Server Purge Successful, All Characters Deleted.

Posted: December 20, 2007 by Xeavn in General Game Concepts, Interesting, The Gaming Industry

When I first started playing MUDs it wasn’t the early days of mudding, in fact it was just a year or two before the original Everquest released. The very first MUD that I played was more or less picked at random, but after about 9 months it was closed down, and I started looking around for another MUD to play. It was at this time that I realized that a huge number of MUDs existed, with a huge variety in rule sets. Player killing, roleplaying, multiboxing, were just some of the options, and they ranged from the MUD is completely centered around this topic, to it isn’t allowed at all.

For the most part a good portion of these ideas have made the transition over to MMO’s in a number of different ways, but the most popular seems to be as separate server rule sets. World of Warcraft for instance has PvP Servers, RP Servers, and PvP RP servers. Everquest 2 has a couple of PvP servers, and at least 1 Roleplaying Encouraged server. I have yet to see an MMO make a server where multiboxing isn’t allowed or the flip side where it is encouraged. I personally have never been a fan of multiboxing, but for the most part it has never seemed like a big issue in any of the games that I have played.

Probably the strangest, and maybe most unique thing that I saw some MUDs do, however, was player wipes. At the time when I first ran into this idea of periodically deleting all the characters on a server, and having everyone start over, I didn’t understand it. It didn’t make much sense to me back then, but I also didn’t give it much thought at the time. The other day I started thinking about it again and about how the idea might look if it was used in a major MMO. What if they had a server where they periodically did player wipes? Is this the worst idea ever, or did it have some merit?

I want to try to and make a case for why I think it could work as a specific server set rule. The first thing to realize is that a lot of people may think this is a really bad idea. In fact, I would guess a majority of players would stay far away. At the same point in time a lot of players don’t like the idea of PvP or Roleplaying either, but it hasn’t stopped those servers from being created. That is the main reason I think any company that tried this would want to make a new server, and dub it the player wipe server. You would want to make it very clear that the Server would be wiped, and all characters deleted at the end of whatever the time period was. It could be a year, or two or even three. If you didn’t like the idea, you wouldn’t have to play there.

So who would play on this kind of server? Well that is a good question, but I think it could be an attractive server to a certain segment of the gaming population. To start with anyone that liked the beginning and middle portions of a game, versus just the endgame. If everyone gets their character wiped and has to start over in level 1 newbie armor, with no gold at the end of say a year, you will find a lot of people to group with and level with in lower level zones for at least the first few months after the player wipe. Anyone who is looking for a fresh clean server to start playing on with any regularity, may like this kind of server. Anyone who really likes the challenge of seeing how far they can get in a set period of time. Some guilds blew through all the expansion raiding in less than a month, but what if on a player wipe server, the server was scheduled for a wipe the day before the expansion released? Now you could race with your whole guild from 1 to 80, and then try raiding. Sure that may seem like a stupid idea to some poeple, but there are probably some poeple that would find it fun.

It could also be great for guilds. If you are organized and enjoy grouping up you could get a chance to hit a lot of older content all over again with the same friends you have been hanging out with. When I joined my guild 90% or more of the players were already level 70. I didn’t even really get to know too many of them until I got to about level 65. Players on a player wipe server would get a chance to be there at the start all over again. Even better the guild would have a chance to mix all the classes up and try something new if they wanted. The main tank might become a wizard this time around. Your guilds defiler just decided he wants to play guardian, and the ranger is now your new cleric.

To be honest it brings an end to the game as well. MMO’s are slightly unique in the fact that there is no end. In any single player game there is always an ending at some point, and then the credits role. Even in most other online games, at some point the match is called, and you start over.  It could also be a great way to experience events you missed on your server. Each time around, if programmed correctly you could re-experience old events like rebuilding the spires, or opening the gates of Ahn’Qiraj.

It of course wouldn’t be for everyone. Some players become very attached to their characters, and the idea that all their progress would be wiped away just isn’t for them. I doubt that I would even level my main character on a server like this, but I would make an alt at the start of a wipe. I do think it could be a great server for a lot of players who start to find themselves bored at the highest level in the game though.

It also may have some downsides for customer service too. It is nearly inevitable that after a player wipe, someone would be unhappy. They might claim that they never understood that their characters were going to get wiped out, or that they grew too attached to the character anyways, and want it back. I would not be surprised if this is at least part of the reason that we haven’t seen a server like this yet.

I do think the idea of a server with periodic character wipes is an interesting idea anyways. It also could be the worst idea I have had yet, but I think there is a segment of the player base that would embrace and play on a server like this. I would like to see an MMO company take a chance, and give us this type of server sometime just to see how it works out. If it doesn’t and no one plays, then you can remove the server easily enough. If it does work, you may have found a way to keep some players around a lot longer.

  1. Wilhelm2451 says:

    I pondered the pwipe question myself at one point in the past. I played MUDs for quite a while and hated pwipes. But I also recognize that that reset to zero often made for a very fun rebirth of the game.

