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Star Wars: The Old Republic: Community Conundrum

MikeBMikeB MMORPG.com Community ManagerQueens, NYPosts: 5,724Administrator Uncommon

How should BioWare handle the server population issues plaguing Star Wars: The Old Republic? We weigh a number of options in this week's SWTOR column.

EA Mythic made the grave mistake of opening too many servers too quickly in order to deal with player demand at launch with Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, and from communications coming out of BioWare during SWTOR’s Early Access I got the notion that the team were painfully aware of this history. The team appeared to be approaching the opening of new servers pretty carefully to avoid the same issue. Unfortunately, something fell apart somewhere and BioWare ended up putting out too many servers to spread out the population.

Read more of Michael Bitton's Star Wars: The Old Republic: Community Conundrum.


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Michael "MikeB" Bitton
Community Manager
Twitter: @eMikeB

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Comments

  • SkuzSkuz WorcesterPosts: 1,034Member Uncommon

    Saying that "they opened too many servers" is way too simplistic a view, they had to open a whole bunch of servers because of the huge queues, their failing was not taking into account a simple phenomenon.



     

    Game Tourism.



     

    That's the large group of transitory players looking to find their Shangri-La, and they leave quite soon after not finding it, in droves, it's a big chunk of the gaming populace.

     

    They failed to recognise this fickle portion of the people who would be making their stort-stay vacation & completely failed to plan for it, server-transfer tech / merging etc should have been a very big part of their hardware management & implimentation strategy & they dropped the friggin' ball, hard.

     

    Firstly the cap on the server populations was ridiculously low, meaning that it was already the case that a "critical mass" of players needed for groups wasn't there for all playstyles even at full capacity.

     

    Secondly, it's going to have taken them over 6 months to get the tech/automation out to finally address the server population issues.....partially, that max server population will still mean problems.

    It's shambolic that with all of the money spent that these fundemental service mistakes took place at all, any decent research would have shown just how launches go & the player drop-off that occurs in virtually all of them, it's mismanagement of the operations and there's a guy responsible for that.

    [mod note  - fixed spacing in post. It's a bug when editing]


  • TheLizardbonesTheLizardbones Arkham, VAPosts: 10,910Member

    It can't be that hard to allow server transfers on a regular or rolling basis.  It can't be that hard to have it be a fully automated system that requires a minimal staff to manage on a part time basis.

     

    I wonder why companies are so against the idea of server transfers.  It just doesn't seem all that relevant to try and keep a server's 'identity' with this type of game.

    I can not remember winning or losing a single debate on the internet.

  • akathosakathos A Wooden ShackPosts: 179Member

    I agree I do still like this game, but the queue's for pvp are too long, and low population during questing can make it very challenging for me. Bring on a trasnfer system. Please :)

  • Ice-QueenIce-Queen USA, GAPosts: 2,451Member Uncommon

    Bioware says they were aware that the population would go down after a few months, and still didn't have a transfer system in place from day 1? I think arrogance got in the way, and they thought that they were going to keep growing, despite all the problems with the game that were brought up in beta.

    Holding back core features that are expected from day 1 in a game of 2011/2012 and putting them on "the wall of crazy" (which means, core features we should have in place day 1 but we'll pitch it to them as content and we're listening to the community), months down the road is unacceptable.

    Pumping up the community for rated pvp to make subscribers come back, only to announce a few days before the patch it would not be included was shady. They're giving out free trial weekend/free 30 days/free 7 days like candy. They're desperate, but still thier arrogance won't let them see the ship is sinking. That's why people call it the Tortanic..."This ship cannot sink". "Subscribers are what hold it together, I assure you, it can and will sink".

    They needed mergers/transfers months ago, they will never get those customers back that they've lost. With mmo's you have a good month, two at the most to hook your playerbase, if you don't, they don't come back, until maybe years down the road when your game is free to play and they're bored waiting on the next big game to come out.

    I wouldn't doubt they are holding back on transfers/merges until GW2 release is announced, so they can try save a lot of subs, since Bioware says transfers are coming early summer.

    image

    What happens when you log off your characters????.....
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFQhfhnjYMk
    Dark Age of Camelot

  • Thoth-AmonThoth-Amon edinburghPosts: 91Member

    given that everythings instanced, couldnt they do an Eve and have one massive, instanced server? isnt the concept of distinct seperate servers an outdated one that introduces more problems than it fixes?

  • DrannyDranny BarnsleyPosts: 276Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Thoth-Amon

    given that everythings instanced, couldnt they do an Eve and have one massive, instanced server? isnt the concept of distinct seperate servers an outdated one that introduces more problems than it fixes?

    I think this would be the best idea but i dont see it happening.

