Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
 
Aion and the death of the traditional server model

Players are notoriously unable to agree upon what features a MMORPG should and shouldn't have, and what level of technical difficulties are or aren't still supportable. But the one thing they do agree upon, the absolute minimum requirement, is that you have to actually be able to log on and play. Aion does not fulfil that basic requirement, not for the large part of the customer base which doesn't have hours of time to wait in a queue before playing. Melmoth says:
And to all those who have said that this is the smoothest launch they’ve ever seen, of course it bloody well is, nobody can get onto the servers to stress them. I could solve all of the public transport problems in England if I only let ten people on to each bus and then thanked everyone else for their patience while they stand around for two hours to get on to the next one.
after having found that there was a login queue for every single European server, of up to 2 hours. That is clearly unacceptable, and will drive a lot of players away.

Funnily by driving players away NCSoft has created a self-fulfilling prophecy. It appears as if the low number of servers have been created in a Darkfall-like attempt to only let in the most dedicated players, and thereby keeping the player numbers stable over a longer time. Opening up sufficient servers for launch risks the fate of WAR and AoC, losing a lot of players after the first months, and then having to deal with empty worlds, which according to Brad McQuaid is much harder than dealing with overpopulation.

But of course the root of that problem lies in the traditional server model. Why, oh why do we have to select the name of our server first, thus being tied to that server, and unable to play if that server is full or down? Maybe for fantasy games the one-server solution of EVE Online isn't feasible. But have a look at a game like Free Realms, where you create your character first, and select a server later. You can always jump to the server where your friends are on, without having to use the server with the same name every time. And that solution can easily be downscaled, as how many servers are on offer is determined dynamically. Less players result in less servers open, and the number of players per server always close to an optimum.

Whether you decry them as "WoW tourists" or simply realize that the overall market size for MMORPGs has grown due to World of Warcraft, fact is that there are now millions of players out there with a certain familiarity with online role-playing games. And these might well be willing to try out a new game, so any new game must be prepared for a strong initial interest. Which is an opportunity, not a threat. Because if the game is actually very good, most of these players will stay. If they were determined to go back to WoW anyway, they wouldn't spend the money to try out the new game. But every game, even WoW, loses players one day. And a scaleable server model deals much better with that, both with permanent player losses and with temporal dips in player population due to summer holidays. And the scaleable option is also far superior with regards to public relations: Nothing hurts a game as much as announcements of server mergers. So why not just avoid that?

I sure hope that the experience of Aion teaches game companies to start looking for a different technical solution. The traditional named server model just isn't suitable for today's requirements any more. We need more flexibility to avoid both queues at the start and server mergers near the end of a game's life.
Comments:
It steals a bit of immersion to not have one server, but I think the advantages outcale the disadvantages. Just give us some tools like:
- switch to the server my guild is right now,

Please also consider:
If you talk about it WoW style:
This opens up the arbitrage game between servers. You could just as well just start to make it one AH.
If that is technically feasible is a good question - just like the question wether it is feasible to not do it and have thousands of people transfering mats from one AH to the other.

There you have your localised trade - just that it is realized in the most un-immersive way :)
 
Just one of many issues that publishers should have already figured out, but this raises a more interesting point. Just why are game developers such slow learners, as opposed to players who are such fast learners?

= # # =
 
2 hour queues would drive me away. I didn't like the five minute queues to get into my WoW server from time to time. Or having to wait ten minutes to get into an instance.

Sure, I would wait ten minutes. Those queues were exceptions which would only happen after launch or patch time at friday evening. And I also knew Blizzard would fix the problem if it kept returning. If it needs solving at all, the playerbase goes steadily down after launch or a major patch anyway.

Tieing your character to character servers and not realms is a good idea. Is your server queue full? Try another server. It's still not ideal of course because I'd rather play on my server with friends. And it doesn't solve the problem of having to raid at 20.00 and having a fifteen minute queue.

In the case of a new mmorpg launch the best idea I can come up with is hiring servers. Buy enough servers to support the playerbase you expect to have in half a year. And hire enough servers to catch the initial rush. If after half a year your playerbase diminishes you can stop hiring some servers and merge those servers. If they remain popular you can buy those servers.
 
Maybe. Although:

To me, a server is some sort of bar around the corner where people meet on a regular basis without having to make appointments. There's always somebody you know around to chat with.

But if players can easily switch online identities, then the named server is not needed. A bit like a bar in complete darkness where you won't recognize anyone anyway.
 
