The Art of Wushu: The war for server time [Updated]

The Art of Wushu The war for server time
Scheduled events are a huge part of Age of Wushu. While each player has the option of enjoying the game at his own pace, scheduled events mark the major ways people can have an impact on the world at large. Because these events have to occur at a specific time, their placement will always be convenient for some and inconvenient for others.

Recently -- and without warning -- Snail changed the server time in response to complaints about various events being inconvenient. This time change was influenced by a vote thread on the official forums, but was otherwise invisible; there were no warnings in the game's launcher or via in-game announcements until days afterward. The lack of communication about the time change was bad enough, but unfortunately, listening to the vocal minority had much larger, far-reaching problems for players. [Please see the end of this article for Snail's appended response to these arguments.]

I was going to talk about meridians this time, but addressing this topic was something you requested. You came to the Massively tip jar. You emailed me directly. You messaged me in game. You even came to my house and said, "Hey man, you should write about how messed up the time change is." You asked, and this is my reply.

The Art of Wushu The war for server timeMoving the server reset

Reset time is a fairly big deal for a lot of people. It occurs at 00:01 server time. Originally, this was Pacific time, which was extremely inconvenient for people in later timezones. On most days, reset time simply marks the start of vigor recovery, the point when rank lists update, and the moment at which fatigue resets to 0%.

The most important part of these is fatigue recovery. Because fatigue becomes 0% at the server reset, the largest group of players perform team practice immediately as it becomes available. While there are undoubtedly more team practices performed throughout the day, the single largest volume of team practices occur at the server reset. For people in some schools, it can be extremely hard to get into a team practice if they don't do it during the reset. The best -- and least reliable -- option is to go to Wudang or Scholars (the largest schools) team practice areas and wait. This can take a few minutes or a few hours. Calling in school chat for team practice can result in even longer waits or may be impossible. Many guilds do scheduled team practices at different times, just to counteract the rush at the reset.

Naturally, this makes life pretty inconvenient for people in time zones other than Pacific. In fact, it wasn't even that convenient for western US players either, as midnight is still a fairly late time to be up playing video games. Moving the reset time ahead two hours is the most wholesome, reasonable thing to come out of the time change, just for team practice alone.

However, it gets even more significant due to Monday nights. Monday night is perhaps the single most stressful time for merchants as the server time ticks towards midnight. World stall bidding ends at midnight on Monday, and the final minutes in Suzhou and Chengdu inevitably erupt into gang violence as people fight over stalls. For a bidder to be successful without being online at the reset, she must bid extremely high on stalls -- enough to encourage vultures to snipe somewhere else. As the server grew during beta, the price for a Chengdu stall grew from a 200-300 liang to well over 800 liang. Bidding a ding or more on a stall doesn't guarantee placement there, and the formerly empty Suzhou market is now full of merchants ready to spill blood to secure their grip on the market.

Moving this stressful time up two hours benefits everyone. Eastern timezone players get a chance at stalls without having to stay up until three in the morning, and the 10pm time for Pacific players is hardly an inconvenience. However, because the timezone shift was unannounced and on a Monday, it took many players by surprise. I was spying when I glanced at the server clock and noticed that it was 0:00 instead of 22:00. I was unsure what was happening, and I assumed it was some kind of mistake similar to the Suzhou stall fiasco some time ago. It was only after I went to the forums (which I rarely visit) that I found out that there had been an unannounced vote to determine whether there would be a time change. I did not get a world stall that week, which was extremely painful.

The Art of Wushu The war for server time
Script stealing drives the market

Of the other major events, the most prominent is script stealing. Every day except Sunday at 17:00 server time, two randomly selected schools are assigned as defenders. These schools have 1000 scripts placed in two bookshelves on their school map, and every other school is tasked with stealing them. A successful thief is awarded a random book from that school's martial arts. If a defender recovers a stolen book, he is awarded the book instead. This event typically ends roughly 15 minutes after it starts; it's rare that the event runs the full 30 minutes. If a particularly hard school to steal from gets chosen (Tangmen and Royal Guards being the big offenders), they can last as long as 20 minutes. All 2000 scripts always get stolen, though; the bookshelves are typically empty shortly after the 10-minute mark, especially for high-demand schools like Wudang, Scholars, and Emei.

Scripts are one of the largest movers of money on the market. While the equipment market is almost certainly bigger, the most expensive items on the market are martial arts books. Far and Removed (1) sells for 5 ding or more. Flying Horse (1) sells for over 10 ding. While not every book theft results in these jackpots, it's fairly common to get a book worth several hundred liang, which can provide a nice boost of income. Recently, I loaned 1.5 ding to a friend of mine, expecting to get paid back in a week or so. She paid me back the next day, stating, "Oh, I sold some scripts." Script stealing pays very well.

Moving this time to 3 p.m. 5 p.m. Pacific time is crippling for players on the west coast, assuming they have jobs; most people are leaving work around that time, which means that they will most likely miss out. Kids just getting out of school might not even make it to script stealing. This is just a mistake. [We erroneously calculated the new time as 3 p.m. PDT; it is in fact 5 p.m. PDT.]

However, even worse is the fact that guild wars occur 30 minutes later. While guild wars can last a while, the fact is that a guild is missing the majority of its paying west coast players during a time where attendance is needed the most. Guilds that want to focus on wars have to focus on recruiting players outside the Pacific timezone, which is a huge problem.

Even though I'm a west coast player, I'm impacted very little because I don't work in the afternoons. Many of my friends work irregular hours, so the time changes won't affect me. However, these changes ruin a key source of income and a very important PvP event for anyone who works regular hours on the west coast. This is totally unacceptable.

If you're affected by this change, go to the official forums right now and protest it. If you're not affected, go anyway and protest on behalf of the thousands of people who were royally screwed over by this change. We need to show Snail that we have a voice and that we're not happy. I know a lot of you have already posted, but we need to get louder. Go now!

[Since this article's original publish date, Snail Games contacted us to rebut the claim that the times were changed without warning. "Our initial forum poll was advertised through in game announcements for 2 weeks prior to make sure all of our players had a chance to voice their concerns," Snail told us. "In addition, this forum poll was not the impetus for the shift in server time, but rather a way to get the community involved and gather feedback related to planned changes based on internal data. In regards to the amount of notice provided, we did alert players to the change at least 6 hours prior through in game announcements, our forums and social media sites. While this was shorter notice than we anticipated and would have liked, we did not deploy the change without any notice." Patrick contends that the in-game announcements were insufficient notice as many players, including Patrick himself, did not see any such notices.]

Age of Wushu is a wonderous place, full of hidden secrets, incredible vistas and fearsome martial arts. Join Patrick as he journeys through China, revealing the many secrets of this ancient land. The Ming Dynasty may be a tumultuous time, but studying The Art of Wushu will give you the techniques you need to prevail.
This article was originally published on Massively.