No Queue, No Overflow, No Play

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Guild Wars 2’s BWE2 is underway, but one issue in particular has hindered enjoyment for many.  Servers that are deemed too “full” are locked — blocking people from choosing that server unless they already have characters there.  Normally, queues would be used in a situation like this to control population.  But ArenaNet announced this nifty new feature that allowed players to jump onto a server that would normally be queued, placing the ‘extra’ players into ‘overflow’ or different instances of the world.  However, neither queues or overflow are being utilized.  Instead, it’s a simple lockout.

I was originally intrigued by the idea of overflow, and jumped on board the idea that getting players into the game was great.  Now I hate the rotten system.  First it was the overflow system splitting groups (which they say they’ve fixed), then it was the overflow system making the game feel lobbied and screwing with player density (which may still be a reality), and now it’s the fact that the overflow system doesn’t get people into the game playing at all.

Remind me of the purpose for this overflow system if it only works to split people up who are already apart of the allowed server population?

I’ve posted this in a thread on the official forums already.  I’m making a concerted effort to go to the official forums to provide feedback instead of simply putting it here on my blog.  I’ve also tweeted directly to @GuildWars2, and now I’m posting this here.  Consider this my feedback on the issue.

If this is an issue during beta, will this be an issue at launch when the number of players increases dramatically?

Guilds can’t play together. Friends can’t play together. Those qualities are in direct contradiction to what an MMORPG is all about.

Having to pay for a transfer to be with my friends because the server I wanted to originally play on is full will not, at any time, be an acceptable alternative. Give me a queue any day.


Update: This quote is what I’m referring to and why I don’t understand the purpose of overflow.

Martin Kerstein, ArenaNet:

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]

The only sense I can make from any of this is if they consider a “full” server separate from the active number of players currently playing.  If “full” refers to the number of accounts calling that server home, then I guess the whole issue I’m raising is directed at the wrong culprit — the problem would be the ridiculous idea to call a server “full” by number of accounts, not active players currently online.

  • Keen any luck playing yet. Just curious i get off of work in an hour and i am in the same server as you…

  • If you’re already on the server, you can continue playing no problem. New players, or players who have not chosen a server yet, can not choose Ehmry Bay (or half the servers).

    They’re not clarifying the issue, which makes me upset. If this is a beta testing thing only to round out servers, LET US KNOW! This is an issue that, if present at launch, will break the game for me and many of my friends who want to play TOGETHER.

  • Good. Let’s hope this gets the servers working as intended.

    Original point still stands. If at any time a server becomes locked, the overflow system is pointless.

  • This reminds me of something World of Warcraft did for a while. Certain servers were just getting too full (and this wasn’t at the beginning of the game either) that they had to completely lock them from new accounts.

    That being said, that seems a more acceptable solution when the game is several years old, rather than a game that is brand new and the populations are just getting started. I’m surprised they’d throw this in so early.

  • It happened to me for the first hour or so, but then I was able to select a transfer.

  • As long as this is a beta issue, and won’t happen at launch, I’m fine with it. If they end up locking servers, and don’t utilize overflow, then it will be apparent to me that the overflow is just a lobby mechanism. I would prefer queues to being told “you can’t play here, where your friends are at.”

  • I totally understand this. They have 24 packed server and 24 empty servers. They have to make people spread. I see this as a beta issue as we filled the servers during BWE1 so they aren’t available BWE2. I actually doubt they were full and were actually just locked to spread the pop. Also free transfers till sat 6PM. If this happens come release that would be some crap but beta is beta right?

  • There is a difficulty here. Servers are a limited resource and should everyone for some reason (such as WvW standings) at release choose to play on the same server, then there is no simple way to avoid congestion problems without some kind of locking. In SWTOR the queues on the popular servers acted to redirect newer players to the lower volume servers, but the point is – they will probably have to do something to get players balanced over all the servers.

  • You guys are missing the point. Overflow is a feature they introduced to REPLACE QUEUES. Why are they locking servers and having neither queues or overflow to replace it?

    I get that servers have a limit, and they want people to spread out, but the answer isn’t to lock them and remove queues and turn the system they invented to replace them into nothing more than a zone-density control.

    I think what they’ve shown here is that overflow is NOT a substitute for queues. Queues still let people join a server and play with friends, and for those who have no real reason to choose a particular server can be dissuaded by the wait time.

  • Probably overflow servers aren’t the whole answer to the problem of getting people to spread out over the available servers, but they are certainly going to help when any particular server experiences a spike in demand.

