Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Server Splits vs Freezing Character Creation

One item of controversy recently is the news that Blizzard is testing server splits to reduce the number of people on several of the more popular servers. After seeing queues of 400+ people on Skywall last week--and knowing that other servers have even worse queues--I think it's a good idea.

If voluntary free transfers didn't solve the problem, it's clear that Blizzard needs to take more drastic steps. As well, Blizzard's proposed implementation seems pretty decent to me. They seem to be trying to keep guilds together as best they can, and having guild members default to the guild leader's new server is a very good idea.

However, there are a lot of other people who don't like this idea, who think that splitting servers would destroy a server's unique culture. And this may well happen. But the other solution most often proposed, freezing the creation of new characters, is worse than server splits.

To see what I mean, consider how you chose your first realm. I rolled on Burning Blade because a real life friend had rolled there. And I suspect that most people had similar reasons. They chose their first server in order to play with friends or family.

Freezing character creation on specific realms directly prevents new people from playing with their friends. That stops them from playing the game before they even start. New people are the lifeblood of this game, and Blizzard has to make sure their experience is as pleasant as possible.

Preventing people from rolling characters to play with their friends is one of the surest ways to turn people off this game, which is why Blizzard will chose to go with server splits instead.

Of course server splits have the potential to prevent you from playing with some of your friends. But you can still play with the majority of them. As well, having a little more experience with the game means that we can adapt to the situation better.

A game without new players dies eventually. Word of mouth is still the best way to get new people into the game. But for word of mouth to work, new people need to be able to play with their friends, to roll characters on even the most crowded servers. (After all, if the servers are crowded, that's a lot of people who could be introducing new people to WoW.) And this is more important than the need for the elites of the game to maintain their server culture.

Of the three choices--500+ queues, server splits, or frozen account creation--I believe that server splits offer the best trade-off, and is the least damaging to the long term health of the game.


  1. I agree with you.

    I've introduced nearly a dozen people to WoW and they all started on my server. I know that the majority of them would not have picked up the game if I told them, "Yeah, it's a great game, but you woun't be able to play with me on my server."

  2. The whole server split thing launched a fresh wave of guild drama for us as folks started worrying that our server was going to experience a split immediately.

    In reality - we're likely nowhere close. I agree - a split - is far more palatable (to me) than an outright *freeze*.

    Oh - and it probably also allows Blizzard another revenue stream in the future...they'll think of something ;)

  3. I'm pretty sure that the server splits will only happen on heavily overpopulated servers. Servers like my own, Runetotem, while experiencing wait queues, I doubt will be split. Also, some of the wait time are due to the fact that its just after Christmas, and many people just started playing the game (or started playing again) all at the same time, creating a surge in character population. Couple that with the expansion coming out very soon and people logging in in anticipation, and you get a recipe for wait queues. It'll probably quiet down in a month or two.

    Baelor of Runetotem

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  5. daryl, I can't in good conscience link to a site that advertises itself as providing "exploits" for WoW.