I’ve been wondering about server populations and the effect it has on me as a player. I’m sure that the collapse in player population had an effect on my enjoyment of SWTOR, it also was a factor in the ease with which I gave up on Vanguard. Towards the end of my years of playing WoW that game too suffered greatly from a ghost-town feel to most zones.
There are practical implications beyond the feeling of isolation of course:
- the economy of the server’s auction house will empty of player made/collected goods (this is happening on Argent in Rift at the moment) or prices will become ludicrously high on most goods (observed in LoTRO)
- empty zones are often ‘over-populated’ by monsters, so solo’ing through said zones becomes harder
- group content, especially any not available in ‘dungeon finder mode’ is very hard to complete
- longer queues and fewer options for instanced PVP and dungeons
This isn’t an exhaustive list but it highlights some of the issues I’ve encountered. We rarely get to see any reliable or accurate stats on server population trends, so a server might be busy at the level cap (‘top-heavy’) but empty in low or mid zones. Equally the server might just be less popular and be slowly loosing players either to other servers or as they leave the game altogether.
I do wonder if there is a tipping point at which a server’s population will start to decline due to these factors. If you find yourself on such a server, and unless or until a server merge is forced by the operating company, do you jump to a more popular server or stay put? Jumping can be expensive as in many cases there is an account charge for transferring characters.
My main reason for thinking on this is that in Rift Argent seems very quiet at the moment. I’ll wait until after the expansion launch to see if that helps enough for me to stay – but for me to enjoy Rift longer-term there has to be a healthy server population. I’ve heard several of the other servers are full-to-bursting.
What about you, does visible server population matter in your games? What influences your choice to stay or move server?