  • shavashava Somerville, MAPosts: 282Member Uncommon

    Bioware appears to have some serious issues with their databases.  They've been chasing an email bug for months, which they've declared squashed in their patch notes, which is still in place kicking errors from their asset server but not preventing people (finally!) from removing items and credits from in-game email attachments.  

    For months, they were unwilling to even acknowledge this bug in their known issues, despite hundreds of users freaking out on the forums about it, which likely means that thousands of users at a minimum were freaking out in game.  You can find this just by searching the forums for my username on the swtor forums, as I was/am subbed to about twenty forum threads concerned with the bug.

    As a person who understands something of modern MMO programming, what this implies to me is that there's a possibility that Bioware, as a single-player game company historically, doesn't really have a solid grasp of MMO programming -- the communications between their asset server and other pieces of the complex system that makes up the rats nest may have been rushed out the door in December by EA for the Christmas release, and there may be five million lines of code in there where the right hand doesn't quite know what the left hand is doing in some cases.

    These systems are ALWAYS a miracle that they work at all, IMO -- when I was a young woman, I was an operating systems programmer and network protocol programmer and we were sort of the kings and queens of the hill for gosh-wow for geekery, but game systems have it on an order of magnitude on operating systems in the 80s for complexity by far.

    So automating character transfers is not as trivial as you might think really, depending on how the character data is set up.  If the characters are set up from the get-go to be portable -- all assets are local to the record once acquired -- then it's simple.  But very few things end up like that.  Equipment probably is.  But progression in quests certainly is not.  PVP progression certainly is not.  Guild information is not and friends lists and so on -- does all of that just get stripped and abandoned?  How about special achievements, like standings related stuff from PVP, does that transfer?  Many of these things are not simple assets on a trivial many-to-one "yeah, I just own this" relationship to the avatar, on an internals basis.

    As a result, they might well require dev-ine intervention to cull, integrate, copy, and reintegrate the record on the other side, for each character, rather than be easily automated.  This is why so many games charge for character transfers.

    Good on Trion that they planned for it.  It can and usually does get fugly.

  • TheLizardbonesTheLizardbones Arkham, VAPosts: 10,910Member


    Originally posted by Thoth-Amon
    given that everythings instanced, couldnt they do an Eve and have one massive, instanced server? isnt the concept of distinct seperate servers an outdated one that introduces more problems than it fixes?

    I wonder about this too. Why even have named servers in the first place? It's a faction versus faction game...why have named servers in the first place? I mean, if Cryptic can do it, you'd think anyone could do it.

    I can not remember winning or losing a single debate on the internet.

  • WickedjellyWickedjelly Yahoo, COPosts: 4,990Member

    They have done a horrific job managing their population in this game. They learned nothing from Warhammer that I can see. They went overboard on their servers and now have taken way too long to fix the issue. It is ridiculous because they have lost paying customers over it at this point and caused irreperable damage to the communtiy as a whole.

    This isn't the only company, but it is simply amazing how many of these companies continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. There have only been how many mmorpg launches yet these companies act utterly clueless in how they manage their game and the decisions they make.

    These fools could have been the next juggernaut in the mmo world and have proceeded to fuck up in just about every way imaginable. Going to be really interesting considering the sales they had and the numbers they had at one point compared to where they will be at their one year anniversary point.

    1. For god's sake mmo gamers, enough with the analogies. They're unnecessary and your comparisons are terrible, dissimilar, and illogical.

    2. To posters feeling the need to state how f2p really isn't f2p: Players understand the concept. You aren't privy to some secret the rest are missing. You're embarrassing yourself.

    3. Yes, Cpt. Obvious, we're not industry experts. Now run along and let the big people use the forums for their purpose.

  • BereKinBereKin SplitPosts: 287Member

    You know, at the beginning hype was overvelming and many wanted to be first to play the game. Bioware opened too many servers thinking that numbers of players would go just up, but after a while numbers started to decline, biggest reason being poor and mediocre game. Well, I hope they will learn something from that.

  • nyxiumnyxium Posts: 1,222Member Uncommon

    Blizzard have come up with some kind of fancy cross-server zoning thing. Maybe Bioware could do that? Meh.


    image
  • eyeswideopeneyeswideopen Fresno, CAPosts: 2,414Member

    Originally posted by Thoth-Amon

    given that everythings instanced, couldnt they do an Eve and have one massive, instanced server? isnt the concept of distinct seperate servers an outdated one that introduces more problems than it fixes?

    Their pieced together, hacked to shit version of Heroengine would crumble to dust the second they flipped that "single server" on.

