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Reader Comments (39)

Posted: Mar 29th 2011 5:17PM Space Cobra said

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With Eve, you said everyone can share the same world and everyone has to face the same challenges, but players are NOT all the same. There are players who like Griefing and PvPing and then there are ones that just want to farm nodes in their spare time and all the others.

While it sounds exciting to have that many players on one server, there are drawbacks. Even some small ones like, easy to get lost in a crowd if you are in a crowd. Do I want to be in an area of 360,000 players? Maybe, but maybe not. Several reasons for that.

And I can't imagine if a problem breaks and you have to take everyone offline at the same time instead of shard by shard. Lots of angry customers.

While there are benefits to the CO/Runescape design, I think there are a few minuses, too.

Of course, naming is a small example, but really, sometimes these type of servers create instances of places and throw you into them. If you are trying to get to an area that all your guild is meeting at or game with friends, how the hell you get in the same instance, especially if the instance is full? Sometimes there are in-game commands that help but not always and really, if that instance is full, no command will get you to them. And rarely will a guild pick up and move for a few players not able to meet with them during such occurrences.

While one server is exciting and I would like to see more examples of them, it just seems there are many more plusses to the dev/studio side and ultimately to the player side, too. I have yet to try out Runescapes "direct yourself to an activity" type of shards, but I can't imagine they are not perfect solutions...

...much like an all-in-one world shard. :P

Posted: Mar 30th 2011 5:58AM kasapina said

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For Runescape, you can always choose the shard you want to play in, and few shards are constantly full - it's common sense not to use shards 1 through 6, since they're always full or close to full and are used for trading. A guild can always check for the amount of players on the server they're logging on, and choose a shard with less than 1500 players. In fact, the 2000 player cap is high enough that only server 1 is always full, with this overcrowding extending to shards 2-6 during peak hours - however, this is an effect desired by the players, since they all focus on one area and trade on these servers. Servers 20-100 are never, with maybe the odd exception, full.

I really like the Runescape solution. It's only drawback is that, well, you don't have all the players in one server, but it's much much better than the popular closed shard model. It also has the advantage (for me, at least, some might find it a disadvantage) of allowing players who have gone to a particular farming spot only to find it full of competitors to just change shard and check out one from more than a hundred other copies of the same spot, in hopes of finding one that is empty or near empty.
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Posted: Mar 30th 2011 8:52AM DarkWalker said

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@Space Cobra
Every system have it's disadvantages.
One thing is certain: if I have to leave behind in-game friends to play with real life friends (and, worse yet, if I have to either pay some abusive character transfer fee or start from scratch), I will hold that against the game. It's one of the reasons I like GW and I'm looking forward to GW2; if I find anyone in the whole world I want to play together, I can do with my current character, without spending a dime or having to leave behind other friends.
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Posted: Mar 29th 2011 5:32PM Bezza said

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...and with all the shards studio's put on they still can't seem to find enough common sence to recognise the need to label some shards as being designated for sub-regions such as Oceania or Australasia. Which leads me to conclude that most studios dont really give a hoot about the wellbeing of their communities unless it effects their profit margins.

A recent good example of this is with Rift, where the US PvE Shard "wolfsbane" is regularly the most populated pve shard in their list. It subsiquently just happens to be the unofficial oceanic server (and was designated as such before launch) which bears out that supporting such communities that exist outside the US/EU would be in the studio's interest. Yet for some reason getting a MMO Developer to simply label (not host) a set of shards as Oceanic is a painfull process that the Oceanic MMO community has to go through every time a new MMO title is realeased.

