Newbie guide/Picking a Server

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Newbie Guide
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Picking a Server
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Picking a Server

World of Warcraft servers are referred to as 'realms'.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when picking a realm to play on:

Which Language Do You Prefer to Speak In?

The European Realms are divided up by which language is primarily spoken on them. While you will not be banned if you do not fluently speak the other languages on the realm, you may feel more comfortable on a realm where the majority of players speak a language that you understand.

What Kind of Experience Are You Looking For?

This is probably the biggest choice you have to make while playing World of Warcraft. There are four types of realms:

PvE (Normal)
These realms pit player versus the environment; on a PvE realm, you cannot be attacked by another player (with certain very small and specific exceptions) unless you take an action to flag yourself for PvP. You may PvP if you desire, but you are not required to. This may be the least stressful gaming experience, especially if you are new to the game. Because of this it may be a good idea for your first realm to be in a normal realm so you can learn how to play as well as enjoy the story of the game, without fear of attacked by other players. On these realms, most PvP takes place inside the Battlegrounds and Arena, but can take place anywhere else if players choose to flag themselves for PvP. Participation in battlegrounds is completely optional, as is any other PvP experience. PvE realms are recommended for players who wish to focus purely on the game and its story.
PvE realms are sometimes stigmatized as "easy mode" by those who believe that PvP is the only correct way to play the game. This includes use of the derisive term carebear for players who choose to play on PvE realms. In reality, a large proportion of players prefer to play on PvE realms, for a variety of reasons, whether to avoid griefers or simply because they don't enjoy world PvP.
PvP (Player vs. Player)
Player vs. player realms are identical to PvE realms in the various races' starting areas (the level 1-10 zones, such as Elwynn Forest or Durotar), extending to the major faction cities (Orgrimmar, Ironforge, etc). However, outside of those areas, players are automatically flagged for player versus player (PvP) combat, and can engage any opposite-faction player in combat at any time. Factions are more tightly knit and PvP lends more of a sense of immediate conflict between the factions (as hardcore PvPers are fond of saying, "it is World of Warcraft, after all"). However, a PvP realm can sometimes be more stressful and frustrating to play on than a PvE realm, due to being exposed for potential PvP combat without choice. PvP realms tend to have a higher attraction rate for griefers, players who find entertainment in attempting to spoil others' gameplay experience. Both PvP combat and dealing with griefers add a different type of play that many players find thrilling, while others will find simply frustrating.
PvP realms are known for the life and death thrill of knowing that you could be attacked at any time. When venturing beyond their faction's home territories, players must be prepared for combat, ambushes and sudden attacks from all directions in what is known as "world PvP" (PvP that takes place outside of battlegrounds and arena). In practice, this has a number of consequences: players can attack and kill lower-level players (who have no chance of fighting back); may group up to take out solitary members of the opposite faction; and are free to repeatedly attack and kill players regardless of whether or not that player wishes to engage in PvP at that time. While there are anti-harrassment rules (and ways of evading griefers) in practice there is a large amount of leeway for players on PvP realms to attack the other faction; that is after all the purpose of PvP realms. However, this accounts for a minority of world PvP, and for those who enjoy this type of play, playing on a PvP realm can add substantially to the enjoyment of playing the game. As well as adding a sense of danger and tension to play, PvP realms also allow players to engage in PvP far more often and more freely. World PvP is a unique form of PvP, and in some ways the most 'realistic' and challenging of all, requiring players to be ready for anything, at any time.
Some players believe that PvP is required in order to have a truly fulfilling experience in World of Warcraft. However, each server type provides its own experience, and the choice is entirely at each player's discretion.
RP (Role Playing)
"RP" is a meta-category for roleplaying realms; there are both RP-PvE and RP-PvP realms (RP-PVE realms are simply listed as 'RP' in the realm list). If you are more interested in being immersed in the game world than leveling up or getting cool items, these realms are for you. In these realms, you don't have a character to power-level. You are the character. People accept you if you talk like your character (with whatever accent, whatever vocabulary), and you're expected to act like your character. In this type of realm you also don't have to worry about PvP since you can only be killed by other faction players if you so choose (like PvE realms). You are much more likely to get griefers on this type of realm. Also, character name rules are stricter and out of character speech on public channels or in /say or /yell can earn you a visit from a GM who will require you to behave, etc. For more information on this type of play, see roleplaying.
RP-PvP (Role Playing Player vs. Player)
RP-PvP realms have the elements of all-out PvP combat, but with the constraints of the RP ruleset. This is the type of realm to choose if you are interested in being able to act out a character as truly as possible, by having him/her being able to attack members of the other faction at any time.

For more information about each realm type, visit their individual pages.

Where are Your Friends Playing?

With each character your create, you can only fully interact with people on the same Realm, and who are members of the same faction (Horde vs Alliance) as your character. You may create characters on many different realms if you like, but they will not be able support each other (e.g. swapping gear, money, supplies). Being able to move low level gear or transfer gold from a higher character to a lower character can make a significant difference in how fast that lower level character gets up to speed. The in-game mail system limits you to only mailing players on your current realm, and faction membership. However, you may still play with friends that aren't on your realm by inviting them to join your party, you just won't be able to do some things with them, like send them mail or trade items with them.

Remember, you are not forever locked into your realm decision. You can always start a new character on a different realm, and there is always the option of a paid transfers. For a fee, you may move a character to another realm. The character will be unplayable while the transfer occurs, and a character can only be moved once every 3 days. For example: You have two characters named Bob and Alice, and you choose to move Alice to a different realm. She is not playable for a short while during the move, and cannot be moved again for 3 days once the move has completed. However your second character ("alt"), Bob, remains fully playable and can moved to the same or even a different realm at your discretion. However, moving Bob would require a second payment.

