The Daily Grind: How would you solve the housing server merge problem?

When ArcheAge launched, I was one of those who was brutally harsh about its mind-numbingly stupid housing system, a more or less open-world system that incentivized land rushes, greed, gold sinks, and cheating. As far as I could tell, even back in 2014, the game’s handlers had learned absolutely nothing from the previous 17 years of MMORPG housing buffoonery. One of my complaints? Not thinking ahead to server merges.

“Balance your server populations carefully and never add more servers than you’ll need after the three-month slump because if you think server merges spell doom for themeparks, know that they’re even worse for open-world housing sandboxes (Vanguard, SWG), only slightly worse an option than ignoring the problem and expecting your players to pay to move themselves and lose their land in the process (UO, LOTRO).” [This was before LOTRO’s free transfers.]

And now here we are again, seeing server merges so bad MOP’s MJ Guthrie, whose pixel home narrowly survived the last round of merges, intimated she was done this time once her house is nuked and she’s forced into yet another land rush. It’s too late for ArcheAge, I fear, but there has to be a way out of this — maybe it’s not too late for the next MMO with housing. How would you solve the housing server merge problem?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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59 Comments on "The Daily Grind: How would you solve the housing server merge problem?"

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Alex Malone

I don’t think there is a good way to handle this sort of thing. If two people on different servers are using the same plot of land, one of them must lose out following a merge. I think the most important design choice for me would be to ensure that the world has vastly more land than is needed by the server. So, if the server supports 10,000 accounts, make sure there is enough land to support 50,000 accounts. That way, land is never scarce, though competition will always remain for the best spots.

Following that, and knowing there is no good way, I’d just go for a “fair” way:

1) Ensure that some special sort of inventory exists for housing. This way, your house / mats / contents all end up in that inventory following a merge, keeping things simple in terms of managing stuff.

2) Ensure a history is kept in terms of town progression. For example, if it takes months for a town to grow / progress in terms of game mechanics, you need to ensure the town mayor or whatever can instantly re-designate a town of the same size. Players shouldn’t have to repeat the town progression on the new server.

3) Wipe everything. Yes, this will result in a mega land rush following the merge, but at least all players will be in the same boat rather than the “natives” having the advantage. You could potentially try to tie this into the story somehow – some Genghis Khan style horde has ploughed through the world and destroyed stuff, so now the server has to clear the remaining horde and then rebuild. Could somehow automate it so that the server places the hardest horde members where the largest player towns used to be, resulting in the need to form a few raids to clear the area before it can be claimed again?

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Chosenxeno .

People keep blaming Trion when the real issue is design. Instanced Housing is simply better in MMORPGs. Trion didn’t make the decision to make Housing the way it was. Forget Trion’s demonetization or whatever. The minute The Developers made housing and land the way it was the game was dead. Name one MMORPG where non-instanced housing works. NOT SURVIVAL GAMES. MMORPG.

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Loyal Patron
Byórðæįr

housing is one of those things that is resource intensive but also impacts long on and log off. When you have housing hubs that is where players log on and off. When you have people dropping houses anyway it is mess. Which leaves two good options instanced housing in the major NPC towns, and areas zoned off as wildness player town areas. Having played most if not all of the mmos at one point or another I can say with certainty that most have positive parts and more had negative points. So no one has actually figured out a good system yet. What we really need is a system where in the major NPC towns all residences and above shops are instanced. Some of them do need balconies where you can walk out and view town but in dessert online the change from you decorated home to the default as you look behind is glaring as is the view out the windows is to a empty zone. Maybe there is a good way maybe there is not. I don’t know.

The point is when the server merges happen if the homes are instanced versions then which server you are on does not matter as long as your home exists in that server.

That said most players would rather have more control of the outside of their home. So the only way that could work was if all the lots could be bought in a town by players and the cities are divided into different quarters, like a steam punk quarter for an engineer section or dwarf section, a mage section, and trade quarter or financial quarter, a noble quarter (mostly player owned homes that are more expensive but have more options for outside and layout designs, and so forth and the parts and outsides you can use are limited to those sections and buying the house and decorating it allows your outside to be the one people see and if a second player buys the same home they can use it as decorated or they can try to come up with a different design for the outside and once they are really they click a check box and sign post outside lets people who have bought a house in the quarter vote which outside design they like better. The inside being instanced goes down one story for every two up and each owner can decorate the inside by placing objects. This could also extend to castles on hiltops above towns and be instanced guild housing that the outer walls, buildings and main keep design could be voted on by the player guilds that buy into the property. The inside of course would be editable by the guild to how the floors work and what section of inside is controlled. Think like fortnite’s building system for the interiors. The outsides would have to be from set pieces so that the company running the mmo can optimize what is and what is good for the game.

