23/11/2021

Blizzard Killed My Server

The fuckers.

Literally the day after I made my last post about being worried about my little server's health and community, Blizzard announced free server transfers off Hydraxian Waterlords to nine different destination servers.

In the past, free transfers used to be a way to balance server and faction populations by making players leave where there were too many and encourage them to move towards places that could use a boost, but that just seems to be a thing of the past nowadays. From what I can tell, at this point free transfers are simply used as a tool to placate angry forumites threatening to cancel their subscription if Blizzard won't give them a free transfer off their low-pop server to one of the bigger ones. And as the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, even if you end up destroying the experiences of other, previously happy players in the process.

Watching the whole process unfurl over the past week has been one giant shitshow. The majority of players had actually been quite content with the population (at least on Alliance side - I'll admit that Horde was a different matter into which I don't have much insight), so overwhelmingly the initial reaction on display was a sense of confusion and uncertainty. Some attempts were made on the server Discord to get a dialogue going between different guilds about who was going to stay vs. who was planning to leave and where, perhaps with the idea to keep as many Hydraxians together as possible.

However, a small number of guilds jumped ship pretty much immediately, which in turn got others worried about what this meant for the server and over the course of the next few days created a sense of rats fleeing a sinking ship, which in turn caused a failure cascade of more and more guilds leaving "because everybody is". Some guild leaders even did complete u-turns, holding speeches about how much they loved the server, were never going to leave etc. on one day, just to then go "welp, guess we're going after all, bye suckers" two days later (that's not a literal quote, but it's certainly how the sentiment came across). There was no consistence in the chosen destinations either, with departing guilds scattering almost evenly across the three English-speaking PvE realms.

Reading the LFG channel during those days was an absolutely miserable experience, as seemingly everybody and their dog felt the need to make an announcement about how they were leaving and declaring that with their departure the server was dead now. (Followed by the same person being back the next day on one of their alts to tell us repeatedly about what a good time they were having strip-mining the server of resources for a few more days to flood the auction house on their new destination realm.) I hated every minute of it and couldn't resist making some snarky replies, even though this is usually something I try to avoid.

During the last couple of days, with most of the big guilds gone by now, there's been a slow shift towards unhappy commiseration among those who've remained behind, with occasional visitors popping in on level 1 alts to gush about the awesomeness of their new home server and getting snapped at in response. (If it's so awesome there, why are you coming back to hassle us instead of playing there?)

The Forks tried to stay calm and took their time attempting to have a reasonable discussion, but it was still not a pleasant experience, with people panicking as if Blizzard were going to close the free transfers again any minute, and a couple jumping ship to their personally preferred server of choice without waiting for an official guild decision.

(Though I will say that in terms of gameplay, I still had a great time running dungeons over the course of that week - I was probably in more full guild runs than I'd had since the start of BC Classic before that, simply because there wasn't much actual group-finding going on in LFG and if people wanted to do anything, asking guildies was their best bet.)

The sad reality of the opinion polls was that few people actively seemed to like the idea of moving server, but many viewed it as simply inevitable, plus those who had a preference for staying were more willing to change their stance for the sake of keeping the guild together than the other way round.

What did I do? I voted in the polls and participated in the discussions to some extent, but ended up being the only person choosing to stay behind regardless, which tended to prompt a confused "why" from pretty much everyone I talked to. I've given different people different answers, all of which are true but don't necessarily paint the whole picture. I shall use this blog post to lay it out in full. Basically, these are the points I had against moving:

