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Server structure and your thoughts

    • 11 posts
    April 11, 2018 11:35 AM PDT

    (Edit: What I'm appearantly attempting to advocate to below is appearantly  mega servers with sharding technology to help better handle/distribute population and load on the server. I am NOT advocating for cross realm play or instanced content. I simply viewed sharding and instancing as basically the same thing. Being on a shard 1 of the server is the same as being on instance 1 of the server to me. An active-population-mitigation technology, if you will. I thought my statement of "So why don't we squash this before it gets started and use mega server technology? In modern MMOs that implement mega servers, severpopulation and lag issues are handled via 'instancing' technology that actively mitigates players into smaller pockets of the same server while still maintaining a healthy population." Was pretty clear but I guess not. Sorry for any confusion.)

     

    What do you guys think the server structure for Pantheon should be? I asked about it in the comments section of their YouTube post of the Twitchcon interview. In the interview it was mentioned that Pantheon would have traditional PvP and PvE servers. I asked if there would be multiple of each server type or if these would be "mega" servers. The answer (to my dissapointment) was that there would be multiple of each. They also said that how many servers would be determined based on beta testing and feedback. This feels like an outdated server structure, and for good reason. Beta and player feedback during beta won't come close to accurately accounting for the drop off of new player inrush and the general aging of the game. A lot of the more seasoned MMOs are either combining their servers into mega servers or using cross server technology to solve population problems that occur after the initial inrush of players. This has its own set of problems as well though. In WoW, for instance, certain things are limited to your server alone and cannot be achieved cross server. Other games that have had to combine servers had to deal with name conflicts (and in a game heavily enveloped with RP, a character's name is very important). It's been proven in other MMOs that as the initial inrush falls off and as the game ages, some servers will struggle and others will maintain strong in terms of population. So why don't we squash this before it gets started and use mega server technology? In modern MMOs that implement mega servers, severpopulation and lag issues are handled via 'instancing' technology that actively mitigates players into smaller pockets of the same server while still maintaining a healthy population. I believe in either one large mega server per region (US, EU, etc), or multiple mega servers that fit the need of the player (PvP, PvE, RPPvP, RPPvE), but truely I don't see why PvP can't just be a toggle option with some sort of penalty or cool down to keep people from finding a way to game the system. I know that Pantheon is trying to hit the niche of the old school MMO market, but it should still focus on updated technology and features. What are everybody else's thoughts on how the Pantheon team should approach server structure?


    This post was edited by Dereknub at April 11, 2018 6:43 PM PDT
    • 1649 posts
    April 11, 2018 3:41 PM PDT

    I just commented on this in a different thread.  I'll paste it here and add my opinion of mega servers at the end.

     

     Iksar said: servers have so many players it's often hard to keep track of the jerks.

     Hopefully server populations will be low enough that this will not be the case.

    There is also part of me that thinks the "niche" game that was advertised years ago has gone full mainstream at this point.  When the niche that is being focused on becomes hugely popular, when is it no longer considered niche?

    Small populations per server would serve to do a number of things:

    ~A smaller population leads to less competition for camps/spawns...which leads to less of the jerky behavior that Iksar mentioned above.  Less worry about "who owns a camp"  if there are plenty of camps to go around.

    ~  It will make it so reputation actually does matter.  You won't get lost in the crowd. 

    ~It will make the game feel more niche even if it is widely popular because the player is only exposed to a very limited number of people.

    Because VR has been basing a lot around reputation, if they make the average server populations even medium sized I think they will be shooting themselves in the foot. Reputation won't be enough of a factor if everyone doesn't know everyone.

     The down side is that smaller populations may mean longer wait times to find a group...though there would also be more solo camps available.  I think I'm ok with the down side.

    ------------------

    As far as mega servers go...I'm not a fan.  They are often used by games as a way to try to cover up their dwindling playerbase, or to quickly implement cross server instances.

    Besides the things mentioned above like: Overcrowding which leads to more competition for camps/raids/other content, less responsibility for a players actions.  Reputation doesn't matter.

    We all know that Pantheon will, thankfully, have nothing to do with cross server grouping.  There are no instances.  There are no dungeon queues where people join up, kill, and leave with little to no social interaction.  You will have to talk to people.  How you play and what you do will matter.  People will remember.