    The problem of server balancing is a tricky one – And what you don’t say in your complaint is what you would have them do to resolve it, when thousands of new players are trying to flood into half of their servers leaving the remainder of their capacity idle. Arenanet have a good development team, but it stops short at miracles.

  • They are only locked when listed as full. I had two friends transfer to Ehmry Bay last night with no problem after the rush had subsided… Also, do you have guild up and running on EB?

  • @Keen: I don’t think there will ever be a system to prevent FULL servers, if a server is full it’s full. And even in games with queues (Aion and WoW for instance) there have been times where you can’t create new characters (or transfer) on specific servers because of the overpopulation. Overflow is there to prevent people from staring at a queue counter on a server they have already rolled on, not to allow every single player play with the same server as home server. Two different issues imo.

  • I agree with Proximo. This seems to be a misunderstanding concerning the purpose of the overflow system; it was never meant to prevent full servers, but to ameloriate frustration over staring at the queue screen while waiting on a full server. Once GW2 goes live you will have a toon on the server of choice and you will be able to play PvE while waiting in the queue (I know you can’t WvW, but I am unsure about structured PvP).

    It works for me and I wouldn’t worry too much as this seems to be a beta issue prior to server populations normalizing. I couldn’t get in initially as I didn’t have a toon of my guilds server as of yet, so I rolled on a different server, leveled, and used a free transfer when my guild’s server opened up.

    I am not complaining that I could do WvW for 1.5 hours during a beta, and overflow will allow me to get some play time in while waiting on a full server after launch.

  • @gankatron – Actually I think the overflow server works on a map by map basis. i.e. if you were in Queensdale (1-17 human area) when you last exited you go into the overflow for Queensdale. WvW OTH is limited by number on each of the maps, so if you want to go in WvW you can provided the map you want to go into hasn’t reached it’s cap. sPvP takes place somewhere else entirely so you are free to go to the lobby for that.

    Basically the limit ANet are trying to control applies to a single shared instance rather than a particular bit of hardware, because a “world” in Arenanet’s terminology isn’t necessarily all on one physical bit of hardware.

    The advantage of overflow servers is they allow you to get into your world, wherever you logged out, and if you aren’t trying to access an over populated map you can do whatever else you like on your world.

  • I have experienced it while changing maps. Does it apply if one wants to gain access to a full server, that is does one go to another server via an overflow system?

  • When overflow was introduced it was stated very clearly that this system was designed to allow players the ability to get onto a server when normally they would have had to wait (in a queue) in order to play.

    If servers become locked when deemed “full”, and let’s not pretend that means they’re actually full, it just means the population is high, then the overflow system doesn’t do anything other than control “map” or zone density for players already on a server.

    Never, before Guild Wars 2, have I -EVER- in a mmorpg had to “wait” to access a different zone. if Overflow is designed to simply make it so that servers remain stable, then overflow is a fancy term for lobby — a feature we’ve seen in SWTOR, Aion, and dozens of other games.

    The whole point I’m making is simply if Beta is experiencing “full” servers being locked, then launch will too. If servers become locked, players will not be able to roll on the same server as their friends. Queues are used to limited the number of players logged in at once to a server. If their overflow technology doesn’t accomplish the same thing (by duplicating zones to alleviate strain on hardware) then they need queues. Playing on a different server, or having to pay to transfer later, are not acceptable alternatives.

  • @Gankatron: Basically there’s no such such thing as a server in GW2, there are just shared instances, each of which may be on a different one of ANet’s servers. Each of those instances will have a population cap, so if you are trying to log in to to an instance that has reached it’s cap, you will be placed on an overflow server.

    A world is the collection of instances that make up a unit of players that play together and Arenanet need to restrict the world size so that they don’t reach the cap on any of the instances in that world too soon.

    The main problem with the BWEs is that everyone started from level 1 so they all want to be in the same shared instances.

    @Keen – yes overflow servers do exactly that. Imagine that you logged off from Queensdale and you want to log on to play WvW. Well, without overflow servers you’d need to wait to access Queensdale before you could transfer to WvW. But, with overflow you simply log onto the overflow and you then can move to any uncongested area that you like. So having overflow servers is all positive – but they can’t totally solve the problems of too many people wanting to be in a single instance on a single world at once.

  • @Roq: I guess I don’t understand why they need overflow then. I’ve played during every major mmorpg release and this system sounds weak for overall server population control compared to queues.

    Let’s take WoW, for example. They do not limit the number of people in a normal zone (only places like Tol barad). A zone may simply crash if loaded too heavily. If a server is experiencing too many people in general, the server then makes people wait in line to play.

