Monday, September 15, 2008

Warhammer Queue Conjecture

The head start for Warhammer Online kicked off without too many problems yesterday as players who ordered the collectors edition begin to sign into the game. The only issues seemed to be related to the queue system which quickly started enforcing timers on the more popular servers. As many bloggers have noted the two faction system used in Warhammer is particularly sensitive to population imbalances compared to Dark Age of Camelot. As a result Mythic has been forced to use a queue system to make sure the player population never favors one faction over the other. This is especially important during the game's start since many players will be jumping into the RvR areas and Scenarios right away. If one faction is more numerous then the other it could ruin the early PvP experience for the players and hurt the game's numbers.

Mythic will most likely relax the stringent queue system after the initial burst of players have finished choosing their primary servers. It's natural for servers to have spikes in populations and I think Mythic just wants to avoid the skewed population problems that initially hurt World of Warcraft's battlegrounds. Blizzard eventually managed to fix their problem by creating battlegroups which allowed cross server battles. Unfortunately, the same trick won't work for Warhammer Online since it will have multiple RvR zones which are part of the open world. The queue system is always going to be needed to balance the fighting in these areas. At the moment it looks like pre-made guilds are just going to have to be careful about what Warhammer servers they attempt start on.

Rough estimates on standard MMO servers
-The average MMO server tends to have between 5,000-10,000 simultaneous players
-High population servers are ones that continually approach the upper limit
-High population definitions have very little to do with the number of characters on it

SWAG Estimates on Warhammer Queue
I would guess that Mythic wants less then a 10% difference between the two factions as the servers are initially populated with players. I'm also guessing this difference is hooked into a weighted round robin system so that a entire faction is never prevented from ever getting into a server.

Say Warhammer runs on a server able to handle 12,000 active players with no problems. If it were at full capacity then it would only allow a difference of 1,200 players at 10%. This give the smaller faction around 5400 players and the larger faction 6600 players. If the queue system was weighted on a 1-10% difference then it would award the next 10 slots to the smaller faction before awarding 1 slot to the larger faction.

There are both good and bad points to using a faction based queue system. The major benefit is that it will balance open world pvp content on each server. World of Warcraft has long had a problem with open world PvP objectives like Halaa and the Auchindoun Wastes always being held by the more populous faction. This tends to make earning the rewards almost impossible for the smaller faction unless they attempt it late at night. A side benefit is that will also prevent the scenario queue times from becoming too unbalanced. The only problem is that players are likely to hate the queues especially in cases where unstable connection or computer crashes result in a long wait to get back in. Such a system pretty much makes raiding impossible very difficult to coordinate which might be why Warhammer Online only has large scale PvP encounters.


sid67 said...

Where did you read that the cap will change? My understanding is that there is simply a hard cap on each side. So if the server max is 2000, then the cap is 1000 for each side. It doesn’t matter if only 600 people are logged in on one side, the cap is still 1000.

The recent queue time mess is largely because Mythic is keeping the max server cap artificially low for the first three days of it’s life. So if server A has a max cap of 2000, then the max cap is 600 on day 1, 1200 on day 2 and 2000 on day 3. So if the max cap is only 600 – then that means there are only 300 spots available to each faction on the first day.

By Tuesday, all servers launched on Sunday will be at max cap. However, any server launched on Monday will be at 2/3 cap and all servers launched on Tuesday will be at 1/3 cap. The prevailing theory is that this keeps the number of people allowed in the starting zones fairly reasonable and forces people to spread out early on.

Relmstein said...

I hadn't heard about the first day population cap being 1/3 of max capacity. It makes sense to trickle players onto each server so that they have time to level up and spread out.

This is just for the initial roll out though and Mythic will probably have a better system for balancing the factions once the servers are at max capacity. If they use something like a weighted round robin system to assign slots as people logged off it would be much more efficient then just hard capping the factions to half the max server capacity.

This post is mostly SWAG or Stupid Wild Ass Guess.

Anonymous said...

It would be possible not to free up a slot in the queue for about 2 minutes, so players who got disconnected could skip the queue.
Somehow the server just should remember who just logged off for a short time and give that account/character/player priority

Capn John said...

I agree 100% with Anonymous. If I get lagged out and try to log back in within a minute or two, I shouldn't be kicked to the back of the queue. I should be given priority for getting back in, at least for the next 5 minutes or so.

Relmstein said...

I don't think its outside the realm of possibility that they don't count you as logged off until you've been disconnected longer then a few minutes.

Word from the head start is that this is not the case though. Maybe in a future patch?

Captain Angry said...

I don't have much interest in WAR or PVP in general, but I find it ironic that people (This post excluded) are complaining about the queues...

The PVP nuts all wanted to make Quake 3 Arena into an MMO, well sometimes the teams are full up and you gotta wait for the next round or find another server. That's just the nature of "team deathmatch" or "CTF" or various other things we used to call it before it was called "PVP."

Its because of stuff like this that I think the PVP based MMO model will always been flawed at its core.

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