I believe the introduction of cross realm zones and sharding were initially intended to help increase the population on low pop realms, and reduce the strain on high pop realms. I believe it did achieve this goal.However, cross realm zones and sharding have killed the sense of community you felt on your server, and 8.1's new world lag is showing that the system is not achieving its goal of reducing server load. Also, server technology, and internet speeds have come a long way. We should no longer need a queue to log in to high pop servers at peak times.
Server load: I believe this was the main concern that brought sharding about. It was to reduce the strain on servers. However, assaults are showing major flaws with the system, as drastic world lag is becoming increasingly common. I've done all 6 assaults on 2+ characters, and, about 3/4 of the time the assault zone is insanely laggy, nearly unplayable – likely due to a massive population of alliance in the zone collecting their 30% bonus. Thus, sharding is not solving this problem, and this can no longer be a reason to keep it around.
Increasing Low Pop server engagement: This is clearly a main reason for sharding to exist. Without sharding, low pop realms could feel empty, world PvP could be non-existent, and it would be impossible to find groups. I propose 2 possible solutions once sharding is removed:
1) Join more servers. For example, I currently player on Mannoroth, which is connected with Nazjatar and Blood Furnace. However, even joined, our server is still not considered anywhere near high pop. With sharding removed, this would need to be remedied and I suggest it be done through more server combining so that each server has similar amounts of players to the high pop servers. (Just make sure we actually give the new connected realm a new name altogether, rather than keeping everyone with their original server names).
2) Allow cross realm instance grouping. This becomes trickier, and is the main argument in favor of keeping sharding. Finding a group for a high M+, or pug raid, or, whatever else, would become MUCH more difficult. So why not just keep that system for instances. Move the summoning stone inside the instances and allow players to still use the group finder and what not to join up – they just can't see each other until they're in the instance. The only problem I see with this is possibly world bosses, maybe they could be made into some sort of temporary instance within the zone. I still do worry about this solution as a whole, as of course it dilutes the community appeal of warfronts, battlegrounds, and pre-mythic raiding.
Community: The community is what made WoW the amazing game that we all know and love. However, sharding killed a major part of that feeling. I no longer know any of the players from the top raiding guild on my server. Actually, the only reason I even know the top raiding guild on my server is thanks to 3rd party sites like wow progress and raider.io. Before sharding, you could show off your new shiny raid armor in front of the auction house. And, if you weren't in a top raiding guild, you would see those players and be amazed, and think "wow, that looks amazing, I'm gonna work hard and join a good guild." Everyone on the server knew the names of the top players of their class, because they saw them every day. Guilds had rivalries, players got blacklisted for being as*holes, incredible stories and guild drama started, people's real life relationships were torn apart! And… We loved it. We felt a pride for our server, a pride in our guild, and a strong community within our own faction on that server.
Imagine the AQ opening event with sharding – instead of seeing all the top guilds and players of your server working together, you would instead see a bunch of randoms, to whom you had no connection – and it would kill the entire experience.
There are even some hold overs from this system that can be seen when someone kills Onyxia or Nefarian and puts their head on a pike in the major city. Don't get me wrong, people do still see others with the latest mythic raid gear and they inspect and admire them. But it's not the same – because you will not remember their name or guild, as you probably won't be in the same shard with that person again for a long while. It also cheapens the achievements you accomplish yourself, as you can no longer flaunt them to the rest of your server. When a guild used to be server first to kill a raid boss, there was a server wide message, and that guild would emerge from their raid in their new guild and the rest of the server would marvel at their accomplishment. This would be even cooler these days with Twitch, as the top guild on each server would likely have a lot of viewers from their own server wanting to watch them.
TL;DR: Sharding ruins the sense of community within the game, makes individuals less accountable for their actions, and makes achievements feel less meaningful. It's time Blizzard acknowledges this and scraps the system.
Killjah – Mannoroth
© Post "It’s time to end this sharding experiment." for game World of Warcraft.
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