Champions Zone-Servers

Most MMOs make it difficult to play with your friends. Levels are a common culprit, as are character- (not account-) specific friends lists, but servers are today’s topic (and City of Heroes solved both those problems anyway). My friends play World of Warcraft on however many servers, and I can pick one on which to spend two months leveling to catch up. We have never been able to get everyone together on the same server for any game but EVE, except when we had so few people playing that we could not field a full group anyway. Whatever else you may say against the Champions model, it avoids this. There may be fifteen copies of that zone you are in, but you and your friend can meet in the same one no matter where you started.

It is a hard thing to make someone choose which 99% of the population to wall himself off from before making his first character.

Another virtue is the inherent scaling. Games have this problem across their lifecycle: how can you accommodate both early crowding and the later population shift? You do not want The Shire clogged with 500 hobbits at once, but you want new hobbits to be able to play once the horde is level 50, and then you want the level 50 experience to remain fun after the horde that sat there for nine months moves on. What about that group content?

In the early days of City of Heroes, you might have seen a dozen copies of each low-level zone as additional instances spawned. Champions Online takes the next step by eliminating the top-level server. Each zone has a lower population cap, so it is easier to have the “right” number active in it, and more instances appear as the incoming population expands.

There may not be a shared world, but you always have the right number of shared playgrounds.

: Zubon

11 thoughts on “Champions Zone-Servers”

  1. The downside, of course, is that (especially in a superhero game) the names get incredibly far-fetched as time goes on. Heck, this happens in CoH/V, and they have a number of servers. You know you’re in trouble when flame-related synonyms are so used up that you start seeing the likes of ‘The Fairynheit Fairytale’ and ‘Selxius’.

    1. This is not true, becasue thy utilize your account name as a surname for all characters. This means there can be 100 UberL33T men on the game, and each is kept seperate.

      However the cost for this is 1/2 a hackers job is done y so brazenly displaying EVERYONES account names ALL the time.

      1. It’s actually a separate handle that gets displayed, not your account name – you’re specifically advised at account creation to choose a different handle than your account name, and are permitted to change it if you screw up and the handle will compromise your account security.

  2. There are downsides, however.

    I blogged about this a few weeks ago. In one part of the post:

    “But I think there are some pretty huge downsides, particularly in community. On other MMOs, each server developers its own sub-community of the game. Some tend to have more RP, or older players, or more hardcore raiders, or whatever. A culture evolves. Also, guilds and individual players can actually make a name for themselves. Becoming one of the best 10 weaponcrafters on a single server is not unattainable. But to be one of the top 10 weaponcrafters in the ENTIRE MMO might be.”

    1. I’d agree to this downside, except for a big caveat.

      The one big server is no worse for the game’s communities than the trend toward large servers.

      Most of the other MMORPGs have gradually climbed up into the 10k-15k range for server populations and those sub-communities have (from my perspective) noticeably suffered as a result.

      You bump into your friends more often in Champions Online, because anyone on your friend’s list is likely to end up in the same map instance. How often did I naturally bump into friends in WoW? If they were on my server, about the same amount as Champions, not less. If they were not on my server, I wouldn’t see them at all.

      I made a lot of new friends when WoW started and the server pops were lower (less than 5k on most). Now? Most people I meet I’m unlikely to see again by just bumping into them.

      I’ve come to the opinion that there are two good models:

      1.) All one big server, ala Champions, EVE and (currently) Fallen Earth.

      2.) Smaller, community-minded servers, possibly locale-based ala older UO servers where players choose their timezone.

      I really dislike the system used by WoW, LOTRO, WAR, etc. where they run all their servers in one big datacenter for cost reasons, but try to balance large numbers of players without overcrowding on multiple server– It’s the worst possible formula for community.

      Bring back smaller servers or go all out for the one-big-server!

  3. In Guild Wars you have one universe (like EvE) as well. And a shared friend list between accounts. You can also see alts of your buddies in your friend list, for example “Myalt (Buddy)”.

    Personally I do not like those level based systems as a barrier for content anymore. Not at all. Sure, it might be the most simple solution to implement. But in terms of social gaming it’s bad game design imho. Level based systems do work well in solo games. But when you want to bring many players together in one virtual world it does more harm than good imho.

    I think that EvE does a good job here. Even as a young pilot I was useful for my corp. Because a gang not only needs big bad ships. A gang also needs smaller ships for tasks like scouting or as a tackler.

    The problem with WoW is that level n+1 obsoletes level n entirely. There’s really no more use for level n.

  4. If the server you log into is sticky each session that could help foster communities. That might make balancing server size harder though.

    Though honestly I have gotten rather jaded on community. After starting games on one rp server after another, only to see them overrun in a year by the same non rpers taking over the forums and the chat. existing more to annoy and make noise than participate in any meaningful way. I used to run a server wide secret santa on the kirin tor server when it was smaller, rpers, non rpers, all participated and had fun. Now i can’t imagine doing that, it would never work. community? what community?

    1. That’s what GW2 is supposed to be… long ago they called them neighborhoods, though that isn’t really catchy. Sticky Instance might be good… sticky something….

  5. I hope more games do this in future. I’ve NEVER been able to play WoW with my RL friends until recently when I got my current partner to play, as he’d never played before. Even if there are levels you can still catch up eventually but different servers will put you right off even trying as you might have already got to that high level on your server and why don’t your friends just make new alts on your server anyway?

  6. *incendiary comment of the day*

    And yet… the large majority of the most successful titles out there segregate their playerbases without much problem and there they are. Chugging along just fine. When they die (and they will) and we stamp “Cause of death” on the form, I can’t help to think that “Couldn’t play with my friends” will be very low on the list.

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