hope to give more players more opportunities to participate in group-oriented activities, helping to foster a more vibrant in-game community.
Connected Realms also allow us to link populations in a way that’s not disruptive to players, and that doesn’t negatively impact players’ sense of identity and character. Other alternatives such as merging realms would require us to force character name changes if there were conflicts, and could lead to confusion for returning players who’d log in to find their realm missing from the realm list. Some players also feel strong ties to their realm’s name or history, and we don’t want to erase that.
Q. Why implement this now?
A. Our cross-realm technology has continued to evolve since it was first developed for joining players in dungeons. It’s now at a point where we can create seamless worlds made up of multiple individual realms, and we think there are some really positive benefits to that.
Q. How can I tell if someone is on my Connected Realm, but from a different realm?
A. Similar to how we use the (*) symbol next to a player’s name to denote if they’re from another realm in Raid Finder, Dungeons, Scenarios, or a cross-realm zone, we’ll be using a (#) symbol to indicate that someone is part of your Connected Realm, but not your home realm.
Q. Which realms will be connected as Connected Realms?
A. We haven’t decided yet which realms will be made part of a Connected Realm, or which other realms they’ll be connected to, though realms will only be connected to other realms of the same type (e.g. PvE to PvE, PvP to PvP, RP to RP). In the end, we’re considering a number of factors, including Battlegroup, population, and faction balance.
Q. How many realms will make up a Connected Realm?
A. We don’t know how many realms will make up a Connected Realm yet, and it’s likely to differ from Connected Realm to Connected Realm. Our goal is to create a vibrant and fun online experience where you can join guilds, access an active Auction House, and band together to take on group content.
Q. Will Connected Realms have any limitations?
A. There should be no limitations. We want the experience to be seamless, and we expect it work as if you’re suddenly part of a much more active realm.
Q. When will Connected Realms be available?
A. We haven’t yet determined when we’ll be creating the first Connected Realms, but we expect it will be some time after the launch of Patch 5.4.