Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
 
The trouble with queues

As I mentioned my main character on the European WAR servers is a shaman, I'm playing on the Destruction side. Worldwide, on pretty much every server, there are more people who want to play Destruction than those who want to play Order. As that has obvious bad consequences for realm balance, Mythic introduced a radical measure: They simply don't let as many Destruction players onto the servers as there are people who would like to play Destruction. Servers have not one population cap but two, and if there are no spots left for Destruction, you only have the choice between playing Order, or waiting in a queue. That can get extremely annoying if you were in a group with your friends, crashed to desktop, and then need half an hour of queueing before getting back into the game. And I'm not even sure queues will fix the realm balance issues.

The trouble with the system is that it only works when the servers are nearly full, which is only during prime time at the moment. In the morning you can play whatever side you want without queueing. So to make servers balanced, Mythic has to trust that there are enough people who prefer Destruction, but are so annoyed by having to wait in line during prime time that they voluntarily switch to Order side. Unfortunately MMORPG players are a stubborn bunch. Some came to play with friends or complete guilds from previous games, and rather wait in line than play the other side on another server alone. Some just are fans of a particular race or class, and don't want to go over to the "enemy". Some even quit WAR totally instead of switching sides.

While the number of available servers only changes very slowly, and rarely goes down, the number of people wanting to log on and play changes every hour, and every day. In a mature game only 10% to 20% of subscribers are logged in during prime time. But in a game just after release the percentages are much higher, because few people buy a game and subscribe to then *not* play whenever possible. And subscription numbers too vary with time, Raph Koster has an excellent explanation. And that is just the natural cycle without outside disturbances. We all know that the number of people wanting to log onto WAR will drop significantly on November 13, when Wrath of the Lich King comes out.

So if there are 50% more players who want to play Destruction than Order, it means that one in three Destruction players is stuck in a queue when the servers are full. And when the servers are empty, Destruction still outnumbers Order by 50%. Order never gets to outnumber Destruction, except locally. Queues don't change that, unless half of the Destruction overpopulation decides to go over to Order *and stay there*. But as everyone knows that populations will go down in a while, many just stick to Destruction and wait it out.

The better method would be to find out why players prefer one side, and then make the other side more attractive to even out the numbers. But of course that is easier said than done, and easier done while the game is still in beta. I would have thought that after release maybe more casual players join the game and prefer the pretty races, but that didn't really happen yet. WAR isn't really targeted towards casual players all that much as WoW is. Casual listeners prefer the Beatles to Led Zeppelin (you need to watch a Mythic interview to get that joke). And the WAR elves and humans aren't actually all that pretty. And they aren't quite as cool or unique as many of the Destruction classes. Except for the White Lion, the High Elves are surprisingly bland and all look the same. As Greenskin you can always see who is who in your team, as High Elf only the guy with the cat stands out.

So I think that in spite of the queues, realm imbalance is going to stay with us for a long time. It is unlikely that Mythic completely reworks the Order classes to make them more attractive. And preventing people from playing the class they want only serves to annoy them, and doesn't solve anything.
Comments:
I don't mind the queues too much. But I am really hoping that the realms balance out a bit at Christmas. Right now it's a big event if Order manages to take one of the keeps from us. Pretty much only 3-4 of their guilds can pull it off.

A small group taking a BO just means we retake it right back, which often pops us over the zone capture line again. At any given time, ~2/3 of the zones are locked by Destro. Heck, even showing up in an open RVR guarantees we'll jam a warband down your throat 5 minutes later just because Destro is bored and starved of RVR. You're kind of condemned to PVE for a large fraction of the game... and this isn't a game that holds up that well as a straight PVE game.

And our server is one of the most balanced out there, looking at guild membership. Blah. If I didn't like my guild, I would reroll Order.
 
Spot on, Tobold.
Order needs a little make-up to be played be the masses. Horde, sorry, Destruction is looking way cooler, has more different mounts, has 4(!)
races (see Greenskins), mutants, squigs, nipples and bitch elves(tm), while Order has skinny soldiers, pointy-eared genderbenders and stuntys with beards and axes longer that themselves (ok, point for them ;)).

And Tanks and Healers are very attractive for Chaos to play here due to the imbalance in the Chaos-Imperium pairing. Chaos has nearly the best tanks and healers as core classes, Order has only the support classes, guys in cloth and leather who are constantly ripped apart in the T-1 scenario due to the lack of tanks and healers, because half of Order seems to be playing the (cooler?) witch hunters and fire mages. I hope it will even out in later tiers but at this time its annoying. Tanks, tanks, tanks...

Order needs to get 1-2 cool tanky classes. Throw in an Ogre Blocker or a halfling cook of Doom and the numbers will go up.
 
I don't think that the main reason behind the current balance issue is due to 'prettiness'.
For me the main reason if that 90% of current WAR players have played WoW. And these guys have 'learn' their lesson, when they choose the good guys and where crushed by the Horde in every battleground.
So when starting a new MMO they decided to go for the 'hardcore' side and thus create the imbalance.
It is also probably true that the 'uniqueness' of the Destruction looks ( more than pretiness) is amplifying the issue.

When during Beta people were reporting that Destruction was outnumbering Order a lot and were expecting this to change with the actual launch because all the 'newbies' will choose the good side, they just forget that there is no more 'newbies' for a MMO like WAR, not enough at least.

We can hope this will change by christmas as people arriving later will probably be less 'hardcore' and knowledgeable about past experience.
 
I agree that Order needs to be more 'attractive'. But not attractive in a 'pretty' way.

I've only a superficial knowledge of the Warhammer universe, but I've always imagined the Order races to be more punk, gothic, brutal, 'fascist regime'-like ... i.e. more grim.

In a way that would make Order's aesthetic 'feel' more in line with Destruction.

I was under the impression that no one in the Warhammer universe is really 'good' - not in a pretty way at least.
 
The Order races suffer more from the "uncanny valley" than the Destruction races.

Ironically, it's the fact that Destruction races look less real that make them more appealing. Even the Chaos humans have some crazy looks to them (mutant arms, crazy hair, freaky eyes, scars).
 
I continually left feedback that the High Elf males looked abused...
 
Do remember that a lot of the art direction isn't completely in Mythic's hands, either. Games Workshop has reportedly played a large part in the way the game looks, and I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

I agree that the queues aren't a real answer, unless they float to always cap destruction at slightly higher numbers than the current order population, which is just really unfriendly to players.

Giving the underpopulated side a bonus to damage done (in PvE or PvP) based on the percentage difference in players might help, but that's crappy too. There's just really not a good answer.

As to why people in this game have gone destruction over order... I really can't figure it. Perhaps this is what would've happened with WoW if they had blood elves from the beginning? Maybe it's just the case that, all things being equal, people just prefer the "bad guys" - but in WoW there were enough people who cared more about appearance to tilt that game towards alliance.
 
I really don't think it's about being good or bad... It's not like playing the evil side makes you defeat other players in a more evil way.

People simply just prefer a 'cool' toon to play. Many of the Desto classes looks cool in a sexy or freaked out way. Order just seems a bit bland.

Frank Bullitt, Lara Croft, Dirty Harry, Han Solo, Indiana Jones and so on are 'good guys' - but looks cool being it.
 
Well the 4 top servers are going to be cloned in EU too like they did in US.

Servers to be cloned:

Karak Eight Peaks will be cloned to Tor Anroc
Karak Azgal will be cloned to Zhufbar
Karak Hirn will be cloned to Yvresse
Eltharion will be cloned to Tiranoc


Info from www.war-europe.com
 
Ascetics and perceived overbalance are the roots of the problem here. The queues serve the purpose of ensuring that there is a modicum of “Balance” between the sides so that the RvR combat isn’t stale. I’m so glad I rolled order over my original plan of destruction. I’m enjoying nearly instant scenario pops in prime time, never a log in queue and there is always a keep or battle field objective to take. Put yourself in Mythic’s shoes; they have designed and released a game whose heart is RvR combat, If they made the queue based of a single number for server population and opened new server you would have some places where Destruction would make up 80% of the population and with no one to fight they would be ghost towns. Some players who are frustrated with queues, long scenario wait times and no open RvR should really consider rerolling order, it’s not so bad over here and we could us the help in the war :).
 