But have a look at a game like Free Realms, where you create your character first, and select a server later. You can always jump to the server where your friends are on, without having to use the server with the same name every time. And that solution can easily be downscaled, as how many servers are on offer is determined dynamically.

The problem with this is that gamers are -still- social animals in the context of how successful they are, and how successful those around them are in terms of progression, or whatever guage the game uses to denote -success-.

The most populated servers in WoW are not those with the -least successfull- raiding guilds. At the end of the day we're still creatures of basic psychology, and we tend to gravitate towards those who do something well, like play a game, or write a blog about playing games...:P

I tried jumping servers once in WoW so I could play with some of my Real Life™ friends. I wound up going back to the online connections I made on my original server because my real life friends simply stopped taking the game serious after a period of time of playing together. It's as if our real life relationships held some weird countenance of forgiveness over our in-game actions(lack of performance).

What we are seeing with subscription models is the beginning of the death knolls for online MMO's. Either we treat our favorite past times as GAMES, with rules to be followed and clear and precise goals to be reached, or we treat them as a virtual world where people can wax poetic around the existential debate of -winning- in an MMO.
 
Personally I think the solution that CO has to this problem is very smooth. One single server, period. To then solve population spread there are instances of every single zone with up to 100 people in each one (less in some instances).

I can really imagine that this is also a wonderful solution to population fluctuations. You can add and remove servers (that are probably leased) depending on whether your population.

You can also select which instance to move to if you want to play with your friends.

As I said it's pretty smooth.

Sure you will not experience the huge population gatherings in single spots like there is in most other MMOs, but then again it will not cause the drawbacks that those happenings bring with them either. Does anyone remember the opening of the AQ gates in WoW? I was there, and aside from just being able to say that I was I really wouldn't have missed anything by not being there. You couldn't do anything because of lag.
 
I agree, server shards needs to be done away with. Having to pick a server, and then being locked into that server (unless you want to pay a relocation fee) is just unacceptable these days. Things need to evolve and change, and companies need to keep up with this. For all it's flaws and complication, EVE still has the best design in many areas on MMO gaming. If a company wants to model their game after something, pick EVE, not WoW.
 
Credit is due to Guild Wars I think for being one of the first to implement a "select a sever" drop down box every time you are in an outpost. As you have pointed out such a system is self regulating and problems of over and underpopulation solve themselves.
 
Just why are game developers such slow learners, as opposed to players who are such fast learners?
Because it takes several years to redo your server architecture.

Personally, I've started to wonder why nobody has tried the Guild Wars model of everything being instanced (and thus interchangeable), but coupling it with social network tracking: When picking an instance to join, the game would sort the servers according to how many friends/guild members/acquaintances are already in that same instance. This system would be easy to scale and help foster communities.
 
I think this is just pragmatism on NCSoft's part. Even though they'd like them to stay, they know that the 'tourists' will start to filter away pretty quickly, and the queues will get less severe from this point onwards. It gives the impression of an extremely successful launch, yet reduces the chance that server closures will be necessary in a couple of month's time.

Also, those that are scared away by a couple of hours of tedious queuing are certainly not going to tolerate the countless hours of tedious grind within the actual game!

My strong hunch is that NCSoft are not going to lose many potential long-term players due to this. The players that were always likely to commit will endure the queueing. The players that were never likely to commit, well, NCSoft already has their money.
 
Aion has open-ended instancing in the starter zones.

Why not apply this Guild Wars style to the whole "one world".

Switching instances might have made to be a bit harder, as instance switching in the early areas in Aion (later pvp areas have no channels to avoid channel-switching to avoid combat or surprise "beam to the other instance" attacks) to camp bosses shows that the system can also be exploited somewhat.

(Something not related to the queues and launch issues: Aion has amazing and wonderful mass pvp and a wonderful client, pretty, stable, fast. I just got frustrated at level 32 as it also comes with a grindy pve part that really sucks the soul out of me. Which is such a pity, as Aion is so well done in so many other aspects. WoW Fury Warriors and LOTRO Champions cannot compare to Aion Gladiators, so much more fun to play!)
 
I don't think you have to go that far as absolutely dynamically created servers. It can create serious problems like
- running out of names English have pretty limited amount of pronouncable names shorter than 12 chars.
- separating friends. Remember that just because A and B are friends of yours, they are not friends of each other. So if A plays on server X and B on Y, where do you go.
- impossibility of finding new friends. Unless you are befriended with someone in one session, you lost him forever as chances to play on the same server is near zero.

