Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Failure to Transfer-proof MMO Launches

There are at least four US/EU servers in FFXIV where people I know from blogs, twitter, or podcasts have characters.  I will need to pick one of those servers as a home.  That choice has huge implications on my future in the game. 

If I pick a newer server that is populated too heavily with tourists - players with established social ties are seldom willing or able to re-roll when new servers open post-launch - it could be deserted in a few months, leaving me high and dry in a search for groups.  If I pick one of the more crowded servers and the game does somehow continue to trend upwards, I could be facing the kinds of extended performance issues that I experienced in 2004-2005 having rolled on one of the 40 WoW servers whose names were announced prior to launch.  Perhaps most importantly, if I roll on a specific server to join specific people and those folks don't stick with the game, as I did in SWTOR last year, I'll be looking at a lonely experience.

I find it frustrating that we as customers who pay for online gaming services seem to have a misguided focus on the portions of the server population discussion that should be easiest to forgive.  We dwell on overcrowding on launch week, even though these problems are almost always fixed in a week or two.  We brand as a failure any product that ends up with too many servers and has the nerve to make the correct decision to consolidate them. 

Meanwhile, I'm sitting here with a server list and a choice that's harder than it should be.  There's no choice I can make today that is transfer-proof, and the provider really doesn't have an incentive to care since they stand to pocket the transfer fees if I get it wrong.  It just seems like the rare thing that we as customers who are paying for a service actually have a good basis to complain about, but we don't complain much and the problem persists. 


Coreus said...

Failure seems like a bit of a unfair word to use when talking about a issue which has never before been solved.

I hear the Warcraft guys have been implementing some features which are gradually eroding all the negative effects that having friends on many different servers causes. These days the game is one big server in more ways than it's not (separate regions notwithstanding).

I read this blog post immediately following this article from
The Psychology of Video Games blog author Jamie Madigan about the human ability to make choices and be happy with them. There's some good stuff in there.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, there is no right answer. A friend who loves the game today might burn out on it in a month. With the current mmo culture of churn, you can't protect yourself against that. The fact that Wildstar and TESO will be out within the year makes some degree of turnover in FFXIV likely.

And I'm not sure there are any true low pop servers right now.

Wilhelm Arcturus said...

"Failure seems like a bit of a unfair word to use when talking about a issue which has never before been solved."

Except with EVE Online.

Green Armadillo said...

""Failure seems like a bit of a unfair word to use when talking about a issue which has never before been solved."

Except with EVE Online."

Eve predates the examples I was going to cite, which include to varying degrees both Guild Wars, TSW, and all three Cryptic titles. WoW solves portions of the issue by increasingly allowing some ability to play with friends on other servers. Rift solves portions of this issue by NOT CHARGING the player for server transfers so at least you can move when you need to.

Examples aside, I find the original comment puzzling. If there is an issue, that issue is a direct result of the provider's decision to stick to the 15 year old server model, and the issue has never been solved, then isn't that by definion a failure?

seanas said...

the issue has also been solved by Rift: free transers once-per-week, no questions asked (except for: is your mailbox empty?).

It's also been solved by World of Tanks: two servers, take you pick, change your pick whenever you want, as your character details (ie, your garage of tanks) are stored on a different server.

thus, you could easily argue that FFXIV's failure is even greater, as it ignored active, functioning solutions in implementing it's server structure.

That said, SquareEnix have posted that free, cross-server transfer functionality will be enabled by mid-September. True, we're past mid-September already, but given what a shambles the re-launch has been, a few extra weeks' wait can be expected. (And seriously, the level of failure has been shocking: it's like they didn't even look at the metrics of the first launch *at all*. First launch: terrible game, great launch. Second launch: great game, terrible launch.)

The same issues are present on the EU servers: my wife has friends from her Rift guild playing on two other servers from the one she's on; and on a fourth server there is apparently a huge Dutch-language guild (we live in the Netherlands) that she *and* the ex-guildies wish to transfer to.

So, my advice to you is the same I gave to her: choose one server, and transfer once transfers open up.

Anonymous said...

Not perfect, but once World Transfers go into effect, you will be able to transfer characters for free for the first five days: