Wednesday, July 08, 2009
When I was playing Ultima Online and Everquest, I did so on international servers located in the US. There simply weren't any others. EQ introduced European servers in 2001, which for me was major catastrophe, because it lead to my European guild on the US server Lanys'Tvyl splitting up between those who staid and those who moved to the European server. When I started playing Final Fantasy XI in 2003, it was on international servers, located in Japan. It was very interesting to play with Japanese players, even if many didn't speak English, and you had to use the in-game click-to-chat system which automatically translated the communication. The Japanese players often were both extremely hardcore *and* extremely polite, a combination you don't find that often in the West.
But FFXI also was where the trouble started. The game had rare spawns which were often camped, and soon the American players started complaining that it was always the Japanese who tagged the rare mobs first, due to them having 100 ms or 200 ms lower ping. When World of Warcraft came out in 2004, the idea of international servers was dead. I actually had to use the services of a US intermediate company to make a WoW account on the US servers, Blizzard refused to accept European credit cards to pay on US servers.
The argument was that you couldn't play on a server on a different continent, because the 100 ms or 200 ms more ping would make playing impossible. As I actually played WoW on a US server, I know that in reality the latency doesn't make that much of a difference, but of course that was only PvE soloing. Both in PvP and in modern Super Mario Raiding encounters, latency can kill you.
Unfortunately if you accept the argument of game companies that 200 ms latency is a big enough disadvantage to require localized servers, it follows that having 200 ms slower reaction time is an equally big disadvantage. And with me being in my mid-40s, I certainly have that big disadvantage compared to a teenager less than half my age. Which is why I'm not a big fan of MMORPG in which fraction-of-a-second reaction times are required.
Plus I'm missing the cultural exchange that international servers offer. Meeting people from different continents with often very different approaches to the same game. Having a server with no "prime time", but one which is always active, because it is always prime time in one time zone somewhere. So if I could play a MMORPG where combat was designed in a way where 200 ms of latency or slower reaction time don't make a difference, and which was running on international servers, that would be great!