Mega Servers seem like they are going to be the future for AAA mmo’s, and even for other smaller ones. They have been around for a while with varying degrees of success but the implementation has generally been on the smaller scale, the Secret World being probably one of the bigger mmo’s with this tech I’ve tried. Now I’m hearing about a few games, and not just mmo’s trying this out to create a more seamless experience. It is a largely untested at the level Zenimax are preparing for with the Elder Scrolls online but that’s not what has me concerned the most. There are some huge potential consequences to having a large conglomerate of players inhabiting relatively the same space and I thought for a while that there wouldn’t be any overwhelming benefits to having it… the choice was easy, mega-servers were stupid. But now I am a little more conflicted as I think it could improve the style of PvP I’ve come to enjoy in Guild Wars 2 which ESO is seeking to improve on.
Bigger is Better
It has a certain general appeal to both casual players and developers alike. You have a larger player base with which to encourage social interaction, and near endless supply of players to ensure groups for content can be found quickly. It also avoids one of the critical flaws of having defined servers in that certain zones and even entire servers can become less populated making the game feel less alive and like it is “dying”.
It also lets the players be social with a far larger population. Without there being those usual barriers I can see communication being more open and consistent with friends, other groups, and community members. Many of the newer mmo’s are even getting better at promoting interactions and being social but there is a big difference in these from being social and socialising, and often enough the later needs to be a forced mechanic for it to eventuate.
Even if there are some positives as most will be aware though the larger and more connected a population, the worse the community. Cross realm mechanics have always been the death of community… A plague of rude, uncaring a holes seem to immediately descend upon the game much to the dismay of its inhabitants.
It has a lot to do with the lack of accountability which many others have noted. Due to being with a restricted population a sense of accountability was gained through earning a reputation. I’ve experienced this in Tera and have written about the positive effect it has on the quality of interactions, the skill level of players, and the connections you make. There is just no debating that singular restricted servers are much better at creating a sense of community.
Phasing will play apart of these new mega servers but I’m wondering how much of an impact it has on who you regularly see and are able to interact with. Will gaining a reputation be important? Is chat going to be some completely global mess? There is just so many unknowns on how a larger implementation of this tech is going to work…at least there won’t be queues.. I think. It is rather concerning but the one part that is now making me more hopeful then pessimistic regarding mega-servers is their AvA pvp mode.
Guild wars WvW has been plagued by server imbalances since release and that, among other issues, is a big part why it will never be as well-designed and fun as it could have been. Having the entire population being split by servers was a big reason for population imbalances and why they will never be able to correct that. You can not guarantee who or how many will play pvp on a server.
Of course you say, not everyone is going to pvp you guys are crazy! Yes but those on a server not playing is an issue since a wvw population is limited by its server caps. On Jade quarry at the moment we are a server that would run full quite a bit of the time which inhibits new fighters and guilds joining but yet we run outmanned for much of play in WvW, even during NA time in many borderlands. You would think a better way to balance a side in large scale combat would be to count those actually engaging in it and not them plus everyone idling in Lions Arch. It just fails to balance based on the content people play and that is an ongoing issue.
The campaigns in ESO will have a cap per faction I’m guessing which will ensure at least a couple will be very balanced around this. With mega server and set campaigns you can better balance the amount of campaigns needed, the population becomes less spread out and more focused which means less chance for imbalances, and these can be balanced accordingly. Hopefully then, in the mega server the population of the factions can better reflect those actually in-game and playing.
Is creating a more balanced AvA worth the consequences to the community? I would say yes in this case first because I enjoy pvp and this mode looks interesting. And second because this was never going to be a game which encourages community interactions and reliance. It is a solo friendly fun run to cap which would never benefit from what a singular server can provide.
Bring on da PvP though.