The Results of NCSoft’s Heavy Hand…

This week has been pretty hectic for NCSoft.  They took a lot of criticism for their heavy hands when dealing with the servers.  They put caps on faction population for every server during head-start, they capped total population very low initially and they opened up relatively few servers for the expected population.

This caused headaches for Legions and friends to get on their preferred server, it caused a lot of griping as players logged in on Tuesday to find 3-4 hour queues during prime time.  Much gnashing of teeth commenced.  Players were mad, blogger’s griped or made fun, depending on their interest in Aion and the situation, for some, looked grim.

I made a post early in the week that this was planned and was actually a pretty smart idea by NCSoft.  The post was met with some agreement but, also, much laughter and accusation of fanboyism.  Then Friday something funny happened. NCsoft announced that they were going to put a timer on the Personal Shops that were contributing to the queue.  In addition, they put up a new server.

Friday night we logged in to find sharply reduced queue times.  What was nearing 4 hours in prime time dropped down to 30 minutes or less for most people.  I logged in Friday night to a 12 minute queue and on Saturday to a 4 minute queue.  The “rage” posts about the queue dropped to near nothing on the Aion Source forums and moved on to other things.  All was right in the Aion world, at least as far as the queues were concerned.

So what was the results of NCSoft’s heavy hand at launch?  Let’s take a look and find out!

Here is the entire server list for NA Aion:

mainserverpage

First thing to notice is that Aion gives more information on it’s server page than any other MMO I have ever seen.  WoW doesn’t give half this much information, which is not really a big deal as it is a PvE game so faction balance is not as important.  WAR’s server info is a joke.  It gives faction balanced in a low/medium/high format for both sides, with no real indication of total balance.  Aion knocks this out of the park.

Second thing that you should notice is that every server is almost entirely balanced between factions.  The Asmodians have the advantage on almost every server but the advantage is no more than 4% on any server.  Matter of fact, most servers are showing that the balance is no more than 2% on the majority of the servers.  That is, frankly, pretty damn amazing.

WAR was horribly, horribly balanced between factions at release.  Destruction was vastly overpopulated on nearly every server.  Sometimes at a ratio of nearly 2:1.  You can not have a PvP-centric game with balance like that and Mythic paid the price.

Next take a look at the Legions created on each server.  We really have no solid indication of total population on the individual servers but the Legion numbers can give us an idea of the population on each server.  By looking at that, you can assume that each server has a healthy population.  Not only that but the population of each server seems pretty fairly balanced.  With the exception of the new server (Fregion) each server has a pretty similar number of Legions on them.  So, not only are the factions balanced on each server but the total population looks pretty well spread out on each server.  No dead servers.

Let’s take a closer look at one of the servers.  For this I am going to use Lumiel, which is my home server.

lumiel info

On Lumiel, Asmodians own a slight advantage at 51% versus 49%.  Not 100% balanced but pretty damn close.  I can not think of a single WAR server that, at release or later, was anywhere close to this balanced.  This is pretty impressive.

The next thing I am going to point out does not have anything to do with how NCSoft handled the release, unless you give credit to NCSoft for creating classes that are all equally appealing.  The classes across the server are broke down into percentage of total population.  Looking at this, Rangers and Spiritmasters are the lowest populated classes, with 10% each.  Chanters follow with 11% and so on.  Gladiators are the most populous class with 15% and Clerics are close behind with 14%.  All in all a nice division of classes and hopefully will make finding tanks and healers a bit easier.

So there you have it.  We basically traded 4-5 days of low server caps, low faction caps and queue hell for 13 balanced servers.  We went through hell and came out the other side with a balanced game.  That’s not a bad trade-off to me.  Not at all.

Balance is so important in MMOs but doubly so in PvP-centric MMOs.  Bad balance for faction based MMOs will kill the game.  No one wants to play on a server where they are vastly outnumbered.  Even if you are on the overpopulated side, it gets pretty boring dominating the underdog side.  NCSoft showed a hardline when it comes to balance and I think the game will be better for it.  The fruits of that decision are already starting to show.  Balance will continue to be a ticklish thing to do but NCSoft has shown a willingness to do what it takes to walk that fine line.

I, for one, am glad.

12 Responses

  1. I think that they handled it well @ NCsoft as well. Smart people learn from others mistakes, and i think you nailed it when pointing out Mythics.

    Though i have to say that Mythic did show figures sometime in the spring from their servers which demonstrated that the balance was not anywhere near as bad as we all thought. It might’ve been a question of logging on at different times or the # of T4 characters, but data was shown for that.

    I miss detaunt. But i <3 Aion.

    Any idea on why Assassins are so underpopulated? i thought everybody loved to play rogues! or why clerics are SO popular? i figured tanks/healers would be about the same.

  2. Agreed one million percent. Any launch or expansion you can expect queues and crowding in the new areas… What you can’t expect is the fairness and equal distribution like we have going on currently in Aion.

    It really does make for a stronger game I believe, it would suck to be the underdog if the population was skewed 80-25 or such for example :)

    *logs back in for more handicrafting leveling*

  3. It’ll all pay off in the end. That’s why I never mentioned it, because I knew it’d work itself out. Kudos to you for having the guts to believe in it.

  4. 100% agree.

  5. Em the balance is the only thing they have got right, and what reduced queues ? the EU servers still have 3hr + waits with some casual players having bought at retail release on Friday still not having experienced Aion at all and no sgns of it getting any better.

    You say yourself there was queues on Tuesday of 1000s yet no swift sufficient action has been taken to alleviate them you do not have to go to WAR extremes and open 10s of servers to possibly have to close them 6 month down the line but you do have to get the queues to a viable level and 3hrs is not in any way shape or form viable.

  6. I think you spoke too soon. Monday night, 10pm, just logged into a 40 minute queue. Screw that! I’m gonna give it a month and if they don’t get their shit together i’m out :/

  7. I haven’t been playing Aion, but I know the guys I hang out with on vent haven’t had anything less than a 45 minute queue since they started playing.

  8. Sinergy, long ques mean you just need to move servers. Surely that is less drastic than just quitting?

    I’m on Vaizel, I haven’t had a single que since 3pm on the first headstart day.

  9. Perhaps for American servers the situation is fine, but I’m french: we have only 3 servers, completely full, yesterday at 7PM I received a 3h30 queue…

    The balancing for the States seems ok but not for Europe. It is a pity because the game is very good but people with a family and a job cannot handle this kind of situation.

    They added a new server yesterday but moving entire legions where people already invested 20 ou more levels is not an option imo.

  10. Lol. Queues in gorgos are over 2hrs every night at 5pm. At weekends you cannot even select a server as you get ‘server full’ message!
    Ncsoft has screwed up in eu. English is THE most spoken language, starting with so few servers was a mistake.

  11. Wonderful article, and I agree 99.44%.

    The one thing I wonder — should they be counting how many Elyos/Asmo *characters* per server, or *accounts* per server. I have a sneaky hunch that the Elyos, who tend to more wide strategy players in my experience, have more crafting alts and so on, but I could be wrong.

    No way to tell from these numbers, though. If, though, say, Elyos accounts had an average of 3 alts and Asmos an average of two — that really skews server balance.

  12. They broke Nezekan with that “server queue fix”. We didn’t have queues before, now we do.

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