We’ll start out with the straight blue post on the subject:
In the World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria beta, we’re introducing a new technology that will enable players to meet up and group with other players in under populated areas of the world such as low level zones or areas that other players may have outleveled or moved on from. This technology will allow players to form a group with other players from within a select pool of realms in order to quest just like they normally would while still allowing the social structures of their home realms to remain intact.
They followed this up with a FAQ to help us understand the situation better.
Two key items in the FAQ that jumped out at me were that larger population areas won’t be merged, for instance the cities. It also means you still have your realm auction house, so don’t worry about the economy in game suddenly going haywire.
You also won’t suddenly end up in a PvP zone if you’re used to only being in PvE zones… though if you realID friend group with somebody who is a PvPer you run that risk.
The other major feature is that means they have a technology to actually split high population zones (such as the Monk starting area we’ve all learned to love on the beta.)
This alone should make starting your monk more entertaining and less of a pain, not to mention when you start questing on your monk in the Barrens, you’re likely to find a lot of other fellow Monks out there leveling rather than running through a ghost zone.
Honestly I have mixed feelings about both options (splitting and merging) but this will likely bring a more engaging leveling experience and also help build some of the community that was lost when the dungeon finder system was started.
The other question that I don’t see answered in the FAQ is if I’ll be able to mark these new people as friends for my character. If I start grouping with somebody cool and on a regular basis am running into them, I’d like to be able to add them to my friends list and perhaps group with them later for dungeons, or to chat.
Maybe this is where the BattleTag system will come in handy.