The SWTOR community has seen its fair share of crashing lumber and bent nails flying through the air this week while server transfers have been happening. Oh, yeah, and official forum drama. Lots of that. Always lots of that. Folks who were unhappy about logging in to empty servers are now unhappy about server queues, and on top of that– they’re mourning over lost names and Legacy names. The complaints are valid, and BioWare could have approached this whole server transfer thing better, but by the end of this adventure– at least we’ll sort of feel like we’re in an MMO again.
When my server popped up for its transfer queue Wednesday, I admittedly was a bit wary. I’d already seen the cries of server queues on The Ebon Hawk, my designated destination server, but my curiosity got the best of me. I logged into my origin server on the Republic side, checked a few things. 13 people on Shien’s Republic fleet. Imperial side wasn’t much better. I tested the waters with a transfer of my Smuggler, and low and behold– two minutes later I was in a 10-minute queue to The Ebon Hawk.
Here’s the kicker, though. After those 10 minutes, I found myself on a Republic-side fleet with over 400 people between both phases. Last week, peak time meant about 20-30 players. Finding groups for flashpoints and heroic quests was impossible, and now… Wow. Actual chatter in General chat? Guilds recruiting new players? Low-level flashpoint groups forming up? One thought swept through my mind– still does, after popping on during the “dead” hours of nighttime and seeing 130 players on the fleet and 22 on Republic-side Belsavis– Yes, I’ll take 10 minutes of a queue over a ghost town server any day.
That’s not to say this whole process couldn’t have gone better. It could have gone much better. I personally think BioWare should have gone the server merging route, as that would have allowed them to prepare the playerbase better, and would have done away with part of the drama we’re seeing now from players who are frustrated over the transfer system’s “voluntary” basis.
When players choose to play a game that’s advertised as massively multiplayer and find themselves on a single-player server due to massive subscription loses, abandoning that server really isn’t all that voluntary. RIFT handled server population balances much better, in my opinion, but the situation Trion had to handle admittedly differed from what we’re seeing right now in SWTOR.
There’s one simple fact about SWTOR that many players tend to forget about, amidst all this transfer chaos– players joined the game in droves, and left the game in droves. Yes, many players lost their names, but it’s an unfortunate side effect to the necessary population adjustments. BioWare needs to rebalance the server population before more players slip away, never to return. And doing that when there are as many servers and players as there are isn’t very simple. That, most likely, is the reason behind a large portion of the added complications we’re seeing. At least, I hope so.
I’ve been a huge fan of BioWare from the beginning of beta, and some days I question the amount of faith I have in the company still, but I haven’t quite given up on them yet. The transfers have needed to happen for quite a while now– we did wait too long, in my opinion– but at least they are happening, as are many additions we’re in dire need of. Slowly, the pieces are coming together. It may be too late for many fans, but others will stick it out because we still hope it’s worth it.
To me, the wait is worthwhile as long the quality remains. And hopefully, as the transfers finish up, and the server populations tighten back into a sort of MMO coziness, we will find that quality ever-standing, kind of like a support beam amidst a trail of broken boards and sawdust.