Posted: Mar 29th 2011 5:38PM Skyydragonn said

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While a single shard system works well for Sandbox games like Eve Online. the crossrealm system that Blizzard introduced a couple years back absolutely destroyed all sense of community within the game. Everyone became a faceless blood elf, or dwarf. PvP opponents were just that a PvP target and were rarely considered an actual player. prior to the crossrealm changes you KNEW who to fear in your battlegrounds by name. becuase they earned a reputation for being just that good. Dungeons were the same way, a players reputation actually meant soemthing, this also served to keep player behavior in check. A ninja-looter would be called out and find it very hard to get into group content due to his penchante for snitching loot drops. With crossrealm, well that all went out the window and it became everyman for himself with little to no regard for the others players in your dungeon run.
While your idealogy of a single mass community sounds good on paper in practice its flawed, even in life rarely is any one person part of such a large community to the extent they are in a game environment. You dont know every person in your town by reputation, name, etc etc like you do on a sharded server. Even in Eve online player community usually only extends to that corp/alliance and players rarely step outside that community within a community.

Posted: Mar 29th 2011 7:37PM (Unverified) said

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@Skyydragonn

So well said! Servers used to be that "community within a larger community" and even on the bigger ones a lot of people knew a lot of other people. Since the cross-server battlegrounds were implemented, the server identity started to erode.
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Posted: Mar 30th 2011 9:39AM DarkWalker said

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@Tempes Magus

Exactly.

Should WoW not use a sharded system, players would be able to add anyone they met on the random queues to their friend lists, assemble new groups with them, invite them to their guilds, etc.

For guilds, it would be a dream come true on the recruitment front. Imagine meeting as many players as you can currently meet in the random queues, but being able to invite any of those players to your guild. Or being able to easily organize "cross-realm" raid PUGs, and being assured you could talk to those players again to either continue the PUG or recruit them.

The sharded system is a very dumb one, IMHO, and it was part of what enabled me to avoid any regrets in leaving WoW after the last of my RL friends that played in the same realm left the game (I have other friends playing the game, but on other realms). I have quite a few friends that play other Blizzard games; if it's Warcraft 3, Starcraft 1 or 2, Diablo 2, we can readily play together. if it's WoW, we can't, at least not without devoting much more effort and/or expense in doing it, and often breaking other in-game relationships. Simple as that.
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Posted: Mar 29th 2011 5:47PM Zenn said

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That is exactly the reason I just stopped bothering to play WoW, make friends on one server, people start wanting to move elsewhere and disperse all over the place and on top of paying the monthly fee you have to keep paying the server transfer fees to keep up with everyone else.

Is it really that much to ask for to have a free server transfer if I've been paying you a year's worth of subscriptions blizzard? I'm pretty damned sure you have enough money to grant me one... Oh wait I forgot you don't have enough money to even provide your Oceanic players with REAL Oceanic servers.

Posted: Mar 29th 2011 5:47PM Zach Adams said

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Having played City of Heroes (sharded) Champions Online (single server), I have to say I LIKE the shard model much better than the universal server. It's not about names or first kills, it's about having the opportunity for each community to develop in its own direction and evolve divergently. And it's less about the presence of, say, RPers in one place than the lack of others. In Champions, it was sometimes very hard to get a big event together because of the difficulty of finding an instance of a given city that had enough space. Is it a little cliquey? Sure. And I admit it's anti-intuitive, too...but I never felt nearly as isolated on Virtue as I did in CO (even with CORP and other RP resources)

Posted: Mar 29th 2011 5:51PM Tiresias said

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There are a few advantages to running shards:

-You can have multiple "game types" (PvE-only, permanently PvP-flagged, free-for-all PvP, permadeath) and can support different playstyles (roleplayers, for example).

-Problems are easier to isolate and don't take the entire game system down on a catastrophic crash (most of the time...).

-Upgrades, both hardware and software, are easier to manage.

-You can allow your players to build a "reputation" more easily since there is a smaller group of people to interact with.

I like the IDEA of EVE Online more than I like the actual GAME. People on the internet are, in general, not very nice to each other. While organized wars do happen at the high levels of gameplay, most of the action is simply people making life hard for other people -- suicide kills, fleet ganks, gate camps, etc.

Games that provide multiple servers often provide multiple gameplay options. If I just don't want to deal with general griefing -- if I want to be able to explore "null sec space" without worrying that a huge fleet of Internet tough guys is going to come along and kill me -- having the option to do so is quite nice.

