If you don't know by now that Star Wars: The Old Republic has been struggling with server population issues, then you must have been on a deserted island for the last couple of months. When the game was released, far too many servers were introduced, so the population thinned out quite a bit. The only solution was to allow some of these communities to merge.
Hopefully, by now you have logged into SWTOR and transferred your characters to your new higher-population server if you were offered that chance. Although I've leaked out bits and pieces of thoughts about the whole transfer process, I figure it's probably best to give my impressions all in one spot. Welcome to this week's Hyperspace Beacon.
I want to give the BioWare team some incredible praise for the fluidness and speed of the actual transfer process.
The first character I could transfer was on Ajunta Pall. At the time, I thought that my primary server, Lord Adraas, was going to be a destination server, since we had a fairly high population to begin with. The community posted a list of origin servers but not a list of destination servers. In order for me to see that list, I had to log into my account and start a transfer. The community team quickly realized the issue and posted a list of origin and destination servers. Ajunta Pall was slated to transfer to Jung Ma. Both of these servers were RP-PvP servers, and both carried about the same size of population. However, Jung Ma was slightly bigger.
When I selected to transfer to Jung Ma, the site gave me a list of characters currently on the origin server. I wish it would have given me a list of characters on the destination server; however, a quick log-in revealed that I happened to have a Shaddoe on Jung Ma already. Luckily, he was just a placeholder, so I could delete him without feeling guilty. (Protip: If you have a name that you are known by, create that character on multiple servers when the game launches. You will be happier for it.)
After deleting Jung Ma's Shaddoe, I hit the transfer button on the website, and to my surprise, the site alerted me that Ajunta Pall's Shaddoe had mail and that the mail would not transfer, at which point, I logged in to Ajunta Pall and found that Shaddoe did, indeed have mail -- the tauntaun mini-pet, even. I couldn't let that be deleted! After logging off the server, I clicked back to the website to continue the transfer.
Toward the top of the screen, a green box popped up explaining that the transfer was in progress. I had expected that green box to update me when the transfer was complete, but it didn't (first-world problems, right?). That particular update was delivered to my email. In fact, the transfer happened so fast that the transfer-is-finished email was time-stamped before the transfer-in-progress email.
Although the transfer process was extremely smooth and there were very, very few reported issues, that does not mean that some of the choices BioWare made didn't confuse the heck out of some players.
The biggest question on many players' minds was "What is the specific ultimate goal?" We know that BioWare was looking to make the game more fun for the players and that having nearly empty servers was detrimental to this goal. However, not every player was clear on how BioWare planned on making that happen. I did do a news report on it a couple of days back, so I won't rehash the details, but in the end, players are left wondering whether BioWare plans to even out the population or attempt to push everyone into a small group of high-population servers.
A Massively reader suggested that evening out the population and having high-population servers were not mutually exclusive. In some cases, I would agree. Unfortunately, SWTOR's overall population has dwindled to the point that if there were an equal number of players on each server, then every server would feel empty. Population consolidation had to happen.
Although many players are confused by BioWare's verbiage, it was clear to me that it intends to place as many people as possible on the fewest servers as possible. Eventually, the servers with strong populations will be the only active servers. The east coast PvP servers are The Fatman and Prophecy of the Five, with The Bastion being the sole west coast PvP server. Jedi Covenant, The Shadowlands, Corellian Run, and Canderous Ordo make up the east coast PvE servers, with Drooga's Pleasure Barge (I'm not making up that name, I swear) and The Harbinger on the west side. The Ebon Hawk and Bergeren Colony are our RP-PvE servers. Jung Ma sits as the only RP-PvP server.
On the European side things aren't as clear cut. Although the PvE, PvP, and RP-PvE servers are well consolidated, a couple of the German and French servers aren't faring well. I have personally received complaints about the RP-PvP servers. We have not received any direction from BioWare as to what is going to happen to those. Huntmaster, the French server, seems to be doing OK, but Lord Calypho and Jen'jidai are hurting. I hope that BioWare speaks about this little situation soon. Maybe combining them with standard PvP servers? It's a tough call.
The end result is fantastic! On my server alone, there are always about 200 people on the Imperial Fleet, and warzones pop really quickly. If I'm looking for roleplay, I can find that everywhere and jump into conversations in a matter of minutes -- no matter which planet I'm on. I really couldn't ask for a better situation overall. It's almost like a relaunch of the game for me.
However, not everything is sweets patogga. Because my server, which I have mentioned was rather large, has been placed on another server, the two communities are a bit at odds with each other. I'm hoping that they eventually make peace or at very least make it some sort of roleplay thing. Then the countless number of name changes -- from first names to legacy names to guild names -- makes communication extremely difficult. I don't know how many times I've had to ask, "Do I know you from Lord Adraas by a different name?"
TL;DR: The end result was good, and the actual transfer process was great, but the decisions made to get to the end was bad. I'll see you next week!
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to email@example.com. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!