    -Letting Derek Smart work on your game is like letting Osama bin Laden work in the White House. Something will burn.-
    -And on the 8th day, man created God.-

  • kanezfankanezfan margate, FLPosts: 482Member

    Like with everything else in this game, they are a day late and a dollar short. They failed to plan for anything but success and now that the game is tanking, they're scrambling to find answers but it's too late. I think the one thing that could actually salvage this train wreck for them is to make the game B2P with a cash shop for non P2W stuff. That would probably bring back some players and they could maintain probably a good 10 servers per region. They're stubborn and think they are gods though so they won't and they'll be shocked when the game is turned off in a year. Pathetic.

  • Mors.MagneMors.Magne LondonPosts: 1,420Member

    I think MMORPGs are going out of fashion because of the recession in the EU. MMORPGs are generally far more expensive than nomal games.

    I don't expect MMORPGs to 'take off' again in a big way for many years.

    WoW flourished in a 'Golden Age' that was golden in more ways than one.

  • McGamerMcGamer Fairfield Bay, ARPosts: 1,012Member

    It's not called tourism like that other poster claimed, it's called BW made a crappy game that only appeals to a niche fanbase. It's too bad BW didn't focus on appealing to the actual SW fanbase instead of going the greedy and lazy route of trying to clone WoW.

  • skydiver12skydiver12 burgundPosts: 432Member

    I don't agree here at all.
    Following the reasoning of EAWARE has opened to many servers (or like WArhammer did).
    You unavoidable state it's a good thing to have people wait 4 hours in queues. Which i would say is about damaging as empty server remnants.

    If we would have a "What if done right" scenario, it would involve this three steps to success:  

    1. Have enough capacity for all your customers.
    2. HAVE PLANS AND WORKING & TESTED IMPLEMENTATIONS TO ADJUST SERVER POPULATION WHEN NEEDED.
    3. PROFIT


    MMO publisher all act like we are back in 2001.  Either they should think ahead and stop using the "SERVER" framework or have proper plans for a phenomenon which is already happening since at least 4 years. Having a working painless transfer system isn't optional. EAWare still managed to dodge this simple fact. They earn what they sow.

    Add Faction PVP to it, and it's borderline asine to not have a working transfer system.

    WAR learned it the hard way.
    AoC learned it the hard way.
    Aion learned it the hard way.
    Rift learned it the hard way.
    SWTOR hasn't understood it even 6 month into retail @ 2012.

  • VesaviusVesavius BristolPosts: 7,645Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by Mors.Magne

    I think MMORPGs are going out of fashion because of the recession in the EU. MMORPGs are generally far more expensive than nomal games.

     

    eh, what?

    I spend far FAR less on gaming when I am in to a MMORPG...

    When I am not I tend to burn through single player games pretty quickly, and thats a lot more expensive.

     

    MMORPGs are dropping out of fashion though, I agree with that, now that the WoW bubble is popping in slow motion.

    Personally though I have never cared much for fashion and getting back to it's nerd roots may be exactly what the genre needs.

  • mmoguy43mmoguy43 , CAPosts: 2,446Member Uncommon

    Make a single shard server :D

    So what if every zone has 15 instances

  • BeansnBreadBeansnBread PshPosts: 5,502Member Uncommon

    They should have been ready to merge servers like every other developer since the dark ages. Then this "problem" would have been resolved.

     

    Sometimes I get the feeling like they have too much pride to just get the merges over with. And then I remember that they stated it wasn't possible at this point and I throw up a little bit in my mouth.

  • Mors.MagneMors.Magne LondonPosts: 1,420Member

    Originally posted by Vesavius

    Originally posted by Mors.Magne

    I think MMORPGs are going out of fashion because of the recession in the EU. MMORPGs are generally far more expensive than nomal games.

     

    eh, what?

    I spend far FAR less on gaming when I am in to a MMORPG...

    When I am not I tend to burn through single player games pretty quickly, and thats a lot more expensive.

     

    MMORPGs are dropping out of fashion though, I agree with that, now that the WoW bubble is popping in slow motion.

    Personally though I have never cared much for fashion and getting back to it's nerd roots may be exactly what the genre needs.

    If you play 1 MMORPG for 1 year (Eve Online, say) cost =  $ 131.4  or 131.4 Euros or £90

    Also you have to include the cost of any purchased items / in-game currency.

    Now compare this to a 'normal' game (say 40 Euros/Dollars/pounds)

    So MMORPGs are at least twice as expensive on average.

    The recession in the EU is looking increasingly deep.

    In the future, I could be spending my money on supplying my garden shed with tinned food!

     

  • PalaziousPalazious Lewiston, IDPosts: 162Member

    I don't think they opened with too many servers as there were a ton a players at launch.

    But I have no idea why game developers launch without a server transfer system in place for when the initial population burst dies down.