My suggestion would be server clusters. You wouldn't create a character on Illidan server, you would create one on the Illidan cluster. It consist of 1-3 servers depending on demand. They have a shared AH, shared chat, shared instance group formation tool, shared namespace (there can be just one Tobold). On peak hours these are 3 different servers, on low hours it's 1 single.
 
I just can't believe what pitiful MMO launches there have been recently.

Champions Online, with a great Open Beta, and then Head Start, screwed themselves on Day 1 with that horrible patch, and have been making mistake after mistake since then.

Aion, while being polished and pretty, has huge queues. Gamers are going to tire of this. Sure, the fanbois won't - they'll just tolerate it and troll the posts where people complain that this is a problem.

There's a point where common-sense gamers will just stop playing. I had an Aion account via a pre-order. There were 4 hour queues on my server on the day of the Head Start. Intolerable.

And people being able to avoid the queues with those Personal AFK Stores? Uglying the place up as well as staying in game? These devs are just clueless.
 
There are reasons that only a select few MMORPGs are able to be hosted on one "server" (from a player's perspective).
It present problems from technical and design perspective. For example, dynamically allocating resources to stressed areas requires some pretty good networking technique. It is much easier to have a fixed capacity assigned to one area. Also, if you are going to have everyone on the same server, you have to make sure player experience do not suffer because of that. Maybe it's hundreds of players standing in front of a quest NPC. Maybe it's a particular mob that pop once a few minutes. It's a major challenge to design the system to accommodate high load and low load situations.

For most games, the amount of people throwing a tantrum over this is worth much less than the cost of designing a single "shard"(a server from a player's perspective) system that can face the challenges such a system would bring. EvE Online is the only one I know that can accomplish this, and even then they are known to have trouble handling thousands in a single area.

It's very likely that a "traditional" shards system will live long and stay that way, whether you like it or not.
 
The bad part about Aion having problems at the moment is for me that it's also affecting the Lineage II servers. I couldn't care less otherwise, but damn it NCSoft, didn't you guys ever heard of separating unrelated services?

We even had some 45 minutes of outage in the middle of Saturday's territory wars on Teon ...
 
imho the servers are ok, it's the login-servers that are normally the bottleneck
 
I don't think that it's a good idea to select server with each log in.

I feel the same as Kyressar that a each server is a unique place with a unique crowd. Some servers have a special flavour because of player-made rules or simply the attitude or nationality of the majority of players.

Secondly players will generally be better behaved and less likely to grief others if they risk the loss of their reputation on their very own server.

Further every name would only be available one time worldwide. I'm really looking forward to meet Legolass, Legoliss, Legoland and Legolasxxx.

Finally the untieing of characters would not help with the problem of peak population at release. Wheter you call it a merger or not, you would have to start with a large number of servers and then take some of those offline.

Kyff
 
MMOs are about creating an on-line personality and community. And there are some elements of this process that are very important.

If you can just server hop or class change etc people will continuously try to switch around to the server/class du-jour. Over long term that is more detrimental to the overall game experience.

Having one single world for everyone would be ideal but not quite feasible technologically when you need to create actual landmass rather than empty space(EVE).
 
You are exaggerating here Tobold. No need to jump on the bandwagon.
All MMOS have trouble in the first few days when everyone starts at level 1.

Aion ended up being more popular than anticipated ... sure, but I bet new servers would come soon and the population will disperse over wider time periods.

Yesterday in prime time I got a gueue of 25 minutes on one of the most populated US servers. That's down from 2 hour wait a few days week ago.
 
What's strange here is that Aion has the channel system that allows multiple people to be in the same zone, but not see each other because they're on different channels. With the click of your mouse, you can bounce around. I don't know if different mobs exist in each channel (this channel is empty of quest mobs to kill, but no one is farming that one!).

This seems to go part way to a solution like what you're describing Tobold: if each channel was a server, you'd log in, and go to the channel where your friends are, without worrying about being stuck to a server...

Is this something other games use? I've not seen it in the other MMOs I've played, but that's not a huge selection (WoW, LotRO, CoH, WAR).
 
Since WAR had RvR they couldn't use such a model since RvR needed a persistant stuggle between factions on a given server.

If you could move from one server to another then it would break the ambiance with losing factions switching out.
 
"Whether you decry them as "WoW tourists" or simply realize that the overall market size for MMORPGs has grown due to World of Warcraft, fact is that there are now millions of players out there with a certain familiarity with online role-playing games. And these might well be willing to try out a new game, so any new game must be prepared for a strong initial interest. Which is an opportunity, not a threat. Because if the game is actually very good, most of these players will stay. If they were determined to go back to WoW anyway, they wouldn't spend the money to try out the new game."

