Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Premium Cross-Realm Dungeon Feature

A Blizzard CM, Zarhym, posts:
With the continued popularity of the Dungeon Finder, many players have been asking for a way to group up with real-life friends who play on other realms to take on instances together. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about a new feature currently in development that will allow players to invite Real ID friends of the same faction to a party regardless of the realm they play on, and then queue up for a 5-player regular or Heroic dungeon.

As this is a fairly complex service to develop, we don’t have a release date to share quite yet. It’s important to note that as with some of the other convenience- and connectivity-oriented features we offer, certain elements of the cross-realm Real ID party system will be premium-based, though only the player sending the invitations will need to have access to the premium service. We'll have more details to share with you as development progresses -- in the meantime, you may begin to see elements of the feature appear on the World of Warcraft PTR.

First off, I think mentioning the Dungeon Finder was a bit misleading. As I read it, this doesn't have a lot to do with the Dungeon Finder. It sounds like you can invite RealId friends to your group, and then queue up for an instance.

Honestly, I don't really see the point to this feature. There's already a workaround if you want to play with real-life friends regularly. You just roll new characters on the same server. You can save your old characters for times when your group isn't online. And if you're always playing together, then maybe server transfers are a better option.

I don't really see how the economics of this idea will work. This feature sounds like something you pay for ahead of time, that you plan on using multiple times, but not too often. And only one person in the group needs to pay for it.

I don't think that the number of players that would use this service is very high. And the people who would actually need to pay for it is a fraction of that number. So basically, I don't think the amount of money you'd get from this is worth the complaints from the community that "Blizzard is making us pay extra if we want to play with friends".

It also doesn't fit in with previous premium services. Server transfers, et al, are all one-time things. Having a price tag attached to them just serves to keep demand down, and ensures that people only use those services when they really need to. If server transfers were free, people would be jumping around like crazy.

I don't really see the point of decreasing demand for this service. Maybe it serves to ensure that people don't RealId strangers just to group with them again. That you only put "real" friends on your RealId list. This is one thing that could convince me that charging for this feature is a good idea. If there is a significant potential negative effect to this service, depressing demand via pricing is wise.

However, I don't think Blizzard charging for this service is "wrong". Personally, I'll never use it. So for me, having it be optional is better than bundling it in the base package and increasing the price of that.

Complete speculation, but from a software dev perspective, it kind of feels like one faction of Blizzard management didn't really want to spend the development time and effort on this feature. That they thought it would affect too few people to be worth spending money on, and would end up like the barbershop1. But another faction really wanted to work on this feature. Maybe because it would set the stage for future cross-server coordination. So the two factions compromised with the idea that it would be a premium service and so "pay for itself".

Of course, the above paragraph is pure speculation. But to me, the other premium services, and even the pets and mounts, make sense to me as premium services. I may prefer that Blizzard didn't charge for them, but they make economic sense to me. But I just don't see the point of charging for this idea when only one person out of the group of friends would actually end up paying for it. It's ticky-tacky, nickel-and-dime stuff that seems out of character for Blizzard (though maybe not Activision).

1. You can really tell from a lot of Blizzard's comments that they feel that the Barbershop probably wasn't the best use of resources, given the number of people that actually use the feature semi-regularly.


  1. Insightful.

    It never occurred to me that it may have a price tag on it for reasons other than profit.

  2. I was under the impression that it would be part of the "Value Added Services" package, which is currently the "WoW Remote" package with AH/Guild Chat. It's not something I'd pay extra for, but it will definitely be incentive for more people to subscribe to the package.

    I already have the WoW Remote package since I enjoy playing the AH from time to time. If this new feature _is_ added to that, I can see myself using it from time to time. I (like many people I imagine) have friends all over the place. Many of whom are casual players. This is a nice way for me to be able to hop on and run a dungeon with them while still being able to stay on my server to raid.

    (Speaking of raids, if they went a step further and let you zone into the same raid after forming a group, that would be amazing.)

  3. When I still played WoW, I found I used the barbershop just once per character, to get the achievement.

  4. "I don't think the amount of money you'd get from this is worth the complaints from the community"

    I'm pretty sure complaints from the community cost Blizzard approximately nothing :)

    Personally, I don't play anymore (quit just before Cataclysm) but I love the idea. I had friends scattered across servers, and I never had the discipline to level a half-dozen alts to max level (without an existing support structure, no less) to let me run dungeons with them.

    Now I'm imagining the cross-server dungeon-running "dream team" I'd assemble ... mmm.

  5. This feature seems perfectly suited to my play. I have been a hardcore raider for years and loathe to leave my server. However, many of my good friends have transferred to other servers when our raiding guild disbanded. Now, I am in a guild that is doing the content I want to do, at a schedule that meets my needs, but most of the members are either strangers or actively annoying to me.

