Blizzard Official WoW Blog
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.
Q. Why cross-realm zones?
A. For many years now, the significant majority of the player population online at any given time has consisted mostly of characters at or near the level cap. This has resulted in an environment where characters that are leveling up experience a world that has fewer other players to interact with than what the world was designed for. Cross-realm zones give us the capability to ensure that level-up zones retain a population size that feels more like the high level areas of the game, leading to a more fun play experience for characters of all levels.
Q. How do cross-realm zones work?
A. When you're in a zone that is set as a "cross-realm zone" you'll notice that in addition to the players you'd ordinarily see from your realm, you'll also see (and be able to play with) players from other realms. This will happen seamlessly, and players will be able to group and quest as they normally would with players from their own realm.
Q. How will this work on boats or zeppelins?
A. Usually transitions will occur on area boundaries (think moving from Darkshore to Ashenvale).
Q. Can I form groups with the people I meet in the zone?
A. Yes! You can group and talk to others within the cross-server zone normally though trading will be restricted much as it is within raids, dungeons, or battlegrounds.
Q. Will my cross-realm group be disbanded if we move on to an adjacent zone together, like from Goldshire to Westfall or from Thousand Needles to Feralas?
A. Much like how cross-realm groups currently work, your party won't be disbanded when you move through different zones, though if you're not in the same home realm, you won't be able to see each other if you're in separate zone instances.
Q. Will I be able to group with my friends?
A. Yes, you will be able to group with your Real ID friends, provided they are within the same faction. The functionality works the same as it does for cross-realm dungeons, raids, or Battlegrounds.
Q. What level range do my friends and I have to be within in order to group?
A. There is no restriction on level ranges. You'll be able to group with anyone you would normally be able to.
Q. Can I go into main capital cities while grouped with others?
A. Capital cities and areas with regularly high populations will not be set as cross-server areas/zones so you will not be able to enter into the same instance of a city as someone who is from a different realm.
Q. Will I be able to trade with others I meet?
A. Trading restrictions are in place much the same as they are in cross-realm dungeons, raids, and battlegrounds.
Q. How is group loot handled?
A. Group looting will function the same as it would with any group you would create through normal play.
Q. Who will I be playing with?
A. You'll be able to interact with players from within a select pool of realms which will make it possible to run into a player in Redridge that you already ran into within Westfall.
Q. What areas will be shared?
A. This can vary from realm to realm and relies on how densely populated (or underpopulated) an area is. Capital cities and areas with regularly high populations will not be eligible for area sharing.
Q. What about resources or gathering nodes, will those be shared too?
A. Resources and nodes will be available to all parties within the shared area the same as always. We will be keeping a close eye on the impact of area sharing and should an area become too populated, we are capable of adjusting how many realms are able to connect to a shared area.
Q. Does this mean that Auction Houses will be merged?
A. No, when any player access an Auction House, they will be only able to access their home realm's Auction House.
Q. What about zones that are already overpopulated, like new race starting zones?
A. With this technology, we can also flag zones to allow for more than one copy of that zone per realm. Players on that realm will be split among those copies in order to alleviate problems due to overpopulation. Players won’t normally see or interact with those on a different instance of their zone, although joining a party will relocate all party members to a single instance of that zone.