I'm not sure I've blogged about the Ruin-EU Battlegroup before. I've certainly left enough comments in various places to to fulfil a minimum whining requirement, so I feel suitably qualified to comment on the new announced changes to the Battlegroup system in the EU.
First, some background. As I'm sure you all know Battlegroups were introduced with 1.12 across all realms in order to better facilitate PvP among realms with a high population imbalance or generally low numbers of PvP. The EU realms were in a difficult position with three server languages, and the result was that all servers were first divided by language and then apportioned into Battlegroups. Generally speaking this was a pretty successful exercise, but in every transaction there are inevitably losers and in this case the populations of EU-Ruin servers were probably one of them.
At TBC launch EU-Ruin consisted of 4 servers, less than any other EU Battlegroup. Other Battlegroups in other Language groups also had a low number of servers, far far fewer than the US average per BG. Ruin in particular had a difficulty because one of the realms, Steamwheedle Cartel, was a medium/low population RP realm not known for it's PvP. This seemed bizarre because other battlegroups had as many as 15 servers (now Blackout-EU has 18 servers!?), and was likely down to an infrastructure weakness which Blizzard chose not to sort out before 1.12.
The effect of this decision wasn't immediately apparent - levelling to 70 and doing the new instances took up much of the time in the first few months of The Burning Crusade. The first rumblings became public in April of 2007 due to a lack of active Battlegrounds at peak times of the day. Promises of action were given but remained unrealised. The Arenas suffered: 2v2 and 3v3 sessions would often feature the same opposition 4-5 times in every 10 and 5v5 was non-existent.
Understandably miffed, many players left their servers on Ruin for better things elsewhere, and in late 2007 populations seemed to plummet. This was probably most acute on Xavius, but also significantly affected SWC, to the extent that many T5/6 guilds disbanded or up-sticks and left to over servers (such as Earthen Ring). Few re-rolls or transfers to the server group caused the population to stagnate.
So now we have a new plan to deal with these issues, and it comes in two parts.
New Realms PvE Realms: Azuremyst and Terokkar
Realm names: Azuremyst and Terokkar
Realm type: Normal (PvE)
In more words
Today we're opening two new English Normal/PvE realms, named Azuremyst and Terokkar, in the Ruin Battlegroup. These are fresh realms, thus no migration will be allowed to the realms during the first months.
This may help as it brings the number of servers in the Battlegroup up to 7, a much more respectable number. However I'm not convinced that there will be a significant number of people wanting to reset their playing experience to play on a fresh servers come the launch of Wrath (apart from those wanting the Scarab Lord title of course). They'll have to level all the way up to 80 to get to the end-game on a server where the short and long-term population would be extremely unpredictable. In addition, not withstanding the long term impacts of the latest changes, Ruin-EU still has a bad reputation for PvP which for good or ill is still a large part of the game. This will no doubt discourage players further from rerolling on Ruin as opposed to either remaining on their current servers.
Part the two is the following:
To shorten the queues and provide greater access to warfare between factions, we are currently working on combining existing Battlegroups of different languages, with the aim of creating Battlegroups with higher populations. This change will affect both Battlegrounds and Arenas. Players from realms of different languages will only face each other as opponents in battle and will not be playing on the same faction in Battlegrounds, which will ensure that those playing on your side will speak the same language as you.
Please note that not all Battlegroups will be merged with another, and this feature will not be affecting the Russian-language Battlegroup. More details on this upcoming change will be provided as development nears completion.
To clarify, people from another language realm will only be opponents. Opponents may also be from your realm or other realms with the same language as you.
This was hinted at with the launch of 3.0.2, when several Battlegroups appeared to merge across language boundaries, though the 'same lauguage for allies' and 'no Russians' criteria weren't yet enforced.
So, is this the magic bullet for Battlegroups? Well, it's great news for all factions and servers in terms of Arena PvP - the effect will be a vast increase in the number of active 2v2, 3v3 and 5v5 teams at any one time. At last Ruin may have some 5v5 Arena action! It will be interesting to find out if the Arena instance servers can handle it. For Battlegrounds however it is a mixed bag. The most heavily populated faction benefits significantly so as long as faction imbalances don't increase. Low population factions aren't quite so lucky: if they wouldn't have been able to field a full team pre-Merge then they will have exactly the same issues post-Merge as the queueing population hasn't changed due to different Languages not being able to be allies.
It's a shame that it's nearly impossible to run true multi-language Battlegroups as it would serve to greatly reduce queueing issues at the very least. Still, this will hopefully be a useful change, though it's a bit late coming.