What's Your Time Zone?

Playing on a realm with a time zone similar to the one you live in means more people will be on around the time you're going to play — assuming you play during peak hours (which varies but is usually between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on the realm during weekdays). This affects the game in several ways, some of which may not be immediately apparent or affect you until you reach higher levels.

A few of the ways your realm's time zone can affect your World of Warcraft experience:

  • The number of people who are available for you to group with. If you are interested in endgame you may find that this is your most important consideration as you will want to be active around the same time that the people in your guild are raiding. Using the Dungeon Finder can alleviate this possible shortcoming somewhat.
  • The amount of buying and selling that is going on and the prices in the auction house (especially at peak hours).
  • The amount of competition for resource nodes that are out in the wild. The more people playing, the more might be looking for the same herb or quest mob that you're looking for.
  • The number of opposite faction players who are around to engage with (especially if you are playing on a PVP Realm).

People who are usually unable to play during peak hours often try to play on a realm in a different time zone than the one they live in. If you tend to be available earlier than peak hours, you might want to look for a realm that is in a time zone earlier than where you live. Similarly, if you're usually available later than peak hours, you may wish to play on a realm that is in a time zone later than where you live. This will generally maximize the number of people who are around when you are also looking to play.

What's the Realm Population?

Each realm has a population listed on the realm selection screen. Each realm is characterized as having Recommended, Low, Medium, High, and Full population. Recommended realms are realms that Blizzard Entertainment feels will give a new player the best experience, while the rest are categorized based on how many players are currently logged into the realm. As these population figures may change throughout the day, you will want to decide on a realm at the time you would normally play, to ensure that the number accurately represents the population that you'll be playing with.

You cannot create a character on a Full realm unless you already have characters on that realm. Full realms are deemed 'full' by Blizzard Entertainment and as such, their 'full' status does not fluctuate like a 'high' population realm's might. There is no reason to wait until off-peak times to see if you will be allowed to create a character on a 'full' realm.

Full and some High population realms will frequently have wait queues during peak hours. This means you cannot log in to the characters on that realm until other people have completely logged off of that realm.

Each type of realm has benefits and drawbacks for new players.

  • Realms that are usually at "Low" population are often very welcoming of new players. The lower population means that there is a great deal of demand for new players on the realm, and experienced players will often be more willing and helpful in bringing a newer player up to speed than on other realms and may have more patience with new players in general. However, the realm's Auction House will probably not have a very wide selection of items available to buy, and it may be challenging to find players to group with--particularly during off-peak hours. There is an extremely low risk of a queue to log into these realms.
  • Realms that are usually at "Medium" populations offer a compromise between extremes. Not much, if any demand, exists on these realms for new players, although they are usually not disliked either. These realms usually have a wide variety of items on their Auction House and finding other players to group with will not usually be a problem. Even at peak hours there is seldom if ever a queue to log into these realms.
  • Realms that are usually at "High" populations can be rather discouraging of newer players (and not just those who are inexperienced with World of Warcraft). These realms sometimes have queue times to log in that can range from a few minutes to an hour or more. While the Auction House is often full of items, and there are usually a lot of other players looking for people to group with, with a larger group of people often comes a corresponding increase the number of griefers, something that on Low and Medium population realms are at a relative minimum (though hardly non-existent).
  • Realms that are often at "Full" populations are much like realms at "High" populations, but even more so. Players on these realms may be expected to already be very familiar with how World of Warcraft classes play, as well as being fairly established on the server. Login queues will be at their worst on these realms. However, once you log in, the Auction House will be full of items at the most competitive prices, and there will be a vast number of players who you may be able to group with.

Although having lots of other players around can be useful when looking for others to play with, it can also present some problems. On higher population realms, competition over resources such as herb and mining nodes is far higher, which can provide a frustrating experience, and players may even have trouble finding important quest mobs that haven't already been killed by other players. Additionally, the presence of so many players, especially in capital cities, can place a substantial strain on players' computers. Those with lower-end systems may experience considerable lag and even frequent disconnections when surrounded by too many other players. In extreme cases, this can make the game almost unplayable for those with older or less powerful computers. Players with lower-end systems may therefore have an easier and less frustrating experience on lower population servers.

Blizzard Entertainment occasionally introduces new realms. New realms, instead of displaying population display the "New" status, which means the realm has just recently been put online and characters will be lower levels on average and the population of course starts very low. This generally means less resource competition and also a small economy so trading at the auction house will be reduced and prices will usually be quite a bit lower.

When these new realms are first populated, paid character transfers from other realms are not allowed. Everyone starts at level 1, but after a relatively short time there will be many hardcore players at the level cap and the endgame will begin to pick up from there. Down the road, there is also the possibility of entire high level guilds transferring to the realm, giving it a real kick start. After six months, paid character transfers will be opened up to the realm.

What is the Horde/Alliance Breakdown?

While most realms have a relatively even-matched ratio, on some realms there may be a larger number of players on the Alliance faction than the Horde, or vice-versa. Imbalances in factions can be an issue for PVP, grouping up, or just trying to complete quests since sometimes you have to wait for quests to respawn. However, much of the importance of realm faction balance has been removed with the introduction of cross-realm zones in most areas.

Sites like WarcraftRealms.com show you the Horde/Alliance breakdown and other useful information (e.g. how many Horde players are online at 9pm) connected with choosing a realm. However, because these sites don't have access to official population numbers and rely on largely on player reporting (via add-ons), they are widely regarded (including by Blizzard Entertainment) as inaccurate. Blizzard does not publish official numbers, but its representatives have commented several times that the numbers on population-measurement sites like WarcraftRealms.com sometimes have little relationship to the actual active population.

Your choice between Alliance and Horde would obviously depend on taste. See Races for more information on each.