Aggro Me: Server Mergers
Just last week, I drafted a post about the possibility of server mergers. I put off posting it until there was a slow news week. Now it seems I was beat to the punch by reality. You can read Scott's letter about it here. I advise you to read it carefully and also read all of his posts in that thread. Just for fun, I'll include that now outdated draft post anyway (feel free to skip it) just to show you how off base I was, but the press release I refer to therein is the EQ one:
Haha, did I scare you? Don’t worry, I don’t think any servers are merging anytime soon. I was just curious what you all thought about the whole concept.
It may seem kind of strange to think about server mergers now with all the exciting things happening in EQII: Live Update 19, new 1-20 progression, PvP, and KoS. Also, I get the feeling that the population numbers are better than ever right now, though it’s hard for me to get a good grip on it, even though we’re trying.
I currently play on one of the lowest population servers and it has never bothered me. But I do hear tales that it can be pretty tough to find groups, specifically on the lower to middle levels. I also hear that the economy is a bit screwy for those levels and it is hard to get spells and gear.
But, you never know, it did happen in EQ. Was it a bad thing?
I dug up this press release for the specifics and I found it pretty interesting.
Complimentary Character Move
Shortly after each merger is complete, we will allow all customers affected by a merge a one-time, complimentary character move to the server of their choice. For each customer with an account on a newly-merged server who request such a move, all characters associated with that customer’s account will be transferred to the selected server. All characters will bring their items with them in the transfer.
A complimentary character move is a must for customer goodwill. Since you're stuck with a merged server you should have the opportunity to switch to another one you might like. Also, imagine you did something intensely embarassing on Server A, moved to Server B and the Server A merged with Server B. That would be very funny but you should have a free move in this situation.
Duplicate Character Names
It is possible that characters on servers affected by the merge will have duplicate names. In the event that characters on the new, combined server do share a name, the character with the most played time will be entitled to keep the name. All other characters will have the letter X appended to their name and will be eligible for a name change. Characters can use the in-game /changename command to request a new name. The new name is subject to the conditions set forth in our naming policy which can be found here: Naming Policy.
The name thing is a huge negative for me. It will kill me to have an x appended to my name or have to change it. I'm sure a lot of other people would feel the same way. But I can't think of any way around it. Also, the merged servers only retained the name of one of the original servers which is kind of a downer.
Shared Banks on Merging Servers
If you have characters on two servers which are being merged together, you will need to clean out the shared bank on one of those servers. After the merge, only one shared bank will be available on each merged server.
I would hate to have to clear out a shared bank. But again, I don't see any way around it.
Unutilized Character Purge
Immediately preceding the merger, all characters below level 10 that have not been logged in for over six months will be deleted from each of the merging servers and will not be available after the server merge. If you have a character on any of the servers being merged that is below level 10 and has not been logged in for more than six months, you will need to log that character in prior to the scheduled merge date for the relevant server.
Bad idea. I understand the rationale but it's just adding insult to injury. And since it doesn't seem absolutely necessary, I would avoid doing it.
If you have more than eight characters in total on two servers being merged together, only the first eight characters (in alphabetical order) will be displayed after the merge. Characters other than the eight displayed characters will not be available for selection until currently displayed characters are deleted. All characters from both servers will remain on your account provided that the character was not below level 10 and had not been logged in within the last six months.
I think that since they were inconveniencing people they should have worked out a more technically clever way to deal with this.
I'm guessing there won't be any server mergers in EQII for quite some time. But I just felt like pondering the possibility just in case.
What’s your take?
Okay, back to reality. And yes, my server is one of those being merged into another server. So I am directly affected by this change.
Economy: I think it is clear that the economy will be healthier with more players. Anyone who has tried to look for low to mid level spells or gear on a smaller population server will attest to the fact that it can be difficult and prices vary widely.
LFG: It can be hard to find pick-up groups on smaller population servers. Especially at level ranges which are not currently "popular" ones. I've certainly seen and heard many people complain about this.
Community: More people may lead to a more vibrant and active community. The new servers will likely feel more like real, populated worlds.
