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Should Servers be Merged?

WoWScrnShot_030513_211724This week’s Community Blog Topic on WoW Insider asks us, should servers be merged?

The idea of this is to combat the issue of servers becoming deserted with declining WoW subscriptions exacerbated with character transfers enabling players on these declining servers to seek out more populated ones. Merging servers would mean combining low and medium pop servers together to create medium or high pop servers, and shutting down the old servers.

It’s clear something needs to be done, already low pop servers are seeing more and more players fleeing to higher population servers, and who can blame them? Low population servers have less raiding opportunities, less guilds, and a weaker economy. While players who enjoy the solo aspects of the game more, or those who don’t want a guild and are content with LFD and LFR, a low population server may be just fine with them.

There’s another aspect to this problem a lot of players don’t consider though, and that is players fleeing low population servers have to go somewhere, and that’s usually server’s with already healthy populations. Except, with more and more players migrating every day, these server’s populations are quickly swelling past healthy levels.

I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but at the end of Firelands, after the raiding guild I was in blew up, I transferred to US-Stormrage for better raiding opportunities. When I transferred, Stormrage was in the top 15 servers for progression, was in the Eastern time zone, and had an Alliance:Horde ratio of 25:1. Now though, Stormrage is ranked third in progression for US servers, and first Alliance dominated server in North America with Mal’Ganis being an apparently completely Horde server, and Frostmourne being an Oceanic server. Stormrage also now apparently has an Alliance to Horde ratio of 100:1, so clearly I wasn’t the only Alliance player who had the idea of transferring to Stormrage. Last week’s sale on character services only made the matter worse apparently, as last night we had over 30 minute queue times trying to log in for raids. On a Monday.

So, clearly, something needs to be done, but what options does Blizzard have to fix these problems?

Cross Realm

Clearly Cross Realm was a step by Blizzard to try and alleviate some of the effects of low population servers. The way Cross Realm Zones work though, treat the symptom of low population servers, deserted zones, and not the cause. Most of the Cross Realm technology is focused on making deserted zones less deserted, but it also lets you group and raid old content cross realm. There are obviously limitations to the current implementation of current Cross Realm implementation:

  • You can’t raid current content across realms;
  • You can’t join guilds across realms;
  • Capitals and major hubs are exempt from CRZ, empty or not;
  • You can’t trade across realms, and that includes the Auction House.

It seems to me that in order to make Cross Realm technology a solution for low population realms, the following changes would need to be made to the current implementation of Cross Realm technology:

  • Current raid content will need to have Cross Realm grouping enabled;
  • Guilds will need to be able to span across realms;
  • There would need to be a way to find pugs cross-realm;
  • Enable a Cross Realm Auction House.

Back in February I talked about the potential for Cross Realm Auction Houses and what effects I thought that would have. I’m sure that the other items on that list would have strong effects too. Basically, the Cross Realm technology would have to be so immersive  that there would be no benefit to being on a populated server.

Controlled Migration

Another option is to control which servers players can move to and from. As it stands, for a not insignificant amount of money you can move a character to any server you want, with very few limitations. This is what’s causing many of the problems with population imbalance, players fleeing bad server conditions make the conditions worse which causes more players to leave. It’s a snow ball effect.

Basically Blizzard would have to prevent transfers of characters to high population servers (presumably there would be exceptions if you already have characters on that server), and encourage migration to lower population servers, likely by offering free transfer, or at the least discounted. To make this work there might also have to be limitations on new character creation on the high population servers for accounts that don’t already have characters on the server.

However, this may still leave us with server with unsustainable population servers, leaving us with still having to consider merging servers…

Merging Servers

Now, the reason I started this topic in the first place, the possibility of server merging. The idea behind this is that Blizzard would take some of the lowest population realms and combine them together to make new realms with moderate to high populations. While there are objections around realm identities, one of the most challenging technical issues with this proposal will be names.

Players become very attached to their characters, and a character’s name is an important part of their identity. While the servers are considered low population, there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of players on each server, and chances are there will be duplicate names on merged servers.

When you pay for a server transfer and the target server already has a character with the name of the character you’re transferring, you’re forced to name change. That won’t fly with server merges though, because you’ll be forcing players to transfer servers, while with a paid transfer they know what they’re getting into.

The only option for server merging it seems would be either the introduction of last names for characters (presumably limited to your account) or using the realm suffix like they do in Looking for Raid, Looking for Dungeon, etc.

Personally, I think merging servers would be the best solution, along with a bit of controlled migration. I know I’m pretty sick of having to worry about queue times during the week, and I’m sure players on the lower pop realms without the funds to transfer their characters are sick of not having enough people to do anything as well.

Whatever Blizzard decides to do, I think they need to pick their poison and deliver it quickly, because clearly their current course of letting it be is not working.

About the author

Eric Dekker

Gamer. Student. Nerd. Author of The Golden Crusade. Find him on + and Twitter.

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  1. Ishtla

    I agree that servers have needed to be merged for a long time (and if virtual servers are as poorly implemented as CRZ they may not have a choice). In regards to the name issue the best way Blizzard could handle this is to announce which servers we will be allowed to transfer to giving people a say in where they go and an chance to keep their name.

  2. Soco

    If you decide you want to move to a new server You can armory the name you want. If it’s already taken on your desired server you can click on the persons armory if they come back saying something like not found it means they haven’t been online in either one month or three months (I forget). If this is the case you can contact a GM and ask them to make the name available. Providing the character isn’t active they’ll usually oblige. I’ve done this a few times now.

    They won’t rename your character for you but they will flag the other person for a rename and the name will become available again. It’s then first come first served as to who gets the name.

  3. Raoul

    I have been on Stormrage for years and these queues drive me crazy. I think it is unacceptable that Blizz does not increase the capacity to accommodate the load and that they continue to allow new people to transfer. I can’t think of any other paid services which provides such deplorable access to service.

    Queues create another problem also, camping. Once I get logged on now, I stay on even if I am done for the night just in case I want to get on again and check something. I realize this could be seen as selfish… but it is my solution to Blizz’s lack of one.

    IMHO, after 8PM EST you are waiting for 30-60 minutes. Closer to 60 if it is Tuesday-Thursday.

  4. felpaw

    WoW needs to do something yes they still have a good sub base but Rift when free to play and omg did the servers fill up WoW should go free to play and have a good cash shop to support there server maintenance and i think this is why they are server merging to do just that. if they go free to play i’ll come back because the game is fun but i hate paying a sub on a game unless like in rift you get perks for doing so. WoW has had its time in the sun but ever since Wraith it has been going down hill quick.best advice i can give wow is quit rehashing old shit and develop new dungeons and raids like in BC and do away with the three diff raid type and get back to old school thats why people keep leaving you have forgot what made the game great in BC and vanilla.

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