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Massive cross-realm gathering successfully unites players from 11 realms

Massive crossrealm gathering successfully unites players from a halfdozen realms
It was a massive multiplayer success for this massively multiplayer game: On March 20, the Thundering Hammer Clan of Feathermoon (US-Horde) successfully brought together more than 120 players from multiple roleplay realms in what might have been WoW's first large-scale, player-run cross-realm event. In bringing together three full raid groups from half a dozen realms, the Kosh'harg roleplay gathering of Horde clans helped demonstrate how to pull off a major cross-realm event and explore the possibilities and limitations of CRZ (cross-realm zone) mechanics.

What can other players learn from the Kosh'harg about organizing a CRZ event? We went behind the scenes with Kosh'harg organizer Thorgrun (GM of the Thundering Hammer Clan).

WoW Insider: It sounds like the event was a smash success. Congratulations!

Thorgrun: The Kosh'harg was an amazing success. At the peak of the event we had three full raid groups and a number of ungrouped local attendees, bringing us up over 120 players from a dozen different realms who joined us in Nagrand for the festivities.

How much did you and other organizers know beforehand about realm and zone loads with regard to cross-realm mechanics?

We only knew what has been published and widely publicized, namely that the CRZ mechanic is designed to populate low-pop zones with players from associated realms and when population grows to a certain point to split those players off into separate zones. We also knew that players from any North American realm could be brought into any zone on a host realm just by being grouped with a majority of members from that realm – i.e., two Feathermoon players can host a third player from say, Farstriders, in their version of the zone, or alternatively a 5-man group of Feathermoon players could host an entire raid of CRZ players, provided no more than four of them were from the same realm in that particular raid. This is the mechanic that we used to "anchor" our event firmly on one server's seed of the Nagrand zone.

Massive crossrealm gathering successfully unites players from a halfdozen realms
Main character Thorgrun, orc shaman
Guild Thundering Hammer Clan
Realm Feathermoon (US-RP-Horde)

The Kosh'harg itself is an idea pulled directly from game lore. "Buried deep in the labyrinthine annals of Horde lore are a few rare references to a traditional biannual gathering of the Clans on Draenor before and during the rise of the Horde," explains Thorgrum. "Set in Nagrand and centered around the holy mountain of Oshu'gun, the festival was held twice each year on the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, when day and night are of equal length. For the duration of the festival, the numerous Clans would gather from all over Draenor and lay aside their feuds and disputes in order to honor the Spirits of their ancestors and to seek their guidance at the Holy mountain."


WoW Insider: What were the biggest uncertainties?

Thorgrun: What our biggest uncertainty where cross-realm zone mechanics were concerned was the fact that we could find no firm documentation as to whether or not there is a hard cap on zone population that would force a second seed of the host server's zone in spite of the groups being anchored. If we had encountered such a ceiling that had forced our raids into separate zones in spite of their anchors, it would have presented a large logistical hurdle in addition to detracting from the flavor of the event.

Massive crossrealm gathering successfully unites players from a halfdozen realms
Were there any eventualities that could have been event-killers?

The only real event-killer would have been a lack of willing volunteers. I cannot stress it enough -- our volunteer team was amazing. They went far above and beyond the call of duty and made the event happen. They sacrificed time, energy, in-game resources, and way too much bank/bag space to make the Kosh'harg a success and without them the event would have been dead on arrival. We were prepared to deal with just about any other eventuality, but a lack of willing volunteers would have sunk us right from the start.

Even if an event manages to get all the players from various realms together on one anchor realm, isn't there a danger that multiple instances of the cross-realm zone will be created on the anchor realm, thus fragmenting the event?

This was in fact our single greatest area of concern. There is no firm documentation on when or if such a split of the zone instances might occur. If there is a cap on zone population that is enforced regardless of group anchoring, we did not find it, and we were over 100 attendees, which would seem to have been a logical place for the cap. Maybe next time we'll be able to test the 200-player threshold!

Massive crossrealm gathering successfully unites players from a halfdozen realms
What did the event demonstrate about cross-realm mechanics that will influence future events?

Our biggest lesson learned about CRZ mechanics was that there does not in fact appear to be a zone population cap, but rather that zones are coalesced until their individual populations reach a certain level, at which point players from the high pop zone/realm will achieve enough weight to spawn their own seed of a zone. There does not appear to be a point at which that zone would then be split again.

Essentially we learned that our raid anchoring strategy does work for more than 100 players and that local players do not have to be in the raid at all in order to be present so long as the groups/raids stay anchored on the host realm. It would appear that we could have an unlimited number of local host realm players outside of the groups who could still attend -- though it does help to have everyone grouped so you can pass along important instructions quickly!

What raid structure strategies did you follow to ensure that cross-realm guests would stay linked together and to the event?