Sorry for the huge quote, but what MMO other than WoW has seen the benefit of "millions of players being familiar with MMOs" now? Or are you saying that since 2004, ALL new MMOs released have not been 'good enough' to retain those millions of new MMO gamers?

More people play MMOs because more people have access to high speed internet and computers able to run even the lower-end games, but if WoW had actually created millions of MMO gamers, and not just WoW players, something tells me the average MMO sub base would have increased from the 300k it's at right now.

And aside from the first month or so of the tourist flood, standard server setups work just fine. Gamers just looking to hop on for a daily or to run an AH mod might not care about server communities, but I think MMO fans might put more value on such things.
 
I like the Champions Online model. There are many, many instances available and you can freely switch between them. I think Guild Wars has this, too, but I've only play GW for an hour or so.

It has a caveat, though. You have to have a unique identifier that's different than a display name. In WoW, there is only one of me on my server, because I have that name. If I pay to go to another server and someone has my name already, then I have to change mine.

I don't think it's a problem, though. The name@account that CO uses works really well. I like CO's server architecture better than WoW's.
 
I totally agree. After seeing the same model in Wizard 101, I can't understand why I can't change servers so easily in every game. Especially games like WoW where nothing you do affects the world. (Except now with phasing but that's still only affects your view).

There might have been an idea at one point to make an immersive world. In the old days that made some sense, but most games gravitate so far away from that that it doesn't matter anymore.

"Just why are game developers such slow learners, as opposed to players who are such fast learners?"

This was answered a long time ago,
it's why larger companies with monopolies get supplanted by smaller ones, it's why government planning is always behind what people want. It's why universities are always 10 years behind industry. the collected distributed wisdom of millions or billions of consumers is far far greater than any corporate entity of people no matter how smart.
 
Server queues are turning a lot of people away. My friends and I cancelled our subs and will not re-sub if the problem is not fixed soon. I think NCSoft blundered on this one. Players will not come back and the hype will dissipate quickly. There is only one chance to make that first impression.

People complain about Blizzard but at least they haveth servers up reliably (Tuesdays excepted of course).
 
Hi Tobold,

This is not a response to today's story per se, but I thought I would share some stats with you from a Blizzcon keynote (I know you like pondering economies, etc) ---

The current World of Warcraft is running on:


• 20,000 computer systems

• 13,250 server blades

• 75,000 CPU cores

• 1.3 petabytes of storage

• 4,600 staffers

They don't stop there. Warcraft's a game with 7,650 quests, 70,000 spells, 40,000 NPCs, 1.5 million game assets, and 5.5 million lines of code. QA's swatted some 180,000 bugs. And the playing community has unlocked 4,449,680,399 rewards.
 
In less than a week since launch, NCSoft has already added at least 3 more servers and queue times are down to around 10 mintues at prime time now for US servers.

Definitely one of the best launches I've ever seen.
 
I understand the allure of the small community environment that a named server can create, but personally I hate being limited to one server. There is nothing more annoying then to find out a work colleague or new friend plays the same game you do but on a different server. Putting barriers up between people that play the same game is ridiculous.
 
It's a good thing I play durung the day.
I don't even bother trying to play Aion on the weekends.
I could put Aion on in the background while I play WoW and when it's my turn in the queue, log on but what's the point?
By the time I get in, I'd have to go do some RL thing anyway.
Aion is a bait and switch game to me anyway.
They drag you in with some immersion and questing until the mid to late 20's, get you all warm and fuzzy about your character, and then kill you with a horrible PVP grind until cap.
Why did I just spend weeks getting to this point? Now the game is crap!!
 
That is an awesome idea to be able to jump around servers and such. It would make getting groups for raids much easier. Problem with that is Blizz couldnt charge 25 bucks anymore.
 
I don't like the Free Realms idea as it applies to typical MMO's. I honestly think it obvious the implications it would have on economy, ninja looting, and raiding.

The other option presented by the CO people, which has been around for awhile, is mutiple versions of the same zone. I dislike this too, but not nearly as much as the previous idea.

Right now we are trying to solve a temporary problem with a permanent solution. In one month no one will complain about Aion queues. The biggest downfall the MMO community has is not looking down the road... They don't plan ahead, or if they do the Mythic plan and assume they are the next big thing.

Different games work with different server models. The standard MMO... EQ to Aion, operate best under the current server system.
 
