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:
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.
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.