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.
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.