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Holding Back Server Names Does More Harm Than Good

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Carbine is using a tired and ineffective page from the MMO operations play book. In order to avoid mega servers, that is servers that are overflowing with a disproportionate % of the population trying to setup there, they are holding back the names of their servers.

On paper this sounds like a good plan, but the reality is holding back the names of servers removes the ability for large communities to effectively plan.

There was a time in FFXIV Aureus Knights was >~5% of Gilgamesh’s population during prime time and we are only the third largest guild on the server. For us planning the server we go on is one of the most important decisions we make.

We spend around 10+ hours over 3-5 days making our server decisions. There’s a long list of things we research: are there other guilds that occupy our niche? are there guilds we want to avoid? are there guilds we want to be close to? what type of tone do we think this server will have? will we be able to effectively participate in the type of content we want to participate in on this server?

There’s few decisions we take as seriously as server selection.

And when the companies who make these games hold back the server list to the last minute we end up in a situation where we work with highly imperfect information. The end result ALWAYS is that you end up with more imperfect clustering of people.

When we’ve faced time constraints before our goal instantly becomes to pick the second most populated server, it’s really the only decision we can make given the time and information we will have available while still setting us up to be on a server that won’t be dead in the future.

The exercise becomes something like this: Find the most packed server, avoid it. Find a server with a bunch of like minded guilds that’s not that first server, go there. The problem is that second server ends up becoming packed as well when the first server starts to queue up.

The truth is mega servers, or at least full servers with queues are a fact of life at launch. The best servers over the course of a game’s life are usually rather full at launch.

This happens because of a very important reality that no one seems willing to acknowledge. People (guilds/individuals/small groups of friends) don’t pick servers. Each of those entities are parts of a complex social network and those social networks end up on servers in clusters.

Most people don’t say “I want to be part of the XYZ server”. They say “I want to play with my friends, hopefully with my guild ABC and I don’t want to be on the Reddit server”. What you see on a given server is a complex meeting of thousands of people with criteria: A doesn’t want to be with B, B wants to be with C and D, and B and D don’t want to play with E. You repeat that criteria 1000s of times and you end up with a server. It’s a very complex weaving of social networks, individual desires and group think.

Holding back server names does nothing to change this dynamic. All it does is give imperfect information to the “key nodes” in that social network who drive the decisions of their social networks.

I really hope Carbine releases the server list sooner rather than later. I feel they are making a naive mistake.

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  1. Seven's Avatar
    Agreed -- it's very frustrating