I told you so

This has become the most diffused internet meme associated with the HRose name. “I predicted it on my blog”. An expression that I never really used all that often but that I started using for laughs. There is really anything more irritating and arrogant than saying “I was right, I told you so”.

But sometimes it’s true. We can see at things superficially for shit and giggles, stay at the form. Or instead look at the merit of things.

Yesterday, during prime time, the Warhammer server where I created my character had a queue of 500 and a wait time up to an hour. Totally expected on my side, in fact I let the client sat there for the time and when I was finally in I had a very good time. With plenty of players participating in RvR and almost no lag. Ideal experience to me.

If it wasn’t for what I discovered later.

What I discovered later is that the “bloggers” guild I’d like to join hit the panic button, decided that Volkmar wasn’t anymore a playable server and moved to another one. I’m talking about this because it affects me. IT SUCKS to invest seven hours in a character and then be told to start over again. Especially because it’s the third time in less than a month and I’d rather punch my balls than going through the same content again. And AGAIN.

More so because I’m a kind of completist player and so I go and try to finish all public quests. Even if I’m restless there, doing the grind and hoping it’s quick. I don’t have ALTITIS. I like to grow my main character and stick to it. I like to invest the time so that I know it doesn’t get wasted because I switch a class or server. I look at the longer term and for me the choice of a well populated server, with lots of RvR activity comes before any other transitory problem. Because in six months the server may end up deserted, and I’m sure I’m going to regret having moved if it happens.

I’m not completely selfish. There are players in that guild that joined with the CE headstart and had characters up to rank 14, and still agreed to move. It sucks. And not just for me.

So lets look at it from a broader perspective. Server population balance and factional balance.

It’s years that I rant on this because I see it as a fundamental problem that severely affects *everyone*. It’s in the interest of everyone to find a radical solution. It’s not acceptable that every single time a mmorpg launches the servers are unstable, or the PvP sucks because of faction unbalance, or that guilds can’t organize well because they end up on a server with long queues, or that you can’t join friends because half go in a server and half in another. Or that you have to start over again a bunch of times because there is always some problem. One server is crammed, the other is empty.

I have a working solution for this and, while technically not simple, it is based on a simple concept: the player characters being an abstraction external and independent from the server.

First you create your character, then you move the character into a server. The server is no eternal bound, your character is.

A concrete example on the today’s situation:
My idea is once again to allow server travel regulated by strict rules. For example now Volkmar has long queues during prime time. In my idea there would be a portal/beacon in the game that lights up under specific cases. What kills these servers and creates all the problems is not that there are too many players and not enough servers. But that players tend to overpopulate certain servers while others are nearly empty.

This because it’s desirable to play, you know, with people. Especially for PvP. But it isn’t desirable if the server crashes and burns or if you have to sit in a queue for an hour when you have an hour and half to play in total.

But now think if that portal existed. My (hopefully it will be) guild now is asking me to toss away the seven hours I put in my character to create a brand new one in another server. It sucks. But if there was a way to use server travel and move my existing character to a lower populated one, I WOULD DO IT. And with me a MAJORITY of players who prefer moving than sitting in a queue.

If you allow players to police themselves they will. Because it’s in their interest to keep factions balanced and the servers queues-free. If they DO NOT do it, it’s because, like me, they don’t want to toss the investment they made in a character. And then move ONCE AGAIN because even the second-choice server is gone wrong and it becomes overcrowded or deserted.

But if you allow players to move, following some capacity rules, then they spread out if the server is full, and they converge again if it happens that the population decreases.

It’s the rule of communicating vessels they teach in school. Every vessel is a server, they communicate with each other under set rules:

Most persons would call this a system. If we add water to any vessel, there is a movement of water (a flow of matter) until the water has levelled out. There is also a flow of potential energy until each milligram of water on the surface has the same potential energy as any milligram on the surface of another tube. An increase or decrease of water in any tube affects the water in all other tubes according to well-known laws of physics.

This happens BOTH for population balance AND faction balance. Spread out among all servers.

Yes, having rules means that the portal/beacon is closed sometimes and so you can’t always move where you want. But this is preferable to not being able to move AT ALL.

Technically it isn’t simple, but I think this is a problem so significant to deserve the work it requires. Obviously it can’t be easily done now, but it was (and it’s years I’m repeating this) doable if this was set as an original goal.

We saw it’s possible. My idea sits between WoW’s “manual” transfers and Guild Wars immediate ones.

Warhammer would have been a MUCH better and more successful game if it was developed with that goal. Because players activity and factional balance are indispensable to have fun in this game.

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