I think the faction imbalance has two factors. First a player can see the balance of the server before even creating a character. On almost 100% of US servers Destruction is high, or medium vs. Order being medium or low. If I was creating a character for the first time, would I side with the underdog Order? No, I'd go with Destruction because they have the larger army.

Secondly, I think the combination of races and classes is also contributing to faction inbalance. With Order you can only be an tank by choosing an Dwarf or an Elf. Dwarfs and Elfs are both awkward looking, and tanks ussually go with a "big bad warrior" model, not a midget or a frail looking elderly man. Just look at WOW, the majority of tanks I see are tauren, orc, and human. Although I personally would love a gnome warrior, I wouldn't go with a dwarf. Gnome is acceptable because of how ridiculous it is.

So I have a level 10 Chosen and a level 14 Bright Wizard. Both on high-pop servers. Order is in dire need of tanks. Esp being of human race there is a very large scarcity of tanks. Why would mythic drop a tank class of all possible classes to get rid of? Destruction is in need of less tanks. I can't really say what MORE they need, but every other guy is a Black Orc or a Chosen. I guess more healers would help, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of healers on either side at the moment, and those who can heal generally don't.
 
If the balance issue is server specific but normalized across all servers, then they could implement a system of inter-server play, similar to wow battlegrounds.

If the issue is truly across the entire subscriber population, then introduce a game-mechanic to compenstate. I'm thinking of something like breaking up the smaller side into groups of half-teams, then giving them a bonus. ie. Morale buff that increases all stats for playing short-handed.
 
Wow, reminds me of this discussion we had back in June...
http://tobolds.blogspot.com/2008/06/war-fixes-population-imbalances-with.html
 
Just a thought, but in someone like Nissl's case, what if his entire Guild made the decision to roll Order Toons. Coordinate everything on their Forum, first, so everyone decides which Race & Class they're going to be to make sure they have a well balanced group. Half the week they play Destruction, but for a couple of nights a week they all log on their Order toons, level up, chew gum and kick arse.

Just a thought.
 
I agree with the idea that Destruction has more tanks if only because the Black Orc is an incredibly popular class. By contrast, the Order opposite (Swordmaster) is one of the worst models in the game.

However... I also believe that Order has more healing classes.
 
It's a good idea, but we already have an Order chapter, some people have been committed to Destro for 2 years, and coordinating 352 people (as of last night) does not sound like much fun. I'm hoping some smaller guilds will make the move. I might switch over to Order eventually, but I'm trying to avoid the rampant altaholism that dooms me in every game.
 
Marketing and image. That's why none of the PVP fanatics out there want to play Order. Look back at every trailer Mythic put out for WAR. They have clearly painted Order as the defender and Destruction as the aggressor.

Now, how many people who are starving for some good MMO PVP want to sign up to be the guy constantly getting his shiny little castles blown up by a horde of pointy helmeted brutes? Not many. They want to BE that guy. That's why there's a population imbalance.

Oh, and what's the tagline for the game? It's not "For the empire!" It's not "For the free world!"

It's WAAAAAAGGHHH!!!
 
I am on Ironfist chaos side and the worst queue i got was like 112 and that took less than 2min.

This is by far the most balanced PvP game ive ever played in a long history of MMOs. i.e since the UO days.

Kudos to their Queue system, i like it and it seems to do its magic.

Higgs.
 
the only race even worth a spit is destruction; the rest have horrible animations and graphics.

i'm skilling war, beta was enough of a headache
 
Why not balance Order and Destruction with bots? Would that be too costly in terms of computing power, running all the AI for enough robo-toons to make sure the sides are relatively even? Human toons would always take precedence, so you'd see AI-toons dropping out mid-swing now and then, but that wouldn't be so bad.
 
From what everyone said, a good way to balance sides would be to give humans their tanking class (cool looking knight, fitting the heavy armor warrior type).
In fact, I think that once they finally introduce all the classes that were meant to come out, we'll have a drastic change in classbalance:
I for my side play a blackorc, but would go Choppa (also orc, but melee-dps) as soon as it comes out. I see alot of blackorcs with big 2handers running around dps'ing, so i guess I'm not alone.
Same goes for the Hammerer on Order.

/Mockmaw
 
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