Do you guys even remember WoW at launch?

http://www.leagueofpirates.com/sirvival/queuedance.html

WoW had the same issues with server queues as they ramped up the number of servers to meet player demands. You don't waste money on a huge number of servers just to shut them down afterwards. How many players did WoW lose because of server queues?

Not only that, but they were still experiencing queues and server crashes (and still have to reboot servers on a schedule to prevent them from crashing) well into their fourth month of US release. No one can predict player demand. I know this is a WoW blog mostly, but take off the rose-colored glasses for a bit.
 
My suggestion would be server clusters. You wouldn't create a character on Illidan server, you would create one on the Illidan cluster. It consist of 1-3 servers depending on demand. They have a shared AH, shared chat, shared instance group formation tool, shared namespace (there can be just one Tobold). On peak hours these are 3 different servers, on low hours it's 1 single.
My hunch is that this is how WoW operates currently. The (four?) world servers and chat are all actually clusters of servers forming logical servers, with the ability to add some extra hardware whenever Blizzard's expecting trouble (like a large player-run event or a patch). Additionally, the instance and battleground servers are all in one big pool shared with the entire datacenter (read: battlegroup).
 
"Server queues are turning a lot of people away. My friends and I cancelled our subs and will not re-sub if the problem is not fixed soon. I think NCSoft blundered on this one. Players will not come back and the hype will dissipate quickly. There is only one chance to make that first impression.

People complain about Blizzard but at least they haveth servers up reliably (Tuesdays excepted of course)."

This has to be one of the most ignorant views I have seen. It is the first WEEK, I'll say that again THE FIRST WEEK of the launch. Of course there are going to be queues. I would say probably at least 50% of people who bought the game will not stay and they will be gone within a month. It is not because the game is bad but it will be because the game is not WoW.

Sure, Blizzard has servers up reliably for the most part NOW. Compare it to 2004 and 2005. Servers crashed all day every day for months. Queues were hours long for MONTHS. Granted, it is not 04 and 05 now, but you are comparing the first WEEK of an MMO launch to a five year old game.

I am all for server restrictions as they help keep the sense of community. http://mordiceius.com/2009/09/29/server-restrictions-and-the-sense-of-community/
 
How about many servers…but still one "namespace"? The downside of a single namespace is "all the good names are taken" (or guild/character names are NOT unique), but there are some significant upsides. (you can also fight some of the downsides of single namespace…encourage longer names, support first AND last names, let the first name be picked by the user, but the game generates a list of last names for uniqueness or something)

One global AH and mail system is very doable…if nothing else internally there is a server for different blocks of people (mail) and different types of items (AH) but the client software makes it seamless. Of corse this makes it harder for devs to experiment with economic parameters "live in the field", but I haven't seen MMOs do that anyway.

But being able to pick any server any time you log in it does make it harder to find friends...

….what if you pick a "home" realm. If it is busy you get the option to use another realm, or wait in a queue. Next time you log in you can use EITHER your home realm or the realm you last used (if the one you pick is busy you can wait, or get a list again). In other words try to make realm selection sticky, but not TOO sticky. Changing home realms, and visiting any realm that isn't currently overloaded should also be available (but not quite as easy in the UI, and maybe with an artificial 1 or 5 min delay, or maybe not…good place to experiment)

"server" over population could be handled by letting multiple realms share a world. Seriously if your home realm is Quux will you really notice that you keep seeing Strom Longbeard who has a home realm of Frobnitz? Really? I think it is only an issue when merging servers means some people have to give up their character names.
 
syncaine:

"Sorry for the huge quote, but what MMO other than WoW has seen the benefit of "millions of players being familiar with MMOs" now? Or are you saying that since 2004, ALL new MMOs released have not been 'good enough' to retain those millions of new MMO gamers?"

Sure since 2004 no new MMO has hit on the magic combination of mid-end hardware requirements, polished-enough, mid-level difficulty, similar-enough to WoW and different enough from WoW. Yep. All the other MMOs have been too hard, or too easy, required too much hardware, or had graphics too poor, or had too many glitches. Or were on-purpose set to take a niche out of WoW and not try to grab the bulk of WoW players.

"More people play MMOs because more people have access to high speed internet and computers able to run even the lower-end games, but if WoW had actually created millions of MMO gamers, and not just WoW players, something tells me the average MMO sub base would have increased from the 300k it's at right now. "

Well folks play WoW because they like X, Y, and Z about it well enough to put up with D, E, and F that they don't like. The problem is X, Y, and Z as well as D, E, and F are not the same for everyone.

