Are You Being Megaserved?
So maybe I was a little too optimistic about the Megaserver...
At least from a technical standpoint, everything seems to be going smoothly. I haven't heard of any uptick in crashes or anything like that, and any performance issues appear to be resulting from known, pre-existing issues (which I'll get into shortly).
But there definitely are issues. And while I've seen the occasional “ArenaNet, you broke the game, I'm quitting forever!” rant, I don't think they're too severe or unfixable. Nevertheless, they are impacting my “fun factor,” and I'd guess several of you feel the same way.
World bosses. In general, I like the Megaserver concept and how it's made previously barren zones look and feel more populated. That said, there are limits as to how much I'm willing to share my personal space and exactly how much I feel is “too much.” I said that population in world boss fights wouldn't be going up by 225%, which is how some folks chose to interpret the Megaserver population chart... but it sure feels that way sometimes.
Pre-Megaserver, you might have occasionally found a relatively small group – say, 20-30 people – doing boos fights. No more. Between Megaserver shards always being full and the simpler, more predictable timing, big boss events are now zergfests to the nth degree. I haven't yet had a chance to try out a super-coordinated battle like Teqatl or the Three-headed Jungle Wurm, but I have done plenty of other world bosses and they're just not fun – not to mention remotely challenging – any more. With upwards of 100 people assaulting Taidha Covington or the Fire Elemental every time, the poor bosses don't stand a chance. For some, their pre-fight drama scenes last longer than the battles themselves.
And if you don't have a good machine? Enjoy your frame (not frames) per second.
Could this be solved, or at least mitigated, with a drop in each zone's population cap? Cutting it by a third or even half would help return boss fights to pre-Megaserver levels, but should still keep the zone populated enough for regular exploration and events. Speaking of which...
Regular events. I love that there are people in every zone now that I can do events with! The numbers seem about right from that standpoint, but, as with the big boss battles, the challenge had largely disappeared.
This doesn't mean that I struggled to complete pre-Megaserver events. But when there were only two or three of us and the event sent waves of regular enemies at us, it felt appropriate. Now that events are typically much better manned, the number of enemies has gone up, but not their quality.
I did an event last week where we had about 10 people defending a camp from centaurs. Each wave of enemies featured all regular mobs and one veteran. Clumped together as they were, and facing down what was probably a group of downleveled 80s, the centaurs were mostly vaporized in mere seconds by AoEs, with the veteran survivor lasting briefly longer before getting mopped up.
All of this makes farming easier, but, as with the huge boss events, it detracts from the game as a whole. I would guess that, when the events were originally designed, it was assumed that monsters would be opposed by people at or near the level of the zone – not a horde of level 80s fully tricked out in exotic/ascended/legendary gear. Some reworking of the event-scaling algorithm, to take into account players' increased ability to dish out and receive pain, may be in order. I'd love to see multiple veterans, or maybe even the occasional champion, spawn during these events.
There are still new players, of course, as well as people leveling alts, so it might be fine to keep events in starter areas, and maybe the 15-25 zones of Brisban Wildlands, Kessex Hills, Diessa Lowlands, and Snowden Drifts, at their current levels. But I'd wager that the majority of characters in any given event are being downleveled into it and these days their capabilities greatly outstrip the challenge.
And if five “normal level” characters wipe at an event that's been scaled at least partially to handle 80s? Maybe that's not the end of the world, especially now that they won't even have to pay for repair costs.
Guild missions. This is one we at least saw coming. While my smallish guild has only experienced minor difficulty in getting everyone onto the same map for missions, it's a fear every time we set out. I'd imagine that larger guilds feel the pain even more acutely.
Two possibilities for addressing this come to mind. First, while there is some weight given to finding people from your guild on the Megaserver, it's pretty small: only 5%, according to the chart. On the other hand, squads aren't a part of the selection at all. What if they could be figured in, with a priority at least approaching that of being in a party? Then everyone could join a guild squad and multiple groups could more easily converge on a single map instance.
Perhaps there would also be a way to tweak – or more appropriately, completely throw out the window – the priority calculator when a guild mission is active. Change the guild priority from 5% to 500% (or so) when missions are active to make it a virtual guarantee that guild members will wind up on the same map. This option wouldn't work as well for big guilds looking to do non-mission content, like megabosses or Orrian temples, but it could at least solve the basic issue during guild missions.
What's been your experience with Megaservers so far? Do these sound like good solutions to you, or do you have better ideas – or even totally different problems that you think need addressing?
Jason Winter is the semi-proud owner of an underwater legendary weapon. He's been gaming long enough to remember when the Atari 2600 was a thing and when Ms. Pac-Man was all the rage. Get off of his lawn and find him on Twitter @winterinformal.