    Everything about megaservers reeks of the new style of mmo that Pantheon is trying to go away from.  Op, I have to question your experience with first gen MMOs?  Prior to 2004 when things started to change?  What is your thought on that time period?  You may be in for a rude awakening if you are interested in things like megaservers, instancing, and cross server queues.


    This post was edited by philo at April 11, 2018 3:47 PM PDT
    • 11 posts
    April 11, 2018 4:02 PM PDT

    Philo, this isn't a first gen MMO, that's the point of my post. Some things change for a reason. Accessibility being a large one. Having enough people to find a group in a timely manner and any time of day is a good thing. Devs can control how much an instance of the server contains population-wise. And games release new with mega servers now, they aren't always implemented to control a loss in playerbase. The modern MMO style became popular because of accessibility, not becessarily ease of use (though I will agree that a lot of modern MMO core game features are too easy). Difficulty breeds social interaction because you have to be social to work together. You may want to weed out the non-old-school MMO players (as it seems much of the Pantheon community wants to do) but VR will need a decent number of subs to fund newer and better content as the game ages. And no, I've admittedly not played a lot of old school MMOs.

    • 1649 posts
    April 11, 2018 4:29 PM PDT

    We understand this isn't a first gen mmo...but, as intended, there will be many facets of the game that harken back to that time.

    There will be no instances...for a whole slew of reasons.   I encourage you to look up threads on the topic.  This is something that has been advertised pretty much from day one...for years now at least.

    No one wants to "weed out the non-old-school MMO players".  I have faith that the game will weed out players who can't/won't adapt to its play style. 

    I think a lot of newer gamers don't understand what they have been missing because they have never had the option to play a game like Pantheon (hopefully).  Challenging gameplay, harsh penalties, reputation matters, relying on others is required etc. 

    It may offer them more enjoyment than a lot of people realize.  I'm hopeing it turns on a lot of people to this style of gameplay.


    This post was edited by philo at April 11, 2018 4:33 PM PDT
    • 11 posts
    April 11, 2018 4:41 PM PDT

    Philo, I get the idea of no instances and I love it. When I say server instance I don't mean in the traditional sense of instanced content. Just ways to keep the server pop from being high enough without overpopulation. I think you already knew what I meant by that but I just wanted to clarify. I've played some "sandpark" style MMOs with elements of sandbox and theme park mixed together and the non-instanced dungeons and such are some of the best features. I've recently been trying to get into EQ to get more of a feel for the old school style but I'm pretty sure I'm going to enjoy it. I'm just hoping they implement enough new ideas and tech to keep it from being a carbon copy of old school MMOs. and so far it hasn't dissapointed in that. I miss the old, but non so old (since I didn't start playing MMOs in the early days) of MMOs because I miss the difficulty and social aspect. I still raid at a fairly difficult level, but I miss questing and early dungeons being equally as difficult as end game high content ones and I'm looking forward to finding that here. The social aspect is looking great too. I'm fully invested and excited.

    • 1649 posts
    April 11, 2018 5:07 PM PDT

    I'm assuming you mean cross server, instanced, dungeons...when you say "cross server technology to solve population problems".  Is that not what you mean? That doesn't really keep the server populations high anyway...only those cross server instances.  The rest of the, non-cross server, world is still a ghost town. 

    Maybe you meant, mirrored instances of the same zone on the same server?  That was discussed awhile back.  Unsure what the outcome was...but that can't be it because you mention "cross server".

    Server merges are a necessary evil due to fluctuating populations.  One of the key points is that they never want there to be a scenario where you group with someone from another server where your actions don't matter because it's likely you won't encounter them again.

     


    This post was edited by philo at April 11, 2018 5:25 PM PDT
    • 11 posts
    April 11, 2018 5:36 PM PDT

    No no, not cross server instanced dungeons. WoW for example started using a technology a few years back where, even though you're on the same server as how ever many other people, you and a certain amount of the population would be in your own instance/shard/sub-realm of that server. It was implemented to help handle load and population during expansion launches primarily. It greatly reduced lag, crashing, and overcrowded quest areas. It's not truely an inatance., I'm just not sure how to really describe it. It's like active population mitigation.