That means one you have to buy the lot and you can only buy one lot per town, and when two players own the same lot they both can create a version of what they want it to look like in an instance and click a button to apply changes if their is more than one owner with a design ready check box then the lot owners in that quarter gets to vote on which design they want to be in their neighborhood. I think that would give enough flexibility on the player wants but engineering the code for that might be a wee bit hard.

styopa
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styopa

AA goes down as a really good game in so very many respects COMPLETELY DESTROYED BY THE INCOMPETENCE OF THE BUSINESSPEOPLE RUNNING IT.

I’m so goddamned bothered by it because games struggle so hard to get things that AA managed to do right in terms of gameplay, mechanics, class balance, etc.

For them to have so many hard things successfully to be betrayed by their business runners…well, I don’t think the word tragedy is overstating it.

Oh I know, it wasn’t just the business. There were some colossally bad choices made technically (client-side files, really? What the Serious F*ck were you thinking?) but again, in terms of classes, abilities and such it really did have strong promise.

Or is it a James Dean / Firefly situation: that it died so fast it can be remembered for its potential, rather than for all the crap that would have been more evident had it lived even a little longer….?

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Daniel Reasor

Just stack the castles on top of each other to make skyscraper apartment buildings.

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Toy Clown

I quit AA after the 2nd time of losing all my properties. While it’s a game, it’s a game I sunk hours and effort into creating homes for my characters. With it came a lot of aggravation dealing with other players to acquire my houses. Even had other players try to force me out of my houses because they were in a path to them wanting the largest mansions.

I couldn’t do it a 3rd time. I know people still playing AA that have entire villages they’ve built from day 1 on Tahyang, and now they’re debating quitting and moving to other games.

ArcheAge was a great game before it came NA-side and during alpha, but suffered from bad management decisions through it’s life. I still remember all the drama over the last server merges, and the people that said, “This is the last time.”

I think ArcheAge could benefit from figuring out how to stop making these bad decisions or stop the people pushing them through, and also adding in instanced “apartments” in NPC cities that players can drop into, combined with open-world housing. I remember XLGames bringing that up a few years back as a solution to housing, but obviously it was never dwelled further on.

I can’t see AA having much of a dedicated playerbase left after they merge the servers again. Every time I see another post go up about drama in AA, I can’t help thinking to myself that I’m glad I got out of the game.

MJ Guthrie
Staff
MJ Guthrie

Yah, I own a whole little corner in Falcorth and it took me like a year and a half to collect it all and make our guild village. I’m not going to go through all that again.

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Shiro Madoushi

You shouldn’t have trouble placing it all back down after the merge.

MJ Guthrie
Staff
MJ Guthrie

Yeah, right. Getting the entire corner of a housing lot to fit all of our things during a land rush? No, not possible. Getting exactly where we want back, where we worked so hard to build? Yah, can’t see that happening either. There are other folks on other servers that are gunning for that same spot as their own to rebuild their spot, and probably plenty more who just want it too. Really, it isn’t worth it now to have everything that was worked for for years stripped away to fight all the same land grabs and hassles again.

taradyne
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taradyne

Yeah I have friends who have sunk thousands of hours and dollars into building their “town”. Fortunately they are on Kraken so will not have to move this time, but they are on notice now that it could all go poof.

MJ Guthrie
Staff
MJ Guthrie

Tahyang was safe last round, but you see how long that lasted. Be prepared!

Reader
Barantor

Black Desert, Black Desert, Black Desert….
Instanced, but not in it’s own zone like Lotro, built into the world where when you look out the window you see the street you live on. Yeah there might be others that have the same house as you, but with so many useless doors in MMO towns I don’t understand why they don’t do this more often. It makes cities/towns actually feel lived in rather than empty NPC streets.

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Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

You don’t do them. There’s no real “nice” way to merge servers with a setup like this. It’s a matter of game design, this game is designed for persistent servers that aren’t merged every year or two, at least if folks want to keep the land they get.

Now, is there room for a server that resets regularly and allows folks to repeat the land rush? Absolutely. But beyond that, servers should remain stable and with as few merges as possible.

But it’s looking more like player numbers are dipping and Trion likely needs a cash infusion, so reset everything and start from scratch all over again! Yeah, I’m that cynical with Trion nowadays : /

taradyne
Reader
taradyne

This.
ArcheAge is a pvp game designed for brutal land rush events and the possibility of loss. I don’t think it’s a good design, which is why I don’t play it anymore. But the thrill of acquisition, the fight for expansion and the satisfaction of holding onto what is precious is fun for a lot of (other) players.

Reader
Slaasher

Well clearly it isn’t since this appears to be the main reason that people state they have left the game.

Reader
Paul

Single shard / plenty of land. Instanced housing ruins it for me.

Minimalistway
Reader
Minimalistway

If i’m facing this problem? i’ll run away, honestly! it’ll happen again in the future, so the main problem is not solved, instance housing system is not really a bad choice here.