May 152012
 

 

Photo-Receptor Focus on: TOR Server Mergers

By Maer

In last week’s column I posted my Top 10 Wish List.  Sitting at #1 was my wish to see Bioware merge servers.  I feel this is reaching critical proportions and they need to address this issue before they address anything else.  And sooner rather than later.  Sooner as in right away.

More after the jump…

Playing on low population servers is even worse than playing on servers where you have an hour wait in queue.  At least you know when you finally get in that there will be other people there.

I’ve heard recently that the problem is not just population, but that faction balance – or rather imbalance – is a major contributing factor.  I’d certainly be willing to concede that point.

First, let’s look at the low population issue.  I’m not sure if my server qualifies as low population, but it feels like it.  There just aren’t enough people running around sharing their accomplishments, showing off their gear and mounts and pets.  There’s very little feeling of “OMG, where did you get that?”   Even those few times I’ve heard that comment or even made it myself, I’m not running out to immediately find, farm or buy whatever it is.

I’m not feeling that drive to add stuff to my collection.  I think part of that is the lack of exciting gear, mounts, pets, but part of that is also not having enough other people to share the accomplishment.  Keep in mind I’m in a very large guild and I still feel there are times when I’m alone.  Alone is not good in an MMO.  In fact it’s scary.

The most people I’ve seen recently were when the Rakghoul event was going on.  Now that’s over, we seem to be back to a big, echoing fleet.  I miss seeing the tons of people that I used to see at all hours of the day and night.  And it’s worse on the Republic fleet.

It’s not just the fleets either.  The planets don’t seem to have many people on them, especially the poor Republic side.

That brings us to the second contributing factor – the ratio of Empire to Republic.  On our server, the Republic presence is extremely low, which makes leveling characters on that side pretty lonely.  I didn’t try for long, but I did give it a go.

I’m willing to bet our server is not the only one experiencing this imbalance, either.  But are there enough heavy Republic servers to merge with the heavy Empire servers?

I’ve heard several opinions recently that the number of Empire players far exceeds that of the Republic players.  There’s no hard data from Bioware that I know of, other than the percentages released at the guild summit regarding class breakdowns.   Well, we pretty much figured out that Inquisitors were the faves and Smugglers were not.

If the Empire really does far exceed the Republic, what can Bioware do to fix that?  Some feel that the problem stems from the storylines on the Republic side.  I don’t know about that since I haven’t rushed out to level any Republic characters.  In fact, my highest is around Level 10.

I’d like to hear from those of you who play Republic, who have also played Empire.  Are the storylines less engaging on the Republic side?  If that’s not the issue, what do you think is the reason for the faction imbalance?  And what can be done to fix the situation?

I’m no expert, so I certainly don’t pretend to know what can be done.  However, I do know that something needs to happen.  Too many of my friends are defecting to other games and I’d really like to see Bioware do something to entice them back.  Legacy didn’t accomplish that.  I’m hoping that server mergers will bring the player numbers back up to feeling like an MMO again.  That won’t bring my friends back, but it might stop more from leaving.

That’s my two credits this week.  What’s yours?

Ready…set…discuss…

  16 Responses to “My Two Credits: Server Mergers”

  1. well i know that the story for the republic side i pretty cheesy, especially the jedi consular and smuggler. The trooper story is pretty interesting, and the jedi knight is very resembling KOTOR feelings.

    i’m not as far into the empire stories, but on the bounty hunter and inquisitor, the stories seem more interesting and offering you to play it your way.

    it really is upsetting to have a significant larger number on one faction than the other, as it makes a lot of things difficult, and i would also like to see server mergers, so long as when the servers merge, people don’t lose their legacy or characters.

    in terms of the most-used and least-used characters, it’s pretty obvious. People want to zap with lightning, and the Inquisitors can do that. and from who i have been talking to, the cover system for the smuggler/infiltrator is lacking and for a while, there is nothing you can do to prevent being knocked OUT of cover.

    these are my two cents, I really hope that some low population servers merge, it’s getting lonely out there

    -Anna’lis, Krayiss Obelisk server

  2. I have found the Jedi Knight and Smuggler stories to be quite engaging and fun, I’m lvl 1 on my Trooper so can’t really say but have heard many say they were surprised how much they enjoyed it. My Consular is lvl 12 and so far the story has been slower but I still like it. So, I guess for me I don’t think it’s a story issue as much as playing on the Empire and getting to be a baddie is just enticing and out right fun for a lot of people so the appeal value is super high. Not to mention this is really the first Star Wars game that you really get to be the bad guy, I mean you can sit there and chain lightning the crap outa people and that is frakking cool when it comes down to it! Anyways, that’s my 2 credits on the topic, I think the imbalance has to do with the Empire having a greater appeal value. It would also be interesting to see demographic charts showing what age groups play which faction. 🙂