    Almost every MMO launch has this happen and everytime within 3-4 months after launch they are scrambling to create a transfer system while the players on low pop servers scream and leave.

    Every MMO HAS to have a working transfer system in place prior to launch.

     

    "Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it"

     

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  • Rikus25Rikus25 Aubrey, TXPosts: 82Member
    Originally posted by Skuz

    Saying that "they opened too many servers" is way too simplistic a view, they had to open a whole bunch of servers because of the huge queues, their failing was not taking into account a simple phenomenon.

    Game Tourism.

    That's the large group of transitory players looking to find their Shangri-La, and they leave quite soon after not finding it, in droves, it's a big chunk of the gaming populace.

    They failed to recognise this fickle portion of the people who would be making their stort-stay vacation & completely failed to plan for it, server-transfer tech / merging etc should have been a very big part of their hardware management & implimentation strategy & they dropped the friggin' ball, hard.

    Firstly the cap on the server populations was ridiculously low, meaning that it was already the case that a "critical mass" of players needed for groups wasn't there for all playstyles even at full capacity.

    Secondly, it's going to have taken them over 6 months to get the tech/automation out to finally address the server population issues.....partially, that max server population will still mean problems.

    It's shambolic that with all of the money spent that these fundemental service mistakes took place at all, any decent research would have shown just how launches go & the player drop-off that occurs in virtually all of them, it's mismanagement of the operations and there's a guy responsible for that.

    Well Said

  • ElikalElikal ValhallaPosts: 7,906Member Uncommon

    Sound advise, but alas I think Bioware is... what is the word? Consultingresistant.

    People don't ask questions to get answers - they ask questions to show how smart they are. - Dogbert

  • Rikus25Rikus25 Aubrey, TXPosts: 82Member

    Originally posted by colddog04

    Be ready to merge servers like every other developer since the dark ages and this "problem" is resolved.

     

    Sometimes I get the feeling like they have too much pride to just get the merges over with. And then I remember that they stated it wasn't possible at this point and I throw up a little bit in my mouth.


     

    I think you are right because every troll will get on here and other sites stating the "failure" of the game is indicative to a server merge. That is not a sign of anything other than server and population management. As Skuz put in his post there is a large population of game tourism and believe it or not that is a large population. Those are they who are looking for a "perfect" MMO which doesnt and never will exist because everybody cannot be pleased.

  • ElikalElikal ValhallaPosts: 7,906Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by shava

    Bioware appears to have some serious issues with their databases.  They've been chasing an email bug for months, which they've declared squashed in their patch notes, which is still in place kicking errors from their asset server but not preventing people (finally!) from removing items and credits from in-game email attachments.  

    For months, they were unwilling to even acknowledge this bug in their known issues, despite hundreds of users freaking out on the forums about it, which likely means that thousands of users at a minimum were freaking out in game.  You can find this just by searching the forums for my username on the swtor forums, as I was/am subbed to about twenty forum threads concerned with the bug.

    As a person who understands something of modern MMO programming, what this implies to me is that there's a possibility that Bioware, as a single-player game company historically, doesn't really have a solid grasp of MMO programming -- the communications between their asset server and other pieces of the complex system that makes up the rats nest may have been rushed out the door in December by EA for the Christmas release, and there may be five million lines of code in there where the right hand doesn't quite know what the left hand is doing in some cases.

    These systems are ALWAYS a miracle that they work at all, IMO -- when I was a young woman, I was an operating systems programmer and network protocol programmer and we were sort of the kings and queens of the hill for gosh-wow for geekery, but game systems have it on an order of magnitude on operating systems in the 80s for complexity by far.

    So automating character transfers is not as trivial as you might think really, depending on how the character data is set up.  If the characters are set up from the get-go to be portable -- all assets are local to the record once acquired -- then it's simple.  But very few things end up like that.  Equipment probably is.  But progression in quests certainly is not.  PVP progression certainly is not.  Guild information is not and friends lists and so on -- does all of that just get stripped and abandoned?  How about special achievements, like standings related stuff from PVP, does that transfer?  Many of these things are not simple assets on a trivial many-to-one "yeah, I just own this" relationship to the avatar, on an internals basis.

    As a result, they might well require dev-ine intervention to cull, integrate, copy, and reintegrate the record on the other side, for each character, rather than be easily automated.  This is why so many games charge for character transfers.

    Good on Trion that they planned for it.  It can and usually does get fugly.



    Hm, interesting insight, but for again it comes down to: they NEVER should have bought the Hero Engine, but they should have made their own engine, which could have been tailor-made for their own needs.

    People don't ask questions to get answers - they ask questions to show how smart they are. - Dogbert

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