Recently Guild-Hall had a great interview with ArenaNet about a variety of subjects. I wasn’t going to write about the concerns I have over the implementation of servers but after listening to Episode 40 of Relics, I felt I had to. There seems to be a growing conflict between the limited benefits of restricting movement between servers in a sharded structure, and those of a more open structure.
Relative newcomers to Guild Wars won’t remember the days when moving between regional servers was quite restricted. The world (and still is) broken up into regions and your account was assigned to the region you chose at registration. You could change your region up to 5 times, after which you were stuck. The reason this was implemented was because of the rewards of the Hall of Heroes for PvE (namely access to the God Realms), to stop people hopping around the regions in an attempt to get constant favour. For those who were from different geographic regions and wanted to play together, there were International servers provided.
As a result Guild Wars was fantastic for allowing friendships to spring up regardless of geographic location. In MYST, the vast majority of our members are from Europe, but we still have a number of players based in the US and Asia. The open nature of Guild Wars allowed the community that still exists in game today, where anyone can visit any in game player run event or escape the lag monster by switching their server and district.
With Guild Wars 2 moving to a more sharded server structure, ease of migration is looking like being restricted. The reasons that have been offered are two fold – to prevent cheating in WvWvW PvP, and to help foster a feeling of community amongst the populous of the server. I agree that there needs to be some kind of lock out of WvWvW PvP to stop a full on zergfest or migration to get rewards that weren’t earned, but I’m not overly convinced about the community factor.
If nothing else, ArenaNet cannot force any feeling of community inside a populous. Were such a thing possible, all developers would do it for all servers to stop migration from their games. Developer interaction and active policing help but ultimately, community creation falls to the groups of people who roll on a particular server, and that requires a certain amount of team work and leadership to achieve. All in all, its a roll of the dice. So much is untrodden ground in Guild Wars 2, its hard to know if any server communities will arise although (in theory at least) the use of dynamic events rather than quests should help this.
And yet for the need to foster communities that care about the pride of their server in WvWvW, the player base as a whole suffers. People become less inclined to join in-game events on another server because of penalties incurred, or try out this guild on another server they are interested in because they’ll miss out on something. It seems like a large amount of unnecessary restrictions placed on PvE players, some of whom really really won’t be interested in any kind of PvP. This feels like a repeat of the Hall of Heroes/God Realms mistake from Guild Wars except this time its worse – because no one can influence the terms of access.
My solution? Make a small number of international servers where players can congregate without penalty to PvP. In fact, make these servers without any WvWvW affiliation or bonus at all. Let them just be space where players can go for in game events, meet each other or play with a second set of friends without committing to move servers. When they log back in, players are still on their original servers and can fight for WvWvW there.
Of course, like so much about Guild Wars 2 we’ve been graced with relatively little detail on implementation, mostly because the details haven’t been decided yet. For all the learning and foresight going into the game, going sharded seems to be a step backwards at worst and a fingers in the ears moment at best. I remain unconvinced that this is best for the game as a whole. My fingers crossed that all the lessons of the past are heeded.