Hit the right combination of things in a new MMO and I bet it would unseat WoW.

However I think at least some of the things folks like are HARD to get in a new game. Size, polish, "enough people", and worse yet "people I know and like". Those things alone are not enough, just the hard ones that prevent a lot of games from being a viable experiment.

Almsot as bad, some things folks love are the things other folks hate. So "more X" doesn't just get you more folks who love X, it gets you fewer folks who hate X. Making that even worse is when you have a group of folks who enjoy being together, but some hate X, some hate Y, and some hate Z you end up losing some of ALL of them when you pump up X because they will tend to stick to the system that they all like.

So I might love a game with a more complex economy then WoW, but I won't play it because my wife would prefer WoW and your game has to be REALLY great to get me to play without my wife. Likewise she may prefer quests with more puzzles and "stab it, that solves all problems!!", but since I'm not too into that she will play WoW.

So because "social" is strong, I'm not sure how far you can stray from the balance WoW has struck without radically reducing who you are likely to be able to win away from WoW.
 
Shawno:

"20,000 computer systems"

And did I remember 11 million players? So about 500 players per computer (on avg., some of those computers I assume don't even handle players directly, and some servers have more players then others, but still…)
 
For most with work or study during the day time the queues will be a *major* deterrent. Certainly when coupled with instable servers (lag spikes lasting to 10 seconds (=dead toon/group), disconnects) which, if you are unlucky, send you right back into the queue which has grown in the meantime: 4 hours, "thank you for your patience":) I think the record wait time i saw somewhere was 9 hours..This all reminds me of WAR in the beginning, only there the queues were always 1, or 2 hours at most.

Naturally on the forums complainers are flamed, they should not have created their toon on a busy server or reroll. But most made their character during preselect (a valuable information source, apparently not used by NCSOFT at all) when all servers were completely empty! Rerolling in such a scenario can not be reasonably expected of players. On EU servers rerolling isnt an option anyway: they all have queues (English). I get the impression that the US serverpark is better equipped for the task.

That said, when logged in, and not plagued by lag or instability the game entertains me sofar.
 
Personally, I've started to wonder why nobody has tried the Guild Wars model of everything being instanced (and thus interchangeable), but coupling it with social network tracking: When picking an instance to join, the game would sort the servers according to how many friends/guild members/acquaintances are already in that same instance. This system would be easy to scale and help foster communities.

Isn't that what Champions Online does? Each area is a separate instance, with invisible walls preventing you from flying out. There are as many copies of it as needed for the number of people online. You can change to a different one just from clicking a button on the world map, and when it brings up the list, it tells you how many friends/party members/guildmates are in each one, so you can decide where you'd like to go.

Ever since I first encountered this "multiple shards, one server" idea, I believed it to be the Wave of the Future. I work in the gaming industry, and many of my coworkers also play World of Warcraft. What I would give to be able to run 5-mans or raids with them sometimes instead of just chatting around the water cooler, but in the past four years I've only ever encountered one person who even plays on the same server I do.

It is one of the prevailing things I think Champions has better than WoW, but I know WoW won't see a massive change like this for many years. It does seem to be taking baby steps in that direction, though, with cross-server battlegrounds and now instances. It's only a matter of time before we get a cross-server auction house and can travel between servers at will.
 
I am not an Aion player but I am pretty sure a Free Realms, GW, or CO server model is not what is wanted. Those models come with many limitations. One thing Aion is trying to do is balance the numbers on both sides. I am fairly sure this is for PvP and the end game play. On an unbalanced server they are not allowing character creation on the overpopulated side. The server model of FR, GW, or CO don’t work very well with open world PvP and PvP objectives that have lasting impact like fort or city captures.

I am not familiar with Aion or Free Realms but the GW and CO server model pretty much mandates a heavy reliance on instancing. I and many others much prefer an entire continent of movement without zones like in LotRO, AC, and WoW.

I also think community building and reputation development is much easier on smaller scale server models and these lead to better player retention. I also note developers are having a hard time doing certain special events on servers with 3000 concurrent connections. I am thinking of something like the gate opening server event that happened in WoW a few years ago. When you have a difficult time with 3000 it certainly not going to work with 30,000+.

Thinking about the problem Aion is having now and WoW and several other games had at release I think maybe a compromise between their server model and the FR server selection might be the best. The biggest problem happens at release before the population gets spread out. What if you did not select your server until after a certain level or completion of the “tutorial”? The newbie world would be heavily instanced and they would add and remove hardware as needed. The benefit would extend beyond release because your games newbie zones would be more likely to be populated even though the other servers are mature. If your high level characters server had a queue, crashed, or maybe even was being patched you could still play an alt on the newbie server that eventually will join the same server as your other chars.
 
