Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
 
International servers

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!
Comments:
A few months ago I lived in Hamburg and had a 100% reliable ping of 40-80 ms. Nowadays I live and work in some remove village (nobody knows it even exists :). I now have a ping of 200-250 ms.

When playing a mage or a moonkin (ranged DD) or a Tree druid, it really doesn't make any difference at all in PvE. It makes a noticable, but still small difference in PvP.

If I try to play feral, a melee DD, I get frustrated. It is absoluteimpossible in PvP, and only hardly manageable in group PvE.
(Leveling, probably, still worked with a 5000+ ms ping)

Fazit:
AFAIK you play a priest, Tobold: So, yes: The ping isn't much of a difference. But for a melee dps, especially one that gains advantage of its speed, a 250ms ping can destory the game.

Comparing reaction time and ping, you should be careful.
Problem is that a high ping shows you wrong information. People are not where they seem to be, abilities you thought worked, actually didn't work, because you were already stunned .. etc.

And I still think you whine too much about your reaction time. Player reaction time never was important in WoW and still isn't. A fire on the ground, for example, ticks every 1s at max. The worst result from a high reaction time is one extra tick, even then only in about 25% of the cases, assuming a reaction time of 250ms.

That doesn't kill people. People get killed, because they do not notice the fire early enough.
 
Hey Tobold. I got a nice web page to test your reaction time and compare it with that of others :)

http://www.humanbenchmark.com/tests/reactiontime/index.php

The average is 215 ms they claim. Mine is 256.2 ms .. Always thought I were fast *smile*.

So, how fast are you if you really try ?? :)
 
258.4 ms
 
Rather than to force the boundaries of the real world onto the players, we should have the choice.

1. Screw multiple servers, make only one!
2. If 1. is not possible, just scatter whatever number of servers needed in different locations all over the world and let the player decide where to play, based on their individual reasons (latency, language, friends, etc.)
3. Make forums based on the language, not country based. No more dividing english into US/EU FFS!
4. I don't care how you do business with publishers and country laws, that's your job. Stop splitting the player base already, it's 2009.
 
I guess that's one of the selling points of EVE and the upcoming Champions Online.

Having one single shard means anything that happens in your game, happens in your world.
 
I believe with WoW US, you could give a fake US address but use a European credit card. I imported the US version (because I didn't want to wait 4 months for it to be released here) and I don't remember having any trouble signing up.
 

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.


Then I hope I helped prove yourself wrong. You have a slightly slower reaction time than the average (as do I). You are about 50 ms slower than an average person and 100 ms slower than a above-average person.

I never thought that I might have a higher than average reaction time, since I love some FPS games and while I am not exceptionally good, I do quite well. The same applies to WoW PvP. I am in love with those battlegrounds and never even imagined that I might have less fun because of a 50 ms higher than average reaction time.

About the age dpendency: I am in my late twenties.
 
I've recently read that a ping of maximum ~80 ms is where you don't feel the difference between clickin and the action happening. That's just not possible with a server standing on the other side of the ocean.

As for Blizzard banning European credit cards. That feels like another way to crunch out more money. If you don't mind the 100ms extra you'd be paying $15 instead of €15. That's more then €4 cheaper a month. I suppose they do not want all Europeans playing on those cheap US servers!

PS: an intermediate company? How does that work? You put money on their accounts and they buy it for you?

I see a business potential here. Buy games from US Steam and gift them to European players for US price + €1.
 
I agree. Some of my fondest text MUD memories in college was interacting with people from other countries. It was really amazing!

However, one advantage of local servers is getting help in your local language. We licensed Meridian 59 out to a German company who could do support in German. They also held fan get-togethers which were fun (I attended a couple), and more than we could have arranged for them. So, sometimes having a local company handle local servers can be better.
 
PS: an intermediate company? How does that work? You put money on their accounts and they buy it for you?

Exactly. In the case of WoW you paid them by credit card for the cost of the box + $5, they opened the account for you, sent you userid and password, and would sell you game time cards at a small markup later.
 
Then I hope I helped prove yourself wrong. You have a slightly slower reaction time than the average (as do I). You are about 50 ms slower than an average person and 100 ms slower than a above-average person.