You can also build community without having everyone on one huge server. I would argue that it's easier to do so, in fact, since you are more likely to run into the same person repeatedly if there is a smaller community to work with.

I do agree that Runescape's system of being able to log into any server at any time should be more common.

Posted: Mar 30th 2011 5:00PM DarkWalker said

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@Tiresias
You are not really considering all factors:

- If characters are not bound to a single shard, the developer can go really crazy with different server types. Want a zombie invasion server? A server permanently at Christmas? A hardcore PvP server without any kind of safe zone? While those would be impossible in the traditional sharded model (no sane player would want to level a character on a zombie apocalypse server), they are feasible with a system akin to Runescape.
Even the traditional PvP, PvE, and RP divisions could be done better. Wanna PvP? change to a PvP server. Wanna RP? go to a RP server.
There could even be technical improvements to the system. In LotRO, each individual server can automatically instance overcrowded zones, and automatically send players to individual instances (with some controls that enable groups to go to the same instance). Imagine the same thing done on a single-shard game, where players were sent around instances based on a group of flags (PvP, RP, etc). You flag for PvP, you stop seeing carebears around you.
EVE is just a single case. What you see there is based more on what the developers actually decided than on some kind of system limitation associated with all single shard games.

- Single shard games only need to go down completely if the problem happens with some piece of central infrastructure - player databases, login servers, that kind of thing; problem in those places will often disturb the whole game, even on sharded games (I have been subject to far more cases of WoW's login servers being down than I care to count). Otherwise, not only the problem should be restricted to a few game zones, it's quite possible extra servers could be used to pick up the load and bring back up affected players much faster than if they had to wait for a specific shard to be repaired.

- Non-sharded games often have an easier time upgrading. Any single server down is not enough to block a player from logging. With a system similar to GW, players would not even notice if a single server was down.

- The community building aspect is another matter; moving away from multiple fixed shards would certainly change the dynamics of community building, and it would not be feasible to predict all effects. But I would prefer the community to not be artificially divided anyway; I do think that being able to find other players that think along the same lines from the whole game (as opposed to just a single shard) would greatly increase the social opportunities, and enable players to create much more tightly knit groups; and even if the conventional server communities died completely, I would gladly accept that if it meant an easier time joining real life friends and finding/creating guilds. Few (community-related) things irk me more than finding the perfect guild I would like to join, only to discover it's on a different server and I would have to abandon all my in-game friends to go join it.
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Posted: Mar 29th 2011 6:06PM Ordegar said

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You forgot to mention Star Trek Online, in which players log in to a single server, but public areas are layered into instances. In STO a player can group with anyone in the STO universe; no server changes. You just won't see everyone who's in the same area as you because it's layered into several instances, and you can change which layer you are in at any time.

This seems to me the way to go. Players can always meet up with friends even if they joined the game at different times because they don't have to worry about multiple servers. Developers' costs are almost as low as the old multi-server system, I imagine, since there are actually multiple servers; it's just mostly transparent to the player.

Posted: Mar 29th 2011 6:36PM StClair said

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@Ordegar :
Even there, however, you can run into issues if you want to get everyone in your fleet, guild, supergroup etc together in a single instance. STO's hard cap of 75 is set way lower than the number of people I've seen in one Atlas Park or Rikti War Zone.
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Posted: Mar 29th 2011 8:28PM ChromeBallz said

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@Ordegar That was pioneered by Guild Wars i believe, but it's a somewhat flawed system. While there is no server list, the individual instances are too small to really feel like you're playing an MMOG - Only the last 2 characters feel like they're significant. In gathering areas you may see more than the usual 20 people together, but combat is disabled there (so more than 20 people can actually gather).