  1. Simply put, I had no desire to move to begin with. Yes, the free transfers have greatly changed the situation on the server, but as someone who wasn't desperate for raid progression anymore, raiding guilds leaving is not the be-all and end-all of my personal enjoyment. I want to see what actually happens now. People have been calling the server dead since before all of this went down, when we were all just busy having a good time, so basically I'll believe it when I see it. I've come to realise that I prefer lower population servers in Classic, so the thought of transferring off to somewhere with four times the population I'm used to simply does not appeal. I happily played on the private server Kronos back in 2016, which only had a population of a few hundred active players. I can make do with fewer people than most, and I want to see if that's something that'll still be viable on Hydraxian Waterlords after the big exodus.
  2. My name(s). I reserved "Tir" as my hunter's name the day before Classic's launch back in August 2019, and you don't get to keep a three-letter name by server-transferring to a high-pop realm two years into a game's life. For some people character names are unimportant and just a place to meme (we had someone name their warlock alt "Sweatygooch", which promptly got reported by one of our very own officers and then had a name change enforced, which we all thought was hilarious), but to me character names are important. It's not just Tir either - I checked the destination realms and most of my chars would need to be renamed. This wouldn't exactly be an unsurmountable obstacle if I was otherwise keen on transferring, but I'm not so it's just another thing adding to me not wanting to do it.
  3. I'm pissed off by this whole situation and have a desire to express it. I'm mad at Blizzard for killing off our realm pop to appease some forum complainers. I'm mad at all the Hydraxians praising the server community to the heavens one day and then transferring off the next. I'm mad at the lemming-like nature of everyone running away because "everyone else is doing it" and nobody having been willing to make a stand because they're too scared of being the last ones left. I can understand why people felt that way, but I don't have to like it, and I won't imitate it. Taken on its own, being contrarian would not be a reason to stay, but it's just another thing on the list.
  4. I'm kind of emotionally exhausted by Classic and all the dramas it's been throwing at me. Burning Crusade launch was an emotional rollercoaster for weeks, and eventually I just felt disenchanted with the whole thing to the point that I was already thinking about quitting the game anyway. Then certain individuals managed to reignite my passion and I was playing like crazy for a few weeks, just to have this metaphorical nuke land on my head all of a sudden. I just can't be bothered with it anymore. This is a game and it's supposed to be relaxing and fun. I have other things going in my life. I want to take time to be excited about the new SWTOR expansion coming out next month, not deal with the anxieties of starting over on a new server yet again (after moving from Pyrewood Village to Hydraxian Waterlords in early 2020) and risk watching what's left of my guild wither and die. I'd rather step away from it all if need be, at least for a while.

The two main arguments in favour of moving were these:

  1. Wanting to stay with my guild and doing my best to help it survive. This was a big one considering what the Forks have meant to me over time, but... I've got to admit the events of early BC already worked to diminish my faith in the guild somewhat. When the server was at its busiest, my guild was somehow at its least lovable, with everyone just jumping straight into LFG to get shit done without caring much about things like "running with guildies because it's fun" or helping each other out. Gotta tick those boxes, yo! I don't think it's unreasonable to fear a repeat of this situation when the guild transfers to a server with four times the population. And I don't want to move "for the sake of the guild" just to then feel left out in the cold again. This isn't a diss on any of my guildies by the way, simply an observation about game design and human nature. If there's no room for downtime between chasing personal goals, you'll always be too busy to think about how other people could fit into things; that's just how it is.
  2. The other matter is my levelling buddy, who is technically part of the guild but whom I feel the need to call out separately because he's awesome and I do not doubt that we'd keep doing stuff together even on a server with ten thousand people. However, to put it simply, he thinks that transferring to a bigger server is good and the only way to go, while I do not. He was hurt that I'd abandon him like that to make a point and he has every right to be. This is without a doubt the saddest part of the whole thing for me, and I still hope that we can salvage something of our friendship going forward. But also... and I do feel a bit bad saying this, but it might actually be for the best to take a bit of a step back here as well. Playing with him again has been fun, but at the same time our adventures have encouraged me to play with an intensity that I do not find healthy, similar to what I wrote about at BC launch - it's fine to go on a binge for a few days, but if you find yourself not getting enough sleep and neglecting other hobbies or tasks you should be doing because of the game - which I have been doing recently - it's not good.

All of which adds up to a pretty overwhelming urge to just stay behind, see what happens, and chill out. To any guildie who might be reading this: I'm sorry if any of this hurt your feelings. I've greatly appreciated all the good times we've had, and I do want you to still have fun in the game and the Order of the Holy Fork to thrive. I'm also not completely discarding the idea of an opportunity to reunite with the guild in game at a later point. However right now, all of this has just been one straw too many. Blame Blizzard.

9 comments:

  1. Hydraxian Warlords is my Classic server too. Or was, I should say. At the moment it doesn't look like I'll ever play Classic again because I'd have to sub and I'm not going to until and unless the whole ActiBlizz nightmare is finally, acceptably resolved. If I was playing, though, I would definitely be staying. I like low-pop servers, by and large.

