[GMS] Dev. Blog: Make Room, Make Room!

Hello again Maplers!

MapleStory isn’t just a game, it’s a community. That’s why as developers, we have to think carefully about the way we create environments because they have a powerful impact on how the community develops. One of the most straightforward examples of this is the game world structure in MapleStory. There are 14 game worlds, each existing as a (mostly) isolated collection of Maplers. Each world has its own personality and economy, and many are different from a technological standpoint as well. Today I’ll be talking about our game worlds and how we’re thinking about changing them in the future.

How and Why Are Game Worlds Different?

Each game world is made up of two parts.

The database: Each world has its own database which stores all the information for all of the characters on that world.

The channel servers: These servers actually contain the world and manage the interaction between the player and the database.

Both parts of the game world impose a limitation on how many players can be in that world at one time. We could add ten more channel servers to Scania, but if no change was made to the database, Scania’s capacity for players would not go up. Similarly, we could make the database bigger, but that would not allow more players to be in the same channel.

While all game worlds are technologically the same, from a player perspective, they are each distinct. Some have fewer channels. El Nido is hosted on the east coast of North America while all the others are hosted on the west coast. Some cannot access the Maple Trading System (MTS). Some are crowded while others can feel lonely. All of these differences are due to the community’s needs, not technological difference. Some, like the lack of MTS access for new worlds, are done by us in order to prevent rapid changes to a world’s economy while it’s developing. Others, like the population imbalances, are not.

State of Game Worlds

Since some differences between game worlds are unintentional, like the population levels, does that mean that some game worlds are unhealthy? Perhaps surprisingly, for most worlds the answer is no. Some players prefer the quiet of a less populated world, and some prefer new worlds with smaller economies. Some worlds develop a strong personality that attracts a lot of players and some don’t. All of this is good and normal and most of our worlds are doing great, but sometimes there are worlds on the extreme ends of the population spectrum that need some help.


Overpopulated Worlds

Scania faces this problem. It’s the most popular world in Global MapleStory, and naturally, it became overcrowded and has reached its population limit. This summer we will experiment with new structures to increase Scania’s capacity, but there’s a limit to what can be done. MapleStory was simply not designed to be a one server game.

We could also restrict new character creation on Scania, but we don’t want to do this. We’ve always believed that players should be free to play where they want. Freezing Scania’s population could have severe effects on its community and the economy. Instead, we have some ideas to encourage players to move out of Scania in favor of less populated worlds. We can hold more events in lower population worlds, offer a certain number of free character transfers out of Scania, or even restrict character creation in Scania instead of cutting it off completely.

While we consider our options, we want to hear from you. What would encourage you to move out of Scania? Please share your thoughts and suggestions on our forums. Ultimately we want to preserve Scania’s strengths but make the gameplay experience more pleasant by relieving the overcrowding.

Underpopulated Worlds

Some players certainly like peace and quiet in their game worlds, but no one likes living in a ghost town. With too few people, it becomes difficult to gather players for Party Quests, form healthy guilds, have a functioning economy, or just find someone to talk to. Eventually when a world falls under a certain population, it becomes a vicious cycle: no one wants to move there or create new characters, and frustrated players move to more populous servers. This only worsens the problem.

A few worlds in MapleStory are suffering from this, so we need to figure out a solution for it. Traditionally, online games have solved this problem with a “server merge.” Basically, all of the players from two low population servers are forcibly moved to a new, single server that contains both populations. However, we decided we didn’t want to do this. First, MapleStory is growing. The problem is not a lack of players to fill our servers, but rather poor distribution. We also don’t want to force players to move. Players feel very strongly connected to their world, and that’s not something we want to mess with.

We’ve tried a variety of methods over the past year to alleviate this population balance issue without a server merge. We’ve reorganized the world select screen. We direct new users to underpopulated worlds. We open world transfers to new worlds sooner, but none of it has been as effective as it needs to be. That’s why we developed a system to create world alliances. This allows low population worlds to play with each other without removing the individual character of each world.

The way it works is that both worlds still exist. They’ll remain on the select screen and players will log into them as they always have. Whichever world you’re from, you’ll continue to be from. Whatever benefits you have from that world, you’ll still have them. The only change is that players from both worlds will be able to play together, form guilds, get married, and generally do all the things players can do with other players in their own world. From the perspective of a player in either world, it’ll be as though you just had a huge influx of new players into your world. We’re really excited about this approach and we’ll be trying it out this month. Stay tuned for an announcement about which worlds will be involved.

That’s all for now, I hope this has given you some insight into game worlds and their future. Continue to check the website for the latest details on more changes coming soon!

Until next time!

Eurydice

The MapleStory Team

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Posted on April 8, 2011, in Dev Blog, Global MapleStory, Nexon America. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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