Tuesday, June 17, 2008

WAR fixes population imbalances with queues

Keen and Graev have the news that WAR realm population balance will be done with queues. That means a server doesn't have a maximum total population, like in WoW, but a maximum population per realm. So it could be possible that if lets say Chaos is more popular than Order, anyone wanting to log on with a Chaos character would find himself waiting in a queue, while he could get in with an Order toon immediately. Will that work?

Lets have a look at two possible extreme cases. The first extreme is that the number of servers is so limited, that there is zero extra space, there is just one server spot per player who wants to log on or less. This situation could happen early in the game during prime time. In this case the solution works well insofar as people would be pretty much forced to play on a less populated server and on the less popular side if they wanted to play at all, and thus the two sides would be very well balanced. Only condition for this to work is that current server populations are well indicated for all servers and both sides, so people can make a good choice if they want to avoid the queues. The disadvantage is that if you already created a character on a high-population server on the more popular side, or if your friends have a guild there that you'd want to join, you'd be forced to either abandon that character / guild, or to wait very long in a queue every time you want to log on.

The other extreme is that there is far more space on the servers than needed. That could be if EA Mythic overestimates the number of customers, or subscription numbers eventually decrease, or simply during a low population time, like 5 am in the morning. In that case the queue solution does nothing for balance, as everyone can log on whatever side and server he wants. On the upside nobody has to wait in a queue, and nobody is restricted in his choices.

The obvious plan from EA Mythic is that *some* people are not very picky regarding server and faction, but very allergic to queues. So during prime time enough people move towards the initially less popular servers and factions to balance populations. Then during off-prime people keep playing the same characters, and although there is no direct restriction, the population keeps being balanced. So whether this will work depends on how persistent people are to play what they want, and not what would be best for balance, and on how overcrowded the servers are during prime time. Server queues are certainly "a" solution, but whether it is "the" solution remains to be seen.

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