Sunday, 10 February 2013

Server Pride


When I began playing MMOs I didn't even know what a server was. I installed Everquest,  stared at the list of incomprehensible names and decided to pick one I had an outside chance of remembering. Prexus.

I learned the ropes on Prexus but after a while I dallied with other servers. I tried Brell Serelis because I heard it was the unofficial role-playing server. I played on Test because, well, Test is Best. Then, as EQ waxed and new servers flowered I made sure to start a character on every one as it launched. When time came to pick a legacy server for my characters in EQ2 I chose Luclin , even though when I go back to Everquest these days it's on Stromm that I mostly play.

It fast became clear to me early that servers differed. DAOC forbade you to play different realms on the same server so it wasn't long before I knew the flavors of three. After that if I played any MMO for more than a month or two you could bet I'd have characters on more than one server and the theory held. Servers differ was the orthodoxy and the orthodoxy was true.


Fast forward. Technology advances. Megaservers holding tens of thousands, even single servers hosting entire MMOs become possible. Just because something can be done, however, does not mean it should.

For the last half-year I've played a lot of Guild Wars 2. GW2 mandates that all characters on an account play on a single server. This I loathe. For most of this time we had free transfers, which neither I nor Mrs Bhagpuss will countenance. The character belongs to the server on which he or she was born. Short of a server merge, there is no compromise with this.

Now we have Guesting, which is an acceptable way to sniff different air, but guests, rightly, cannot carry the banner of their host world. World vs world remains the province of the server of one's birth and it is in WvW that proof can be found, should proof be required, that servers really do have communities, atmospheres, ambiances. Still. Even now. After all these years.


Yak's Bend has battled many worlds. From the glory days against Tarnished Coast to the nadir when we threw ourselves despairingly onto Kaineng's swords, every match has hammered home the point: servers differ.

If you doubt it, browse the forums. See the gulf in tone and content between the matchup threads these last two weeks when Yak's Bend, Crystal Desert and Stormbluff Isle sought to outdo each other only in politeness, mutual respect and diffidence and the Maguuma, Dragonbrand, Kaineng thread that took three attempts to get started before hostility levels fell below Moderator lockdown tolerance.

Servers, shards, worlds, call them what you will, are the backbone of MMOs. If we lose this, we lose something precious. Let's not do that.


4 comments:

  1. We had a great matchup last week, with CD surging from behind to grab the lead. We started out slow again, but our guilds are coming along nicely together after the mass exodus.

    In general, I feel CD's commanders are very nice, and it really trickles down to the entire WvW community. We're not the most tactically adept server, but after failures, our commanders would smile, type in a few encouraging words, and just move on.

    I think this really contributes to the mellowness of our server, and perhaps our lack of strategic focus sometimes. But I'm very happy to be a part of this server, and agree with you that server pride is such a special thing.

    Hoping that we can roar back to take the lead, just like last week!

    -Ursan

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  2. Last week was fun but a bit odd because of the reset. I think there was some plan going on to finesse the result to try and get a more favorable outcome under the expected new regime, but I don't know if it ever got going before the announcement that we weren't getting a reset after all.

    Yak's Bend is in an odd situation anyway. We seem to have T3 capability from Friday night through Sunday evening but barely qualify as T4 through the week. That's in addition to our well-known issues with Oceanic time-zone coverage (i.e. we don't have any!).

    Unless something highly unexpected happens it looks like we're headed for T3 next week, putting us up against Fort Aspenwood and Dragonbrand. Can't say I'm looking forward to that much. CD on the other hand should stay in T4, joined by Maguuma and Ehmry Bay, which sounds like a much more interesting and competitive match.

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  3. I absolutely agree with you about separate servers. I think the big problem is that they're horribly under-utilized. It'd be great to have different rulesets on different servers. I remember DAoC having different RvR rules on different servers, and that providing some interest. I'd love to see servers with different PvE rules, too: this server drops 10x currency, this other server gives out only 25% experience, whatever. Let me people pick a server that matches what they want out of the game.

    The biggest complaint is "playing with friends". If they're really your friends, rolling on a new server shouldn't be a problem: they'll help you and/or play with you. :P

    As I posted on my blog, I think a lot of the problems with GW2's economy are directly related to them trying to make everything global across all servers. Just doesn't work out well.

    I absolutely agree that getting rid of servers is the wrong direction to go in.

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    Replies
    1. Couldn't agree more! For years I've gone on about the waste of having loads of servers using the same rule-set. I'd have variants on every one, which would not only give us choice as players but allow producers to gather better data about what players actually want.

      DAOC did have a variety of rule-sets and so did EQ - from memory at various times EQ has had, in addition to the many servers running the basic PVE ruleset; four different PvP servers; a roleplaying server; the Test server; a permadeath server; a start-at-Level 51/50AAs server; several "new players only" servers and two iterations of the Progression servers. Probably more that I've forgotten.

      I played on most if not all of those and boy did it keep things fresh. I wish all MMOs would offer that kind of variety.

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