• Mega Servers vs Community

    If you've played World of Warcraft for long enough you are probably familiar with this concept. In 2004 and up to about MoP most WoW servers were populated by a few thousand people on either end. Faction balance was a thing in some places and not in others. Nonetheless you knew all of the guilds from the top down to the bottom of your server. The good and the bad players, the ninja looters, the great PvP guy/gal, so on and so forth. This is the World of Warcraft a lot of people remember. It's what made the game feel like a world and inside that world a community. A virtual Sims of sorts. As time passed the game began to develop what we know today as mega servers. In NA it's servers such as Illidan, Area 52, and Stormrage. These top 3 servers have more active players on them than the bottom 40 or so. How did this come to be? When and why did the mega server meta take over? I'll try to take a shot at this concept and describe what I think happened.

    Content Difficulty
    To me this is the number one reason to blame for the shift of community sized servers into mega servers. The harder the content is the more turnover your guild will have thus the need to recruit more players. The larger pool of players to recruit from the easier it is to churn through people who leave or are cut from a roster with equal or better players. Unlike today where so much is cross server there were times this was not the case. Not to mention the pinnacle of PvE, Mythic Raiding, is still not cross server and this idea of roster issues is probably more prevalent among the top. Even beyond rosters content difficulty in puggable content is easier when you can find better players to bring along more often. To me it is not a coincidence that once WoW raiding became much harder, mechanics based around having Weak Auras, and even rotations of some top specs/classes becoming harder has made the demand for better players higher. We can see this even in Classic. Classic WoW is definitely easy especially in comparison to retail raiding but there was quite a big difference between Classic WoW and TBC as far as mechanical and DPS checks. Due to this many guilds who face rolled through BWL/AQ are now not able to kill a pre-nerf Vashj. TBC right now has a notorious roster problem. Some of your best Classic guilds are now merging with others because players are just dropping like flies. So what has happened due to this? Mega servers. The two pics below show what the top 6 servers looked like in Classic compared to TBC.

    Notice the shift between faction balance and population? The bottom went from looking like this to this . This is a sped up version of what happened to retail once content got harder and the need to churn through players for better players became a necessity. Eventually you stop getting whispers when posting your LF X class/spec on these more dead realms and the only option for your guild to survive is transferring to the newly formed mega server.

    Content Accessibility

    Everybody wanted attunements back and in Classic they were short and sweet outside of Onyxia. Some raids didn't even have true attunements like AQ and Naxx was just a reputation/gold check based on a rep you already had for sure at that point. TBC is much different. Karazhan's attunement is a double digit quest grind plus multiple dungeons some of which have to be unlocked via other dungeons. Tempest Keep's attunement is the worst. A multi-hour quest chain followed by two raid kills and SSC is a heroic dungeon twice plus a few raid kills. Now today Kara, TK, and SSC attunements are gone with P3 on the horizon but the damage has been done. It snowballs even harder when your server begins to die and you cannot find players to help you with these attunements on alts because there is nobody left wanting to do normal dungeons a 2 phases in. Why are these attunements terrible for the game? Alts accessibility. Have an absence in a raid or somebody quit the night before and you need a fill? Let's ask our buddy from another guild if he can come on his alt or a casual friend if he can come on his main. Chances are neither are attuned. In Classic you could find anybody for anything because outside of Ony there weren't really any attunements. Due to this I think attunements are the epitome of rose tinted goggles. They are great in concept and awesome to tell the story of the raid but them not unlocking the attunement for your whole account in the early expansions really did a number on roster issues. What do roster issues equal long term? Mega Servers.

    All in all I think the future of gaming is always going to end up mega servers and that communities are just a thing of the past. In the "old days" of WoW players weren't so obsessed with the end game so a lot of these issues were for such a small portion of the player base but with the new meta of gaming being get to the end fast and do the hardest content as soon as possible it's impossible for these "community" sized servers to keep up. It makes me think no MMO will ever scratch that original itch of old WoW because you cannot replicate community anymore without handcuffing people with faction based queues or something along those lines. What are your thoughts on this new meta of mega servers? Are they an inevitability in todays style of gaming? Can games protect community sized servers? Or is this a pointless rant about a non issue? :P
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Mega Servers vs Community started by Kenneth View original post
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