Hyperspace Beacon: The pros and cons of SWTOR’s United Forces server merges
Although Star Wars: The Old Republic isn’t going down to one single server for its whole game, it is greatly reducing the number of servers. On November 8th, BioWare will reduce the servers to one server for each of the major English-speaking regions: US West Coast, US East Coast, and Europe. Then one server for each of the other languages represented in the game: French and German.
Surprisingly, most of the community is reacting positively to the idea of combining the servers. While the studio hasn’t actually used the term “server merge,” it’s been clear that everyone’s being moved into combined servers once again. However, there is one hold-out community that takes issue with how the merges are being handled. There are pros and cons, and there is really no way to combine servers without someone losing something, but the hope is that the overall gain will outweigh the losses.
Star Wars: The Old Republic did not invent this way of combining servers, but whichever game inspired the SWTOR dev team was on the right track. Although I have experienced many server merges in different games, the one that always stands out to me is Star Wars Galaxies‘ server merge and just how poorly it was implemented. So many players had to leave their home and hope that they would be welcome on a server that other players already called home. It was almost as if SWG had a limited amount of data storage and had to force people into other people’s land. However, that’s the opposite of true. SWTOR mirrored this way of doing server merges the first time back in 2012, and the development team clearly learned from that mistake.
The current plan is to combine the existing servers into five brand-new servers. Until the server merge happens on November 8th, no one will have called these servers home. Not only are they new to the players, they also have new hardware and “clean” version of the game installed on them. This will hopefully mean that the servers are more stable and carry less latency in more heavily populated zones. Making them brand-new servers means that no one is invading other another player’s home, and everyone gets a fresh start so to speak.
The names of the new servers are (and this is real) The Hot Prospect, Star Forge, Darth Malgus, The Leviathan, and Tulak Hord. And believe it or not, all these names stem from the Old Republic era ships or characters. Tulak Hord was an Old Republic Sith first mentioned in Knights of the Old Republic. The Leviathan was Darth Malak’s command ship. Darth Malgus was one of the main antagonists or allies when SWTOR launched. Star Forge was the end-base in KOTOR. And the Hot Prospect was Zayne Carrick’s hunk-of-junk starship in the Knights of the Old Republic comic.
How to keep your name
There are few things in MMOs that are more important to a gamer than his name. My internet handle and my in-game names have been the same since I was about 11 years old, and if I were suddenly asked to give it up, it might turn me from the game completely. With SWTOR’s server merges, I don’t think this will be a problem for me, but there really isn’t a good way for BioWare to handle the inevitable possibility that players will share the same name, which has to be unique in SWTOR. That said, I do think that despite possible bugs in the system, BioWare is handling this issue in a very fair way.
Priority has to be given to subscribers over preferred and free-to-play players. It’s not that these other players aren’t important to the game itself, but BioWare is a subscription game, regardless of what the advertising tells you. And the studio would be shooting itself in the foot if it didn’t cater to the players who help keep the lights on.
Secondly, the commitment to the character is important, too, and the first two factors that BioWare will keep in mind when deciding which character gets to keep the name: Is the character above level ten and has it been logged in within the last 90 days? Although a boost could help you clear the level-10 hurdle, it would still have to be an active character.
The if it comes down to it, BioWare will weigh the amount of time the character has been played. And whichever character has the more playtime will win out. So, if you think that you might be at risk of losing your character’s name, it might be a good time to rename your most-played character.
The ugly truth
Unfortunately, the way that BioWare is handling the server merges will not affect every community positively. And I think you know what community I’m going to talk about here: the roleplayers. Believe it or not, it’s not the server merge itself that is the issue; it’s the specific way BioWare is handling it. If you look up at the image taken from the BioWare post on the server merges, you will see which servers are combining with which other servers. And although BioWare officially dissolved the server designations quite awhile ago, Begeren Colony, The Ebon Hawk, and The Progenitor have been roleplay servers since the beginning of the game. And as you might also note, these current servers will merge into three different servers that have not had and will not have the classic designation as a roleplay server. This has put many roleplayers on edge – not because they do not participate in these other game activities, but there are segments of the non-roleplayer communities who not only do not participate in roleplay but actively grief those who participate in that playstyle.
Needless to say, the roleplay community is concerned, from rolpelay forums to Discord servers. Eric Musco did mention during the livestream yesterday that BioWare is aware of the concerns and is actively looking for a solution, so we’ll see how it turns out.
Overall, I am positive about the merges, and I welcome them. But just like the roleplay community, I have my concerns, and I hope that BioWare comes up with an acceptable solution soon. What are your thoughts on the server merges? Are they good? Are they bad? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.