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The First of Many?

Had my first Cross-Realm Zone fail on Tuesday night.

It was around 11:30pm when I was doing some last-minute AH shopping before logging off, that I saw the “LFM Sha” in Trade Chat. I whispered the guy and asked if he really thought he’d get enough people at this late an hour (on this dead realm of all places). He seemed reasonably confident, so I joined. Soon enough, I witnessed the source of his confidence: you can apparently form cross-realm raid groups to fight world bosses.

I was shocked. Yeah, I knew CRZ was a thing, and I knew you could group with cross-realm people. But raids on world bosses? I am not sure of the mechanics of the inviting process, whether he had friends log onto alts on other realms and advertise in Trade or whatever, but we had 40 people in less than ten minutes. It almost makes me wonder why Blizzard even bothers with world bosses under this paradigm – it felt just like an LFR system minus the automation.

Definitely configuring Grid next time.

Definitely configuring Grid next time.

The fight went fine, with the Sha dying just slightly faster than the raid wipe well in process. I died in the final moments and elected to not release just to be sure; TBC has a way of carving archaic rulesets into one’s permanent memory. I received the purple box, made an extra roll via Elder Charm, and received a thoroughly inadequate sum of gold. At this point, I released and started running back. “So and So is attempting to resurrect you.” Accepting the (Mass) Resurrection, I prepared to loot the quest item from the corpse… what the hell? The Sha has respawned?!

The Sha appeared to be alive and well, with nary a corpse to be seen. I imagine what happened was that those of us on Auchindoun had been pulled into someone else’s realm and defeated the Sha there. I am not sure whether the transition back to Auch was due to accepting the rez, or the person whose realm the Sha died on leaving the raid, or whatever else. Bottom line: no quest item, and no way to even determine where the raid boss’s body I just killed was located.

"Average Wait Time: 2 Days, 50 minutes."

It’s been 24 hours since then, and the queue has moved 4 minutes.

My guild mate and I put in our tickets, but it remains to be seen whether CustServ will honor our requests. Well, not Joeses’ request, but perhaps mine. Regardless, I suppose the CRZ mechanic made the kill possible (and the chance at random loot) where it would not have happened otherwise. Of course, so would simply putting the world boss in a more formal LFR setting. All the CRZ seemed to do in this instance was introduce novel ways of getting screwed.

Things Are Looking Grim

Yeah… I’m not sure about this whole WoW thing anymore. Again.

I have not really bothered logging in since the last time I wrote about it, which means I am less than 10 quests into the expansion on any character. On Tuesday, I had an extra long length of time available to play, so I buckled down for the long-haul. Before heading out of Stormwind again though, I decided to continue feeding Auctionator some additional data and perhaps looking into pimping my 85s a bit with some blue gear. Or, hey! I have alts with professions that need leveled, so why not kill half a dozen birds with some AH stones in the form of buying some crafting mats?

Let’s see here… wait a minute…

Wait, that's TOTAL?

Wait, that’s TOTAL?

I thought Auctionator was bugging out on me when it completed the AH scan in literally two seconds, while also stating there are 52 epic items scanned. “That can’t possibly be correct… can it?” Yes, in fact, it can. A generic search for epic items in all categories reveals a total of 137 auctions (presumably 52 unique items). Now, it is certainly possible that I have missed a major announcement when it comes to scaling back BoE epic items, and Wowhead is telling me there are are only 134 epic non-BoP, non-heroic raid items in this expansion.

But what is being presented to me here is truly ridiculous. Aunchindoun-US was always a low-pop server, but as my early posts under PVsAH demonstrated, there was at least a functioning marketplace where you could be a big fish in a little pond. What I am seeing is not a little pond, it is moist patch of earth. Checking even the expansion staples like Ghost Iron and Green Tea Leaves only confirmed my suspicions. My faction’s AH officially qualifies as a failed state.

This discovery completely killed the mood, and I logged off. It is obviously possible to level up and even raid without a functioning economy, but why would you? I have mentioned before that I want to play games I can invest in, or at least feel the simulation of investment. Knowing the economy is dead, knowing the server is dead, and knowing that Blizzard isn’t ever going to bite the goddamn bullet and put realms like Auchindoun out of its misery means my incentive to push forward is dead. Server transfer, I hear you ask? Literally $250. Otherwise, if I have to abandon all my alts with all their professions (and pay $25 on top of it all) just for opportunity to have fun playing your game on one character… well, I politely decline.

For the past three expansions, Blizzard has been solving all the problem elements of low-pop servers except the one that matters: the server itself. Play BGs with everyone else, run dungeons with everyone else, raid with everyone else, and now even quest with everyone else. Isn’t it about time you let us be with everyone else?

Megaserver

In the recent The Elder Scrolls Online preview video, the part that piqued my interest was when they started talking about the “megaserver,” e.g. going serverless. Incidentally, this topic was something I wrote about just over a year ago:

  • Eliminate named, permanent servers entirely.

Essentially, set up the servers like an ice-cube tray and as each server fills up, it spills over into the next server, and divide it all into game regions. One huge benefit of this would be to allow there to always be a steady population of people leveling in every zone for group questing, etc.

Example: if I went to Borean Tundra right now, there may be 1 person questing there on Auchindoun, and maybe 5 on Maeiv, and 50 on Tichondrius. Under this methodology, there would be 56, up until an arbitrary cut-off. And if the cut-off is 100, I would have it start transferring people to a second zone instance at around ~70 so the 101st guy isn’t off by himself. The key would be to make it subtle, with no load-screen or anything. With phasing technology it should not be a problem.

Obviously, my Nostradamus-like predicting skills failed to account for the very real structural problems WoW has with Cross-Realm Zones (people = competition, etc). But as is demonstrated with games like Guild Wars 2, it is quite possible to foster a more-is-merrier environment with a few tweaks to the formula. And, indeed, the TESO video goes on to say a lot of GW2-esque things in terms of everyone getting equal credit for kills, no competition between players, and so on.

With the formula issue settled, and provided there are methods available to get into the same “instance” as your friends, are there really any good arguments against going serverless?

Keen’s soft criticism of TESO likely being all “instancing and lobbying” falls a bit flat to me when he graded GW2′s “Presentation of a MMORPG World” a B+; not only is GW2 pretty heavily instanced already (plus Overflow servers), there is literally an in-game PvP lobby as well. As long as the frequency of load screens is kept to a minimum, I don’t think many people will be able to tell any difference. And, hell, if the TESO programmers can engineer some WoW-level seamless map transitions instead, it will be a major design coup.

In any case, the Megaserver deal was the only actual thing that piqued my interest with the TESO gamble thus far. Some people are flogging the “real game begins at endgame” statement, but that is arguably true in any MMO with finite levels.¹ Design musings aside, I am much more concerned about whether it would be fun to play, which is something we will not be able to see until the inevitable beta buy-in.

¹ Yes, including GW2. Unless you managed to complete your Story or jump to Orr straightaway, content was gated by your level. To say nothing about how one’s behavior² likely changes at the cap in regards to farming explorable dungeons, legendaries, and vanity gear in general.

² Bhagpuss notwithstanding, of course.