The Daily Grind: How should studios handle overpopulated servers in MMOs?

It doesn’t matter how many servers you have for your MMO, some of them are just going to be more popular than others. That’s inevitable. It happened in World of Warcraft, it happens in Final Fantasy XIV, it happened in City of Heroes. The only games it doesn’t happen are ones that use a megaserver setup, and that has its own issues which are a separate discussion topic altogether.

So let’s just accept that you’ve got an overpopulated server. The question then becomes what you’re going to do about it. Do you offer incentives to transfer people off? Do you add hardware to that specific server to support more people? Do you change login procedures? Do you split the server? There are no good answers, and no matter what you do, something is going to cause problems. So what do you think, readers? How should studios handle overpopulated servers in MMOs?

Please note that if your answer is “not let it happen in the first place,” you’re arguing that the best way to fix a car is to not have it break.

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Final Fantasy XIV hits a major instanced roadblock in Stormblood early access

Everyone knows there are going to be issues with an expansion on launch, and Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood is no exception. Players have hit up against a pretty nasty one, however, even beyond the usual matters of queues and server loads; something seems to be causing issues with instanced content, including a very early part of the main scenario that’s causing huge population bottlenecks around one questgiver.

Producer and director Naoki Yoshida has been doing his best to keep players updated, but at this point getting past this early instance is largely a matter of clicking for entry repeatedly and hoping to not get the now-dreaded error message stating that the instanced battle could not be started. It’s not exactly surprising that the game would have some issues with early access, but players are left unable to progress beyond the first two areas of the expansion without some appreciable luck (and the instance servers aren’t at their most stable even for other purposes). The issue is being addressed, so keep your eyes peeled for updates when the logjam is finally broken.


Wild West Online discusses splitting the difference between scale and player participation

How many players makes an MMO? It seems like a straightforward question, but it’s a rather complex one, and one that Wild West Online is attempting to answer by degrees. The official statement on the matter is that the developers are doing their best to find a balance between having a sufficiently large population to feel massive while also having a small enough number to feel relevant on an individual level.

The statement explains that if there are too many players, each individual person feels as if the whole thing is going on whether or not one player takes part. By contrast, too few players makes the game feel empty and, well, not actually massive, thereby defeating the entire point of the genre. No hard numbers are stated for the record, but players are already speculating on what this means for allowed player populations per server. If it’s a subject near and dear to your heart, you may want to weigh in as well.


Final Fantasy XIV posts the dates for its upcoming data center move

If you’re playing on the North American data centers for Final Fantasy XIV, you’ve been given ample warning that the centers are moving. That’s not a surprise. Similarly, you probably knew that the move would impact your play time. The dates are in now, and you can see exactly when your play time will be impacted. The Aether data center (also known as “the one everyone is on because of Balmung and Gilgamesh”) and the Primal center will be moving from May 15th to May 17th, while Gaia, Chaos, Mana, and Elemental centers are moving from the 16th to the 17th.

Obviously, the game will be unavailable to play on those worlds during the maintenance, so all player subscriptions will be extended by one day due to the extended maintenance cycle. So you can’t play, but you won’t have to lose paid time. You will, of course, lose the time that otherwise would be spent earning whatever, but there aren’t exactly many weekly lockouts left at this point. And you’ll still have a month before the expansion launch.

Source: Official Site; thanks to Stephanie for the tip!


Chronicles of Elyria clarifies server and domain selection process moving forward

The staff behind Chronicles of Elyria has been on a whirlwind tour of events, and you can read all about it in the most recent dispatch from the team. You can also learn a lot about booth layout, if that’s something that you find fascinating. And you can also find out the latest plans regarding the game’s server and kingdom selection, which starts with the fact that players are still going to be jockeying for space as predicted. Players will be selecting servers first, then selecting kingdoms in order of influence.

This is, of course, part of the problem, as the game’s plans do not wind up including enough land for all of the people who paid to have kingdoms in the first place.

It’s worth noting that servers are selected in order of seniority, not influence, so things become a bit muddier, and it’s quite possible for you to have a later pick of server and an earlier pick of land within that server due to backing late but having a lot of influence. Players can also convert to a lesser package and receive an advance pick of their chosen duchy, although those picks will also be in order of influence. Check out the full rundown and the details on the upcoming Q&A session in the official entry.


Conan Exiles is bringing up new European servers, already looms over PAX East

Funcom announced today that it’s found a partner to host its Conan Exiles servers in Europe: G-Portal.

“This week the remaining European servers for Conan Exiles have been going up one by one,” says the studio. “We’ve already rolled a decent number of servers and the rest of them will be ready in a short while thanks to our new server partner! Servers will be popping up all over Europe, from west to east, so look for the ones with the best ping to find the one closest to you. The old Pingperfect servers will be brought up with the same name and server database as before, so players can jump right in to continue their adventure in the Exiled Lands.”

Early this month, Funcom told players it was parting ways with its original server host, PingPerfect, and switched to Gameservers, which it believed would be better able to handle the apparently huge demand for the game. Then, last weekend, the studio abruptly region-locked official servers for the game, sending legitimate international communities into turmoil as replacement servers have been coming up slowly all week.