"Maybe for fantasy games the one-server solution of EVE Online isn't feasible."

Is that from a fundamental programming standpoint or a social standpoint? Also, has anyone ever tried it?

Darkfall has limited servers and it seems to work decently. There is reports of lag which I attribute to the company. However, if you had a top-tier A rated firm creating and hosting the server then you might have better performance.
 
You know everyone is completly ignoring that Aion has Channels.. which is basically what the CO people are asking for.

http://powerwiki.na.aiononline.com/aion/Channels
 
Yesterday in prime time I got a gueue of 25 minutes on one of the most populated US servers. That's down from 2 hour wait a few days week ago.

This made me LOL. Happy about a 25 minute queue? Seriously?
 
I agree that alternate server models are definitely necessary however I don't think the developers see it as a profit area. I think they'd rather make players wait and see the population drop off after a month than invest in new technologies to solve the problem.
 
RvR is a problem that will inhibit any server switch model, some mechanism to ensure balance would need to be in place.

People do grow accustomed to the same faces on their server, not only in their guild but those they come across in PuGs, it's not uncommon to meet the same people on the same leveling curve.

Lets face it, Aion will lose players in droves after the first month, the game is seriously grindy both in terms of PvE and PvP, PvE is only really valid until the mid lvl 20's and any PvE player hoping to focus on that side of the game will be severely dissaponted and quit if the linearity and grind don't get to them first.

It's polished, it does what it does OK but it's not brilliant, NCsoft probably already know that and won't be surprised that the server populations will drop and reduce the queues.

The queues will put alot of people off but I reckon the game will do that itself quite successfully.
 
@Stripes: Why WoW has 11m and normal MMOs have 300k has very little to do with any X, Y, or Z. WoW is a pop sensation that caught on due to a perfect storm of timing and good design. WoW's design is not 11m better than any other MMO, it's just that the snowball effect took over once the game hit a certain level of buzz.

The proof to this will be Blizzard's next MMO, because it will be better designed than WoW (since it has the original A team working on it, and that team now has some very considerable MMO experience, rather than the C team that runs the game now) and that next game won't come close to 11m subs. It will do well, like all released Blizzard games do, but it will have it's own 1st-month tourists and will settle into a large, but not close to 11m, population. I just wish they would hurry up (haha) and release the damn thing so this whole "be like WoW" phase can pass.
 
Perhaps I just ooze a certain amount of naivete, but I certainly believe there's a rationale to everything, and something does drive people away from the Guild Wars, Free Realms model, on a technical level.

NCsoft especially should know this, since they published Guild Wars if no one seems to recall. For as much as bloggers feel they've got all the smart ideas down, I should hope we know what the game developers actually have to do to implement it. I think there's likely a degree of permanence people enjoy in the traditional server model, seeing it as their "home", instead of the series of instances.

NCsoft knows a large number of people aren't going to stay, and things will level out for them.
 
WoW's design is not 11m better than any other MMO, it's just that the snowball effect took over once the game hit a certain level of buzz.

I disagree. While WoW certainly used lots of previously existing design, it *has* some very innovative design in terms of accessability. And what ultimately got WoW 11 million subscribers is the quality of execution of the design. Note that your beloved Darkfall would have a lot more players if it had better quality of execution and accessibility. Not that you'd want that.
 
"Note that your beloved Darkfall would have a lot more players if it had better quality of execution and accessibility. Not that you'd want that."

I'm more than fine with it's execution, considering it has the best PvP combat system in the genre and servers that hold up better than most AAA titles. And I'm all set with it being more 'accessibly' if we are using the word in the WoW sense of 'improvements' made to WoW from 2004 to 2009.

But like I said, we won't really know if WoW has 11m because it's THAT great design wise or if it's because Mr. T told Halo and Madden players to go be a Night Elf, at least until the next Bliz MMO is released (or whatever other MMO people think will match up to the godly design of WoW).

How many MMOs do we have to watch launch with a mil+ sales and 300k subs after 3-6 months to realize maybe it's not the games, but who that mil+ is comprised of. When it happens to Aion, are we going to blame the PvP end-game? When it happens to SW:TOR, are we going to blame it on the 4th pillar? What about the next Bliz MMO, not WoW-enough?

BTW: No post today? Slacker.
 
