Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Intercontinental Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games

Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires has written a piece about "Enforced Localization" in MMOs, and his experiences as a Scot playing MMOs both nocturnally and in more normal hours.

I had my own slice of localization chaos in World of Warcraft. I'm in Australia, and when I started playing at release, there were no Oceanic timezone servers, just the US west/central/east ones. So I started up on Blackrock, a US west server that was adopted as the "unofficial Aussie server" by a number of large forums.

There was heaps of activity there, indeed so much that Blackrock became horribly overcrowded and had free transfers off the server opened up in one of the first rounds of server transfers Blizzard offered.

My friends and I jumped ship to Daggerspine, which would prove to be my WoW home for a number of years. Our social guild merged with a few others to form a cross-timezone raiding guild, <TDA>. We raided serious 40-man on Friday and Saturday evening server time, which was Saturday and Sunday afternoon Australian-time. And with Daggerspine having quite a large Australian, New Zealander and Singaporean population, there was no shortage of recruits in both timezones.

However, roughly a year after WoW's release (October 22nd, 2005, according to WoWWiki), Blizzard launched the first of the Oceanic servers. A few of us rolled Horde characters on Frostmourne to see what it was like but didn't stick around beyond the mid-20's.

But while our raiding on Daggerspine continued quite well throughout 2006, we should have known that the writing was on the wall. When The Burning Crusade landed, with its switch to 25-man raids as the largest PvE group, we thought "OK, let's have separate US and Aussie raid teams, and we can raid weeknights, rather than just the small slice of the week that works for both sides."

What actually followed was a slow slide into fail for the Aussie side. It was great at first - 10-man Karazhan being the first raid content of the expansion, we had no trouble assembling 10 top Aussie players and as I recall, we left the guild's US raid team in our dust when it came to clearing Kara. But we simply never managed to get 25-man raids up and running seriously.

With Wrath of the Lich King, the Aussie arm of the guild split off to form a fresh separate guild, <Rule Thirty Four>, to seriously reboot and make a big push at it. It worked well at first - the renewed focus and enthusiasm was great, and we cleared all 25-man content in 3.0. Downing Sarth+3D, in particular, was one of the most satisfying kills of my raiding career. But moving forward, the ever-increasing shortage of Oceanic players on Daggerspine began to bite. We did clear Ulduar, but it was a chore, with raids cancelled due to lack of players not being uncommon, and when we came to look at hardmodes, it was apparent we simply did not have 25 skilled, geared and dedicated players, nor any real prospect of recruiting them.

At this point, a bunch of our most serious players said "screw this" and transferred to Oceanic servers to join more hardcore guilds. I resigned myself to the fact that "the band had broken up," so to speak, because I pretty much felt that I'd rather not raid at all, than raid with a bunch of strangers, after playing with the same team for so many years. Seems everyone else came to the same conclusion, though, because it wasn't long until they all said "let's reform on Frostmourne."

So there I was. On Frostmourne, the original Oceanic server. I transferred just one character over, my priest main - and, being drunk when I did it, I forgot to load up with cash, so I only had about 2000g of my bankroll with me. We formed <Rule Thirty Four> anew, started 10-man raiding while we waited for the 3.3 patch to arrive, and the moved into 10-man Icecrown Citadel.

And a few weeks ago now, we had recruited enough people to get back up into 25-mans. Now? Six bosses down in ICC-25. All-guild 25-man runs. Good new people, who are both good players and fun people to game with. Damn, I really wish we had jumped ship back when the Oceanic servers first launched. That's all I can say.