It's fascinating how reactions to reducing the number of servers in an MMORPG have evolved. A few years ago any hint that even one server might close was treated as a sign that the end was nigh and the game was dying. Players still clinging to the wreckage of the sinking ship would wail and rend their garments while game companies would wrangle language six ways from Sunday trying to deny anything was merging with anything at all. These days, at least in aging MMOs, players seem to demand server consolidation long before the companies consider it needs to happen and the announcement, when it comes, is greeted with roars of approval.
The trend with newer games, of course, is to design the need for merges out of the process altogether. All kinds of clever back-end smoke and mirrors come into play, megaservers and clusters and so on, but when you're running an MMO that dates back to the dark ages of the noughties that's may not always be a viable option, economically or technically or both.
Over the years I've been through more server merges and meldings than I care to remember. For some reason we often seem to end up on lower population servers - Hilsbury, Steamfont, Lanys T'Vyl. I'm used to logging in one day after a long lay-off to find an "X" appended to the name of my more obviously-named characters, although it's not that common for anyone else to have chosen the kind of names I tend to go for.
|That's it. Everything packed and ready to go. Sunset on another home.|
More of a problem than names is running out of character slots. There have been a couple of occasions when I had characters on both the giving and receiving server. The worst was when Everquest servers Luclin and Stromm joined forces - each had been my primary server for several years at different times and I had almost full rosters on both.
Fortunately game companies tend to be generous on these occasions and I was able to shuffle my pack around using free transfers to find a satisfactory home for everyone. There's a possibility something similar could happen when the EQ2 "consolidation" takes place, which apparently could begin this month, but I am hoping my primary Live server, Freeport, will be one of the ones still standing after the cull.
Freeport was the original F2P server and at one time it was pushing RP server Antonia Bayle for the "busiest server" crown. Those days are long gone but when I'm on Freeport it always seems well-populated, at least as far as it's possible tell in such a heavily-instanced environment. There are always oversized mounts blocking the East Freeport bank and other players swooping out of the sky to jack my named mobs in Phantom Sea anyway.
|This inn room's been my home for ten years. I'm not moving anywhere!|
Oasis, on the other hand, the server into which my first EQ2 home, Steamfont, was incorporated long, long ago, will almost certainly go dark. That shouldn't be too painful. Not only do I have little affection for Oasis but it sounds as though there will be no need for any action on my part this time, wherever the axe falls, because the plan is to move the entire population of several smaller servers onto one brand-new larger one.
I should also be spared the apparently arduous task of updating the LotRO client just to save my characters when that game undergoes its own rather brutal restructuring. The extensive list of servers facing closure there is already up and mine's not on it. My little crew is on EU-RP server Laurelin which survives the cull. Not that I'm planning on playing LoTRO again but I would have had to have made the effort to keep my characters "alive". Now it's safe to go back to ignoring them all over again.
Although, as I said, these days server consolidation is often as much welcomed as feared it's probably something most people appreciate after it's happened rather than when it's actually happening. The planning for EQ2's transition to a leaner, more focused core looks encouraging. Let's hope it all goes off as smoothly in practice as it's looking on paper.