Uh, didn't you just help to prove me right? I am 100 ms slower than a above-average person, and would like to play games in which that 100 ms doesn't make a difference.
 

follows that having 200 ms slower reaction time is an equally big disadvantage



Uh, didn't you just help to prove me right? I am 100 ms slower than a above-average person, and would like to play games in which that 100 ms doesn't make a difference.


Well.. first you overestimated the difference to above-average users by 100%.
Secondly, the difference to most users is 50ms, not 100ms, which is an error of 400% ...

But I am glad we now have pinned it down to (more or less) hard numbers :)
 
215 ms can't be the avarage of a regular human being. It's the median according to the page of all the people that have used it, or possibly of all the clicks. That's the kind of page where people go to try, and then keep training until they get a good enough score. I would be willing to bet that the avarage reaction time is much more, something like 300 ms.

Oh, and for the record, after trying around 15 clicks I got around 280 ms. I really don't count myself as having bad reaction time. Rather avarage in my opinion. I certainly don't have problems with twitchy games like Tobold says that he has, and then he really has a bit better reactions than me. ;)
 
I enjoyed interacting with people in different continents in MUDs, except for the parts where it was always the europeans who ended up having to get up at 3am for server events. That was actually really miserable and the US guys were very intolerant of our suggestions of times we could make, because they weren't really that interested inbeing flexible. I always felt that they didn't really grok how the timezones hurt us.

Nothing can beat having all the events scheduled in your local prime time.
 

215 ms can't be the avarage of a regular human being. It's the median according to the page of all the people that have used it, or possibly of all the clicks. That's the kind of page where people go to try, and then keep training until they get a good enough score.


I agree. If you read the comments you will find a few people who "played" it for hours everyday until they got real good. These people are in the database. Therefore 215 ms is probably very optimistic.

This, also is just the reaction to a change of easily spottet color. It is not the speed you need to judge wether it was a rogue who just attecked you or a paladin. These kinds of judgements take far longer - especially if you are not expecting them. Still - Tobold doesn't have a bad reaction time here - and definetely not a very bad one. Have a look at their statistics.

http://www.humanbenchmark.com/tests/reactiontime/stats.php

It is a nice gaussian.

What is also remarkable, is that everybody expects that he is above-average. Sad but true: 50% of you are not ! ;)
 
Thanks for not referring to people with faster reaction times as "hyperactive jumpy teenagers." =D I noticed the difference in tone, and I think it helps make the piece less bombastic.

For a while, WAR was focused on a slightly slower combat, with the GCD being a little slower than Wow as well. Of course, when I played, the game just wasn't as polished and there was always a bit of a disconnect between hitting a button and an action taking effect. Is that still the case?
 
Christian, I know exactly what you are talking about re: the disconnected feeling in War. It's gone as far as I can tell.

I still don't buy that reaction times are all that critical in MMOs. There's a difference between the input/output of seeing the green flash and clicking, and the reaction time in pvp, which involves running a constant analysis of the situation, location of enemies, tracking cooldowns of enemies and friends, and the rest of it, and then punching a key for the appropriate response move.

Tobold, frankly you don't pvp enough to know what the hell your doing, and that's where your "reaction time" fails you and if feels like your moving in molasses, because your cognitive ability to handle the situation isn't up to par. Blame age if want, but in MMOs with global cooldowns of 1500ms between "instants", being a bit slow on the draw isn't the pvp debilitating drawback you want to make it out to be. That 1500 ms is an age to react, even for people in their 80s. It's deciding how to react that is the problem.
 
If you have 1.5 seconds to react in PvP, Toxic, then you are playing a very different game than I am. The global cooldown is NOT the determining factor of PvP combat speed. Nor is it in PvE raids.
 
I agree, that there are some exceptions to the 1500ms rule, but they are not serious, AFAIK.

Could you give us some (serious) examples, Tobold?
 
Christian: Regarding Warhammer, I agree with Toxic. That "disconnected" feeling is to a large part gone. Well you still get lag of course which still can cause that but that's another story. Warhammer had at launch some odd delay regarding general responsiveness. Both in using abilities and moving around. It felt really sluggish. They really improved that a lot and is today basically as responsive as WoW, in a no lag situation.
 
In PvP: Mostly movement. If you play a melee character and stand still for 1.5 seconds, not a single enemy will remain in range.

