Small / Dead servers

There are several pains to playing on a small server. As someone who has played on a small server since the end of TBC, I’m well acquainted with these pains and how the affect all types of players, because I’ve been all types of player in my time on Vek’Nilash.

I’ll give my bullet point list and elaborate on each as needed below.

  • Auction House Economy
  • Lack of highly progressed raiding guild
  • Lack of people out and about in the world
  • (Before group finder) Inability to find groups for group content easily
  • Lack of server identity
  • Guild recruitment issues

My history with being on a small server
I joined Vek’Nilash when I started playing in the summer of 2008, just before the launch of Wrath of the Lich King. I played for years as a solo player. Trying to do some group content but finding that groups just took too long to form.
Fast forward to Mists of Pandaria. The first Vicious War pvp mount is released. The Vicious (Kaldorei) Warsaber. To this day it’s my favorite ground mount in the game. I tried for weeks to PuG RBGs (before pvp group finder existed) to little to no avail. Not enough interest. Not enough people.
I transferred my hunter to Emerald Dream, thinking I could get a taste for RP at the same time as getting my Warsaber. I got the mount and discovered I don’t really have a taste for RP.
In patch 5.4 (SoO) Blizzard announced they would be doing some server merging. I discovered that Vek’Nilash would be merged with two other small realms; Nazgrel & Nesingwary. Honestly, not much changed it felt like and I kept playing basically solo.
Legion came and I decided I wanted to try harder in raiding. I pugged all 5 AoTC achievements in Legion.
Now, in Shadowlands, I’m a Co-GM, Recruiter and Raid Leader for one of the best raiding guilds on the server, and the most progressed Alliance guild. And we’re 3/10M. To this day, no guild on my server is 4/10M.

Auction House
The Auction House on small servers is one of the hottest topics I hear. The entire economy can be controlled by a few people with enough gold. The BoE market is non-existent due to so few guilds raiding. The number of mythic BoEs available I could count on one hand. The economy around legendaries in SL has been an absolute tragedy. There simply isn’t the volume of items on the Auction to keep it from being insanely volatile and have drastically different prices on items from one day to the next.

Lack of Highly Progressed Raiding Guilds
As I mentioned, there are no guilds on my server at 4/10M. There are 3 at 3/10M and 3 more at 1/10M.

Lack of server Identity
Over half the people I see in Oribos when I log on aren’t even from my connected server group. They’re people I can interact with one, but will never see again. I want to see people from my server in the cities, people that I can interact with every day.

Guild Recruitment Issues
Out of the hundreds of people I’ve talked to about guild recruitment, I could probably count on one hand how many have heard of Vek’Nilash. Some people don’t want to leave larger servers like Illidan, A52, Stormrage, etc. It makes it hard to recruit no matter how good the sales pitch is. Top that off with the fact that we’re an Alliance guild on a small server.

I’m sure I missed some pains that people have with being on a small server; so do let me know if there are any issues I missed and I look forward to discussing the implications and opportunities with small servers in the future.

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Relative to a conversation on the GD right now; I want to add this here for the council to discuss as well, as I’m curious about your feedback on the issue of small servers and how to fix it.

(Full thread: CC - realm population issues thread cross-discussion)

What are your thoughts?

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I used to play on another server before I migrated to Argent Dawn EU, where the RP community quietly died out because of a low server population. Migration was really the only solution at the time because it was a question of move, or quit.

In theory, I think merging realms is a solution, but it is difficult to say whether or not it is worth going through all of this, as you listed:

Technically these are all short-term issues that will, in theory, stabilise themselves over time. But that’s just projection on my part.

Since I haven’t really been able to add much constructive yet, I’ll add something from a RPers perspective :>

Community is the entire game on RP servers, in some ways to a greater extent than other servers. There is a long, shared history and an RP canon to go with it, and no two RP servers are the same. In one server, the powers at be might be bureaucrats who have a long history of community outreach. On another, it is a draconian dictatorship. It would be strange if these two canons were suddenly to exist on the same realm, it would cause a bit of an identity crisis for a lot of players. (These are both made up examples by the way :>)

Kind of ironically, this is probably one of the reasons RP servers tend to quietly wilt away so that the majority can congregate on a single, strong server.

Ultimately, I don’t have any solutions :< but it is a real problem, and I hope something can be done.

