Player Servers

Is SOE trying to be a company for the people suddenly?

The idea of separate server rulesets is not new in MMOs with PVP, RP, PVE and other combinations but they don’t go far enough to offer real player choice. While not released (and just being discussed) I am liking the thought that SOE will give playing players a vote on specific rulesets – and they will create those servers to play on.

I still believe in taking it to the next level and allowing MMO players to rent (and pay for) servers with moddable rulesets.

This works well for FPS games and should for MMOs as well.Tesh and I bandied about the thought of it way back in 2008 and he on his blog in 2010.

First Person Shooter server rentals are good and hosts can customize map rotations, community rules, how many players per side (etc.) They are normally rented by clans or guilds and its great – the clan/guild provides the base community and the server populates (or not) based on their choices and base participation. Good servers with fair rules and fun communities tend to be busy. Even “asshole” style teabagfests find solid participation. Why?

Because servers attract different types of people that can play their favorite games the way they want to, and the way it is accepted by the particular community they agreed to join. The premise makes sense. Let people adjust the way they want it. Enough players will flock to what they want to play. Everyone is happy. Publishers get sub fees AND server rental fees, or some sort of combination.

The bullet points from my 2008 post are still valid. I’ll rehash them here. They are WoW centric (and a bit snarky at the time written) but really, insert any MMO acronym and it still makes sense.

Keep public servers still, offer this as a secondary market. All private servers are still hosted and controlled by Blizzard and all core mechanics stay the same.

  • At any given time in your WoW career, 95% of the world is unavailable to you anyway. You are either too high of level, or too low, or haven’t grinded X random raid boss 100 times to get the gear to go onto the next boss.
  • Could create a persistant world – Guild and individual housing? Why not? You don’t need 20,000 plots of land per server. Since it is a smaller and more dedicated playerbase Blizzard could create the tools to impact the world and leave your mark. World events? You wait until you have your players online then fire them off – every player gets to experience it. Think guaranteed Gates of AQ event. How many got to participate in that? NPC’s can remember you are the hero (as you would be in this realm) and not just chat tag %t “is a hero of the realm!” until the next person grinds the faction, or turns in the quest.
  • No Chuck Norris – unless you want that. The Chuck Norris type spammers (who stopped fitting on my ignore list 3 years ago) can all migrate to their own private server and spam away, patting each other on the back along the way, without annoying a single person.
  • End to Gold Farmers – Since I have to privately invite you to my server, and flag your account, no more fighting for resource nodes with thousands of bots and illegal farmers. Yes, you still have to go collect the items (preserving the ever so important time sink) but if you have to clear 6 mobs to get to a node, you don’t have to worry about jerkoff_001 swooping in and stealing it right as you kill the last one.
  • Characters on private servers can be ported to other private servers (not public). If I have a private server, and decide to close it down, everyone on that server still keeps their characters, items, everything – and can go to a new one. Conversely, if we meet a new friend and want to invite them along into our private little happy world – they don’t have to start from scratch if they have already been on a private server, they can port their characters over and play.
  • Wow isn’t really an MMO anyway (once you exclude the inflated-broken AH) and is just a group experience. Why not give me the choice on who gets to play within that group experience?

We could add a lot to that list that are smart and fun ways to enjoy the games, such as vanilla rule sets (etc.) and activating expansions only if the server renters want to, and when they want to.

Why force people onto the same rules when no one can agree which ones are good? Besides a single shard game (such as EVE) are there really any valid arguments against smaller, more specific, tighter knit communities on more varied rulesets? Let’s give up the entire running accepted illusion of “massively” and just let them be the multiplayer online games they really are.

8 Comments

  1. bhagpuss

    The arguments would be the same as those against gated communities in real life, I should imagine. Or those against private clubs. If you’re the sort of person that finds those socially, or indeed morally, acceptable in physical space then presumably you’d welcome them in virtual space too.