    • 1649 posts
    April 11, 2018 6:26 PM PDT

    DClatt said:

    No no, not cross server instanced dungeons. WoW for example started using a technology a few years back where, even though you're on the same server as how ever many other people, you and a certain amount of the population would be in your own instance/shard/sub-realm of that server. It was implemented to help handle load and population during expansion launches primarily. It greatly reduced lag, crashing, and overcrowded quest areas. It's not truely an inatance., I'm just not sure how to really describe it. It's like active population mitigation.

    You mean this:

      "Maybe you meant, mirrored instances of the same zone on the same server?  That was discussed awhile back.  Unsure what the outcome was...but that can't be it because you mention "cross server"."

    Sometimes its referred to as shards (which happens to be what they are calling servers in Pantheon...that's not confusing)...or simply zone 1,2,3 etc.  You mentioned cross server first so I thought you were building off of that but.  I think we are on the same page.  Mirrored zones has been discussed to if you can dig it up.  I remember Brad commenting on it but I'm unsure what the outcome was.  I think it was a wait and see kind of thing if I remember correctly.  It's probably been a year or 2 since it was discussed.  You may be able to search through Brads forum posts and find it.

    • 11 posts
    April 11, 2018 6:36 PM PDT

    I mentioned cross servers as a way some games use to deal with that but then I followed up with my complaints about restrictions of cross server play. I'm a large advocate of mega servers with sharding technology (sorry if I was unsure of the name of it). And last I heard (only about 2 weeks ago in the reply to my YouTube comment), Pantheon is planning on using a traditional multi-server platform. The Pantheon YouTube account directly replied to me and told me that. Maybe I should try to edit my initial post to better reflect what I'm referring to lol appearantly as soon as you use any iteration of the word "instance" people freak out. Even though instancing and sharding are basically different implementations of the same (or a very similar) technology. It's funny how that word has come to be viewed so negatively, yet other words that mean nearly the same thing are okay.


    This post was edited by Dereknub at April 12, 2018 3:38 AM PDT
    • 71 posts
    April 12, 2018 3:50 PM PDT

    I for one have always been dead against instancing.  I thought LDON ruined EQ1 because no one talked as much anymore, everyone was too busy going into the instance and dungeon crawling to the end boss to get the phat lewts and then leaving and then rinse and repeat.  It completely destroyed the EQ1 style of gameplay that most people here seem to want to revive.

     

    That said, I actually thought the way EQ2 handled instancing worked pretty well.  You still had seperate servers, but to help with crowding especially in newbie zones as the game was new you had several 'instances' of starting towns, etc.  EQ1 is actually doing this now.  You can still talk with the same people you know across instances as the global channels were cross instance, but it cut lag down, and created less contention for camps and even better these instances were dynamically created based on zone population.  I felt that created the right mix of reputation still being important, having decently populated servers, but creating a mechanism for handling congestion especially during times line a new server launch where everyone is all jammed together.  Nothing sucks worse than starting a new MMO and running out into the newbie yard with 50 other news fighting over the same 10 spawns.  Keep in mind simply that when the server is brand new but you have a 'medium' population, that you really have 5000 people (making a wild assumption here), all jammed into a very small handful of zones because everyone is new.  Over time, it's not an issue because these 5000 people are spread out around the server and vary in levels, but at least in the beginning that's not the case, hence I think instancing would server a real purpose here.

     

    Also, I know others in this thread have said that instancing is not happening and that's been said for years, but that's simply not true.  Brad said in the Halnir caverns stream that instancing would definatley not be the norm, but that they 'might use it selectively in certain situations where it makes sense'.  I am paraphrasing there, but my take away from that is that they may very well use the EQ2 style instancing at server launches to help alleviate the situation where they have to spin new servers to accomodate load only to close/merge them again as people move on after the initial rush winds down.  I also take that to mean that some key quests that have bottlenecks for certain pieces might very well create a one off instance for you to fight quest mob X undisterbured or whatever so you don't have those massive wait lists for epic item camps like we saw in EQ1.  I am perfectly fine with this so long as it's the exception rather than the rule.

     

    My only objections revolve mainly around cross server play, full instancing of dungeons regardless of congestion, and creating instanced areas designed for crawling and not camping because it removes the community part of the game.  All for reasons that have been well articulated above by others.


