Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Has WAR just a technology problem?

When reading the various comments yesterday why people said they quit WAR, a thought struck me: What if Mythic had had the technology, hardware and software, to allow and handle ten times more players per server? There would have been enough players around for public quests, there would have been enough players around for open world RvR everywhere, scenarios would have shorter wait times, and big PvP battles would have less lag. In short, are WAR's problems caused by game design, or are limitations to technology the core issue here?

I remember various stress tests during the WAR beta, through which Mythic decided at how many players the servers would be capped. So that cap was set according to what the servers and code could handle, not according to how many players it would take to properly populate all areas of the game. I do think WAR does many things right from a design point of view: Things like public quests and open world RvR are a lot of fun when enough players are around to do them. Only, as many of you said, often there aren't. Some people are stuck on low population servers, while others, on high population servers, only see enough players around during prime time. And when lots of players gather at the same place, for example for a big fortress battle, there is bad lag. All that looks to me as if the server capacity and ability of the game to handle large groups of players is more of a problem than game mechanics.

In spite of some people saying that they would play a single-player version of their favorite MMORPG if it was available, that obviously applies only to the part of the game that is soloable. Content like group PvE (dungeons or public quests), and of course PvP relies on there being enough players to play with or against. Splitting up the game in too many different servers, each with a too small population, kills all that multi-player content. I don't know if the technology exists that would have allowed WAR to put many more players on each server, but I'm sure that if they would have had that technology, the game would have succeeded a lot better.
I don't see why more games don't just mirror specific high population zones. If there's nothing a player can do in a zone to change it in any persistent way then just have the game mirror the zone when the population gets high and have any new players that show up into that zone get dumped into the new mirror and let players swap between mirrors. Then when the population drops consolidate the various mirrors of that zone back down into one so that there's always about the same amount of people in any given zone.

This wouldn't work on world PvP zones but should work fine for the rest.

I believe that Age of Conan did this and I don't see why more games don't do this to keep zone populations more steady and in order to cram more people into one server.
GuildWars is based on what David call mirrors.
Are just instances of the same zone. You enter in the first avaible and eventually can switch between them.
When someone in a group get into a zone, all other partecipants will end in the same "mirror"/instanced version of the zone to keep the group togheter.

MMO's varies between highly instanced (Guild Wars that is totally istanced) to no istances at all (EVE Online)

Each tecnology has pros and cons. Not only for the tecnology itself. But also on gameplay involved.
I never really heard much about mirroring (I HAVE at least heard of it before). But I can see where we're near cap, I'm teamed up with 2 other friends hoping to find more, we go there and suddenly we're by ourselves in a zone. We then go to swap, but if we can just swap, why was the zone mirrored to begin with?
@Jack-o-Lantern, okay, the Guildwars thing is something I really hated about the game, especially with comparing with how I like to play WOW. I like running into a zone, seeing an alliance flagged and go kill him, then I see another player about to die (alliance or horde don't matter, as long as they're not flagged) and go help them. There's alot to be said for one contiguous continent.

WOW already does "mirrors" of instances, which makes sense, since open dungeons often involve waiting for boss respawns, which REALLY ruins some of it I think. Especially when you see the group ahead doing something, and you already know what's going on.

I could see "phasing" involved in open dungeons might make it interesting, where everyone on the same boss/step as you see each other, but not the group ahead or behind etc etc.
I know this was about WAR, but with only 300,000 subscribers and all the problems they're talking about I'll skip it :P LOL
What about WoW? The reals are way to small. Even on full realms it is no longer possible to PuG a 5 man heroic because to few people are interested to do that... at least on Kargath (EU)... So yeah, Blizzard has the same problem. Why aren't they affected?
EVE only recently managed to get many players in one solar system running rather smoothly. Enormous hardware efforts were necessary to facilitate that.

EVE Online is actually very instanced. Each Solar System is an instance, think of the jumpgates. This system works NICELY for EVE, but it would never work for a standard MMO with even more people being crowded in the same places.
1.) I think that WAR's problem is that many people dislike the Warhammer franchise. It does to appeal to everyone, like WoW seems to do by now. Besides that, the game is not particularly good.

2.) The focus is also a problem: PvP.

I take WAR as another proof that PvP is not "fun, unlimited endgame content". This formula was too often used as a cheap way to turn mediocre games in better games, which did never work so far.

WAR does not have too exciting PvE content, and PvP does not keep people occupied either. => the result is well known.
The game just got very boring at around L18 - 20 for me. No amount of technical advances would have saved me as a subscriber ;).
No. Their problem is that they do not focus the players in a smart way. Players just need incentives to form battle groups of 10-20 players throughout the world. But in WAR there are no such incentives at ALL! They forgot about it and that is shocking, because it quite obvious that you need to make the players meet in groups of the size that the game is fun.
By the way: I had a machine that could handle 80:80 and it was terrible from gameplay point of view.
This is what I'we been thinking since AoC was launched.

The endgame of both AoC and WAR isn't technically possible... now.
What about WoW? The reals are way to small. Even on full realms it is no longer possible to PuG a 5 man heroic because to few people are interested to do that... at least on Kargath (EU)... So yeah, Blizzard has the same problem. Why aren't they affected?

WoW seems to rely on more solo content to fill people's time, so this issue doesn't effect it as much. (Everything good in warhammer was done in groups, if I've read it right.)
For me personally had the server cap been higher I probably would have never left, but since there just weren't enough players I was never able to get pq's or open rvr done and those were my favorite features about the game.
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