After watching the blogging storm over the problems and successes of Warhammer, I am again certain that one of the major advancements in traditional MMOs that can’t come too soon is that of getting every player on to one single world server.
If nothing else, I think games should have one single master account server and then run the entire game as instances of areas instead of separate world servers. Warhammer, in my opinion, exemplifies exactly why this is needed. The game, while maintaining a decent level of PvE style game play, is focused on PvP style game play. When players are the content, you have to give the players every possible tool to solve their own problems. And the biggest problem in PvP is population and imbalance.
When playing the game requires not only for you to have a dozen players on your team but also a dozen players on the other team, in the same place, at the same time, it is completely unfun to be on a server where you always have a dozen people and the other side never does. Even more so when you hear that another server is having the exact same problem, but diametrically opposed: they always have a dozen on the side your server lacks, and never have anyone on your side.
I admit, the first time I logged in to City of Heroes on a stress test day in beta and saw 12 of the same city zone instance, I didn’t like it. Grouping up and then trying to get everyone in the same instance was a pain in the ass. Of course, I believe they have overcome much of that now. It can’t really be that hard anyway… if you are in the same zone but a different instance that your group leader, all the players need is a “Join Leader” option that will zone them to the proper instance, or display a message if the action can’t be performed (like if the instance is already at the hard cap for player totals). But seeing games that want PvP elements having to struggle because they have erected an iron wall between their players makes me realize that instancing can actually be a better solution.
I’m still against the idea of overly instancing PvE content, letting players go off into their own private areas and hide from the world, but I definitely think instancing in some overarching way is going to be the solution for PvP content. Give the players the ability to solve their own problems… one that doesn’t include “start a new character on another server” and one that doesn’t require you, the developer, to write exception code to force some sort of cross server matching like WoW has done. Sure, it fixed some of the queue issues, but you still end up playing against people that ultimately are not part of your server community.
One World. I think its a design well worth pursuing, and in some cases is absolutely needed.