There was a great post on WoWInsider by Robin Torres that brought up a good point I hadn’t thought of regarding the upcoming cross-realm zone feature. She calls out “fun-suckers”, or griefers, annoying people, whatever you’d like to name them. They exist in various forms and do various annoying things.
If you have ever used the Raid Finder, you know how messed up the loot system is. The unspoken rule is “if you can equip it, roll need.” You can always trade it to someone else for a piece you actually need. The loot system is changing in Mists of Pandaria for the better, but the problem speaks to a bigger point: when you are interacting with people you don’t know and will probably never see again, there isn’t a need to act with their opinions of you in mind. Before cross-realm play, it was problematic if you acted up in a group. Ninja-ing loot or other bad behavior could be reported by others to your guild and it didn’t take long for you to end up on people’s “do not group with” lists. The problem is somewhat addressed by the ignore list currently, as ignoring someone ensures you won’t be matched with them again. However, given the X million players in your region, you aren’t going to be able to block the hundreds of thousands of people you don’t want to play with. After all, the maximum amount of people you can block is one hundred.
With cross-realm zones, ignoring someone won’t make them go away. The system will intentionally create zone “phases” with the same servers over and over so that you are likely to meet the same people over and over. While the potential for griefing is lower in outdoor zones where you aren’t grouped, what do you if someone follows you around, steals your herbs, /spits, ganks your quest mobs, and so forth? You can report such players, but I wonder if the same low standard for behavior we see in the Raid Finder and random battlegrounds will exist in zones now.
I’ve written about it before, but I really think that WoW needs to incorporate a “karma” system to match you with like-minded players. For example, matchmaking should use your friends list to automatically group you with friends. Heck, I’m not even sure why there isn’t an option to see when your friends are queueing for something and to join them. This could be expanded, for example, to your guild, and other guilds you add as “friends”. Even friends-of-friends are likely to be people you like to play with. If you are a progression raider, you probably have progression raider friends, and being matched up with other such people will give you the optimal experience. Inheriting your friends and guild-mates ignore lists to a degree would help a lot, too. Even just comparing general statistics, like how many achievements you have of each type and the number of high-level characters on an account, will give valuable information on the type of person with whom each player wants to interact. The system already uses gear level to some extent, so why not more social information? In addition to the current match-making systems, the cross-realm zone should use a pseudo match-making system, with it dynamically creating phases based on this sort of thing. If you are mutual friends with someone, RealID or BatteTag, and you enter a the same zone, you should be phased together.
The server “communities” that developed by the nature of their isolation from other players are dissolving. Proudmoore developed as an LGBT-friendly community; players contrary to that behavior, such as persons who use unfavorable language, were reported and community-policed. The new, region-oriented play isn’t conducive to this sort of environment. While its great that the community can expand in some sense to other realms, where players can play with current members of that realm before moving over or re-rolling, the atmosphere has completely changed. The chat channels will be much different. I imagine RP servers will suffer from this lesser accountability and community-created atmosphere as well.
Its great that the world will be populated, but the niche communities may be worse-off for it. I hope Blizzard recognizes the self-organizing that players love to do and the inherent social nature of this game and gives us better tools to control our play environment.