    This post was edited by Mornroc at April 12, 2018 3:53 PM PDT
    • 1649 posts
    April 12, 2018 4:24 PM PDT

    One of the issues that was brought up when mirrored zones was discussed awhile back was the devaluing of items.  Creating multiple of the same zone ruins item rarity and has a huge effect on the economy.

    (I think most of us know about the stance that instancing may be used on rare occasions.  Similar to how we may play as a Warwizard temporarily in certain epic type of quests.  The assumption is that would be in an instance.  The way I take it is that it will be so rare that, for conversations sake, we can just say there will be no instances.)


    This post was edited by philo at April 12, 2018 4:27 PM PDT
    • 11 posts
    April 12, 2018 5:26 PM PDT
    Mornroc I am completely on board with your last paragraph. Those are Staples for the design of this game and hope it stays that way.
    • 53 posts
    April 14, 2018 7:37 AM PDT

    As a long time player of MMOs starting with EQ I find that I dont not like the "shard" system as seen in ESO and I think EQ2 a long time ago. It seems like the goal would be one big server for everyone, however, that poses a problem in the beginning of the games life...it will be too overcrowded and then years down the road, you have to think about player base declining (hopefully not tho!). And then, we got another problem, if we were just talking about just merging players, that would be easy...but we are talking about having to move player housing too...so it seems a complicatd problem. Perhaps you could use two servers that are linked somehow in a way do where the two connected servers could be merged to one. I guess scable servers or something, if thats a thing.

     

    The main thing is....I dont like "switching channels or shards" in order to sync up with my friends.... So I would rather have traditonal multiple servers.....and if servers need to be merged, perhaps you add more housing space or garantee them a spot when they get moved.

     

    Thank you

     

    Christopher Ament

    (Chryos, Chaos)

    • 910 posts
    April 16, 2018 6:46 AM PDT

    I completely understand where you are coming from Dereknub and also agree with you.  "Merging servers in the future" is a bandaid on a bleeding artery and eventually allows an MMOs populations to bleed out due to people losing interest/getting frustrated having to change names or find new guilds/friends after they've been established for years.  The games that are still around today use this technology or have merged servers and took severe hits to their already dwindling population.  If you know something is going to be an issue in the future, why not avoid it when you have the opportunity to do so?  

    The game has not been seen by all that will play it at release yet (and likely wont until footage of Beta gameplay is posted on YouTube - which will be all over YouTube right in time for release); Beta participation will not be an accurate representation of the player base during launch.  I believe the devs understand this when performing stress testing and server loadout during Beta.  At this point, all we can do is hope that they make the best decision for the longevity of the game.  Server population/load balancing is something that should be taken as seriously as the game mechanics... without a population, you have no game.

    • 303 posts
    April 16, 2018 2:55 PM PDT

    Aradune made a detailed write up about this here: https://www.pantheonmmo.com/content/blogs/151/184/community-content-and-alternate-rulesets

     

     

    • 9 posts
    September 5, 2018 10:10 AM PDT

    I hope they do what's best, but I gotta say I really hate it when I find out a friend of mine (or a friend of a friend) is playing on a different server and both of us refuse to switch.

    (Edit) I wanted to add that I love the way Elder Scrolls Online has a megaserver and they spawn new "instances" once an area fills up.  These aren't single group instances, but an instance with a population cap of 200ppl (yes that's a rough guess, just to get the point across).  This keeps all players on the same "server" so that anyone and everyone can group together, and solves the problem of having 20 servers all with low population with no one to group with on each.  Currently in EQ (yes, I'm playing EverQuest while I wait for Pantheon), during off peak hours I have a very VERY difficult time finding a group because the population just isn't there.  If all of the server were squashed onto one single megaserver with zone instancing, then it would be less of a problem.  One person on this thread said that he doesn't like the idea of "mega server" because it covers up the fact that the MMO is losing it's population.  Thinking about that for a second...you'd lose a population a lot faster if there's no one to group with on 20 low pop servers than you would on one mega server.  I am in favor of the ESO style mega server with zone instancing as long as the player cap for each "instance" is large. You don't want a ghost town, and you don't want an over populated zone either.  That balance is important.