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Totally understand the RP thing - but isn’t that why we have normal servers and RP servers? Could we not just be merging normal ones and leaving RP realms as they are?

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True, and I think we might want to treat them differently in the future if merging/connections become a thing.

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I think if an RP server is truly dead then it should probably be closed down/merged; but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know if that would be good even. Injecting even 100 active RPers into a new server would probably not be the best thing for either RP community.

There’s a cost/benefit analysis to be had there haha

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In response the original post in this thread!:

I’ve been on a few low-medium populated servers before finally moving to my current realm, Area 52. I found that on the low-medium populated servers that groups took a long time to form compared to Area 52, Which is considered “Full” at this time on the realm selection list.

I also took note that on the lower populated realms that a lot of major raiding guilds left those realms and went for much higher populated realms. This was particularly an issue because if you wanted to get into a guild that did major end-game raiding, You would have to leave the server as well to a higher populated one.

This caused many issues including, But not limited to:

  • Having issues on your low populated realm to finding a good guild that did things constantly!
  • Limited items on the Auction House to purchase - This could also make things on the Auction House rather expensive due to supply and demand compared to higher populated servers.
  • Not many players from the same realm to quest with or do dungeons with! (This was a major issue prior to the dungeon finder being added to the game!)

Once I transferred to Area 52 a couple of years back now - I found it a lot easier to form groups and find an awesome guild that I’m still part of. I also find the stuff I need from the Auction House more readily available at decent prices!

Additionally, I find the community itself a lot more social compared to being on a lower populated realms - Both here on the Forums and in-game! The cities are a lot more active too.

If you check out the lower populated Realm Forums here on this site, You’ll notice there is rarely any posts there compared to “Full” or “High” populated servers.

What can be done to fix this?:

No one will leave a higher populated realm. Mostly due to the reasons stated above. Also, More and more players will likely leave their lower populated servers. This causing them to become even more dead over time.

I feel the time has come to start merging the lower populated realms into (1) single larger one. I understand Blizzard has done Realm Connections in the past. But I don’t see this very helpful from what I’ve seen as many players still choose to leave the Connected Realms for larger ones.

Additionally, I know many players wouldn’t want to see this as I’ve seen posts saying if this were done it would be a sign the game is dying off here on the Forums over the years. But this is pretty much what has to be done at this point.

Also, Another option that may work in regards to the Auction House - Is to connect it to all realms. This would make items more accessible for players that are on lower populated servers.

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From the perspective of my guild we used to be on a very low population realm. In BFA before nyalotha it had less than 10 active raiding groups and 1 in the top 300 US. The economy was awful to the point we had to transfer guild banks with every tab full of materials to supply the necessities for raiding.

While the community of the server was awesome, it was a ghost town. The QoL was like living in a desert. Keep in mind this was after a merge with other low population realms. And sure while a majority of the game is cross realm, there’s still things that are not. We moved right before 8.3 dropped and it was a life changing experience or at least it felt like one. People may think it’s fine being on a low population realm but it actually makes the game feel awful, I’ve known people who have quit due to such poor QoL issues.

Reality is something more drastic needs to be done. Either make it so realms are in name only or be much more aggressive with merges. It took too long after the first round of merges in mop to happen(end of bfa for second round). The players don’t deserve such poor QoL because of what I’d assume could be poor optics or not enough resources or design foresight to fix any technical limitations. WoW is a social experience and after we made the move I realized the negative impact a dead realm has on players enjoyment is massive.

Don’t even get me started on us spending 12-15m total to transfer us and our alts and that wasn’t including the people who paid for themselves. Very disturbing

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There are likely some economy issues with this option; but I’m not too sure how it would play out.

I agree, and I would like to see how it would work. As I mentioned in a follow up post to the original post, there are issues with doing this that would need to be addressed in the short term.

This is what my server feels like.

Honestly, I would rather see Oribos with next to no one in it, but people that I can interact with fully versus it being crowded and never seeing any of those players again.

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I think the only reason my small server is dead is because of mythic raiding. We had a ton of top 50 guilds just leave because server prices alone were insane and while I dont really read much into the PvE side of things it just seems like going to those clogged servers is better for general game stuff but terrible for expansion launches.

