Connected Realms Are Confusing

Server connections as introduced during Mists of Pandaria were one of Blizzard's more clever technical innovations, as they basically allowed them to merge servers without generating any bad press or complaints from people who were at risk of losing their unique character names. Connected realms continue to exist as separate entities on the server selection screen and for naming purposes, but otherwise they are server merges in anything but name: Players on realms that are connected will see each other in the world, use the same auction house, join the same guilds and so on and so forth.

It's also a feature that is utterly opaque from a player perspective if you don't already know about it and have looked into it in depth. In game there are zero indicators whether your realm is connected to another, not on the server selection screen nor anywhere else. At best you could hazard a guess based on the server suffixes that you see pop up in general chat, but that's unlikely to give you the full picture.

To give an example, most of my currently played retail characters are on the Azjol-Nerub server. As it was starting to fill up with alts, I began to worry that I might run up against the old ten-characters-per-server limit and found myself wondering whether there were any connected realms that I could use for additional alt storage. So I googled my way to this support article, which informed me that Azjol-Nerub is connected to the servers Molten Core and Quel'Thalas.

Wanting to see this in action for myself, I created a new mage on Quel'Thalas and asked my husband to invite her to our little guild. And it worked! Of course, this is when I found out that Blizzard apparently removed the cap on how many characters you can have on a single server some time ago, so if you want to reach your account-wide character limit on a single realm, you can - meaning that my worrying about creating alts on Quel'Thalas was entirely unnecessary anyway.

Which brings us nicely to another point: While the realm connection system in retail is weirdly opaque, it doesn't really matter to most players, because so much content is cross-server nowadays that it doesn't make much of a difference what server you're actually on and what it's connected to, with the exception of some edge cases like high-end raiding. But in terms of chatting, questing, dungeons... you can do all of those things with people from any server within your region, whether your realms are officially connected/merged or not.

When Classic Burning Crusade came out and Blizzard announced that they were going to connect era realms with each other to make sure they maintained a healthy population, I thought that sounded like a good idea. As much as people had balked against having any retail technology in Classic early on, by then this seemed like a sensible application. And in some ways it has been!

However, the problem is that in Classic (era), which server you're on does still matter, because aside from connected realms being effectively merged into a single server (cluster), nothing else is cross-realm. So if you log into Classic era in Europe (which is where I play), the realm selection screen presents you with a list of 38 servers with no indication of what's what. They're not even separated by language anymore, aside from the Russians! So you have no good indication of where would be a good place for you to play, and it's basically a roll of the dice whether you'll end up somewhere where people will speak your language and/or whether it's a server that's connected to an active cluster at all.

Fortunately the era community has done a lot of work trying to compile information on this and is sharing it at every opportunity to guide people. According to the Classic era Discord the European realms are grouped as follows:

  • Firemaw, Ashbringer, Bloodfang, Dragonfang, Earthshaker, Gandling, Golemagg, Mograine, Noggenfogger, Skullflame - this is known as the main English PvP cluster as it's the most populated, thanks to Blizzard offering free transfers to Firemaw from other realms for a long time
  • Pyrewood Village, Mirage Raceway, Nethergarde Keep - this is the main English PvE cluster, where I play - same deal with the free transfers to Pyrewood Village from other PvE servers
  • Gehennas, Dreadmist, Flamelash, Judgement, Razorgore, Shazzrah, Stonespine, Ten Storms - this is a second English PvP cluster that wasn't connected to the first one for some reason and we don't really know of any major activity happening there
  • Venoxis, Dragon's Call, Heartstriker - German PvP - there's at least one Alliance guild raiding there still based on Warcraft Logs, but that's about all I know
  • Lucifron, Patchwerk, Transcendence - second German PvP (whyyy is this separate)
  • Everlook, Lakeshire - German PvE - similar to Venoxis we know there's at least a tiny amount of activity there but not much
  • Sulfuron, Amnennar, Finkle - French PvP (no idea whether anything's happening here)
  • Auberdine (French PvE), Celebras (German RP), Hydraxian Waterlords (English RP), Mandokir (Spanish PvP), Razorfen (German RP), Zandalar Tribe (English RP-PvP) - due to serving different niches these servers were not connected to anything and basically had to be abandoned due to lack of population

So you have both a PvP and a PvE cluster with a healthy population, but they only contain 13 of the 38 servers, meaning a player rolling up on a server at random (since they all show as having low population on the realm selection screen) basically has a two in three chance of accidentally ending up on a realm that is either close to or completely abandoned.