     

    (Edit again) As I was sitting here thinking about EverQuest back in early 2000s, I remember spending my Saturday night running zone to zone lfg.  I was a 52 cleric hitting all the hot zones to try and find an experience group with no luck because each zone was full.  This is another example of how spawning a new instance on population cap could make things a lot more enjoyable for someone with limited time.  It's not fun at all spending Sat night running through multiple zones because each one you hit was full.  Options at that time were to either wait (no telling how long it would take for a spot to free up), spend 20 mins running to the next zone for grouping, or just log out.  Yes, I'm a huge fan of instancing a zone when the population reaches X.


    This post was edited by chaos6699 at October 10, 2018 7:57 AM PDT
    • 11 posts
    May 1, 2019 6:27 PM PDT

    Retsof said:

    Aradune made a detailed write up about this here: https://www.pantheonmmo.com/content/blogs/151/184/community-content-and-alternate-rulesets

    Thanks for sharing, he makes a really good argument for "realms" (different servers), especially when you think global/timezones etc. 

    I wonder if they have ever thought about making realms part of the lore, in that they are somehow interweaved into the story line (multiple dimensions?). There could really difficult quests in the end game that allow a player/guild to travel to another realm, and a similar quest to travel back. It could be interesting for the top guilds from each realm to meet each other (team up? invade?).

    • 16 posts
    May 5, 2019 8:57 AM PDT

    My concern on this subject would be, given the requirement for grouping and the social aspects of the game, if a traditional server setup is done, servers with significantly lower population will struggle, people will re-roll on higher pop servers as it becomes more and more difficult to fill a group, snowballing into server merges and all the trouble that goes along with it. Megaservers, while far from perfection, do at least do away with the server merging, server transferring, re-rolling nightmare that some games suffer (or profit from, depending on your point of view).

    • 42 posts
    June 2, 2020 7:24 PM PDT
    The serverstructure is the most important thing for a mmorpg. And I really hate megaservers, sharding, phasing whatever you want to call it. Having multiple population locked servers (which needs to be merged maybe in distant future) is the only good option.
    Finding groups in minutes at every time like you get it on megaservers looks good on the first view but its not. Id rather look for hours for members than playing on megaservers. I want to know the people that cross my way and I want that they know me. I want that people who behave bad cant do this without consequences. If you want a familiar social and friendly server (not only your guildmates like its normal in todays mmos) you have to go the old way of server structure. And its equally important that you dont let too many people on one server. Keep the nbers low. Look at WoW classic. Originally they had 2500 - 3000 people max on a server. This was intentional and not because of hardware limitations. Today the remastered Classic servers have 5000 or more people online and its really bad. Too many people behave bad and often nothing happens. Too crowded citys.
    Keep the numbers low.
    • 41 posts
    June 6, 2020 3:55 AM PDT

    I am just gonna add my 2p here. Depending on the hype that surrounds this game prior to launch I think it is wise that VR try and gauge how many people will be playing at launch (Open Beta is best way to do this) and if its needed, introduce some form of layering how WoW classic did it. Helps reduce overcrowding in the initial launch period, because overcrowding can legitimately make people quit. Even perhaps after launch if they fail to accurately gauge launch server requirements, they should offer players a one time server swap to new servers if and when they bring them up.

     

    In conclusion; I do not think Pantheon will need Sharding/Layering etc for launch or if so, very minor as its a new IP that doesnt have a 16+ yr old community backing it

    • 2 posts
    June 25, 2020 11:45 AM PDT

    Sharding/instancing is a necessity in todays MMORPG experience.

    Just because older MMORPGs like Everquest did not initally have sharding/instancing does not imply that this is how an MMORPG created with old school design principles should be made today. The technology for such utilities simply did not exist between 1998 - early 2000s. If it had, earlier MMORPGs would have most certaintly integrated sharding/instancing as it makes for a smoother gamer experience.

    For those who disagree, do you really think its fun for the 500 enchanters on the server to require the same rare drop from a particular NPC that is only up for a short period of time every 3 days on a single shard? Bottlenecks do create scarcity and aa sense of awe for certain items, abilities, and achievements; however, it must be done in moderation. It is up to the Devs to try to find that critical balance.

    Despite me pushing for instancing/shadring, I am a huge fan of Open World content. I don't see a problem with popular Open World Zones sharding/instancing so long as the population threshold is set high for raid zones. (for example, in a raid zone, two to three groups should not be enough for the server to generate a new shard. It should require 2 - 4 full raid groups before a new shard is opened in order to maintain the thrill of competition.) Additionally, perhaps each zone should have a unique threshold that must be hit before shards are made available to 'pickzone' over to. Leveling zones can be a lower, raid zones must be higher.