    SWTOR, however, will create multiple instances of a zone in what is referred to as a “lobby” system (Zone 1a, Zone1b, Zone1c, etc.) Queues are used as well to control overall server load.

    GW2 uses overflow. This creates instances of zones (sounds awfully like a lobby system, but without giving the player control of which lobby and only on an as-needed basis). However, the problem we ran into in beta is that they have no tools to control overall server population — they just lock the server and say go play somewhere else.

    Either they add queues, or come up with a way to let the overflow let people roll on the server they want and just be put in the overflow zones. That is what I thought overflow was supposed to do, not just control people who are already on a server.

  • @Keen – Well Arenanet want to create a community within a certain range of sizes as a “world”; and WoW is similar of course. When the number of players reaches the maximum size they want (or can support) in a single world (or WoW server in the case of Wow) they have to divert the excess to other worlds in some way – you can only put so much water in a bucket of a fixed size. So WoW and GW2 have no differences in that respect.

    But what overflow servers do is a very useful addition to that and it’s all positive:

    If the community already in a particular world all decides to log into the same area of the world, say Queensdale at the same time that would overload that area and cause it to crash, if allowed. So what GW2 does is it buffers each area separately so that if you can’t get into the real Queensdale you play in a separate instance of it until a slot for you is available in the real Queensdale; and that is surely better than queuing. Not only that, but you actually get into the game and can, for instance, go to Divinity’s Reach and do crafting or go to sPvP – you couldn’t do that whilst waiting in a queue. But you do still have the option of waiting in the queue if you really want to get into the “real” Queensdale.

    Sure this doesn’t solve the problem that when a world becomes popular, everyone wants to get into that world rather than another one – but then that’s an insoluble problem, similar to everyone wanting to get into the same car or whatever – there isn’t enough space for that.

    The only problem with overflow servers in the last BWE was that there was a bug that allowed parties to get split between the real Queensdale and the overflow. But when that’s sorted out the overflow idea is a really neat additional feature over other MMOs.

  • Queues are the solution then. A million people could choose to play on the same server, but it would only let so many on. Overflow then controls the density of those on that server as they move throughout zones.

  • One of the reasons that Arenanet needed to develop this overflow technology is probably because GW2 is buy to play. That means that players are likely to leave the game without relinquishing their accounts, whereas in WoW everyone with an active subscription on a server would be likely to be in game quite often. So to keep the servers active with some sort of community on them, Arenanet will likely put new players, joining up later, on existing servers to replace the dormant players. But a capacity problem could then arise when they released expansions or had an anniversary festival, in that many dormant accounts would be re-activated to play the new content. So overflow servers can be seen as a way to manage the peaks and troughs of demand much better for the buy to play model and to keep the worlds at reasonably stable actual population levels in between the peaks in demand.

  • @Keen

    Sorry about your issues. Our guild has had no problems with the Vasburg server and even our new players who logged in for the first time yesterday had no issues. Maybe consider the move to a less populated server? I am assuming Ehmry Bay is overloaded – I haven’t checked.

    What I have noted is people are flocking to servers that were listed in Reddit as the “go to” servers for certain groups, eg, SA and Goons. My advice would be to avoid those servers and log in to the less “popular” servers.

  • The issue was resolved when ArenaNet let more people on servers.

    What I’m trying to get across here is that when GW2 launches people will want to play on the same server as their friends. If my guild chooses Ehmry Bay, all of our members should be able to go to Ehmry Bay. If they lock servers, and don’t use queues or have Overflow handle extra players, then this will be an epic failure of a launch.

    If you think people bitch a lot about queues, wait until they’re forced onto a server in order to play without even the option of waiting in a line — a server their friends aren’t on.

    If I were prone to conspiracy theory, I would say it’s an attempt to get people to roll elsewhere and then pay for a transfer later. Good thing I’m not one to jump to those conclusions.

  • “If I were prone to conspiracy theory, I would say it’s an attempt to get people to roll elsewhere and then pay for a transfer later. Good thing I’m not one to jump to those conclusions.”

    That is probably a rather extreme point. If it was Blizzard or EA I would probably agree. But ArenaNet doesn’t strike me as the blatant profiteering type of company and unlike the other companies I listed actually seem to want to listen to what players want.

    Inevitably in the short term when the game is released servers will become overloaded with the usual MMO tourists who will flood the servers and become bored with the game and leave after one month. Once these type of players are gone the servers will settle down and I am sure you will have no problems with joining any server and more than likely avoid overflow servers entirely.

  • Whatever the purpose of overflow servers is…if someone cannot make a character on the server they want to make a charater on…that is a huge problem. The decision to just say “Go play elsewhere” is simply retarded. There are too many communities of players that actually play together. We dont just join a server these days with 1000 strangers…often it is very organized beforehand who plays with whom (especially if there is a competitive element to the game as is the case with GW2).

