Hyperspace Beacon: Assessing SWTOR one week after the big server merges

    
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Many people believe that server merges are innately bad because in games like ArcheAge (or even all the way back to Star Wars Galaxies), they were done completely wrong or the game itself wasn’t designed for its servers to ever consolidate. However, other MMOs – RIFT comes to mind – have nearly perfected server merges. And for the most part, server merges help the game and its population. Because many of the smaller servers combine together with larger servers, there are more people around, group-finder queues tend to pop faster, PvP is more dynamic, and roleplayers can reach the all-important critical mass.

If I were to just look at the Star Wars: The Old Republic server merges from the perspective of the overall benefits of combining different server communities, I would have zero issue with them. SWTOR is one of those games that has no innate issues with combining server save for players losing character names. It could be done without losing character names, and I will get into the flaws of that system in a bit.

Now, let’s talk about my specific perspective having experienced two server merges by BioWare, then we will get into the details of how this latest one affected those in my community.

What’s in a name?

The first server merges were a disaster for the community I was a part of on Lord Adraas. The first time around, Lord Adraas, which had a huge roleplay community, was shipped over to The Ebon Hawk not because it had a larger community but because the name “The Ebon Hawk” was more recognizable. Or at least, that’s how it appeared from my perspective. At first, the two communities did not get along, and many of the Lord Adraas people had their character names taken because someone on The Ebon Hawk already had that name. For the side of the community that didn’t have an attachment to their names or wasn’t in a warring roleplay community, the first merges were fine.

This time around, the developers fixed the name issue because they created brand-new servers. It wasn’t one community invading another; it was more like many communities coming together out of obligation. Of course, there were still name issues. In order to better ensure that you retained your character name, you had to subscribe, and you had to have played the character quite a bit. I was able to keep most of my character names because I played them quite a bit for roleplay, even though I didn’t level them all too high. And I lost others because I didn’t move the name over to a highly active character. I did move a couple of names around (buying rename tokens) so that I was sure to place those names on highly active toons.

As a side note, I had a high-level legacy on Shadowlands and on The Ebon Hawk, but The Ebon Hawk legacy had more achievement points. However, when my legacies combined, I retained The Ebon Hawk legacy, but it was renamed to the Shadowlands name. I’m not sure why that was, and I did have to pay to get it swapped back. Ultimately, it wasn’t game-changing, but it was annoying, and I know many other people who experienced the same thing.

Combining communities

Let’s move on to the important stuff that I’m sure you’re all wanting to read about: The drama between the roleplay community and the PvE community of Shadowlands. Both Shadowlands and The Ebon Hawk were strong servers. In my experience, the Shadowlands had a slightly smaller community because much of that community moved to Harbinger, but there were many people like my friends from the Bad Feeling Podcast who lived on Shadowlands. Even going back as far as the TOR Wars, Shadowlands has always had a strong community even if it was smaller than Harbinger. And if The Ebon Hawk edged out Shadowlands, it wasn’t because the roleplay community outnumbered the Shadowlands. It was because The Ebon Hawk had a strong PvE and PvP community, too.

So what happened on the first day? After waiting an insane amount of time — over 12 hours — we were finally able to log into our new server, Star Forge, late last Wednesday night. And wouldn’t you know that the first thing I see in general chat is this:

“This is a PvE and PvP server now. Roleplayers are not welcome.”

This mantra was practically spammed in general chat all night. I don’t think that this attitude is indicative of the whole community from the other servers, but it was very disheartening, and a byproduct of the flippant dismissal of the roleplay community by the SWTOR developers.

In fact, I don’t remember seeing any non-RPers welcoming roleplayers at all. The roleplayers who like to hang out on fleet have had to endure hate tells, spammed particle effects to an extreme level, and yelling in open chat that they should leave. Regardless of what people might think of the guild Daughters of Darkness, they bore the brunt of it. Yet they still hang out in their little corner of the fleet roleplaying the way they like.

Despite the improvements that BioWare made — like making a brand-new server — these server merges were not an improvement for the roleplay community. There are more people, sure, but The Ebon Hawk never had an issue with queues popping or finding people to do things with. From a roleplayer’s perspective, this transition only added to the number of trolls they have to deal with on a daily basis, and I know some roleplayers who have just quit playing the game because of it. Their names were changed, and they’ve moved on to RPing in Discord or another game entirely.

That said, the trolls have started to lose steam. Perhaps they’ve realized that roleplayers are going to stay regardless of what they do. Ultimately, I am going to stay. Roleplayers do have friends in some corners of the non-roleplay community like those who run StarForge.enjin.com, and StarForge-RP.com is picking up steam again after renaming from ebhawk.enjin.com. There are Discord servers like The Citadel, Star Forge, and Star Forge RP that are roleplay friendly.

