GW2 Overflow Server

Tired of queues keeping you from being able to play when you want to play?  Queues are a nasty problem facing most MMOs for up to a few weeks post-launch, but that may be a thing of the past now that ArenaNet has announced their Overflow Server feature.

“Let me explain what an overflow server is and what it does. It is a technology we also use as our version of a queuing system. When a map or a world you want to log into is at capacity limit, the game will ask you if you want to play on an overflow server – so you can actually play while you are in a queue. Once space opens on your world, the game will ask you if you want to join your friends on your world. And you keep all the progress you made while you were playing on the overflow server.” [Source]

I think this solution is highly innovative and quite possibly the best solution we’ve ever seen to deal with queues.  A lot of speculation is floating around about how this works.  Do you play with other people from other servers?    Most of these questions are not negative in any way, but three points have me wondering.

(1) What is a “map”?

If a map is a zone, that could be really weird and fragmenting for a server.  If a map is an instance, it wouldn’t really matter, but I have never heard of an instance server having queues that warranted an overflow system.   I’m trying to think of places that would be called a map that would have large enough numbers to justify a queue, and the only real one that makes sense is WvWvW.  Overflowing WvWvW makes no sense, though.

(2) Can you choose to remain in overflow and not return?

I assume that if you’re asked if you want to join your server again that you can ay “no” — what happens if you say no?  How long are you on the “overflow”?  I assume until you re-log.  If someone is farming, it would make sense that the those only interested in their own gains would stay where it is less popular to free-farm then being allowed to rejoin say the most popular server… it seems sketchy.

(3) Does overflow have WvWvW?

For the system to work, I would guess there isn’t any WvWvW on overflow.  It would not make sense.  Maybe instanced BG’s or Arenas would work.

Innovative, but still very much a mystery as to how exactly Overflow Servers will be handled.  If anyone has any details to answer my questions/concerns, please let me know!

  • This is pretty crappy. In Guild Wars there were no sharded servers. This is a clear throwback to older tech with a technological paint job.

    I expected better.

  • 1. Technically, everything is an instance. The “open-world” just happens to be a single open instance that all players currently on that Shard (ANet word for servers) have access to. All that the overflow server does is open a second instance of the open world (on a different server, I assume) where players can stay until there’s an open spot on the queue for server proper. Notice that zones on GW2 are not seamless; if you are on a major city and wants to leave to the area outside, there is a loading screen. This last detail is not my favorite thing about the game, but it is what it is.

    2. I imagine you can choose to stay… the question is: why would you do that? There is no loot/resource node stealing on GW2, so it makes no different on farming. Resource nodes, just like loot, are unique for each player. Two players can farm the same node simultaneously. If you read the post by Martin carefully you’ll see that the overflow server does not eliminate queues, it only gives you somewhere to play while you wait for your spot to open.

    3. I doubt there is any PvP on overflow, since it’s not supposed to be somewhere you’ll be for long. But I’ll hold my judgment on that until there’s more info.

    Overall, I find hard to see any negative sides to that. They are giving players the option to play a little while they wait on the queue, what could be bad about that?

    @BDMojo: Guild Wars 1 was completely instanced, with very small number of players simultaneously on a single map. It was a different technology that requires different solutions. You shouldn’t try to compare the two. This is a technology to ease (not solve) the problem found on games like WoW or SWTOR, not a throwback to GW1.

  • I took “overflow server” to mean another Live server that currently had space. So, you normally play on Server X but there’s a queue for that one when you log in and you get put on Server Y instead. You stay on Server Y until a space opens up for you on Server X, whereupon you are asked if you want to be moved there. If you say yes, off you go to your normal server.

    If you say no, you stay on Server Y, presumably until you log out, whereupon you would rejoin Server X on logging in again, or go through the whole overflow procedure again as appropriate. I suppose you could be left on Server Y as your new default home server, although that seems unlikely.

    I suppose the Overflow Server could just be a separate server that pops into use only when other servers have queues and disappears again once the queues are gone and the last person leaves, though. Either way it sounds like a very good system.

  • I like this overflow server idea. NcSoft would avoid the classic MMO mistake of opening too many extra servers during the launch of the game.

