Blizzard's World of Warcraft probably doesn't need much of an introduction. The incredibly popular online game received GameSpot's prestigious 2004 Game of the Year award and is currently enjoyed by millions of active subscribers who log in to play as fantasy characters that belong either to the Alliance faction of humans, night elves, dwarves, and gnomes, or the Horde faction of orcs, trolls, tauren, and undead.
This tremendous popularity has provided a great upside for players who enjoy seeking out travel companions to perform quests and hunt for monsters, but now, Blizzard is getting ready to take the wraps off of a new realm-transfer system (with European servers following suit after) that will let players move their characters to less-populated realms to get more breathing room. We have the details from lead producer Shane Dabiri.
GameSpot: What's the incentive for players to transfer to a less-populated realm? We know that they get shorter wait queues to log on, but don't they lose all their friends who don't transfer over, especially if your friends balk at the fee?
Shane Dabiri: We have a portion of the players on every realm who are not part of a guild, so it may be an appealing option for them. In addition, there may be some guilds that choose to move over to less-populated realms. Our goal with this is not so much about providing incentives for players to transfer realms as it is about offering an additional service for their convenience. This is something that many players have asked us about for a long time, so we're glad that we'll be able to make the service available to them in the near future.
GS: Speaking of the fee, Blizzard is charging $25 per character transfer. Is this to prevent people from abusing the feature? Will you be able to transfer a character as much as you want, so long as you're willing to pay $25 each time? And what sorts of transfer restrictions are there in general?
SD: A character can only be transferred to a new realm once every six months, and once completed, a character transfer cannot be reversed. Also, there will be both character and realm restrictions. For example, you will need to be at least level 10 to transfer realms, and you'll only be able to carry over a certain amount of gold. The cap is set at 300 gold for characters between levels 10 and 30, 1,000 gold for characters between levels 31 and 50, and characters at level 51 and above can bring a maximum of 5,000 gold.
As for realm restrictions, players can only transfer characters between realms of the same type, or from a PVP to a normal (PVE) realm. To prevent players from leveling up without the challenges of a PVP environment and then unfairly being able to make leveling up more difficult for other players on a PVP realm, transfers from a normal to a PVP realm are not permitted. Also, if a player decides to transfer from one PVP realm to another PVP realm, he/she can only do so if there is no faction violation (that is, players cannot already have a character of the opposing faction on the destination realm).
Most of the restrictions we have in place are to prevent abuse of the service, and we don't feel they will impact regular players.
GS: Okay, onto other subjects. At Blizzcon last year, Blizzard brought up the potential of doing cross-server battlegrounds, that is, letting characters on different realms battle one another. Any update on how this is coming along? And how do you balance this since there tend to be far more Alliance players than Horde players, which means that there might be waiting queues while alliance players wait for an opponent?
SD: We're very excited about this feature! It's in development now, and internal testing is underway. Currently, the faction-balance issues play a bigger role in whether you'll get into a game or not. With cross-realm battlegrounds, we can match players up across many realms, which means games will be starting and ending all the time. As a result, the wait to get into a battleground should be considerably less. We will, of course, test cross-realm battlegrounds on our public test realms for everyone to try out.
GS: Looking forward to it. Thanks, Shane.
[UPDATE]: A Blizzard representative confirmed for GameSpot that realm-transfer capabilities will be offered to European players, as well, with details to be announced in the near future.