Moving Characters Freely Between Servers; Possible or Not?

I found it hard to make the title of this post precise without using a full sentence, so hopefully this works. Basically what I’m wondering is how would it work if players weren’t tied to one particular server, moving freely between servers. Is it possible, or are there too many barriers to make it worthwhile? I’ll look at both sides of the issue.

Benefits/Feasibility:

  • First and foremost, you would be able to play with any character on any server! I can’t count the number of friends who play World of Warcraft that I was unable to play with because they were on one of the 200+ servers that I wasn’t on. As far as I know, EVE is the only game that can avoid this issue — kudos.
  • You would no longer have to pay for server transfers.
  • This would allow guilds from different servers to work together for things like raiding. This would greatly benefit smaller guilds who haven’t found a good guild to merge with that fits their playstyle.
  • Obviously, it would allow you to meet more people and (hopefully) make more friends that you can play with.

With those things said, the downsides I fear would outweigh the benefits.

Drawbacks/Barriers:

  • A smaller issue, but one that would affect A LOT of players is the fact that you would undoubtedly run into naming issues. What happens if you want to hop onto a different server, but another player already has your name? Players aren’t going to want to change their names every time they switch a server. Not only this, but how would other players be able to track you if you were using a different name? They might start talking to a completely different character without knowing it. Along with character names, guild names would also conflict, which would be an even bigger problem to deal with than character names, as it would affect characters who could potentially be on a great deal of servers. How do you rename a guild for part of the group while retaining it as a whole for everyone else?
  • Say you decide to play on a different server with a few of your guildmates because you wanted to group up with a few real-world friends to help them out. How are your other guildmates going to get a hold of you if they need something? This means that not only would the game have to track potentially changing names of characters, but also which server they have gone to. This would also mean that chat would have to work between all servers, something that could potentially be a total mess. Things like Ventrilo could help with this, but not everyone uses these programs.
  • If a number of servers go down for whatever reason, players would have the ability to hop onto another server. I understand that everyone should have the right to play, but server outages are something that can’t be avoided. Ideally, the player base would spread out among the remaining servers so that it wouldn’t really matter, but they might cause issues on another server by overloading it, which noone wants. On the other hand, this could potentially be a way to relieve server overpopulation, but I don’t think it would end up working out that way.
  • I’m not sure exactly how this would work, but I know that it would have a big impact on gold farmers. Instead of having to obtain gold on every server, they would be able to find whichever server worked best for their farming methods and move to whichever server the character buying was on. It would only make their “jobs” easier.
  • How would a player’s mailbox and auction house use be handled? Would they be limited to only using one server’s auction house or recieve mail from players on the same server? If not, then mail would have to be usable on every server, and the ability to shop around for the best buy/sell on any server would create some interesting issues.

A lot of those points had multiple aspects because they were tied together and weren’t worth breaking apart. As you can see, though, the ramifications of attempting something of this nature would be potentially catastrophic (and I’m 100% sure I didn’t hit on all of the problems) and would take an unbelievable amount of testing to make sure everything worked. I’m sure they would much rather be spending on the game itself. I think this is one of those things where you either need to build your game around the idea of having one server for everyone, or you need to stick with multiple servers. There are simply too many issues for this to be a possibility, even though it would be an excellent feature.

~Kanthalos

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