In PvE: Gadgety raid encounters. If after the polarity changes at Thadeus you stand still for 1.5 seconds, you are dead, and took half the raid with you. And as a healer I would not recommend a 1.5 second break when healing at Patchwerk either.
 
Tobold, my point is, with minor exception, have 1.5 seconds to think between your moves, and that the person you are fighting also has 1.5 seconds between moves, and that ain't even counting stuff with cast times.

For the most part, WoW is a pretty slow paced game. Your reaction times, whether 200 ms or 300ms, shouldn't render you utterly useless in pvp unless you have some kind of medical condition.

Where you are not practiced and thus slow, is in your ability to decide how to react, which is a matter of training and experience, not twitch speed.
 

n PvP: Mostly movement. If you play a melee character and stand still for 1.5 seconds, not a single enemy will remain in range.


But this is not about reaction times.. it is about following somebody. You have the move-forward button (or NUM, or both mouse keys) pressed and just adjust your path with your mouse...
I agree that if you need 1500ms to adjust the path you have a problem as melee, but if you need 300ms to do it you have no problem at all. Since we both have about the same reaction times I can tell you that. It is, however, important that you have a good ping, because otherwise you will follow a ghost on your client and the real guy is never in range (on the server).


In PvE: Gadgety raid encounters. If after the polarity changes at Thadeus you stand still for 1.5 seconds, you are dead, and took half the raid with you. And as a healer I would not recommend a 1.5 second break when healing at Patchwerk either.


Not healing for 1.5s does not have anything to do with reaction times, either. If you are just hotting (instants), reaction times are obviously not important. If you use casts that need some time to cast you always have the first cast finished before you start the next, and therefore a lot of time between pressing the buttons.

If it is really important to keep healing all the time you start your cast, but stop casting it, if the guy you want to heal has full life when the cast is at 80%. At 60%, if you have slow reaction times. In these fights it is often better to just (over)heal all the time - especially in WotLK not really a mana problem. If it is, ask some druid for his innervate. Reactive healing is actually a relic of classic WoW (one I liked). Nowadays it is about guessing who might take damage and how much.

I agree that a paladin with his flash of light and a good addon could really top healing charts in BC if he was very fast (and had a very good ping). But this was not critical. I outheal most people even if my connection decides to settle down to 400 ms ping. Obviously, I'd be better at 50 ms, but this is not what makes the difference.

Besides .. both you and me seem to have the same reaction time. How does it come then that I have a lot of fun in battlegrounds? I mean, I'm no masochist. It's not like I lose all the time ;)
 
So if 200 ms doesn't make a difference, why aren't there more games with international servers?

Maybe WoW is a bad example here, but I've noticed both WoW getting twitchier with time, and newer games being twitchier than WoW. Everquest is a lot slower than WoW.
 
Great and informative discussion on reaction times here. I scored a 234ms out of 5 tries, at age 40+, no practice. I see from the stats page that a reaction time of 150ms puts you in the top 1% of players.

In college a friend had a stopwatch with a reaction-time game. It would beep, and you'd have to hit the button as soon as possible. I remember being around 170ms, with the fastest friend being around 140ms. It's not exactly the same test, but interesting to think about how much I might have slowed down in 20 years.

It's not reaction time that prevents me from being better in WoW -- it's lack of time (hours/week) to devote to in-game practice and keeping up with the class changes in each patch.
 
There is BIG difference between reaction time and ping.

In some special cases it might be the same, but mostly it is not.

A high ping reduces the immersion. It somehow *feels* wrong.

Remember when you ride out of a BG in WOW? Your are always the first. It seems like everybody is slower than you. But it looks like to to everybody.

A high ping makes you follow ghosts. People who are 3m left from where they seem to be.

A high ping makes classes like mages, who depend on a counter spell (this might have been a good example, Tobold :), impossible to play.

You are right, however, that WoW got faster over time. I see the advantages, but also the disadvantages. Even Blizzards thinks that people die too fast nowadays in PvP. Therefore the massive change in resilence next patch. (Which solves one more problem and makes the resilence problem even bigger .. )


@changed: Reactions to acoustic signals are always 40-50ms faster. Keep that in mind.

http://biae.clemson.edu/bpc/bp/Lab/110/reaction.htm#Type%20of%20Stimulus
 
Hmm sounds like Tobold is like me. Blame a dislike of twitchy games (which I have) on bad reaction times (where my average of 250ms after a lot of beer isn't shabby, I think).