    As of now…Arenanet doesnt have a system to reasonably deal with launch day…they may implement it (if enough people complain about it) but right now what they have is junk.

  • After reading through this thread (and not having followed GW2)…

    …Why are characters linked to a particular World/Server again?

    They weren’t in GW1 were they?

  • Keen: So are you telling me that you could not log on to a existing character on your already chosen server because it was full?
    Because if that’s the case, then I see your point.
    If on the other hand you where trying to create a new character or transfer existing characters to a already full server, then I don’t. Overflow has afaik never been marketed as a system to solve that issue, only to get rid of the time spent in queue when trying to log on to a character on a server which is at capacity already.

    Imo it’s just like WoW in that regard, if a server is full in WoW it’s full, you can’t make a new character or transfer to it. Historically this has been due to faction imbalance, couldn’t make horde chars on a server already at 70% horde population for instance. Difference is when you try log on to your existing character and the server/zone is overpopulated right there and then, in WoW you get a queue timer to stare at, in GW2 you get to play while waiting.

    That said I don’t find the overflow system perfect either. It should be per server not per zone. Once I’m in I should never (or almost never) be put in overflow just because I’m zoning. This is particularly annoying when you just zoned for 5 mins to do a bit of personal story! The exception to this could be when you jump to and from the mists (pvp zone), I’d be fine with getting thrown into overflow then.

    As to the problem with people not being able to play with their friends, well yes that sucks but how did you expect overflow to solve this? I can imagine the masses of people wanting to transfer to the most renowned WvW server to “play with the big boys” leaving other servers half empty and making the popular servers so crowded people would be stuck playing on overflow servers and rarely ever see their “real world” in PvE.

    TLDR: If you thought overflow would prevent servers from getting full and locked out for new players/transfers, you have misunderstood the idea behind overflow servers. Simple as that imo. (no offence intended! :D)

  • @SKapusniak: You’re right, they weren’t in GW1. In GW2 there’s “world PvP” which pits 3 servers against eachother to fight for taking keeps, fortresses and towers etc. The server/world you choose as your home server for your characters is the one you will be representing in World vs World PvP. You can however still visit your friends on different servers to play PvE with them, just not WvW which is locked to your current home server only.

  • Besides, GW1 had no persistent zones outside the towns/cities where you grouped up. The world in GW2 is persistent, so you meet other players while out “questing” and leveling, and to limit the amount of people you can run into in a single zone (to not crash the server and/or make everyone lag badly) you need to separate the players somehow. In GW2 they chose to do it per server, in GW1 and some other games they used several instances of the same zone, but this wouldn’t work with the way ANet is trying to have players actions make an impact on the world around them with dynamic events.

  • If the tendency of players to join and or migrate to servers that are best at WvW becomes really strong, then there are going to be some serious problems with crowding after release.

    I suppose a really radical solution would be to have guilds officially register for a world with Arenanet on a guild page, coupled with the ability for players to join guilds by invitation only, through that guild page whilst not in the game. Then a congested world could be locked to new players who are not members of a guild that is registered in that world and of course the guild page of that world would get locked against new guilds.

    The problem with this kind of approach though would be $$ exploits such as selling places on the most desirable worlds.

    A simpler idea that might help is for congested worlds to be hidden in the character creation process so that you have to go through a process that strongly warns you are trying to get into a congested world. That would probably act to redirect a lot of casual players who don’t care much which world they end up on.

  • @Proximo: A server being locked years after it is released is one thing. The prospect of a server being locked on its launch day, without a queue, is tough to accept.

    I refuse to play on low-pop servers. I’ll be playing on a server with a thriving population. If that server gets locked, and my friends/family can’t join or vice versa, I’ll be pissed.

    Here’s why I’m confused.

    Martin Kerstein, ArenaNet:

    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]

    You can see why a “full” world being “locked” without this overflow system in action or a queue system caused my confusion.

  • I can see why you and probably others are confused, but there’s a perfectly good explanation.
    When a MMO dev plans out their server capacity there’s at minimum two caps we are talking about, I’m sure there’s more factors and caps but I’m gonna focus on these two.
    Cap 1: The maximum number of players allowed to create characters on the server.
    Cap 2: The maximum number of concurrent players allowed in the world/zone.

