I’m definitely not the first to break the news, but we’ll get to enjoy another 7 hours in Tyria next Monday! I won’t be taking a half-day like I did last time, but I’ll have enough time to refresh my memory on my experiences with the necromancer, warrior, and thief. Be on the lookout for posts about those professions next week.
The official word on servers, or worlds to use their terminology, has been available for a few weeks, but speaking for my own group of friends (who are not as obsessed as I am) this was one of the most sought-after pieces of information and lots of questions and misconceptions came up in its absence. Will you have to pay money each time you want to switch servers? If not, will free and unlimited server transfers break the economy and World vs World PvP? Between the original blog post and PC Gamer’s recent article most of the key details have come to light but I think it’s worth going through the details in my own words. Aside from residual misconceptions, the way servers were set up during the April 27th beta weekend was different than what we are promised for launch.
When you sign into GW2 for the first time, you’ll be asked to select a home world. This is the server you’ll log into with all characters and where you’ll be able to play WvW. If you want to change your homeworld, you can pay a hefty microtransaction–1800 gems–to switch, and you’ll be locked out of switching again for a week. Additionally, people who switch won’t gain “World vs. World bonuses” from the ongoing match of their new home world. This system is meant to deter people from switching home worlds lightly or abandoning a losing WvW team for a winning one. In addition to curbing poor sportsmanship, there may be technical considerations at work here. It took several hours (with a half-hour of downtime) to clear a massive queue of server move requests during the beta. A player’s in-game data can’t be terribly big–maybe a few dozen MB tops–but shuffling thousands of players around at once would definitely tie things up.
“Wait, since all of my characters are on one server, I have to pay money to play with my friends on other servers?” Fortunately this is not the case–there’s a nifty feature called guesting in the works. From the sound of it, guesting will let you play on any non-home server with “certain restrictions.” Currently, we know that one cannot play WvW while guesting, but ArenaNet’s language and iterative development cycle leave the door open for other restrictions to be introduced later, if needed. I don’t see what else they might need to restrict though. Perhaps it won’t be possible to guest on a world with “full” population but that’s just my idle speculation.
What guesting will definitely let you do is PvE with your friends from other worlds, with any of your characters, and without paying money. Gone are the days of having to roll an alt on another server to play with your friends at the expense of your main’s progress and guild contact. This is an innovation that seems far overdue–I was never bitten by the WoW bug, and the status quo of the server model is part of the reason why. If I had two different groups of friends on two servers, I would be tasked with either convincing one group to switch servers (an uphill battle to say the least) or paying money myself to switch servers. Maybe this isn’t a big deal in practice, but it seems like a needless social hurdle in a genre that is supposed to be the king of social.
“Okay cool, so how do I guest?” In the character selection screen, you would go to the World Selection menu, select the server you would like to guest on, and simply click the “guest” button. Clicking the button during the beta just gave you a “Guesting is not available during this beta.” message, so it remains to be seen if the UI for guesting will remain the same.
“You mentioned WvW and PvE, but what about structured PvP?” Structured PvP–the e-sport format–is serverless, so you will be able to play with your friends against people from anywhere regardless of your home world.
“What about guilds?” Guilds will also exist across worlds–Eric Flannum said to PCG to think of guilds as having different “chapters” on each world where its members reside. Whether this statement is literally just a way of thinking about guilds or it reveals that chapters will be part of how guilds are structured is unclear to me.
“So what was different during the last beta event?” There were three main things. First, after a few hours ArenaNet decided to allow free and unlimited server transfers to help alleviate the burden on the most populous servers. As I said previously, this lead to a massive queue of server move requests that took hours to complete. Between optimization of the backend software, full production hardware, and lower demand for expensive once-a-week server moves I do not think this will be a problem at launch. Second, guilds did not exist across servers and it was only possible to invite people on the same world as you. As mentioned in the PCG article, this will not be the case at launch. Third, as I mentioned before, is that guesting was not available. The important thing to watch out for here is the first one–if WvW is important to you, pick your home world carefully since it will cost you to change your mind.
“I’m too important to read all of that. Give me the short version.” The executive summary of all of this information is pretty simple: plan to join the same server as your WvW group and everything else will work itself out. You’ll still be able to play with your friends in PvE and structured PvP and be in guilds across multiple worlds. In a perfect world your WvW and PvE groups will overlap enough that you can all be on one server together, but guesting sounds like it will be convenient enough that it’s no big deal either way.
Well, this got long fast. I hope it was helpful. If you snoozed your way through this entire post and it didn’t answer your server question (or worse, I got something wrong,) please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it with evidence.