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Contemplating Rift Server Transfers

May 24, 2011

Did you hear? Rift to offer free character transfers to select servers once per week. Not that I would ever dream of leaving my home of Faeblight, but hearing this news is cause to rejoice especially when it comes on the heels of Blizzard’s recent announcement of a possible premium cross-realm dungeon feature. Yeah, at first glance, Trion’s move looked to me like a direct and rather obvious retort to that 800-pound gorilla in the room.

To Trion, I say jolly good show. Friends playing the same game but not being able to do it together because they’re on different servers has always been the downside of multi-shard MMOs, so anything that helps facilitate that is a positive move in my book. I did cheer with the masses when I heard the news, but now that a little time has passed and the celebrations are over and the dust has settled, it’s time to look at things a little more closely.

Some bloggers have already started, and I have to confess when I started mulling over the specific wording of “select servers”, my own train of thought lead me to similar speculations. The FAQ confirmed suspicions that players will only be able to use this service to move to specific shards, presumably as a way for Trion to balance populations. I joked earlier today about staying away from Faeblight, but it probably won’t matter — being one of the heavily-populated servers, I would be surprised if it even ends up being eligible for this service at all.

Weighing in on this, I can see how there might possibly be something more to the story, whether it could be motivated by server imbalances or a move to put a positive PR spin on the problem of low populations. In light of those posts I linked, my excitement has admittedly come down a notch or two, but despite the strings attached, however, I still see reasons to be optimistic.

I play on Faeblight, and it’s practically always busy, day and night. Doesn’t mean I discount the woes of others who complain about their servers being dead; it just seems to me that players are unevenly spread out. Trion’s guiding hand may help alleviate some of these distribution problems. As well, it might allow players to “test drive” servers before they choose one to put down roots, because God knows how hard it is sometimes to find a server to call home, and I’ve regretted my share of server choices in the past.

Regardless of its limitations, it is also my hope that this move by Trion will set the precedent for future MMOs. The initial wave of impressed reactions at least showed that gamers are sick of being nickel-and-dimed for what we believe are essential services, and that $25 per character transfer or paying an effing premium to play with friends might be just a tad unreasonable.

17 comments

  1. IMO they tossed ‘select servers’ in there as a clause so that when they deny transfer to already overloaded servers like Wolfsbane they can point back to that. I think most Xfers will not be limited, but we should be realistic here.

    And yeah, this is great news, I have a 48 on Faeblight that’s going unplayed because I have my IRL friends playing on a different server, I just started a lot earlier then they did, so I mothballed her in waiting for server transfers to be added, all the while dreading the price point… which I honestly expected to at least be a little lowers than Acti-Bliz… I certainly never expected free, hooray!


    • Yep, Wolfsbane is another server that probably won’t be eligible :P

      I think this news is going to make a lot of people who are in your situation quite happy…this is why I can never bring myself to delete a character even if I doubt I’ll play her again or I switch servers. Never know when something like this might happen :)


  2. Anyone who thinks this is about low subscription numbers hasn’t had a long history in MMOs.

    I recall when another company did this at about the same time in their history; and continued to do it for a good year or so afterward. Blizzard & WoW.

    So, no, this is just load balancing. This isn’t like what NCSoft did a few months after the release of Aion, server merges. Server merges indicates low subscription count.

    Character transfers to limited servers is load balancing, plain and simple. It stems from the fact that players, and by extension guilds, tend to form server loyalty based on their beta experience. Because of this any server names carried over into live will always be more heavily populated when compared to the servers introduced in live.

    What these companies need to do is ditch any server name used in beta. They’ll get a far smoother population distribution in live. Not perfect as beta-guilds will still tend to clump (Frazzingle guilds, we’re going to Baboozle in live!) but it will at least break the name loyalty for those who aren’t attached to a particular community.


    • Agreed that this has nothing to do with low subscription numbers, which is why I think no one actually made any inferences regarding subject, focusing on the matter of population redistribution instead. Are there less people subscribed to Rift now than there was at launch? Probably. But seriously, how exactly would one quantify “low”? Despite the doomsayers, I personally think Rift is plenty healthy. But I do believe some servers are suffering from lower populations and likewise there are others that will no doubt be hit with server queues when a big event occurs again.You pretty much echoed my thoughts on character transfers used to affect load balancing.

      I don’t know if I agree with your statement about server loyalty based on name loyalty though. That may have played a part of it, but I think what contributed most to the imbalance is the way Trion rolled out the servers. As I recall, the initial first wave flocked to the original ones, filled them up quickly, and by the time the new ones were opened throughout the WEEK, many were reluctant to reroll because either they were too far along or already established in a guild. Already heavily populated servers like Faeblight kept filling up as friends kept rolling on it, while the later servers filled up at a trickle. Pretty much what PvD stated:

      “My guess is that doubling your server count in the first week is actually a very bad plan in the traditional server model. The only people who are able to change servers just because they don’t like their queue times are the tourists who are arriving with no social ties, who are the most likely to leave their new servers deserted at the 30 day mark.”