Hardware: I'm putting this on the positive side because of the mention in Scott's letter of increased hardware support. I'm not really buying it, if only for the reason that I don't see how it can get much better. I occasionally get lag in QH but that's about it. If you want to see lag, play SWG (I just started doing so, more on that another time). I can only see lag getting worse, not better. I'm hoping it doesn't. But if there were problems on higher population servers and this alleviates them, then I suppose it is a positive.
Names: Names are very important to players. I recently had a friend say to me, "I've had this name in every MMO I've ever played." Names are our identity. To have those names changed forcibly is a very painful proposition.
Scott's letter says, "For those characters who do not choose to move early via the Character Transfer Service and are moved automatically on their moving day, some may be automatically renamed (with one or more 'x's appended to their name) in the case that their name is already taken by an older character."
I would take this to mean that "older" means being created first, though I suppose it could also refer to level. I would like some more clarification on this touchy subject. Whoops, I missed this post by Scott a bit later in the thread."At the moment, the person coming over will be the one renamed if the person blocking it doesn't end up cleaned up in the pass of removing placeholders."I find that absolutely unacceptable. Either of the two metrics I mentioned above (level or playtime) would be better choices. Or more active for that matter. Scott does say they are "looking into more desirable alternatives to this that favor the more recently active, more established characters." Look into them and implement them. Take more time if you have to. But get it right. At the risk of sounding repetitive, this is very important to the players.
Guilds: I think the guild name issue is a little less troublesome, if only because name repetition will occur less. And I think a good guild will retain its identity regardless of name. But the jarring population change may indeed cause some other issues for guilds in terms of recruitment and retention. As the recently anointed co-leader of a large guild I frankly don't need this headache right now.
Server Community: I do think some servers have established themselves as a community which may be affected by the merge. I also include here the fact that I recognize most people I see on my server. It's a nice feeling. With regards to the name, how is it fair that one server gets to keep its name while the other doesn't? Shouldn't we have a third, completely new name for the new server? I suppose the counter-argument is that at least some people will get to retain their server name in this way. But seeing people of the new server come on to your server boards smugly saying, "Welcome to X Server" is annoying. Come up with some new server names.
Availability of Contested Mobs: No way around it. There's going to be more competition.
I guess in my perfect world players would be able to choose between living in a big city or a small town, knowing the benefits and drawbacks of both. But sometimes change is tough. I know it is for me. And it's possible that I need it thrust upon me and I may have more fun in the end. But several aspects of the transition will indeed be painful.
Two points which may seem minor but I would like to address because I think they are important.
1. There is going to be a lot of laughter in the general gaming community about this. People are going to use this as an example to point to the "failure" of EQII. I'm not really concerned about that. But I would say, why not just come out and post the numbers? If there is population growth, chart it! Tell us in detail. People who play MMO's use the internet a lot and people who use the internet a lot like to be informed consumers. They respect transparency in business practices. Show us the numbers.
2. Station Exchange Matters: Two points here. One, I wrote a post some time ago stating that the general gaming media was calling SE a "success" way too early. The fact that the SE servers are being merged is just another sign that I was right and they were wrong. Just saying.
Two, Smed promised in his SE Letter:
"Players who want to play on those servers will have the opportunity to transfer over to the "Exchange enabled" servers for free on a one-time-only basis (but you can't ever move that character off these servers)."
So I don't want to see characters transferring on or off of the SE servers during the free transfer period. It's not fair and it's not right. I don't want to play on a server with someone who bought their gear on the Exchange. That would be a major betrayal of trust by SOE in my opinion.
In conclusion, it seems like SOE has made a lot of moves over the past year or so that some might consider bold and others might consider foolish. I try to take each one on an individual basis. This was a quickly written post and I may need some more time to consider every aspect of this decision. But for now, I'm going to have to give a slight nod of approval to this one. I believe the benefits of a healthy population in the long term outweigh the admittedly unpleasant negative aspects. But it does hurt, at least for the moment. And that nod of approval is if, and only if, the name change policy is handled in a more logical fashion.
One final note. This is a difficult thing for players to stomach even if they think it may be for the best interests of the game. So do not screw up the execution of this. Seriously, don't.