03/10/2017

United Forces AKA Server Merges Inc.

Yesterday, passionate SWTOR players around the world were eagerly awaiting the release of Keith's latest road map, to find out what he has in store for the game for the next few months. It launched with quite a bang, with the very first bullet point being big enough to require its own lengthy post and (in my opinion at least) pretty much overshadowing everything else that came after: Server merges are coming - even if the post itself carefully avoids using the M word at all costs, as seems to have become the standard in the industry. All we hear about is connecting servers and uniting players.

Server merges have been a subject that the community has been talking about for a long time. As recently as June, I wrote about why I personally wasn't keen on the idea. However, I can't claim to be totally surprised that they are happening anyway. I had a feeling they were going to happen eventually, I just didn't expect the time to come quite so soon.

As you'd expect from someone who was against the idea, I'm not particularly happy about the news - but somewhat to my own surprise, I'm not really upset either. More than anything, I'm just kind of stunned. Even though I foresee few effects on my personal in-game experience (as I mentioned before, queue pops can't get any faster than instant), I felt a strong emotional connection to the name Red Eclipse, especially after all the trials and tribulations that accompanied my move onto the server back in 2012. I'm so used to talking about playing on TRE and tagging all my videos with "Red Eclipse" that it's going to be strange to be on Darth Malgus soon, even if it's not a bad name. (Everyone's thoughts are going out to the American west coast players who will soon be living on "The Hot Prospect". /snicker)

I'm also kind of quietly impressed by the sheer amount of effort that was clearly put into preparing for this. The post linked above contains a lengthy FAQ listing all kinds of things that won't be affected by the merges but that were constantly borked up by server transfers in the past. This certainly goes some way towards explaining why it felt like the team hasn't been working at full capacity in terms of putting out content for the past few months - they were obviously busy coding other things. Even things like duplicate strongholds are accounted for, something I never expected them to really give a damn about - and yes, you will get to keep them both.

However, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Unsurprisingly, not all the downsides of enforced server merges could be addressed. If you simply liked being on a quieter server, you're just screwed, and I've already heard disgruntled grumblings from several roleplayers about Bioware abandoning them. (To be honest, I think Bioware already abandoned them when they removed the server tags and therefore made it impossible for new players to "organically" find the game's RP communities, without prior research.) I also had to chuckle a little at the prediction of conquests having more fierce competition than ever before being framed as a positive thing, as if it wasn't the deathblow to the aspirations of many smaller or medium-sized guilds of ever conquering a planet again.

And of course there is the naming issue, as character names will continue to remain unique and nothing was done to alleviate the incoming pains of people having to duke it out over the more popular ones. I was kind of surprised they decided to go ahead without addressing that, especially as they are implementing a workaround to deal with identical guild names. At least priority will be given to subscribers and characters that have been played a long time.

This one has also given me food for thought though. Newer readers might not know that my in-game character is actually called Shíntar with a funny i as I lost the "simple" version of the name during the first round of server transfers. I never worked up the courage to ask the other guy whether he would consider changing his name, but I did keep him on my friends list on one of my Imperial alts to keep an eye on him, and he never levelled up beyond level 60. Now, for all I know that could just mean that he changed mains and is now playing something else, but I can certainly hope that this means that he stopped playing and subscribing some time ago. And as I own the name Shintar on The Progenitor, which will be merged into TRE, I might be able to win out over him! I'm not really sure about the guy owning the name on Tomb of Freedon Nadd, but a quick inspection revealed another level 60 Sorcerer, so odds are that it's another abandoned account. Fingers crossed I guess...

I suppose it will be an interesting time for the game if nothing else. I've found that at least to some degree, server merges have a way of making lapsed players come back to check out the new situation, especially if they previously left because they weren't happy with their server's population but didn't want to pay for a transfer. Subscribers getting preference when it comes to keeping their names certainly also serves as an incentive to come back for at least that month, and the way the game is choosing to see it as an event to celebrate, including the dishing out of in-game goodies and achievements, will only be the cherry on top. Let's see how things go I guess.

9 comments :

  1. Hey, at least none of the new Server names are Kai Zykken or Kephess. :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think most people would have happily taken either of those over Hot Prospect.

      Delete
  2. The stream today stated that they were trying to figure out a way to give RPers a 'safe space' to host their activities. I hope it works out. That could work out well for guilds trying to host other types of events.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While I think it's laudable that they are still trying to come up with something, I think it's not going to be the same as having dedicated RP servers. I remember back in WoW, I got into roleplaying for a while purely because I had rolled on an RP server and kept running into roleplayers out in the open who were happy to pull in a newcomer and let her participate too. Private instances just wouldn't have the same openness.

      Delete
  3. If you really wanted Shintar couldn't you just transfer a level 70 with a decent amount of played time to Prog rename it to Shintar. Surely that would almost guarantee you got it unless I'm misunderstanding the rules for name clashes when the servers merge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I did that I would pretty much forfeit the other character's name and still wouldn't be guaranteed getting Shintar. When it comes to subscribers competing with other subscribers, it doesn't seem to be as straightforward as /played. They even said in yesterday's Q&A on Twitch that they aren't going to give away the exact details to avoid people trying to game the system.

      Delete
    2. Ok , I must have missed that. All I heard was Sub > Non Sub and Time played was the next tie breaker.

      Delete
  4. What I'm curious about is just how much horsepower the new servers have. The biggest reason to merge is to increase the pool of players, but whether this move is predicated on a decline in player availability versus these new servers having the horsepower to handle a lot more players is something I'd be interested in.

    Sure, it's five years later since the last merges, but five years is a lifetime in servers.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Can't say I'm very thrilled about going through my 3rd forced server transfer. I lost a few of my original names in the Hydian Way -> Nightmare Lands transfer, and then again when that server was merged with TRE.

    I'm especially afraid of losing some of the more recent names, which have a more personal name inspired by my kids' first names.

    We'll just have to wait and see, I guess. A good motive to keep that subscription active for a bit longer.

    ReplyDelete