    Now, when we are all online and have some time, we can do things together and just have fun like the old days.

    That said, I would not pay for this feature as a stand alone. As much as I enjoyed the novelty of the Android app while it was free, I wouldn't pay the $2 a month for that either. However, all bundled together... I don't know, I might consider it. I have certainly spent more out of pocket money on the social aspects of WoW before, if you've ever paid for a ventrillo server or web site for a guild you've very likely spent more than $2 a month.

  6. My objection to it is that it was developed with money paid for out of the general fund of people already subscribed.

    For such a large scale production effort, I'd rather see that development time go into cross realm BoAs. This seems like an end run around that stated goal (sure I could level an alt, but why bother if I could either get 55% exp gain, or pay $25 to move it). It just doesn't feel right. If those existed (cross realm BoAs) I'd be okay with adding a service like this and charging for it.

  7. There is no general fund that all money collected from WoW goes into to drive future development. Would you expect to get the next generation MMO they are currently developing just because they were able to afford that development because of the profit from WoW? That logic is kinda absurd.

  8. After the first shock of "aw, now they are going to charge us extra to play with friends", I think this is worth implementing, mostly for two reasons:

    - Most of my old guild have transferred to different servers. I really like those guys and I really miss playing with them, but I just can't transfer from server to server.

    - I have built and army of alts on 2 different servers, and when I think to transfer, I usually end up thinking that I should move 3-4 characters together (60-80 $).

    In the case of this new service, if the price is right (say $2 per month, "skyrocketing" the subscription price from 13$ to 15$), I will be extremely glad to pay and play with my old guild mates again, without moving my characters here and there...

    If only we could group Horde with Allies.....
    (I know, tech can't allow it right now bla bla bla)...

  9. I'm guessing this service might also include other features, such as cross server mail.

  10. Honestly, I don't really see the point to this feature. There's already a workaround if you want to play with real-life friends regularly. You just roll new characters on the same server.

    And when you all have established characters that you don't want to abandon, and/or don't want to rebuild from scratch...?

    You seem to be inferring that just starting over, leveling to max, and then regearing and everything is just something you do in an afternoon. Since that's implausible, this feature is more convenient then dropping everything just because you have some max level friends who decided to move/roll on a different server then the one you're already established on.

  11. @Big Heals: Oh, how much I would like it to be so... Unfortunately no, this is no workaround for the cross-server mail/BoA issue, because servers are self-centered and there is no way one server can contact another. BGs and Dungeons are instanced and hosted on different servers, so you can group people from different realms without your respective realms really knowing what is going on or directly contacting one another.

    The issue I would see tackled by this service is the cross-faction grouping of friends, though I am not sure how/if this could be done atm. I mean, how can a horde's buff also affect alliance characters? Even if they change all dungeons into 'sanctuaries' (it doesn't really matter game-wise, since you can't be ganked in an instance where none but your group can enter), I am not sure they could trick the game into treating everyone as if they are same faction.

    But then again, if you think of dueling, there MUST be some sort of switch to game this thing.....

  12. Could it be an experiment or a stepping stone for X-Realm Raids?

    Inviting RealID friend for raids?

  13. I suspect that they'll charge for it until they have all of the bugs worked out, then uncouple it from premium services.

    Blizzard has stated repeatedly that they want WoW to be *the* premiere social online game, and you can see how everything in Cataclysm is working toward that goal - RealID, the increasing importance of guilds via perks, iPhone guild chat, and now RealID cross-realm dungeon finder.

  14. It's more likely an in for their social design ideas. You'd reroll or transfer for a real friend but someone you met in the random dungeon finder that was cool and/or a great player? Just be come his RealID friend and you can group any time...

  15. RJ, I didn't mean level a new character to 80. I meant level two characters together. Maybe use the low-level Dungeon Finder.

  16. I don't see how that affects the point I made, though. If you and your friend already have developed characters, then how is dropping them entirely to relevel, even if you're leveling with your friend, helpful?

    Characters are more then just the items they are wearing. If a friend of mine changed to another server, and I still wanted to do a dungeon run with them, I'm not going to level another Warlock on that other server, and lose all the things I am proud of obtaining; Time-Lost Protodrake, What a Long Strange Trip it's Been, Loremaster, and so forth. Sure my original character is there on my original server, but there's just not the same attachment.

    As such, it is really flat out more convenient to be able to party for a dungeon across the server divide. I really have no interest in leveling another character on another server, gearing it, and then trying to reclaim some of my previous achievements/items just so that I can, on occasion, do a dungeon with a friend. Should this situation end up happening at some point in the future, I would certainly be willing to pay a little extra per month for the chance.