    Conversely, if you find those things socially and/or morally objectionable, and many people do, then you’d be unlikely to welcome their incursion into the supposedly more egalitarian virtual realm.

    Then there’s the question of why we play RPGs online in the first place. Personally, I play them for the approximation they offer of living in worlds other than our own and I’d likely play them with almost as much pleasure if there were no other players there at all, provided the AI was sufficiently convincing. Other people (Mrs Bhagpuss would be one of them) might put “meeting new people from all around the world” very high on their list of reasons for playing. Coming from that perspective you’d want to increase the variety of personalities available not set extra limits.

    There’s also the question of authenticity. I’d have a hard time considering a player-run server with a player-designed ruleset as a “real” server. That would certainly be a factor for me.

    Overall, I don’t have a strong objection to the concept, though, and if there are people who would enjoy it then good luck to them. I wouldn’t want to play on a “Club” server, any more than I’d want to go on holiday to one of those closed resorts where you never leave the immediate environs of the hotel and don’t meet anyone other than the kind of people who ‘d choose to go on such a holiday, but each to his own. Literally, in this case!

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  2. Isey (Post author)

    I actually thought you would like an idea like this Bhagpuss – instead of always getting forced to play on EU servers (as often happens in games), you could play where it fit your style and playtime for you and the Misses.

    Your viewpoint is interesting to me because I actually look at this level of personalization more inclusive and player friendly. This system also doesn’t take away the public servers.

    Think of it – dirty, evil FFA PVP? You can flick that on. Progression servers that move at the pace of the player base? You can control that. There are endless possibilities that service the community and actually provide more options.

    The servers will need population to still be places of communities. This would just allow for more than the 4 standard rule sets and put some of the power into the hands of the gamers (to put their money where their mouths are, so to speak)

    Regarding authenticity, there would need to be parameters of course and ranges, but hell, its the options and possibilities that are fun to think about.

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  3. Murf

    I think I’m with Bhagpuss on this one. I dislike this idea as a broad feature of future SOE MMOs (or MMOs in general). For one, how exactly will dev teams already strapped by a divergent array of playstyles handle balancing different rulesets and shard-specific features? It’s one thing to offer ways for people to play games they want to, but when that spreads out resources for the rest of us, then it becomes a problem.

    I think ‘authenticity’ is a perfect word for my biggest issue too. What is an achievement if you achieved them all on a server with mobs tuned way down? That includes raid bosses and PvP ranks and other forms of progression. Basically, this proposal would take us even further away from the persistent state, living worlds that many of us want in our MMOs. Why? Because there is no longer an objective, unified place for us all to participate. There’ just a string of private servers we can likely jump around on.

    I like the idea for specific games designed with it in mind. Shards Online, for instance, though it looks like it is going to come up short on the Kickstarter. As a general rule though, I never see myself supporting this. I want developers to make better MMOs, not worse ones that I have to customize to even make somewhat playable.

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  4. Isey (Post author)

    Hi Murf!

    I think the answer to the balancing rulesets is that the sliders and options are prebuilt in once. It’s a UI menu or set tools for people who run servers. It isn’t much to think it would take too much to build it in (for the return).

    The authenticity is a big one, granted. I was pondering how items collected from a “casual” server would translate if they moved hardcore. It’s the same LFR code/rewards already built by Blizzard though (again, using them as an example.) This is early thought space and very non-specific.

    “I want developers to make better MMOs…” is the quote of the day. The question (and answer) there is that your better MMO isn’t Willhelm’s better MMO and isn’t Bhagpuss’ (but may be mine and 1000 other people. Who can now all play that on the same server and enjoy it together).

    Its the next natural evolution of choice. Consumer choice is prevalent in everything in the market. EVen PnP campaigns had maps and what not – but didn’t the GM add the flavor and options? The same pre-bought campaign was never really played the same way.