    I'm wondering now, though, if the circumstances should arise where I could consider resubbing for a while, would Hydraxian Warlords even exist? Does Blizzard ever merge servers these days? I thought they just bound them all together with magitech and let everyone carry on as if nothing had happened. How come they don't do that with Classic?

    Come to think of it, I never even made that choice about whether to go to BC or stay in Classic. I wonder what would happen with that choice now? Would I even get the option of staying on a server they're clearly trying to empty?

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    1. I think I have answers to most of your questions!

      Hydraxian Waterlords would likely still exist whenever you come back, as Blizzard hasn't performed any old-school merges (where the identity of at least one of the old servers goes away) in forever (if ever?) - as you correctly observe, they usually "connect" realms, which is effectively the same as merging but all origin servers get to keep their old names, they still show up separately on the character selection screen, and characters with the same name can retain them too by being differentiated as something like Tir-Hydraxian Waterlords vs. Tir-Nethergarde Keep.

      They did do this with Classic era servers as well, but for example the Classic era Hydraxian Waterlords wasn't connected to anything due to being the only English RP-PvE server, and I guess not mixing different server types is more important than population control.

      If you were to log into the game now, either the Classic era client or the Burning Crusade era client, Hydraxian Waterlords and your character would show up in either but with a prompt that you need to choose expansion (and once you did so, the other one would become inaccessible without paying for a clone). You would not be moved to a different server without explicitly choosing the free transfer option in the shop menu. Like I said I don't have the impression that Blizzard has any sort of plan for the server at this point; this just feels like a move to get some forum complainers to shut up.

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    2. Ah, thanks! That all makes sense. I did remember HL was the lone PvE-RP server, which I guess was a reasonable decision since it never hit Full at any point. Given that, they could have anticipated this problem further down the line, you'd have thought.

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  2. I hadn't heard about this, sad to read of the server's decline. Like Bhagpuss I have no plans to return to Classic for the near future, in my case I simply have no time to play it over playing other games.

    I'll join the chorus of agreement re: small servers. I'd much rather stay put with character names intact than move to follow the crowd. As a non-raider that's an easier situation for me to face though. Playing older MMORPGs pre-F2P conversion I was well used to seemingly deserted servers.

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  3. I'm one of the group that likes smaller servers. I find it more fun when I'm not competing with lots of folks for quests and mobs. I also hate losing a name I'm really fond of, so I'm with you on that point.

    That said, holy moley, I hadn't considered what allowing free moves would do to a smaller server. (I've never been in that situation.) This really does feel like Blizzard is causing a server merge without having to deal with the consequences of a forced move.

    I hope once the transfers end and the server stabilizes you can get back to having fun again.

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  4. Wow, that really sucks Shintar. I am fortunate enough to be on an Oceanic server which means I probably never have to worry about my server folding - I'm on a PVE server whereas the other 2 are both PVP so by default our server is pretty secure. Having so many friends and guildies all leave would be hard to take. IU guess you might take some comfort that perhaps those who remain will result in a more close-knit community, I guess? Kind of like moving to a small town where everybody knows each other in a way.

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    1. The thing is, it was already a small town before the free transfers were opened. Now it's more like a post-apocalyptic wasteland where you gasp in shock every time you see another living soul. :P

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  5. Another excellent post covering my thoughts exactly. Your emotional state is clearly conveyed by use of strong language usually not associated with your kind and mild-mannered demeanour. I feel your pain as well. Hydraxian Waterlords was my primary server in WoW Classic, all my chars there continued to Burning Crusade Classic and now this?!

    What I cannot comprehend is Blizzard’s cause of action: How could they intentionally, purposefully drain an already low-pop server in favour of already more populated ones?! Like you said, in the past transfers used to be from high-pop servers to low-pop servers, not the other way around and that seemed to work just fine. Why they would go this way is beyond me. This certainly felt like a death sentence. I prefer smaller servers, but at least *some* people are required in an MMO after all!

    Currently, I’m leveling a char on Kingsfall (SoM), a massively crowded server, and it’s an interesting experience – kind of reminiscent of the Nostalrius launch. Who knows where this road leads …

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    1. Yeah, I'm not one to use a lot of swears, and I did hesitate to be this lurid, but ultimately I felt this situation definitely deserved it. I seem to remember the devs saying somewhere early in Classic development that they knew server community was something important to the Classic community and that they were planning to respect it. Can't say it has felt that way after this. What a mess!

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