But like I said, we won't really know if WoW has 11m because it's THAT great design wise or if it's because Mr. T told Halo and Madden players to go be a Night Elf, at least until the next Bliz MMO is released (or whatever other MMO people think will match up to the godly design of WoW).

I think the stupid and false belief that WoW's success is due to a combination of luck, timing, and marketing is the direct reason why we are seeing so many bad, sub-million subscriber games out there. If other companies would study what WoW did right (and I'm not saying they did everything right), and produced games with the same excellence of execution and attention to detail, they would have over a million subscribers too.

I hereby officially bet you that the next Blizzard MMO will have more than 1 million subscribers in the US and Europe alone. Although you will probably find an excuse then explaining why that game *just* launched in the perfect window of time again, or some similar bullshit excuse.
 
Tobold, only 1 million? That would be a crushing disappointment to Blizz.

I think WoW was successful because it was a really good game AND it came out at the right time. It was the IPod of MMOs--- it wasn't the first, it wasn't necessarily the best (but it was certainly good), but it was easy & fun to use and it came out when the market was ready for it (when broadband was fairly common for the first time). I think if WoW had launched in 2002 or 1999 or 2006 that it wouldn't have been anywhere near the monster it became, because the timing just wasn't right. It was serendipity (and maybe some brilliance) that launched a quality product at the right time and place.

The next Blizzard MMO will probably get a couple of million subs just because it is Blizzard, but if they are serious about trying to tap some new market to protect wow (I am very skeptical), then they might just WoW-tourist themselves into an embarrassing flop regardless of the games quality. But we will see.
 
P.S.

The 11 million number is bullshit. We all know it is pure puffery from Blizzard.

There are 5 million paying subscriptions or so. There are 6 million accounts with some amount of play time left on them in China. Make of that what you will.
 
Challenge accepted.

The bet is the next Blizzard MMO won't have 1 million paying sub (which even that is below what WoW has had in the US/EU) after 6 months in the US/EU. (Though if we want to get technical, my argument is that WoW's 11 million is the result of a perfect storm, and 11m worldwide and 1m US/EU is not exactly the same number. But betting that the next game won't get 11m worldwide is a little too easy for me, even though overall internet population has increased considerably since 2004 so the potential should be HIGHER)

Now let’s just hope it is a sub-based game and not some RMT hack-job tied to B.net that allows you to buy a pony rental for $2.99.
 
Making bets about Blizzard's next MMO seems unwise since they have said they don't want to make WoW 2.

They don't want to steal their own paying customers. The new MMO is suppose to be in a different direction.

As for why Blizzard currently has 11m subs I think it's a bit of everything. WoW is a good game, but I don't think it is this succesful just because of it's merit.

The publicity behind it really drove it to the fore front. I wantwant to take anything away from the quality of work Blizzard put into WoW. However I agree that if WoW had launched in 2006 it wouldn't be what it is today.
 
Syncaine, you absolutely despise WoW don't you? Tobold takes a much more unbiased and contemplative stance with it. You just senselessly bash it.

Every game has problems. WoW turned out to get something right that has earned it as much money as it's pulled in. In my opinion, it has yet to get ruined by it's popularity.

You seem to like hardcore games, but let me tell you; I don't know who would enjoy 400 hour rep grinds for example. WoW used to have one you know. Now it's been reduced to a "mere" 40-50 hours. If you don't consider that an improvement, it's time for you to go out and get a job, because those of us in the real world don't have that kind of time for 1 imaginary tiger to ride on.
 
Isn't it entirely possible that this "style" of mmo or maybe mmo's in general are a fad? I don't know if the comparison has been made before and I apologize if I'm mimicking another person's comparison, but look at past fads like Reality TV or the Macarena (maybe not the best example here but it does show a very large influx of interest in a short period of time).

Who the hell could predict such things ever developing the huge fan base they did for the amount of time they did? And when they were going to occur or what they would be? All that was predictable after wards was hundreds of people attempting to do the same thing (some blatantly) to cash in on the original fads success.

I tend to follow syncaine's point of view on this and doubt that Blizzard's next mmo will reach 1mil in subs. If we've learned anything about fads is they die out on their own and never have lost popularity to something that just acts like the original.
 
How can anyone honestly think Blizzard's next MMO wont reach 1 million subs?

I think everyone forgets that Blizzard is still percieved as the golden child in developing. StarCraft 2 and Diablo 3 are both going to sell over a million, probably more than 2 million each. Blizzards next MMO will surely do just as good, if not better than either one of those.
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool