WoW - When Phasing Goes Wrong
ByDate: Feb 27 2017 Views:
Probably one of the coolest thing World of Warcraft has accomplished is adding in a transition between different versions of the same map (called “phases”) that is seamless. This isn’t a new concept, and games like Age of Conan, Rift, among others also had similar systems, but doing it in a seamless manner is definitely something that sets it apart. But despite being a great system, it also has some bad sides to it, including one that is very problematic.
Seamless Phasing? What’s So Special?
First off, let’s look at what this is. When you change from one copy of a zone to another in most other games, the entire thing refreshes and you appear in the new version. You essentially pick your safe spot, swap over, and you can continue where you left off. In the case of WoW, there are no screen refreshes – you disappear from the old one and appear in the new one. If you were fighting mobs when it happens, they are left behind. If you were in an area you already cleared, however, you can find yourself with a massive zerg that you can’t get away from. This is very noticeable when you are on a world boss quest and join a group when you’re near it. If the group members are in another phase, you can see the entire world (mobs) around you change after a few seconds, once you’ve fully transitioned between the two.
Why is it Used?
There are two benefits to this, in theory. One is that it helps with server resources since new “phases” can be spawned as needed and/or players can be dispersed across existing ones, leading to less server stress and other benefits. The other is that it helps players have more copies of the same content that can be done. For example, if there are a lot of people doing a quest in an area, a phase jump can lead to one that is far less populated. In some games, this is done via “channel” switching and is manual. With WoW, it is all automated, and while there are ways to manually switch, they require other tactics to be used. Along with this, there are things that seem to make the system not jump players over.
Two very large problems occur due to the phasing system in WoW and how it works. It can cause separation during world quests and can be (to a degree) exploited by players to farm mobs or materials quicker.
In the first case, this is something that doesn’t happen often, but does nonetheless. In the images of this article, you will notice that most of the raid is together, but they aren’t on the screen. This is because only part of the raid was phased to another area, while the rest was left. The effect is that it was a group of 7 players on one copy of the boss and all the rest on another. And what makes this worse is that there is no way to manually force a change (just leaving/rejoining a group doesn’t always work, such as in this case). So the problem here is that there are edge cases (maybe the phase we were in was full?) where it doesn’t always work.
On the exploitation side, while it doesn’t always work, inviting a friend (or alternate account) will usually move you to another phase. This is used for things like farming rares or more quickly grabbing herbs and other items, causing a disruption in the market.
Breaking the Partition
The most important thing WoW can use at this point in regards to this system is the ability to swap between phases through an in-game toggle. A drop-down of the various ones would be a great addition, as it would help bridge the gap between those that are abusing it and those who want to get into a phase legitimately (for example, in the world quest earlier). Along with this, it would be a great stride towards helping fix the brokenness of the current system – if we weren’t properly phased, being able to choose a player and join them would alleviate the issue of forming a new group and hoping it works the next time.
While this would still allow players to skip from one phase to another to get things, it makes the process a lot easier for everyone, as opposed to a select few. This, in effect, lowers the negatives that follow it, as it puts everyone back on an equal footing. And in the case of things like quests and trying to wait out all the other players to finish theirs (or keep competing), this would be a win for everyone involved, as it would greatly spread people out so they can all get finished without them being a struggle.