    Most MMO devs will allow more players create chars on a server (cap 1) than they can support playing in a zone at once (cap 2), because they’ll be spread out on different zones and not everyone will be online at the same time (I know you know this, just trying to put it in perspective). The exception to this “rule” is straight after the games release (or release of a expansion/content patch), and ofc during a 3 day beta weekend. Now everyone and their dog are trying to log on simultaneously which in every other game will cause a queue, in GW2 you play on the overflow.

    So while overflow servers allow people to “bypass” cap 2, it does nothing about cap 1. Once a server has reached the maximum number of players they allow it will be locked out. WoW and Aion where no different in this regard. Due to the overflow system I reckon they COULD just open the floodgates and let everyone choose what server they want, but this would piss players on crowded servers off. They’d be on overflow all the time and they’d be waiting for forever to have WvW pop because the 4 WvW maps would be full at all times. A server lock is to be expected on some servers sooner or later.

  • @Proximo – Good explanation. In addition it’s worth pointing out that overflow servers *will* allow Arenanet to have a much larger world capacity overall, since they will be able to cope with peaks in demand more easily than other games. A game such as WoW is forced to limit it’s server cap for normal play, because otherwise queuing would be intolerable at peak times. But in WoW that has the consequence that off peak there are not enough players so that many zones appear empty.

    And for the most part being put on overflow is a very minor inconvenience (certainly when compared to not being able to play at all) that most people won’t even notice. The only real inconvenience (once they’ve sorted out the group splitting bugs) is that players in more than one different shard will have to move shards in order to group up – as was the case in Guild Wars 1.

  • @Keen
    I don’t think anyone really expected the ‘overflow server’ tech to mean all 250k+ players could be on the same server. And comparing it to a lobby – come on…We all know what Lobby suggests – inaction. Whereas GW2 lets you play every ounce of the game (except wvw) instead of sitting there looking at a queue at a login screen. Its hard to believe anyone would find something to whine about with this improvement. Sure, 1 server for all is the ultimate setup, but its obvious the hardware and internet access tech isn’t there yet.

  • @Coppertopper – Arenanet did mention that one of the reasons that they had gone for the separate world approach was so that you bump into the same people as you proceed through the game, fostering more community spirit. If it wasn’t for that design idea they could have just used the same sharding approach they used in GW1.

  • @copptertopper: The overflow does the exact same thing as the lobby system. The only difference is that it happens as needed, and you don’t’ have a choice. I prefer the overflow’s lobby method to the overall sense of a lobbied world (SWTOR). That doesn’t change what it is, though.

    And again, this does not replace queues like they said it does. The fact that they lock servers and don’t let people make characters on those servers replaces queues.

    From my perspective, I see an as-needed zone-instancing/lobby system to allow more people in certain parts of the world and a hardcap on the number of people allowed to make characters on a server. I see NOTHING that supposedly replaces queues.

  • I updated the original entry and I’ll include it here for those only following the comments.

    The only sense I can make from any of this is if they consider a “full” server separate from the active number of players currently playing. If “full” refers to the number of accounts calling that server home, then I guess the whole issue I’m raising is directed at the wrong culprit — the problem would be the ridiculous idea to call a server “full” by number of accounts, not active players currently online.

  • @Keen – Surely, they aren’t interested in definitions of “full”, they just need to make sure that everyone can play at release and that long term they establish an optimum level of population to make each zone in each world a part of a vibrant community rather than a ghost town: Just look at what happened in SWTOR – at release you couldn’t get on the most popular servers; but just a few weeks later everyone was complaining they couldn’t find anyone to group with. That’s the problem that overflow servers were designed to mitigate.

  • @Gankatron: I’m sorry, English is not my main language, so I apologize if you had a hard time reading what I wrote (I think that’s what you meant by your comment).

  • Haha, no quite the opposite, I was completely serious. It is the nature of the internet that makes one wonder if they are being trolled if they receive a compliment! 😛

  • Damn that was a great beta. The finale event was too short, but I am proud to be a survivor of the demon-spawn zerg to the Citadel. It was an adrenaline rush! Our WvW 10+ Golem siege was also memorable.

    They will have to do something about server balance in WvW though. Our server (Crystal Desert) consistently held 80-90% of the objectives (I think they were new servers mostly); this would not be fun for anyone if it went on for 2 weeks like this. Perhaps a shorter server rotation time followed by ranked WvW matches would be a solution?

  • I understand your frustration as a WvW enthusiast, Keen, but from the point of view of a PvE player there is no contest whatever between a lobby/queue system, where you can’t play at all and an Overflow system where you can play right away.

  • @Gankatron: Nah I didn’t think you where trolling, again it was lack of knowledge in the language that made me misinterpret your comment as criticism. 🙂
    I still don’t understand what you meant by it btw 😛