  • @BDMojo: One mans junk another mans gold. Servers/shards is needed for any TRUE MMO to work, it’s just not possible to cram thousands upon tens and thousands or even millions of players on the same server without have insane performance issues (read: it won’t work, at all!).
    In GW1 they went around this by making only towns “open”, even these are split into different instances using “districts”. So while you are playing on the same shard as anyone else, most of the time you are actually playing on a different server than them. ANet has said that they will be trying hard to make sure that having friends on different servers won’t stop you from playing together, just how this will work we’ve yet to hear anything about though.

  • My takeaway from this is they’re going to be “Character Server Transfer” capable from day 1. If they can take your character from an overflow server with everything it earns there back to it’s main server, then odds are the tech is already in place for streamlined character transfers.

    So when you end-up rolling on goonswarms server on accident, you ought to be able to buy a character transfer token from the cash shop pretty early on to hop to a server you prefer.

  • 1) During beta, you could go to an overflow version of Queensdale (the starting human zone). It was it’s own…shard. So yes I was fragmented from the real version of Queensdale and the real guild, etc., but I was still able to play. So would you rather not play with your guild/friends and sit in a queue, or not play with your guild/friends while in a different queue but be able to play?

    2) I could choose to remain in the overflow server. It asked me at one time if I wanted to head out of the overflow server. I said yes since I wasn’t in the middle of anything and expected more action in the real server I was assigned to.

    3) I have not heard what will happen when WvW is filled.

  • @Gail: Agreed, though if you wind up on the same server as Goonsquad I think that should grant you a free token for transfer. 😛

  • I didn’t see it mentioned, so: “Map” is just Arena Net’s term for what other MMOs call a zone. I dunno why they feel the need to use different terms than everyone else, but /shrug. 🙂

    The confusing bit is that they basically use map to refer to any discrete block of connected geometry. So a PvP skirmish battleground is a map. A zone (i.e. the “open world” area containing the human PvE content for levels 1-15) is one really big map. Each of the servers in WvW has a home map (one really big zone area), and there is one other map (big zone area) which contains the giant central keep – but you need to warp through a portal (and a loading screen) to move between these areas. It’s sort of like 4 giant Alterac valleys linked together by instance portals.

    I agree that this is not a great setup, but if it lets them have stable netcode I suppose I’ll accept it. Then again, I’d rather have very open but hermetically sealed zones than a seamless world consisting of interconnected tunnels… 🙂

  • Beta keys?

    No idea, but just spotted this on GW2’s Twitter account:

    “We have a surprise for you tomorrow, keep an eye on our social networks and website! Tell your friends to follow us as well! ~MK”

    I’ll definitely be watching tomorrow just in case! 🙂

  • === Gali says:
    === what happens when the overflow server fills up too?

    You start calling ArenaNet morons for not knowing how to define player limits for their servers.

    But considering they do have a major MMO running for the past 7 years, I would hazard a guess that they actually know how to scale servers well enough to ensure that the overflow only needs to handle excessive players on peak times/situations, and not allowing more than twice as many people than the server can handle to create characters there.

  • ANet took the decision to split players into separate “worlds” for community reasons, so that you see the same people when out in the open world.

    I suspect there isn’t a one to one correlation between the actual physical hardware (ie servers) and worlds in that it would be possible to host several worlds on a single physical server or alternatively split worlds over multiple physical servers. For, instance 3W is likely hosted independently of either of the two worlds taking part.

  • BDMojo said: “This is pretty crappy. In Guild Wars there were no sharded servers. This is a clear throwback to older tech with a technological paint job.”

    You got to be kidding, right? GW1 wasn’t even a MMORPG, the only persistent place was the glorified graphical chat room where you departed for instances. Everything else was instanced.

  • I think this is a fantastic idea: I don’t particularly care if the Overflow lacks any persistance outside my own character progression (XP etc) as it gives me something to do rather than queue.
    And not just “something” but I’ll be doing the very thing I wanted to do: play GW2

    I don’t imagine the Overflows can fill as they can just have a supply of rented servers ready to come online as each reaches capacity (I’m sure such dynamic capacity is virually automated these days?)

    This is better than queueing for hours as per old WoW/recent Star Wars launches
    This is better than WAR’s knee-jerk opening of piles of new servers which spread the pop. very thing over loads of realms within the first week or two.

  • As long as you realize what changes when you switch “instances” its a great idea.

    for example: Don’t want to run deep into enemy territory, killing everything in sight, get the popup to change servers, and spawn into an area full of hostiles. 😉

    But yea, I’d rather craft, repair gear, do some harvesting, simple stuff with my main character while waiting for my own server to be available.