Personally, i don't think that model will really work in the long run, unless they can seriously increase the number of players per instance. Thing is that CO, STO and GW use very cheap tricks to accomplish this, they pretend to be MMO's whereas actually they're badly coded shooter-servers running on virtual machines on demand. IMHO it lessens the overall experience when you're running around an area you *know* thousands of other people are running around too, but you never see or hear them. It also limits the impact players can have on the game world (just like normally sharded games), making for an incredibly rigid experience (much like most mmo's out there ;p)
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Posted: Mar 29th 2011 10:21PM Dharry said

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@Tempes Magus I'm going to have to side with dragon partly. The more players there are the more anonymous individuals become. There'll be a few exceptions, top PvPers, Guild leaders of top guilds and full-time trolls but most people will gravitate to sub-communities.

It's human psychology. Consider the relationships people in villages of a few hundred people will have with each other compared to those in a major city like London, where there can easily be thousands of people within a 100 meter radius.

It's just impossible to be more than a stranger to thousands of people at any time.
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Posted: Mar 30th 2011 12:34AM Brendan Drain said

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@Dharry This I definitely agree with. The more people there are to interact with, the more anonymous each individual user becomes unless he can really make himself stand out of the crowd. EVE is a perfect example of this, where hundreds of thousands of people play but only a handful make a big name for themselves in the wider community. Sharding makes individuals feel more significant relative to the players they are in regular contact with. This could be a big benefit to games with heavily guild-based endgames, as it would keep guilds from feeling like their accomplishments are insignificant.
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Posted: Mar 30th 2011 10:29AM ChromeBallz said

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@Tempes Magus

1) So why disable combat at all? Also, you don't need targets for those oh so pesky AOE abilities, except in, oh, Guild Wars! That's purely to make the netcode more efficient and eliminate periodic checks on distance, so more instances can run per server (as in, server hardware). If checks only need to be made once on demand (and on-screen position can be extrapolated client side to give the semblance of smooth movement) It is disabled in gathering areas not because there are no enemy targets but to prevent any possible abuse of the fact that there's so many connections you can screw with - It's completely possible to crash the node you're in if you were able to use any combat abilities.

2) I only talked about STO, CO and GW as a reply to Ordegar's post. I was talking specifically about the server model those 3 games use, nothing else. Before telling me to 'cite true facts' you may want to learn to read next time.

3) It's most definately not arbitrary or limited by design. Load on the instance server increases exponentially with every single player added to it. A 40 player raid isn't 8 times as heavy as a 5-player dungeon as many people think, because they forget the interactions and data that needs to be calculated and communicated between every player combination in order to synchronize the entire dungeon - A much more reasonable number is 100 times heavier. That's that pesky thing called 'math'. I'd explain but somehow i feel you're going to reply that math doesn't have any addons you can install so you can see your dps >_>
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Posted: Mar 29th 2011 6:19PM Paradigm68 said

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Shards also allow developers to get away with making smaller world. A world meant for 5k to 10k people can be much smaller than a world meant for 25k to 50k people.

Posted: Mar 30th 2011 12:59AM Brendan Drain said

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@Paradigm68 This is definitely true, but I think it runs both ways. World of Warcraft does a good job of making each server feel very populated by concentrating players into one main city. In Wrath it was Dalaran, and in Catalysm it's Ogrimmar. There are only a few thousand players on each server, and the gameplay is balanced assuming those levels, but it feels like the server is well populated.

EverQuest II, on the other hand, does a very poor job of making any one town a focal point and has added a huge number of zones of varying levels over the years. As a result, players are widely spread throughout different zones and most towns are empty a lot of the time. The game felt very empty and hollow when I last played it, and it was only when I got into a guild with a guild hall that I really felt like I was playing with anyone else.

When I last played, I got the impression that EQ2 was built for larger server communities than it actually has. When a game feels like a ghost town on its busiest servers, the incentive to quit does increase.
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Posted: Mar 29th 2011 6:43PM The Ogre said

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"If a war is causing the price of minerals to skyrocket or if an alliance has just captured a station, there is no other copy of the game world in which that didn't happen. This lends actions in the game a very real, solid feel that isn't possible with a sharded MMO."

ie, more people for you to grief since they can't get away from that sort of garbage without leaving the game entirely. No thanks.

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