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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.