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This is a topic that is coming back up in my guild, as I have members talking about transferring characters off and back onto our server to go to Stormrage, Proudmoore, and other big alliance servers to play the auction house for the 9.2 release. Specifically related to legendaries and crafting materials.

This is also still an issue. I have seen the price of 190 ilvl legendary cloaks go from 20g to 10,000g throughout the expansion. 20g doesn’t even cover the cost to make them, and 10,000 is probably excessive seeing as any tailor can make a 190.

Another question I have (though this may be better for another thread) is why did the requirement to make 15 at each ilvl exist to upgrade to the next? To me it just seems overkill. I can understand it being more than 1, but 15 just saturates the market and ruins it in my experience. (Still trying to sell all the cloaks I made to get to 235)

The question I have at the end of the day - because I genuinely don’t know - is if people are willing to transfer back and forth off servers to use another auction house, would it really be the end of the world if the auctions were merged more than they are right now? Would it even be possible to merge auctions for servers that aren’t connected?

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Hey Arkros,

Being on the server team, what is your focus with respect to servers? Overall population? Faction balance? Economy?

Great to see you here!

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I think sharding has ruined all hopes of faction balance regardless of changes from server teams

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Hey Letholas!

The portion of the Server team I lead is responsible for a large portion of the backend software for World of Warcraft. This means we write and maintain many of the software features that put the O in MMO; guilds, the auction house, matchmaking, and the login flow, to name a few. We’re also responsible for all persistent data related to WoW. Meaning, we’re the shepherds of all your characters and items. As a result of that, we work very closely with our partners in Service Technologies & Customer Service to provide tools for helping with all sorts of CS requests.

On top of all that, we’re also big partners to some of the other software teams in understanding backend performance, and making sure that the online player experience stays as reliable as possible.

Hopefully that helps illuminate some of what my team does. Thanks for asking, its a great question!

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That’s super cool!

Some of my comments in this thread have related to the auction house. Playing on a small server has meant that many prices, such as legendary components, crafting materials, and BoE’s are inflated due to lack of supply.

For example, I checked out the Auction on Stormrage yesterday, out of curiousity, and found that prices for BoE s and Legendary components (262 ilvl) were anywhere from 50,000 - 200,000 gold cheaper than on my server. One could argue there is more money to be made on a small server due to these prices, but I’d argue the opposite due to the lack of demand that correlates with fewer players striving to play at high levels. (Someone just questing in Korthia and doing other solo content may be fine with a cheap, 235 legendary versus dishing out 100,000 + gold for a 262 that doesn’t matter to them).

How does your team feel about the overall health of the auction house per realm? Is there a world where multiple realms (not already connected) that have smaller player bases could see combined auctions? Or do you feel there is another solution to this issue?

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I think one way blizzard could help fix this is with a sell directly to the vendors kind of thing make it kind of like WoW tokens where people buy and sell the items directly to the auction house and the price could fluxuate just a little without people undercutting each other

Personally I would disagree with this.

It takes the economy out of the auction. It’s necessary for tokens because of what they are, but there should always be an element of supply and demand in the auction house.

The value of an item is not determined by it’s price. It’s determined by what someone is willing to pay for it.

Having the program determine the cost of any given item completely removes the playability with the auction. My issues are not with the system, they’re with the lack of interaction on small servers. Supply and demand are both low on small servers as fewer players interact with the auction on any given day. Undercutting is part of the economy. It’s a fine line of undercutting enough to get a sale, but not so much that you don’t get a return on your investment.

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While not the best idea it would fix the small server insane costs. Obviously blizzard could workshop it better or make it actually worth the value I just want something to help my dead server peeps as its real cutthroat in low pop

I’ve had some people on my server asking about this again.

Are there any plans going into 10.0 to address server population & overall economy? I think the new work order system in particular could be very cool but I can see some major issues with it on a small server like ours.

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Really glad to see some changes here. This will definitely be a help, although it does not do anything to help the cost of items like legendaries. I understand those won’t be going forward to Dragonflight, as flasks / gathered materials / etc will.

I think that some of the other items that could benefit from this (as it’s not completely clear if they will be included)

  • Vanthus Runes
  • Battle Pets
  • Mounts
  • Enchants
  • Bags

I wonder if we could compromise on the armor, if items from old expansions could be added to the list of region wide for collectors who want their appearances and are able to buy them on the auction.

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