    Why can’t we make the same thing happen in our MMOs? Preserve the core but provide choices that improve the experience based on your style, likes, dislikes, place in life, and existing/future communities? Isn’t online gaming one of the best places to make this happen?

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  5. Tesh

    Murf,

    “ones that I have to customize to even make somewhat playable”

    Well, that’s kind of the point. Everyone has a different version of “playable”, everyone has a different definition of “fun”. Instead of lumping everyone into the homogenized mess where nobody is really happy, let players self-select. I know, it’s easier to eat the McMMO and whine about how it’s not done Just Right, rather than take some responsibility for the choice… but when that choice is an option, scary though it may be, it can make for better gaming.

    The “achievements” concern seems shallow to me. For one, it seems like valuing the *having* over the *doing* is missing the point. Beyond that, though, it seems to me that devs could flag an achievement with a server name, and servers can have reputations, if you really want players to worry about bragging rights.

    Bhagpuss,

    Gated communities happen in real life, whether or not there are objections. Humans operate along tribal lines, and can be downright nasty to The Other, even without literal gates and walls. It’s healthy to have fences between neighbors; you can’t force people together and expect life to turn up sunshine.

    Thanks for the mention, Isey! This sort of server service is long past due, I think.

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  6. Isey (Post author)

    Thanks for the input Tesh – nice to see you again *grin*

    At this point in MMO land something like this certainly can’t hurt. We’ve been trying the old way for quite some time with lukewarm reception. Even take the recent GW2 changes and the polarization. How cool would it be to have the old way still running, and the new way, and let both camps choose (and both be happy!)

    It’s hard to wrap our heads around because no one has done this with MMOs before, but I really think it is time to experiment – and SOE looks willing to be a guinea pig. I just hope their game is MMO-y enough that other companies can look to trying it as well.

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  7. bhagpuss

    A few more more observations:

    1. I think the underlying idea is a great one for a new genre of online games. I just wouldn’t call them MMORPGs.

    2. It’s already been done, and very successfully. Indeed, it’s ongoing: Neverwinter Nights 1&2. I played on several player-built and player-run servers under NWN1, most notably ShroudWorld. I liked it a lot and would do it again but I never felt I was playing an MMO.

    3. Choice. There’s a thing about that. English people of a certain age often don’t see choice as a universal good. Both I and Mrs Bhagpuss grew up in a world where freedom was extensive (much more so than it is now) but choice was limited (much more so than it is now). Our tastes and aspirations were formed in that environment and it still drives us emotionally, if not always intellectually.

    I’d often prefer rather have one fair-to-middling option over several good-to-great options. The ideal would be to have one great option, naturally, but that rarely happens.

    Not only is the process of making a choice often not pleasant or enjoyable for me, which means I’d prefer it to have been made somewhere further up the chain, when the product or service was being designed, but I’m just not good at doing it. One of my concerns about the multiple ruleset model isn’t just that, as Murf says, the developers will spread themselves too thin but that I will be pulled this way and that and may end up spreading my own attention so thinly that in the end I just go “to hell with it” and find something less confusing to do instead.

    If there were a dozen ruleset servers for an MMO I liked the probability is very high that I would want to try all of them and would be unable to settle comfortably for just one. That’s all very well when the project is one I have no interest in to begin with (H1Z1) but could be very difficult for me indeed in one I’m looking forward to, like EQNext.

    Of course, SOE were always the kings of the alternate ruleset server. In the first five years Everquest had something like five separate PvP ruleset servers, a roleplaying server, a permadeath server, a “luxury” server and probably more that I’ve forgotten. I played on all of them bar the $50 a month one.

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  8. Isey (Post author)

    Hi Bhagpuss –

    You do mention the merits in your 1 and 2 comments and I don’t think its a stretch to give it a good old try in MMOs – since it has been successful elsewhere! Would be curious to see if it gives people some exciting choices or just additional stresses. I really think its worth a shot – not much to lose =)

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