The basic rule of thumb is this: Have more players from the host realm in your group or raid than you do from any other single realm. For example, a raid with five players from Feathermoon, four players from Farstriders, three players from Earthen Ring, and two players from Wyrmrest Accord will stay anchored to the Feathermoon seed of the zone. It doesn't matter that only five of your 14 players are from the host realm; what matters is that there are more from the host realm than there are from any other single realm. The biggest group anchors the raid.

To facilitate this mechanic, we had all of our raid leaders, guild masters, and event coordinators together on Ventrilo and kept a constant watch on raid populations. At one point we had to shift some host realm players from one raid to another to keep it from becoming unmoored from the event, but that was a very minor logistical concern, as half our attendees came from the host realm and we had plenty of Feathermoonies to go around.

Massive crossrealm gathering successfully unites players from a halfdozen realms
And what about players from realms outside of Feathermoon's cross-realm server group? Was there a way for any player to participate?

Since we were using the grouping mechanic, it did not matter whether or not a player was in Feathermoon's local CRZ group or not. We had players from Crushridge and Zul'jin who signed up and attended -- and those aren't even RP realms!

So let's talk about what type of players came and where they came from.

About half (60+) of our attendees were members of guilds who signed up to attend. Another 20 or so were local host realm individuals who came in groups of two or three, and the rest were individuals or small groups from other realms. The largest organized contingents, and the backbone of our event, were guilds who came together and were generally led by their guild masters.

Massive crossrealm gathering successfully unites players from a halfdozen realmsOne additional note on this front: Guild masters are the key to success in an event like this. We had 80 individual sign-ups on the sign up form, but less than 15% of those actually responded to BattleTag requests and attended the event. Every single GM that signed up, however, brought a group from their guild with them, and many of them also had friends from other guilds decide to attend. Over half our event attendance came from guild masters who brought their guilds and their associated friends.

If I could give one piece of advice to event planners for future success, it would be this: Remember that WoW is a social network. If you want to be successful you need to build strong relational connections with influential network leaders and in our setting, that means connecting with guild masters, raid leaders and community organizers on your local realm before you start reaching out across the CRZ aisle.

The success of our event was predicated on the tireless work of our volunteers and on the support and enthusiasm of GMs and community leaders on Feathermoon and our neighboring RP realms. Our future growth and success will likewise be dependent on our ability to expand that base of volunteers and enlarge that network of GMs and other realm leaders.

What proved to be the most popular parts of the event?

I was surprised with how well the duel tournament was received. As a largely spectator event, I expected it to be the most tedious portion of the night, but the crowd was amazing. The reactions from the stands were very entertaining, and hearing people hold their breath and cheer on Vent at the spectacle really let us know we had hit a home run with that.

I think that the Great Feast was also very well received. Our feast organizers Jinglz, Jundai, and Zundai did a stellar job of presenting a visual layout that immediately got people immersed in the tone of the event, and our storytellers (led by Matsu'jin, a legend in the Feathermoon community) were extremely entertaining.

My one regret is that we did not have more time to devote to each portion of the Kosh'harg. There was not a single thing we did that was not enjoyable, but squeezing it all into a three-hour window was challenging, to say the least.

Massive crossrealm gathering successfully unites players from a halfdozen realms
Any unexpected issues? We understand you had to drop the PvP Grand Brawl event from the lineup.

We were concerned about the Brawl from the start because of the number of technical challenges it presented. Players have to drop their groups entirely -- which immediately disqualifies any CRZ guests from participating, since they will inevitably get sent back to their home realm as soon as they leave the host raid -- and then getting re-invites done after the fact and ensuring fair play throughout the event are both headaches in and of themselves.

We'd like to see the Brawl make a comeback in the future, but it will require a lot more logistical support than we had the bandwidth for this time around.

Did the event open up any new cross-realm roleplaying alliances for you?

Absolutely -- in fact, for me that is the real measure of our success. We made great networking connections with a number of players from neighboring realms, and we're hoping that this will lead to even greater participation and success in future events.

For the Thundering Hammer in particular, our favorite new friends are our sisters from the Silvermoon Swordmaidens of Farstriders. Those ladies knew how to strut their stuff and won our Best of Show award for the Procession of the Clans.

Massive crossrealm gathering successfully unites players from a halfdozen realms
So -- a successful cross-realm Kosh'harg. What does that portend for the future?

As all of your readers I'm sure know, trouble is stirring in the Horde. Given the conflict with the Alliance and the growing rift within our own ranks, the Horde needs the Kosh'harg now more than ever! The Autumn Kosh'harg is September the 22nd this year and may prove to be the most important gathering of the Clans since Blackhand was elevated to Warchief on Draenor a generation ago.

After the summer season of battle, will the Horde be bracing for a long winter of discontent? Or will the ground be ripe for the emergence of a new warchief? Only time (and patch 5.4!) will tell ... but as the most important cultural event in the life of the Horde, Kosh'harg will undoubtedly be at the center of it all!

[Edit: Headline updated to reflect final accurate count of realms in attendance.]

See more screenshots from Kosh'harg Spring 2013.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: RP, Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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