Tobold's Blog
Sunday, January 04, 2015
Crowded Pandaria

As I listed in a previous post, my general plan for Warlords of Draenor is to level 3 characters to 100: Warrior, Priest, and Mage. The Warrior got boosted to 90 for buying the expansion and is now level 95. The priest was the only character I leveled to 90 in the previous expansion, and is now level 93. But the mage was only level 85, although apparently through patch changes he ended up being 1 xp away from 86. Now as there is an obvious advantage of getting all three garrisons going, I decided to play the mage to level 92 and the level 2 garrison.

I already leveled him from 85 to 87 in the Valley of the Four Winds in Pandaria, and am now in the Kun-Lai Summit. But what was really surprising to me was that I constantly run into trouble with quests because too many other players are after the same quest objectives, and I have to wait for stuff to respawn. At first I thought that was a local phenomenon, and moved somewhere else in the Valley of the Four Winds, but whatever quest I took, other players where there as well. And that continues in the Kun-Lai Summit now. I am meeting far more people in Pandaria than I meet in Draenor, which is really strange.

I can see how some people could be in the same situation as me, having not played Mists of Pandaria extensively and not willing to spend $60 to get a level 90 boost. But why would Pandaria be more crowded than Draenor? I'm not sure where World of Warcraft is technically right now, with the "connected realms" and such, but I don't think I saw anything suggesting that the zones are now all instanced and exist in several copies, like other games do. Anybody have an idea?

I can't find the related news article right now, but I seem to recall that after the initial problems with the launch rush, they started instancing Draenor so people would actually be able to complete the quests. I'm guessing that this technology wasn't applied to other parts of the game.
As far as I know outdoor areas before the current content are all connected via X-Realm feature. They are designed to look populated. A bit bad for questing but great for marketing purposes.

Check whether the people you run into are from your realm or not.
Quite often the quests areas in mists are quite a bit bigger than immediatly obvious, and it might be interesting to branch out to outside of the immidiate vincinity of the questgiver/shortest path to area, to increase mob availibility
Pandaria is now cross realm like Cata, Wrath, BC, and Vanilla zones are. Draenor is server only unless you invite people to your party.

"feel crowded" isn't too scientific.
Try /who Valley, /who Summit and /who Frostfire
Northrend is crammed with people too for the first time in my experience.
My understand there is two distinct consolidations in play

1) virtual realms - essentially server mergers but with two great additions: no name collisions and you can now have more than 11 toons per realm (bank alts and plenty of bank space)

2) CR is now for Pandaeria (essentially all but big cities and the WoD version of Draenor)

So outside of Draenor, the technology can automatically combine realms to make sure that players are always fighting over quest items, resource nodes, and rares. :-(

#1 means you will probably see more people but #2 would impact why Panderia could be more crowded than Draenor.
All of the above, plus my own less insightful observation: when plowing through Pandaria is that it's impossible to catch even a 1/3rd of the questing content before you've outstripped your leveling expectations in that expansion. I hit 90 around the time I suspect I'd barely begun to scratch the second major game region in Pandaria. Completionists probably end up there for a long time.
"when plowing through Pandaria is that it's impossible to catch even a 1/3rd of the questing content before you've outstripped your leveling expectations in that expansion"

Same here. I was level 86 this morning, and now I'm level 90, having done less than half of Valley of the Four Winds and not quite all of Kun-Lai Summit.
They did the server merges, aka the virtual realms, once Draenor dropped.

It took over a year, but they did enough server merges during Mists that they finally started to make the old zones populated again.

Then, when you have the surge of people coming back after Draenor dropped, there was going to be an uptick in all of the old zones too.

I expect this to fade back to more "normal" levels in about 2-3 months, once some people start to leave WoW and others get tired of the leveling game.
Pandaria, with the exception of phased portions, hosts the entire population of your merged server in the same instance.
Draenor is heavily instanced. The bit through the dark portal was designed to to host just a handful of people. It quickly became apparent that this had to be expanded through most of Draenor because nearly every quest became over-crowded (and there were some very painful bottlenecks on world spawned items).

Server merges + increased player base means Pandaria feels crowded. It is hosting higher numbers than planned. Player density in Draenor is even higher but you don't notice it because they are split between multiple instances.
I had the same experience running through Cata and MoP pre-WoD but post-6.0. Even distant sub-60 zones were annoyingly crowded. So I assume it's all up to CRZ. Do a /who and you'll probably find only 10% are from your realm, if that.

I really like seeing some people in all the questing hubs, which wasn't the case the previous time I subbed. The world just felt incredibly lonely and barren. But I think they overdid it a little bit with the population numbers, and should cut them by 20-40%.

I've heard the new setup is a lot of fun for those who genuinely enjoy leveling on a PVP server, as they get a lot more at-level combat this way. And conversely, a nightmare for people who just rolled on a PVP server to play with their friends in some later era of the game where world PVP was nearly dead.

At least now you can do nearly all of the content cross-server (everything but Mythic, right?) if you can't stand your friends' preferred rule set.
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