    On a pay-to-play game, I cannot see it ever happening. Investment in characters is the real hook that an MMO company has in its players. I can see severing that as being about as popular as telling players they spend to much time with the game and should take a few months off.

    But could you get a similar effect, a simulation of first-day excitement, by properly promoting a fresh server every so often and not allowing transfers to it until the population had matured to some point?

    I am thinking of something like the progression servers that SOE did with EQ a while back. That got some buzz.

  2. tipa says:

    EQ1 did that with Stromm while it was in its prime. It worked really well – I restarted as a cleric )

  3. tipa says:

    Wilhelm’s suggestion, that is

  4. Xeavn says:

    The real problem with doing a new server occasionally is it is nearly the same thing as player wipes, only you aren’t being totally honest with your customers. Blizzard did this for a while, and what happened most of the time, was that as soon as they rolled out a new server all the poeple who joined the last new server jumped ship to the current one. This left the last new server with a population of like 20 poeple. They then either have to merge that server in with an existing server, which doesn’t always make those poeple happy since the original reason the restarted was to avoid the older economies, and already established guilds. The other option is to just leave a dead ghost town. At least with a server labeled for player wipes, everyone would be on the same page.

  5. mrrx says:

    Would a Wipeout server help solve the problems with RMT in a game ? I sure wouldn’t put any dollars into a setup like that, but I’m a cheapskate. Might give you the pure unpolluted-by-money playing experience people ask for.

  6. Pantheros says:

    I do like your idea, Xeavn. Of course, as you mentioned, it would have to be brought about very carefully. Have a EULA that very specifically, at the beginning, in bold, states the “reset” type of the sever. And even then, there would probably have to be periodic reminders within the game.

    But over all, it is a good idea. I, like you, started late. And while yes, now I am pretty close up to everyone else in the guild, it would have been nice to have been there right at the founding. While that wasn’t possible for me when the game launched, such a server would make it possible for those who chose to partake in it.

    I would venture a guess that in order to do this, however, that whichever company chose to do it would have to offer players the chance to transfer characters out for little or no charge, especially when it came close to the set and publicized reset date. Also, transfers in wouldn’t be allowed due to the obvious reasons.

    I guess, in short, what I’m trying to say is that I like the idea. Maybe not a good for a main, as stated, but good none the less.

  7. The Red Rogue says:

    You could also, instead of wiping everyone at the same time, “retire” characters at certain level, or when all the quests in the main story arc of the game have been completed, creating an ending. If it is a game with player housing, each subsequent character could inherit an item for their house, maybe a statue or painting of each retired character, building a lineage.

    It may even be fun/possible to add something of benefit (an item or buff) for these “character descendants”, offering motivation to complete each character’s story.

  8. Illuminator says:

    Terminating a rule-abiding character in any way is the complete opposite of a tenet of MMORPG gaming: the game never stops. I would avoid this kind of system like the plague.

    It’s really the biggest reason I keep my EQ2 account active; old school RPG’s left you at the end of a story (no matter how good the story) with a fully-developed character that you couldn’t do anything with. After all, how many times can you restart from the last save and kill the final boss before losing your mind?

  9. Kendricke says:

    What Xeavn’s referring to here is the old MUD/DIKU/MUSH treatment many servers would perform from time to time. For years, the word “reinc” was present in the common lexicon of my closest friends as a way to describe a situation where old grudges and debts had been wiped clean and everyone was given a new chance to start over.

    That term, short for “reincarnate” was a hallmark of early online MMO’s. In the first online game I created a “Kendricke” character for, “Archmage: Reincarnation from the Hell”, the concept was used to show how the virtual world of Terra Reborn was destroyed and reformed over and over again. The titular Archmages would then reincarnate every several months and start their rise to power once again. Throughout my years in Archmage, I created Kendricke 14 separate times, as the world would be destroyed every few months and all players would start anew.

    In even older telnet and gopher driven MUD’s and MUSH’s (BatMUD, LegendMUD, ZombieMUD, ShadowrunMUSH, etc.), the reincarnations would occur with a similar frequency. Characters would then be forced to “reinc”, but typically had access to a higher pool of creation points based on the gear and experience points present at the time of the wipe.

    Would this sort of system work for current MMO’s already on the market today? No, absolutely not. However, I do think that if the system were built properly into a future title, you could actually encourage replayability in entirely new ways.

  10. UliTheGrey says:

    Why not give everyone a free server-transfer before the wipe ?
    That way this fresh server would become a kind of “breeding ground” for people who actually like to live through the lower levels of a game with everyone else instead of being one of the very few to play a low level char on an established server.
    Of course leveling up on a wiped server would take much longer, as no twinking is possible.

  11. Felipe Budinich says:

    “Of course leveling up on a wiped server would take much longer, as no twinking is possible.”

    This could be an awesome idea for an already mature game. If everyone in the oldest/main server is already past the newb/mid game content, you could have a wipe server that gives double/triple/whatever exp so new players could begin their careers there, and then at the time of the wipe, they are given the choice to transfer their characters to the mature/older server.

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