Saturday, March 17, 2012

Legacy of the Server

One of the quirks to my decision to wait a bit on the SWTOR launch - with new graphics cards launching over the next month, it made sense to delay purchasing the graphics card for my new machine - is that I will have a bit more information than those who showed up on day one.  Case in point, a pair of great posts by Psynister describing the practical effects of the new legacy system.  If I'm going to play through say 2-3 characters' stories, this type of information is very valuable in helping secure the best perks for my alts.

Perhaps it isn't worth changing my class or race choices to max out perks - though it definitely sounds like there's an advantage to getting characters to 50 one at a time versus working them in parallel.  However, this does call attention to a huge decision that I will need to make before I even get as far as picking a race and class.  While most other games are working to get away from the traditional server structure with creative transfers, sharding, and cross-server groups, Bioware is doubling down on the approach from ten years ago.  The Legacy system creates an incentive structure that strongly encourages players to stay put wherever they've ended up.

While you can't judge a game by its forums, I find reports of low populations on at least some servers, posted at the official forums, reasonably credible.  This does not mean that the sky is falling or the game is failing - just that throwing additional servers at the launch day rush is not a viable longterm approach to distributing players.  If anything, I wonder the Bioware's guild pre-registration plan may have hurt matters - servers that got large number of pre-release guilds may be more stable in the long-term than servers that got rolled out on launch day and occupied by tourists fleeing the queues (who are more likely to vanish 30 days later).

As a late-comer, I will have the luxury of being able to research the state of the servers six months post launch BEFORE investing time setting up camp on a new server.  (If any of you who are actually playing TOR have opinions on this topic I'd appreciate them, though it will probably be another month or two before TOR can crack my crowded calendar.)  Meanwhile, whatever the system's other faults, at least they started keeping track of the "legacy exp" at launch so that players who showed up early can get credit for their accomplishments to date.  I just wonder how many of those players will find themselves regretting decisions of server, class, or race that were made before they had even zoned in to kill their first Jedi/Sith rat-equivalent.

Update: MMO-Mechanics has the first post I've seen summarizing the things that the Legacy system will offer in patch 1.2 (currently testing) and patch 1.3.  (They had to powerlevel on the test server to unlock the system and get screenshots.)  Interesting perks, including earlier access to mounts, enhancements to your companions (who also offer buffs to your alts), etc. 

5 comments:

Yeebo said...

Yesterday (Saturday afternoon) there was only one light server. A few servers even had ques. Honestly it surprised me because something like 1/3 of the servers are usually light.

On server choice, if I had it to do over I'd start on the server where MMOgamerchick and several other bloggers have a quild. I may still roll my Republic 'toons there. Launch week the ques on that server were horrific so I started on a random server. I later discovered that one of my Kinnies from LoTRO was an officer in a guild on a third server, and that's where I am playing now.

Green Armadillo said...

I hesitate to treat the server status page as hard evidence of server populations. There are no externally verifiable criteria for the population levels - if I recall, Trion had Rift's servers set so that it was almost impossible for the populations to go to low at any hour of night - and the company has an incentive not to exacerbate the situation on low pop servers by identifying them as dying.

Anecdotal accounts from players aren't objective either, obviously, but I believe at least some of them are likely to be true (especially at low-mid level) based on the number of these accounts that are posted and the fact that this trend is generally common in the modern MMO.

Indy said...

Personally, I enjoy playing on a lightly populated server more than a crowded one. I've played all of WoW's (so far) expansion days, and I've decided I dislike the crowded zones. The majority of people don't seem to agree with me, and that's fine -- actually, it's better if most people enjoy a high pop server or there wouldn't be low-pop ones!

flosch said...

This weekend, there was the free trial offer, which I guess meant a lot of additional people trying out the game, so even if you want to rely on the published server status, you shouldn't take last weekend to make decisions.

I guess that's what Yeebo saw – I'm surprised the difference was that large, though.

Yeebo said...

@Flosch: I was just coming back here to post that (it only occurred to me today). Undoubtedly what I saw was just due to the free trial weekend. I'll be honest, I too am surprised there is still enough interest in the game for the servers to fill out that much.

In any case, I'm sure things will be back to normal tonight. I personally would very much advise against starting on a light server, particularly on the Republic side.