Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Did Aion Learn From Warhammer Population Woes?

A new heavily-hyped PVP-focused MMORPG has just launched, and they're having queues and faction population balance issues. Apparently this is going to be the new tradition for September, take note if you've got a similar game in development. What has Aion learned from the launch of Warhammer?

The "good" news, and I use that in quotes because there's nothing fun about it, is that they have decided to take the long view on server queues. Server capacities must be set lower during the launch window since all of the players are crowded into the same few zones (precisely two in Aion's case). If you expand too aggressively and don't have the population to sustain that, your PVP players won't have opponents and bad things will happen.

The bad news is that they seem to be convinced that they can do PVP with two factions (and an NPC faction that supposedly turns on whomever is currently winning) and balance the sides by physically shutting off character creation for the winning side. This is going to cause a very misleading and false sense of security.

Players will not permanently abandon their friends to play on another server just because of some temporary server queues. They will watch like a hawk for the opportunity to be reunited with their comrades, they will invite their friends to further swell the ranks by piling on to the same server, and they may even feel strongly enough to pay $50 in transfer fees to rescue their old character via paid faction and server transfers.

The only players who are going to change their minds are the dreaded WoW tourists - players with no social ties, who value being able to play their faction of choice over being on a particular server with other players. Sounds mighty accomodating of them, but can you really count on these players to stay with the game? (Aside: the current server stats say that there isn't a single server where the good side has the population advantage. That's a problem.)

As Saylah writes at West Karana, the current rules are splitting guilds down the middle. In the long term, this is very counter productive - keeping that guild together, playing with their friends, is what keeps people in the game. If one of the two sides is full of guilds who chose to play on that side and brought all their friends, while the other side is full of random players who switched because the character select screen asked them to, which side do YOU think will be on top when that first monthly fee comes due?


Anonymous said...

I wonder if some of the problem is people tending more and more to form guilds before the game goes live, rather than picking a faction and making friends once they get there.

(I don't say it's a bad thing, I just think that as MMOs get more ubiquitous it's more likely you will go in knowing who you want to play with.)

Syrana said...

Spinks makes a good point. The majority of the frustration I saw when the headstart began was due to groups of people that planned to roll together struggling to all be able to create characters on the same faction/server.

Is it the most perfect system? No, but so far I'm ok with it (queues have gotten MUCH better) and hope the same balance issues are avoided that Warhammer had.

kFc said...

Good side? Both sides are good according to the lore..