Only the green lines actually lead to a healthy cluster.

Needless to say, this sucks and has not helped the perception of era being dead. I often see players campaign for full merging/connecting of all PvE/PvP servers and I have to admit at times I was a bit confused by why this was such a big concern. Yeah, I was sad that my old home Hydraxian Waterlords was left out in the cold, but that's just one server, right? Well, wrong! Actually it's two thirds of all servers that are being "left out" like that, and I agree that's very bad.

If I could get Blizzard to do one thing for Classic era, it would be to either to merge/connect (nearly) everything (I'd be fine leaving a smaller cluster for people who really like that empty world feeling or whatever... but not this many) OR to make the realm selection screen more transparent so that people understand what they're signing up for. Considering the realm selection screen is the same on retail and they haven't bothered to make things more transparent there in nearly a decade of connected realms being around, I'm not sure I'd hold out hope for that one... but more connections or merges for era should definitely be doable.


  1. The Classic Era connected realms are more like the "old style" connected realms, where people are nominally connected. And yes, there should be a full merger to accommodate all of the Era players.

    1. What do you mean by "old style" connected realms? From my understanding era connections work exactly like on retail, the problem is simply that many servers are not connected.

    2. I mean old style as in if you want to join a guild you still have to be on that server, as opposed to your Retail example above. That's how it originally was in Mists.

      Apparently there's nothing explicitly stating otherwise in the support article for Classic Era, but then again the support article is written primarily for Retail.

    3. Ah no, that's definitely not the case; it works just like in retail. My era guild contains characters from all three servers in the cluster.

  2. If I remember right from when I was on a connected realm, the realm names attached to other players would end with an asterisk to indicate for connected realms. I'm on Stormrage, now, which is way to big to be connected so I could be wrong about the indicator. Of course, there's nothing in the game that would tell you _why_ a realm name with an asterisk was significant. :sigh:

    1. I remember seeing that asterisk before, but I'm not sure when it shows and when it doesn't. I just logged into retail and none of the characters from connected servers that I saw in Valdrakken had it. Their names just showed as normal, and on hover their tooltip would say Name-Servername.

  3. > it doesn't make much of a difference what server you're actually on

    I don't agree with this. Just because it it is possible doesn't make it 'not a difference'. Yes, it's absolutely cool that we can invite people from different servers and factions to our raids but it's still the same pain if you don't start an ingame "community", i.e. someone has to have them as a battlenet friend to invite them, they miss all the talk (ok, that one's a guild problem).

    I mean, some of our problems are homemade, our SL/DF raid roster of ~30 people is basically 21 from the main guild, 7 from another guild, and 3 random stragglers in other guilds, other servers, other factions. If that were 5 people I guess we'd need to make an ingame community to not have even more hassle to invite them. (I mentioned battle net friends but this systems seems kinda wonky in the last months. "Who can invite, I have no friends" is something we heard several times per week lately)

    1. That's fair if you're used to the general convenience of retail. (And I have those issues with Battle.net too... ugh.) But from my perspective playing Classic, where being on the wrong server means zero items on the AH, zero people to play with, and then potentially having to pay for a server transfer after manually researching where there's even any population because the game itself doesn't tell you... some hassles with the UI when forming cross-server raids in retail are like nothing.

  4. I agree. The connected realms, at least to me, seems like a temporary fix. I believe one of the Blizzard devs in the Classic Era discord mentioned that a server merge is definitely on their timeline but it's not a top priority at the moment.

    The only thing that irks me with connected realms is the server affix. I know it's done that way to prevent name clashes but it looks clunky and weird. Though I've been seeing less and less players with an affix as more and more people move their characters properly to the "primary server."

    1. I think Aggrend confirmed "consolidations"; we don't know whether that means merges or just additional connections. As someone who's very invested in character names, I don't mind the connected realms as they expand our naming options and allow people to have way more characters than in the old days. The server affix is only really an issue when mailing stuff sometimes.

    2. I hope it's a proper server merge. Though I think the players themselves are already doing this on their own anyway. I've been seeing less and less characters with server affixes as I walk and quest around the world.

      I think the biggest issue at the moment is that "clustered realms" are not being highlighted in the server browser menu. It would be nice to highlight which servers are connected to which or, at the very least, make either Mankrik (Pyrewood Village) or Whitemane (Firemaw) the default server for new players when creating a new character.