    Let's face it, in todays world, with all the options that exist, it's not fun to spend all the time and effort putting a group together only to not be able to grind, quest, play, etc...because all the camps and leveling areas are occupied. 

    Regarding cross-server gameplay, I think this is something that should be put into practice 'with a brain'. What I mean by this, is years down the line when there are high-pop servers and low-pop servers. I think most of the playerbase would appreciate being able to join shards with players of other low population servers. If two players have the same name, rather than asking them to change their names, why not allow them to add a middle or last name so that they can distinguish themselves from the other player? I think it is assumed that a players 'name' is their first name. It is not a huge issue if another player has that same first name. If there are two Aradunes: Aradune Monk and Aradune Ranger, and I want to send a tell to Aradune Monk. Perhaps I just type, /t Aradune M. Likewise, if I want to send a tell to Aradune Ranger: /t Aradune R.

     

     

     

     

     


    This post was edited by Lionidas at June 25, 2020 11:49 AM PDT
    • 98 posts
    July 19, 2020 10:58 AM PDT

    An argument that I have kept in mind for a couple of years illustrates why instancing and perhaps cross-server play is necessary—

     

    Gavyne on the MMORPG forums:

    To the OP, instances were created to solve a lot of the issues you brought up where elite guilds and elitist players bullied others.  I know EQ players always hated the introduction of instances, but it was the only way to ensure 95% of the playerbase in EQ wouldn't get bullied & locked out of content by 5%.  People had long forgotten about these problems on live servers until EQ came out with progression servers.  Boy it was a mess with so many people wanting to camp for loot and fight over raid bosses. 

    On the progression servers, people were bickering in zone chat, training each other, killstealing was prevalent, and yes even ninja looting was seen even 18 years later in this old game.  The classic progression servers created such petition backlog, with players rage quitting everywhere, they eventually built instances into these progression servers so people could play & enjoy the game.  Yes if you go to play one of several EQ progression servers now, you'll see dungeons are instanced and raids have lockouts.

    It's a bleak reminder that the old times were not all sweet and wonderful.  It's sad that the game is so old, yet people still act the same way when given the opportunity.  I still remember in Planes of Power expansion back in the days, how I was c'blocked by elite guilds locking down plane bosses.  The expansion progression was designed so you had to kill each raid bosses to unlock the next plane.  Well elite guilds figured out how to just lock down the raid bosses so only they could enjoy the higher planes and better loot.

    This works in reverse when people leave servers high and dry for whatever reason. Shard mergers and new additions would be better if seamless, so that no one has to reroll on a different server.

    As for bad players, I think a player being able to attribute a color and even a note to players (not merely characters) as a flag would help the community. No one else would see it, but one could inform others about why they chose to flag that player and others could choose to implement a flag if they wish. This would also become a deterrent to account sharing and selling.

    I love seeing other players in the world and welcome people into a group whenever possible if there is room. The environment is toxic these days, however. It was back then, too, but I think there were less people who jumped in to get what they needed, then bailed (druids and beastlords notwithstanding). After all, you usually had to spend hours with these people in most situations.

    • 2777 posts
    July 21, 2020 8:06 AM PDT

    Cross-server play quite possibly has more disadvantages than advantages. It encourages people to be selfish and unpleasant because few if any of the people that will see them do this are on their own server. The commuity of all people playing the game on any server will hopefully be so large that people are unlikely to remember the name of one person on a different server that acted poorly in one group. I see no reason to have this function unless and until one or more servers shrink to such a small size that getting groups becomes difficult. At which point server merger or allowing free transfers to other servers may be a better option. 

    Many of us argue (perhaps too optimistically perhaps not) that communities will be more generally civil in a game where populations are not huge and people need eachother to do almost anything useful. Cross-server grouping will, by definition, reduce the extent to which people on the same server need eachother.

    As to instancing and shards I am in the minority (or maybe lmajority but we are not as vocal about it) who feel that these are a highly useful tool that can destroy a game if overused but that should not be totally abandoned for this reason. I find the quote above from Gavyne both accurate and compelling.