Server choice and community

A recent discussion touching on server community and choice chimed with certain frustrations that I’ve felt as a MMORPG gamer, it led me to thinking more about whether server choice has impacted my enjoyment and opinions of certain games. Some MMOs, such as Neverwinter or Elder Scrolls Online, avoid this issue by having a so-called ‘megaserver’ – one server that hosts all characters. You only see those characters near you, and there maybe some technical wizardry to segregate busy areas into instanced or sharded zones, but your character can play easily with anyone you wish.

More traditional MMORPGs have separate servers, often with their own distinct community identities or norms. That can be a boon in terms of trying to find the right server for you, or I would suggest often a bad thing since information about server choice is rarely comprehensive and always highly subjective. When starting a new MMORPG where server choice is a thing, I have mostly tried to research the right server for me – often the RP server and if a choice of region was available then a EU-time zone one. Games do not always give that much choice though, with Everquest 2 for example I joined at the launch of the Freeport server as the, then, only free to play server available. I’ve never seriously tried creating a character on Antonia Bayle for a more active RP community or an EU server for one that is more active when I am.

Server hopping in most MMORPGs is not an inconsequential thing. Sure in Neverwinter you can use the map menu to change map instance with only a short cooldown timer. But in many other MMORPGs there is a monetary cost attached – something I’ve always thought was unjustifiable for what is normally an automated system process. So in all these years of playing World of Warcraft my older characters have remained on Moonglade despite Argent Dawn being a reputably much more active RP server. Likewise my character in Lord of the Rings Online remain all on Laurelin, even though my nephew for years was trying to get me to join him on Vilya (where his guild was).

My reluctance isn’t limited to not wanting to pay over the odds for such a simple transaction (one that Rift famously offered for free), but also because I’m a part-time crafter in most MMOs. The synergies of having all your alts together on one server are not to be sniffed at, so starting again on a new server isn’t just about resetting one character’s progress, it feels like resetting my progress in the entire game.

The discussion on this episode of the DDO Players podcast about the implications of server choice was especially relevant to me, my most cherished characters in Dungeons & Dragons Online are on Ghallanda by twist of fate – it’s the server they were dumped on during the EU->US migration. I have some lower level characters on Thelanis but they’re not as developed as my Paladin main, Ranger and Cleric on Ghallanda. The discussion noted that not every server might be the most casual/newb friendly server for grouping – and that’s been my experience when I’ve tried to come back (without my usual pre-made group that is). I just didn’t find any groups at all of the right level/style for me to join. So perhaps it’s time to really do the legwork on finding the best EU timezone server that is accommodating to more relaxed pug-grouping.

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4 Responses to Server choice and community

  1. At least in WoW there’s so much cross-server tech now that it hardly matters if your friends play on a different server. The faction divide is the only meaningful hurdle now.

    I do agree that server transfer prices tend to be crazy high. Especially in games where it’s in addition to a mandatory subscription fee. But then I think any additional costs on top of a mandatory sub are outrageous, just on principle.

  2. Pingback: SWTOR server merges and character names | GamingSF

  3. Shintar says:

    I’ve been surprised by how much of an emotional impact the server merge announcement for SWTOR has had on me, even though it should have only minimal effects on my gameplay as I’m on the largest server already. I have nothing against single/mega servers in principle, but I also do like the community feeling you get from having separate servers. I just can’t think of anything else that MMOs have offered to fill that “medium-sized community” niche that’s offered by having distinct servers. Your immediate, close relationships are with your friends and guildies, but then it feels like there’s no bigger group to be a part of until “everyone who plays the game”.

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