May 102011

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.

  5 Responses to “PvP, PvE and the Sharded Player Base”

  1. To go persistent they have to shard, and to make WvW fair they have to restrict access. My ideal system for this would be free movement that enforces a “You can’t enter WvW within 7 days of changing shards” system to keep it balanced that way. A step worse that seems more likely is a system that allows movement after a period of time. You would be able to move freely between shards an infinite number of times, you would just have to wait seven days, or longer, to do so. Setting up some shards without access to WvW might also work to create places where the community can unite around events.

    I think their community intention is that you develop your shard into a town where everyone knows one another. They don’t want the nameless masses pooling in Kamadan or around each new content update to be repeated. I can see that argument, it would be nice to have a self policing community involved in the world. Maybe I have to much faith in people, butI can see it evolving to the point where disruptive players aren’t able to be disruptive. I think that it would improve the game to prevent people from being unaccountable for their actions.

  2. I agree for the most part. Arenanet is definitely on some tricky ground here. I’m hoping the restrictions are limited to rewards you receive for pvp. It’s the only thing that makes sense in my mind.

  3. An interesting article Tasha. I remember the days when your server access was limited, although to be honest I never really had anyone in game which I desperately needed to game with so I was happy in the EU servers.

    It will be interesting to see whether a distinct community builds up in each “shard”. Whether, if you are distinctively active in WvWvW you might become somewhat of a household name. Or if you spend a significant amount of time in a particular area ensuring that a village stays safe, whether you might make a name for yourself.

    You’re right that server restriction is a tricky business. ANet have always said that their intention is to allow players to jump into the game and play with their friends, wherever they are (early access to player hubs such as LA, the sidekicking system, removal of holy trinity) – so I’m hoping they’ve got an ingenious solution to this particular problem.

  4. Gah I had a full reply here written and wordpress lost it. GG. Anyway…

    I agree with the vast majority of what you said here and really I have no problem with the solutions to server switching that have been proposed so far. The majority seem to be in agreement with you about locking people out for a time after migrating. My main bone of contention is that there is no exception to this. As a casual PvPer WvWvW is probably something I will do a lot. But if I want to go visit “Pink Day in Divinity’s Reach” on another server I have to forfeit my ability to play a section of the game I enjoy for a while. That’s what feels wrong to me.

    Regarding the community aspect, I did a little bit of research/reading before writing this post and came across the following article. It has some interesting points.

    @Hunter & DistilledWill

    Thanks for the comments 🙂 Good to know I’m not the only one who thinks this could go either way.

  5. Your proposed neutral servers, to me, sounds like they’re pretty much a must-have. One of the many things that turns me off about WoW is that I know multiple different groups of people playing it on different servers and different sides of the Horde-Alliance divide. The prospect of having to raise multiple characters on multiple servers to play with different people was and is not exactly one that filled me with enthusiasm, especially with a game structured on time spent over skill. Granted, I know less people playing GW1, but there are no barriers to meeting up with other Guild Wars players. That’s a strength that ANet should think very carefully before abandoning…

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