  3. If Bioware was actualy concerned with the population they would do something like this however i dont se how this is going to keep people interested in playing the same game. If they implemeted what they said was going to happen at the guild summit and not change their minds (ie.legacy skills and things cost legacy levels and money thats not what they said). Also they need more world events i mean there is nothing to do its about burned out for me yet again. If i wasnt in a static raid group and a large guild id have left a long time ago as well. Also There are alot other games coming out or are out so its new and shiny giving people something else to do rather then dailies etc. There just isnt enough to keep me online and playing the game as much. Cant craft anything good for guildies so crafting is still broke. I mean thanks for letting me craft augments and augmented orange items but i cant re the one that didnt crit to regain so of the mats. Bugs still arent being fixed world boss nighmare pilgrim isnt for casual gamers so you cant complete the quest for the mount unless you have hardcore rakata geared players. seems like everything they try to add or fix are broken out the gate and never fixed . Kind of discouraging. Again i dont know how merging the servers is going to help keep members from leaving however it may break something else yet again something they will never fix.The only way they are going to keep player sis if they read forums from actual players and judt pvp’ers and fix issues and add things they want to see in the game not what they want. Then again i think that ends up making it SWOWTORIFT and not what it is. Thos are my 2 cents.

  4. I love this article. It really makes one thing of creative things that could be done to fix the server imbalance. I know in Aion, you could not create a character of a particular faction if the difference between factions was more than 10% (I think that was the number). So that encourage people to play the faction that was the lowest on the server you chose. While that may not be the answer at this late date, something needs to be done to generate more interest in the Republic faction.

    Server merges might help, but if it is a severe faction imbalance, that won’t help much. My biggest concern is that BioWare is going to open up server transfers instead of server merges. That will do my guild no good at all if we can all be moved together.

    I know BioWare has to be working on something to fix the issue and I can’t wait to see what that is.

  5. In early summer (end of June), there will be a free transfer program followed by a paid transfer one. It’s already confirmed. For the free transfer phase, it will be to designated servers. For the paid transfer phase, it will to a server of your choice. If Bioware will ever do server merges, it will be a last resort solution. Merging servers is such a disaster from a PR viewpoint.

    From the moment I heard about factions in SWTOR, I knew right away that more players would end up on the empire side. You can do things (some of them so gruesome and horrible) on the empire side that a “normal” citizen would never do or dream to do in real life. I think it’s the main reason why players tend to find the empire side more “exciting”. That being said, on my server (Jedi Covenant), it’s actually the opposite! We have more republic players than empire ones! Maybe it’s the server name or the rerollers effect, I don’t know.

    Personally, I’ll stick with SWTOR until the servers are closed. I’m sure that I’ll look back at the first year of SWTOR and be amazed how much the game has improved since then. I’ve seen it happening in many other popular mmos. In Bioware I trust.

  6. yep, I think getting cross server queuing working as a first step! then start merging servers followed by transfers if still needed (though it should still be offered). I think jumping straight to transfers would cause other problems.. like if your legacy name is already taken, character names etc. and while merging will also have these issues it’ll be on a smaller scale affecting players on the servers picked to merge vs all out craziness when everyone decides to transfer.

  7. The problem is that once a population drops below a certain density it ceases to be self sustaining. Server transfers is one solution. Server mergers is another – with horrible PR fallout that makes companies do this too late.

    Another alternative is stealth mergers – I’ve only seen in one game, but basically you log into what appears to be your own server, but several servers or shards are sharing the same environment. Legacy names are an issue, but if you make them non-unique then the issue goes away – can by done by renaming your actual legacy name as a concatenation of your username and legacy name, but only displaying the legacy portion.

  8. If they’d merge 1st before doing the free+paid transfer programs, I think players would feel being forced to join server X. At least with transfers, it’s more a choice thing for the gamer.

    From what I know about server transfers and merges in previous mmos, it’s the character already in the targeted server that has priority for names. The character with the same name who joins the targeted server has to change it.

  9. I too will play till they shut down cause even with the problems I enjoy the hell out of this game!! ^_^

  10. Server Mergers would help with population problems if they enact it the right way. Which, I hope that they would do.

    The issue that I see with server merges is money. They aren’t making anything off of merging, when they can open up paid transfers and only give you a few selections of low population servers.

    On the lighter side, having this issue gives the community a chance to come together on the official forums and find a solution to grouping. Not that I, or many others, would have the time to re-roll.

    Waffle

  11. This is a good point, Brad. I do wonder how much money they will make off of server transfers. Will it be more than the money they lose from folks who decide they don’t want to pay for transfers and move to another game?

    In my opinion (and I could be totally wrong on this) paid transfers work better for a thriving game. A new game that is still getting its feet wet, may not find it to be as big cash cow as might be expected. I don’t think it should be used as a “OMG, let’s find new ways to make money to make up for the loss in accounts.” They’d be smarter to fix the problems that are causing the loss of accounts, rather than looking for other revenue streams that will dwindle along with the player base in the long run.

