Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Unity and the space/time continuum

Ahh blog titles. What fun we have together. Also a technical note, while I fiddle with the html, any links needed are on the sidebar or in the title.

For a great many people who may read this (honestly I've no idea how many do), the point may at first blush seem pointless.

Servers! Then when and where of them.

This is nothing to do with rulesets like core or Pvp or Rp or what have you. This is more to do with geographic separation, time differences and why I play where I do.

The where I play comes from a quick history lesson. My very first MMO was EA/Westwoods shortlived Earth & Beyond. There were three servers as far as I recall and all of them American. Galileo (my server and later I discovered the rp inclined one), Andromeda (An-drama-da) and you know... I don't recall the last one.

I live five hours ahead of the east coast of America and have always done, barring a two year stint in Canada. This oddly worked out very well for me playing an American game on American times and servers. When I had had my dinner, been with my friends and all the other little bits of life, people were home from work or school and getting their game on. Weekends if I stayed up late, Pacific people would show up and I was garunteed things to do pretty much all the time.

Fast forward to recent times. I'm playing City of Heroes. In the coalition we have British people, me from Ireland (honestly are there any other Ireland based mmo players?), EST people, PST people, a handful from Brazil and a bunch from Australia. Because of the time differences, sure it can be hard to get us all in one spot at one time. Inevitably someone ends up losing sleep. On the other hand, the world for me is collected in my coalition and there is almost always something to do, be it roleplay or teaming without me having to PUG it.

That's not going to be quite the option in Warhammer though for me. Mythic, for whatever reason they have, is separating servers. There are going to be Oceanic, EU and NA servers. Sure it may cut down lag as people wont have to connect to a computer half the world away. Sure it may concentrate the number of servers so more people at your play time are available in your timezone. It seems the best way from a technology and numbers standpoint.
Is it the best way for the rest of us? I don't think I'm sold on it.

They already recognise that gamers are going to connect at any time no matter where they are. I interviewed for the position of English GM for Warhammer here in Dublin (and I'm still waiting for a yes or no GOA) and it was asked if I minded doing late night shifts as the customer service and GM positions are 24 hour jobs. People will play through the night, all day and everywhere in between.

Obviously there are merits to separating servers, be it by load limit or by geography. Otherwise why would they do it? Not everyone feels the need. Eve, even though it is a different beast entirely, for the longest time had one main server. Tranquility. All the world was welcome to make a quick ISK or shoot down someone else chasing that New Eden dream all in the same place.

However because of this separation, arbitrary and spinks from the fantastic Book of Grudges wont be able to participate in the Open Beta blogger guild organised by Boathammer.
Because of the separation, I may find playing on NA servers a little quiet when I get home from work, and find I miss some of the best battles because I have to sleep sometime.

For the North Americans reading, you face the same question but in a smaller way. Do you pick a predominantly pacific server when you live in New York because you work late? Do you make do with lower server population because you are on at, for America, an odd time? Do you then do what I am doing, only backwards. Do you pick an EU server or Oceanic server so that despite odd working hours you will still have people to play with?

In the end it comes down to something Tobold mentioned on his blog about the future of grouping. Warhammer is making it easy for you to hop on and hop right in to a group doing what you want or join a public quest instantly so even the most casual of gamers can feel as though they took part in a meaningful manner.

But in the virtual world, where all are supposedly equal before the 0's and 1's, is the future of grouping still divided by geography?

Personally I will always go for NA servers. It's where my friends are. Friends I am only going to meet in person for the first time this January. Distance has never mattered before, it's just a pity it may matter now.


arbitrary said...

We always talked about playing on US servers for DAoC, but we never went ahead and did it.

However, I did do it the other way around as I moved to Florida for two years while still playing on the EU servers. I loved it. I worked from home so was easy for me to stick to UK times.

But when LotRO and WoW came about, I played on the Euro servers again (I'd moved back by then), and now with WAR we're going to do the same again.

I'm not sure why, I've heard both good and bad things about why playing on US is better... but in the end, the majority of my friends have always played Euro, so we never switch.

I'm pretty sad I won't get to meet up in Boathammer's blogger's guild (I favour the name Qwerty, btw).

And I look forward to hearing about you and the job - I thought of applying, but it would mean a fair relocation for me, and I was worried everyone there would be in their early 20s and I'd feel a dino! And I'm a bit of a part-time worker too :-)

Maybe we'll bump into one another at Games Day. Would be cool to share a coffee/beer break!

Ardua said...

I'll answer everything backwards :P

For Gamesday, sure! Just look of for tall, hairy and confused. I'm on a god awful 6.30 am flight so I'll likely be at the NEC two hours before it opens. God help me.

As far as the job is concerned, I've been watching the Manpower Ireland site. GOA is now (and has been for a few weeks) also looking for QA testers to help test the Beta and test new content as and when it occurs. I am somewhat miffed that they've not given me a yes or no yet, still they're (hopefully) busy people. Also looking around the office when I was there, there are all sorts involved, so likely maturity and experience will initially win a job faster than youth and a tendancy to not sleep. Any road up Dublin is awfully expensive so it's likely not worth your bother :P

For yourself ans server issues, wherever you found yourself in the world, you did find it easy to play EU and stick with your friends, as you say the inverse of me. That's always the best option really. What's the point of a massively multiplayer if you don't play with people you like or friends? It's just a pity there are no unified servers on which we could all play and spank those damn greenies. Given how in they are with GOA, I doubt there'd ever be a consolidation. Ah well.

Copperbird said...

Re: Other irish MMO players

There are tons! Lots of them are in my guild alliance in WoW. I was actually going to ask if you played WoW and were in The Red Branch :)

Ardua said...

Of course they'd all have to be in WoW, one of the few big MMO's I've never really tried.

So no, I'm not there. I'll ask my brother though, he may be.