Eventually, we will meet an equilibrium, but my hope is that the SWTOR devs do something sooner rather than later to help encourage a more friendly environment for those who enjoy that style of gameplay.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

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Jeff

If any Role Player ever had the opportunity to walk through the halls of Bioware Austin they would never play SWTOR again. Contempt is a mild term to describe how they feel, and they refer to them as ‘Thespian Gamers”

If there is any ill will on chat it is supported by the dev team that I promise.

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Peter Couse

Thespian Gamers? hmmm I like it, since asshats like make up stuff like this I think I’ll use it for the opposite of what they thought lol.
#Iamathespiangamer

I would rather be that than to let them believe that drivel they force feed us to pick option A B or C and then get the same experience anyway is the RPG part of their game lol.

SWTOR has been passively hostile to anyone who dared to actually role play in an rpg since day 1. None of this surprises me in the least.

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Psi

I would be fascinated to know how you obtained this information.

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Knox Harrington

Roleplayers have been keeping this fucking train wreck of a game running for years longer than it should’ve been and this is how EAware repays them? Seriously, fuck this company. I’m beyond done with them. #foreveruninstalled

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Dr_Lucien_Sanchez

Well I tend to shy away from role-players in MMOs. The ones I have encountered have been, well, odd. I’ve never quite been able to get my head around the concept of logging into a game not to actually play it, but to play something else in that space. Sort of like using the game simply as a fancy chat room. I find it baffling. Unlike some posters here, I don’t think they contribute anything to the public areas or bring them more life, if you notice them at all they just create more background noise.

In all my years playing SWTOR I’ve only encountered them a handful of times, and their custom-emoting nonsense was just as intrusive and annoying as all the other non-RP nonsense in general chat. Maybe those ones weren’t representative of RPers as a whole, but I didn’t take to them.

But trying to ruin their fun and drive them off a server? That’s just despicable. The crucial point is they are at worst no more of a distraction than your average general chat troll, and most of the time absolutely invisible. So live and let live, for God’s sake.

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Apollymi

I don’t understand what the fuss is over anyone who wants to RP. Why should anyone else care how you or the next guy wants to play the game. But then, I remember back in early WoW when people would lose their mind when they saw a mage/priest/warlock out mining.

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mmnementh .

What really bugs me about them dropping the RP server is this.. In any MMO Ive played that has RP servers the RP servers have always been the most populated server or a very close second. Now they merge and I log into all these players yelling about how RP isnt welcome here blah blah blah. I was never a hard core role player but I went to those servers for one reason: Less pricks.. Bioware took that refuge away and Im now finding that the very first thing I do when I log in is to close my general chat window.. This being an MMO, you can see why that isnt a good thing. I like when a gaming company makes changes in order to make a better experience for a group of its players, but NOT at the expense of another large group of its players.

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Paragon Lost

“This is a PvE and PvP server now. Roleplayers are not welcome.”

I blame mmoRpg developers for not reminding these half wits that they’re indeed playing a role-playing game. I’m so sick of this mentality, it has no place in any mmorpg.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

What the hell is the matter with people?

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Kelly Smith

What they should do is make another instance like they did with PVE/PVP that is RP-PVE/RP-PVP and let the roleplayers go there. Enforce the rules in that instance, but you can still get the benefits from the merge in the larger community.

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Space Captain Zor

I’m confused about one thing… if I wanted to save my character name(s) did I have to subscribe before the merge or can a sub still save them post-merge? If they simply say rename required on the login page am I just screwed, period?

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Kelly Smith

If it says “Rename required” then you have to rename the toon. You had to reserve it BEFORE the merge by subbing.

Woetoo
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Woetoo

Keeping your name was never guaranteed.

Subbing increased the chances (because subs were assigned before preferred).
But the other factor was time played. So if you were subbed and someone of the same name was subbed, you only got to keep the name if you had played your character more time than they had played theirs.

But yes, all the names have been processed now. The decisions have been made.
If your characters is flagged for a rename, then rename it you will have to do.

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Jadefox

Lets preface this by saying that I think RPer’s are vital to SWtOR. They also give life to places like Fleet.

Now here is what I have encountered with RPers and non-RPers. SOME RPers like to pretend that their event is in some sort of bubble even though 100’s of non-RPers are running around.
The prime example of that is the Christmas event where you have to toss snowballs at people.
I was threatened when I hit some RP with a snowball. Not just once but numerous times. It is this type of reaction from RPers in public spaces that creates the toxic response they get.

I’m primarily a PvP, and sometimes I have a bad match. I’ve been b**** at for it. My response when that happens is simple. I block them. Its a one strike policy, and I never have to worry about that person again.