    On the other hand, the free transfer would work under some conditions. For instance, if they said Republic toons could have free transfers to our heavily populated Empire server, that might be as effective as a merger. But only if players take advantage of it. And that could be a very big “IF”. As Sam pointed out, it gives the player more choice, but if they don’t choose the servers who need certain factions, it basically leaves servers like mine in trouble.

    I love this game. I want it to succeed and succeed brilliantly. I have a lot of time and money invested in it and I want it to work. I don’t want to move to another game. I also don’t want to be left playing with only a few other people.

    Bioware has so many brilliant people working for them, that I hope they find the solutions and quickly. Not for me. I’m here to stay as long as I can, but for those who are about ready to jump ship. And I know a lot more of those folks than I wish I did.

  12. yeah, picking a solution option with profit in mind only would not be the right choice for them at this point.. I think they’d lose a lot more money in the long run losing subs vs merging a few servers.. higher pops are going to generate good buzz and bring many people back who have left cause they have no one to play with. As badly as my fps get when there are a lot of people on, I’d much rather have that and a ~30min queue wait time vs no one to do flashpoints and heroics with and I’m sure everyone here can agree with that.

  13. I’m on Jedi Covenant, a server that has had a good population since launch. My guild has nearly doubled in size in the last week or so due to “server refugees” that are rerolling because they are tired of waiting on a server transfer feature. It sucks for them, but it is great for my guild! 🙂

    As for the Republic class quests, I started out on Kaas City as an Inquisitor, and I grew bored after about 30 levels, tried Juggernaut and got bored after 20 levels. When I switched to Jedi Covenant, and went Republic, I have loved it since. I have a L50 Vigilance Guardian, and a Shield Vanguard that is in the mid 40s. I have loved both class quests. I’m looking forward to starting the Consular story line next – after I spend 1.5MM credits for the Sith race.

  14. I play on Helm of Graush and I can’t wait to move to another server ASAP. That is dying quickly and I’m sad about this.

    I think that 1) Bioware should listen to its clients that play Swtor and move to fix this game ASAP and not on they’re time. 2) I think server mergers would work as long as they make sure it balances the factions. 3) Make the Republic stories as interesting as the Sith stories. I have a lvl 50 Smuggler Gunslinger and I felt more like a Republic Solider than a Smuggler. Throughout the whole storyline, I never once smuggled anything…. Not any shipments or people. 3) Start players bounties for Bounty Hunter to be hired to go after whoever they are hired to go after, that way you have more player interaction. You can do this by having one player bounty per bounty hunter and when or if they finally catch up to there target have a cut scene of dialog between the target and the hunter so you’ll have choices on whether to fight or not or try and pay the bounty. Of course it would be up the BH to accept or not. 4) One more thing about the Smuggler, players should be about to hire smugglers to smuggle them to certain areas of planets that they cannot get to but only through being smuggled in and out alla Obi Wan hiring Hon Solo in Star Wars IV for more player interaction again. Ok… Sorry for the rant.

    I love this game too but, come on Bioware you need to listen to your clients and more before you lose everyone to other games man…c’mon Bioware I’m pulling for you to make it right.

    That’s my 2 cents 🙂

    P.S. I hope your listening to all of us.

  15. Add my voice to the pro-merger supporters out there, a group I think may just be in the majority. As for side imbalane – I think it’s that there’s no way to capture the excitement of the light side with the bland interpretation of the Jedi Code BW has gone with. Do the folks at BW or the fans really think the Jedi are passionless, disconnected, and one dimensional? Hell, Samuel L. Jackson WANTED the role of a Jedi. He actively pursued Lucas. Can you see him taking on a boring role? Nuh-Uh. The Jedi feel, they have passion, they’re freaking *fierce* in the litereral sense – they just know where to draw the line. The Light Side / Dark Side isn’t about serentiy / passion, it’s about good / evil, and that’s gotten lost. Light Side Sith – In the words of every SW movie script… NOOOOOOOOO!

    And let’s face it, shooting purple lightning from your hands and choking people with your mind are more fun in video games than picking somebody up or throwing blue airballs at them. Truth is, if you know what the stories are based on, then the Republic stories are far more interesting for their subtlety (except the JC romance… it’s terminally lame), if less exciting. The JK story is the exception. That’s the best damn story in the whole damn game. I mean seriously… you get to square off against the ULTIMATE badass in the entire Old Republic game line yet. You get to whomp on your own allies and be in the right about it. You get… well, everything a SW film should have.

  16. Bonez-

    Some people say that server merges are the “kiss of death” for any game. I simply disagree. I believe that as a developer you should do everything to ensure good server population. As a player, I don’t care what server I am on. I only care that it is well populated and BALANCED. I played Aion when it first came out. To help with the balance, if one server was over 10% (that number was probably a lot lower but I don’t remember the exact number) more populated on one faction, you couldn’t create a new character on that server unless it was in the faction that was less populated. I don’t know if that is the answer but something needs to happen.

    I actually played the republic side of our server yesterday and it just doesn’t feel as epic as the empire side. I can’t put my finger on why. I totally agree that the Republic side needs some sort of boost.

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