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Crowfall shows off its unique server maps

In most MMOs, it doesn’t matter what server you play on, the world still has the same shape. You don’t log in to a new server and find that major landmasses are missing or that half of the map is totally different. But Crowfall isn’t quite built like other MMOs; it’s a game that cycles, with worlds living for a time, then dying and starting over. So it makes some amount of sense that with the game’s next update, players will be exploring four separate worlds with four separate world maps.

The Sanctuary server represents the “safe” space, a place for players to trade for resources and rest up. The other four servers – Misery, Sorrow, and Mourning – all represent dangerous worlds with resources to fight over. All four of these worlds also have distinct map layouts, and while theses are still rather early layouts, it should get you used to the idea that swapping servers doesn’t just mean exploring the same map with a different group of players. There’s a whole new world to see, and it may not be friendly.


Trion offers compensation to ArcheAge and Rift players for server outages

Good news for players of ArcheAge and RIFT: You’re getting some free stuff as an apology for the unstable servers that both games have been experiencing recently. Bad news for those same players: You had some pretty unstable servers recently. But the issues are hopefully resolved, and players with Patron status on either game (or both games) will be receiving a free five-day time credit with no further action needed.

Meanwhile, players in either game can claim a free bonus pack from the in-game stores if they logged in between November 9th and November 22nd. RIFT players get 100 Affinity, which is an account-wide currency; ArcheAge players get a login badge and the Thanksgiving event pet. It appears some of those server issues may have migrated to Europe temporarily, but for now you should be able to log in and claim your compensation.


RIFT compensates players for server instability

Fans of RIFT have a new expansion to play, but that requires the game’s servers to be cooperating in order to actually play it. Unfortunately, the game has been suffering from server issues recently, so Trion recently announced planned compensation for players to help ease the sting there. If you’ve logged in since the instability began and have Patron status on your account, you will be credited extra time to your Patron subscription, although the exact amount is still up in the air as the team tries to permanently solve the problem and see exactly who has been affected.

Players can also log in and claim a free bundle of Affinity in the game’s store from now until November 30th. You can also earn bonus Affinity through gameplay, with Patrons gaining 10 for logging in on a daily basis and another 6 for staying logged in for each additional hour; non-Patrons, meanwhile, will gain Affinity at the same pace that Patrons would under normal circumstances. It can’t fix server issues in and of itself, of course, but compensation does help take the edge off.


Trion addresses downtime with the ArcheAge community

No one likes network issues. Trion acknowledged a slew of network issues hitting ArcheAge over the past few days in a forum post, noting that there are two issues that seem to be combining to cause unstable performance; a network hardware issue is affecting Trion’s actual server clusters while an external service error is also affecting the network. The same issues appear to have also hit RIFT and (presumably) Trove as well.

While the company is taking steps to fix the issue, there’s the potential for further connection issues into the early part of the weekend, so players may want to be a bit cautious regarding the game’s connection. Players who are having issues are asked to notify Trion, as the company is making note of any players affected by the issues. No word on any sort of compensation at this point, although we imagine most of the people hit with network issues would be happy enough just to have the service working properly again.

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Wisdom of Nym: The biggest roleplaying server of Final Fantasy XIV

Balmung, if you are a Final Fantasy XIV, is the mysterious land of milk and honey. Or it’s home. Heaven help you if you’re in the former group, though, because you’re going to be hard-pressed to join the latter.

The Balmung server, aside from having an absolutely horrible name, is also the unofficial RP server for the game. As a result, it’s one of (if not the) most populated servers in the game. When people talk about the problems with the housing system, they’re talking about the situation on Balmung first and foremost. The server has gone from having somewhat restricted hours for allowing character creation to just being closed to new characters pretty much all of the time.

And it’s an odd situation to look at in hindsight, especially as someone who’s been on the server since it was Besaid pre-merging. It’s a situation full of poor communication, some lacking support, and a whole lot of community pressure that produced an enormous server that’s basically inaccessible to everyone else right now.

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Firefall’s status remains in limbo

Even if you don’t play Firefall, you know that last week was a bit weird for the game when the game itself and its website went completely offline without warning or explanation… then just as unexpectedly came back online. Weird, but that’s all right. What you probably don’t know if you don’t play the game is that this is apparently now just a thing that’s continuing to happen. The servers and website went down without warning twice more last week, coming back online as mysteriously as they had gone down.

Not only has there been no official word on these outages, the community as a whole has begun to accept them as more or less the de facto state of affairs, which is at once accurate and somewhat horrifying. There’s still been no official word on the outages (aside from a brief exchange a week ago), although whether that’s a matter of staff changes or if the outages were genuinely unplanned is not clear. Regardless, it’s not a fun time to be a Firefall player, especially since it seems like the game’s final shutdown notice at this point may just be another unexpected outage that never reverses.

Source: Reddit. Thanks to Corey and C2A.JewelThief.


Aura Kingdom is deleting inactive characters pursuant to US server move

Aura Kingdom players, heads-up: If you don’t use your characters, you’re going to lose them.

Aeria told players earlier this month that it planned to move its US servers to the cloud, and that virtualization is happening — soon. Before it does, the studio wants to reduce the data being transitioned, and that means it’s hiding and then deleting unused characters, defined as banned characters that haven’t logged in during the last three months and characters under level 50 that haven’t logged in in the last six months.

Characters that fit those two groups have already been hidden; owners are asked to contact customer support to save the characters until September 1st. Come the 7th, the characters will be permanently deleted and cannot be recovered.

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