      Trion had the best of intentions when they did this, but it definitely skewed the population distribution to the detriment of the later servers. The pattern reflects this, the servers hit worst with server queues during the event were the handful of original servers, while the ones that were opened last have the most complaints of low activity.


      • Regarding name loyalty, that was more a general criticism based on the many MMO betas I have been through and not a specific comment on Trion’s treatment of Rift.

        As you know I skipped this launch so I wasn’t aware of the rolling openings of servers. That would definitely skew numbers.


      • I see…even then, I’m not sure how much of a role name loyalty plays. But maybe I’m just basing this on my own personal views, I started on Wolfsbane but ended up on Faeblight, I didn’t really feel anything sentimental for the name, heehee ^_^


      • I wasn’t particularly attached to say, Estrael either, it’s just that there aren’t that many PVE-RP servers and that aspect I *am* attached to. Faeblight had insanely high queues right out the gate, even in the weird hour that I chose to login on the first day of head start, whereas the queue for Estrael was much more reasonable… so I got into that one and made myself a small meal. ;)

        I did roll on Faeblight later though, as my beta guild had set up shop there, but as I mentioned earlier I’ve since mothballed that character as I now have some old, dear RL friends playing on Belmont and I was hoping on shard transfers in the future. Yay on that!


  3. Not bein one to piss on trions parade but dont all mmos offer free transfers from high to low population realms?! To me its pretty much seen as the norm *shrug*


    • I look at it two ways…one, as you say, offering free transfers to balance distribution is essentially something all MMO companies already do. But two, this process isn’t going to be time-limited with Rift but continuous, with the assumption that in the end all server populations will be even enough that then players can truly transfer wherever they want for free.


  4. So, is it one transfer per week per your account, or do you get one transfer each week for each character you have?

    I doubt I’ll leave either, but this is a neat idea, and much better than having to make new chars!


    • Looks like one transfer per week for each character, from the answers from Elrar in that thread! :)


  5. [...] whether the serendipitous moment just fell in to their lap, but the result has been very effective. Basically, Rift will give players free server transfers to characters to try and hook up with friends, get [...]


  6. You have to give Trion kudos for taking it to Blizzard in a way that no other developer has dared to since WoW’s ascendence. Whether it was Aion, or Vanguard, Age of Conan, or Warhammer… no other game or developer has had the gumption to “attack” Blizzard the way Trion has. Now I don’t know if that is a deliberate decision on their part (although things like the “We’re not in Azeroth anymore” ad would say that it is) but I can’t recall anyone else going after Blizzard so aggressively. Will it benefit them in the long run? Hard to say today. Blizzard are no dummies. They didn’t get where they are by making poor decisions. But I applaud Trion for bringing it to their doorstep, whether it works out for them or not. At least they gave it a shot.


    • Haha, I remember when I saw that ad for the first time, I thought to myself, that tagline is either the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen or the most brilliant. In any case, yeah, Trion does seem to be making WoW their target. I love it though, competition and supply/demand at its finest :) If they put pressure on Blizzard, all the more power to them. Companies courting consumers with better deals and services, that’s the way I like it :P


    • Standing in front of a train wielding a broken twig does not make one valorous -_^ I recall another company offering deals to people leaving WoW due to the Real ID forum fiasco last year. (Mind you I cannot remember who, so that shows how well that ad campaign went.) Fallen Earth and Global Agenda both had a “no more elves” mantra, and the Devs of WAR had some fighting words with the devs of WoW numerous times, but I will agree Trion is (pardon the pun) *trion* to start something with Blizz. I will say credit is due for the effort, and as mmogamerchick said, competition is good, mostly for the consumer, but at the same time they really smeared it on very thick right out of the gates. More subtle jabs like this and less TV ads directly calling out WoW would behoove Trion, in my opinion.

      As far as the weekly transfer option, if they got rid of the specific server constraints (though admittedly this idea is far superior to WoW’s current setup as it stands) and opened it up to any server once a week, I think that would be best. Aye population issues and all that, but I still like the idea of freelancing my MMO time. (Plus if it was really bad, the ‘losing’ side could always freely transfer until they found a good one, eh?) Curious to see how other economies are doing? Maybe you heard of such and such guilds doing epic parties, etc. More options, especially not ‘premium’, the better. Heck, just thinking about buying mats from one server to craft items and sell them off to another server gets me droolin’ with excitement ^_^


  7. MMOs need to start enabling people to move their character to whichever server they like at a moments notice.

    Kind of off topic from the main thrust of your post, but allowing a more free ability to play with others is what i take away from all this.


  8. [...] do agree with others, however, that it’s not entirely magnanimous nor is it as clear cut as the PR [...]



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