Anyway, I didn't socialize way back through international games, my way was IRC way back in time...

I do agree that a 'world' server opens some interesting opportunities, but on the other hand, time zones alone mess this whole idea up as well. Tokyo is 7 hours away from western Europe now, 8 in winter.
 
Looks like the topic was derailed, at least slightly to reaction times.

PvP in WoW is part reaction time, but part knowing what abilities every single class and spec have in game, and doing your best to counter them.

Reaction time in WoW PvP is knowing that you should counterspell X when it is casting something particular. Or fear bombing Y at a certain point in the fight. It's about knowing when to blow up a priest, or when to CC a paladin.

Ultimately, reaction time is a whole let less important than knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the class you are up against.

On the other hand, if your latency is high and your opponent's latency is low, the opponent has an advantage as they are able to react correctly to what you are doing, and able to use abilities that are not effectively countered do to the latency.

WoW PvP isn't as twitchy as a FPS or RTS in terms of having to constantly be spotting changes in color on your screen to spot an enemy, or to keep your units functioning properly.

The only twitch in WoW PvP that is substantial is the one that requires good latency, else as others have said, you might be chasing a ghost that isn't really there to do lag.
 
intermediate company: I assumed that was a fancy way of saying Paypal.
 
try playing wow or any game at south america. Ping 1k during the day, 300-400 at night. Blizzard should consider isntall localized servers since there is enough subscription base for a south america (arg/brazil especially) server. what you think tobold?
 
The latency never really was much of an issue in FFXI as people made it out to be. The problem was that the JP crowd was closed, insular, and some would argue borderline racist towards NA, and still are.

Despite international servers, there isn't much interaction between NA and JP specifically, mostly due to a serious language barrier, and cultural issues. If anything, now the NA are more hardcore than the JP, it was a NA shell that beat Pandy warden first, and especially in merits NA versus JP style tends to blow them out of the water due to exp gain.

That politeness was often a mask, many bilingual players often would tell of the JP players insulting the english speakers in japanese assuming that they couldn't understand them. And for all that politeness, its very common to see in seacomms "JP only" as a tag, meaning japanese only.

International servers really only benefit the EU in my opinion.
 
Having played EVE for a little over a year and FFXI for a little over two, I honestly think that International servers aren't really needed. While in EVE I met people from all over the world(Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Japan, Russia), many of whom were wonderful people, the vast majority of internation people in public, global chat channels spent the majority of their time abusing people of other nationalities. Granted, the bulk were American(Who put out equally as much if not more abuse back), but the point still stands; there was 70% abuse passing back and forth w/ 30% at most interaction being useful.

FFXI was much the same, although slightly worse. By and large, Japanese players saw the US, and later the EU players as being interlopers in their world. We weren't welcome, as nei points out; JP ONLY was a very, very common comment in LFG comments. This was worsened by the largely elitist mentality that pervaded most servers, as well. As much as I loved the game, the players ruined it almost completely.

All in all, I somewhat enjoyed my time spent in games with international reach. But at the end of the day, the abuse, favoritism, elitist nature and nearly constant abuse really makes them not so worthwhile IMO.
 
I know i'm the minority, but I work in a profession where Americans are the minority (vast minority) (I'm American). So, i really love running a guild of people that are about my age and mostly American, as we can actually converse about relevant cultural topics. That is just impossible to do with Japanese or chinese or Indians, they have vastly different cultures. What's good for you (music, movies), they think is crap, and visa versa. So, yeah bring on regionalization!
 
Well, i also do prefer internationalization, but probably for very different reasons from yours. See, i live in Brazil... Warm weather, beautiful girls, and a third country for everything that really matters. Including education. Our online community has so many uneducated jerks, that playing a regional server is the worst thing you can get yourself in...

There will be many bots, farmers, gankers, insults, to be able to destroy any game. I actually tried playing 2 of them for some time, Ragnarok Online, and Gunbound. After a short experience, i went after US proxies to be able to play on international servers, and never went back. I had a much better culture exchange and gaming experience that were well worth the trade of server response. Of course, since our internet connection sucks anyway, its not like i wasn't used to have some lag anyway!
 
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