The Mirror World
I’ve been contemplating this topic for some time, the idea that the act of switching servers plays the same trick on the mind that switching dimensions might. You see, each server is a mirror of every other server, and yet each server is uniquely different from the others, too. Servers have personalities of their own – and reputations as well.
I’ve switched servers three times now. The first switch was due to my best friend stopping playing WoW. Since I was on his server (Drak’thul) specifically to play with him, it made no sense to stay. I rerolled new toons on Earthen Ring, where another group of friends were. The second switch was relatively unconscious; all of my friends has left Earthen Ring and moved to Shattered Halls, so I just went there. The third switch, though, was highly calculated, measured, studied, and analyzed. I rolled toons on several servers and spoke to guilds there before I decided which I found the most pleasing. I was vetting servers.
There are many commonalities between servers. The most obvious, of course, is the terrain; I don’t really need to get into that beyond mentioning that one of my switches was from Alliance to Horde, and frankly, the ally cities are FAR better organized. While flying mounts solve most of the problems about getting around in any city, prior to Cata, no horde city was anywhere near as convenient as Ironforge. That’s really neither here nor there, though.
Another commonality are the guilds you find from server to server. Sure, they have different names – Tempora Heroica on ER, Lok’Kosh (which is no more) on SH, Lowered Expectations on BB – but there’s always high-end guilds that have the leetest of the leets in them. Sometimes they’re helpful to “weaker” guilds (as Tempora Heroica was; I never asked a question to one of their members that I didn’t get a polite and helpful answer from), others are full of jackanapes who couldn’t be bothered to give you the time of day. However, they’re always there: some players loudly covet a chance to raid with them, others scorn them for their success, and still others quietly admire them.
Similarly, every server seems to have its trade troll mascot. While I’ll refrain from naming any “charming” names (Shattered Halls reference there), every server has one or two people who constantly pollute trade chat with racial comments, sexual comments, homophobia, or just general badness. Some servers are lucky enough to have a trade troll who’s actually mildly humorous and intelligent, but I’ve never encountered this myself, and perhaps they are just a myth like the noble Sasquatch.
Barrens chat, too, seems to be the same on every server. No more need be said on that.
On the other side of the coin are the vast differences between servers. These differences define a server’s personality. The first (and perhaps most overt) difference is the server type: PvE, PvP, RP, and combinations thereof. I’ve been on all three core types of servers, and frankly, I didn’t see that much difference. Even on the RP server, RP’ers were reviled (I’m not advocating that; one of my good friends was known for “RPing in the Stormwind Park.” Of course we tease him about it, but that’s just friendly ribbing). While I haven’t seen any RPing on the non-RP servers, the outcome is the same: RPers basically just stay hidden or risk being ridiculed (which I’m totally against – each player should be allowed to play the game as they see fit).
A second difference is the population size. Shattered Halls was a low population server. I was there in between Earthen Ring and Burning Blade, both old, high-pop servers. This feature perhaps more than any other defines the server. A low pop server has a few “good” guilds of each type (PvE and PvP), and most people are in guilds because pug spots are few and far between. Similarly, it’s very hard to increase your guild size because the number of unguilded players is constantly low. Beyond those concerns, on high-pop server just being in Orgrimmar during popular playing times nearly crashes my pretty-decent computer.
Another major difference is the server economy. I was shocked by how expensive things were on Burning Blade when I transferred from SH. Volatiles, for example, were four or five times the price on BB. I’d assume the law of supply and demand wouldn’t be too greatly warped by the server’s population: the more people, the more demand, of course, but theoretically the more supply, too. Apparently that’s wholly wrong. Of course, that means when I pay to transfer one of my toons from SH to BB, I’ll know what to bring along to make myself rich.
A final difference is the server’s reputation. I can only really talk about Shattered Halls here, because a majority of my play time was spent there. We had a term there, Shattered Halls Syndrome (SHS), that described the raiding environment. The idea was there simply weren’t enough good players to fill any one particular guild except the top one or two, so every other guild had 8 or 9 good players and a bunch of mediocre ones. They could get content done, but it was far more of a struggle than it should have been. I know this was true for my guild; we had a tank who was often the main tank on one-tank fights (god knows why) who was, politely put, a poor player. His ineptitude cost us many, many raiding hours. The server, you see, had a server-wide reputation for this sort of thing, which was one reason I decided to leave; I wanted to see if the reputation was deserved or not. I’ll let you know once I’ve raided some on Burning Blade.
At any rate, each time I’ve slid/appropriate extra-dimensional movement verb in past tense/jumped between servers, it’s been very strange. I’ve been flying around in Org (a hobby of mine when I’m talking to friends on vent and not playing) and suddenly realized: this is not the Org you’re used to. It looks the same; it sounds the same, but it’s not the same. Prices are higher. There are far more people here. There’s less people you know here. It’s truly a different world.
The only other time I’ve experienced this kind of brain tingle was watching the movie Final Fantasy from about a decade ago (good god has it really been that long?). While the computer rendering in that movie sometimes was very obviously CGI, there were other times when I had been drawn into the movie and suddenly realized this is animation. They rendered every hair on the toons’ heads, for god’s sake; the main character was in Maxim as one of the most attractive women of the year (look it up if you don’t believe me). My brain tingled then as it does now: this is not your home.
It’s strange to think about “home” in a virtual environment, but that’s the truth laid low. I don’t miss Shattered Halls; I chose to leave for solid, rational reasons that have so far proven true. However, it was where I played for a long time. It was where I had other virtual friends who I’ll probably never see again. It was where I had raided a few times with the top guild before Cata came out and they had a few pug spots to pass around, so I could wave at some of top players and get a wave back. The same’s not true here. Someday it may be, but not yet. Consider for a moment your server as your home. It’s strange, I think, but true. Someday Burning Blade may be Stubborn’s “home,” but not yet. Not yet.