Spinks posted an interesting article about what times of the day most people play MMOs at and it got me thinking about my own gaming habits. At the turn of the century (I just love saying that) I was deeply engrossed in Everquest and my preferred playtime was late night and early morning, usually around 9pm – 2am. I couldn’t possible game like that now but what is interesting to me is not so much when I played, but where I played.
I’m pretty sure I’m right in saying that when Everquest was first released it didn’t have any official European servers. In fact, I had no idea about server location or anything like that, I just picked one from a list and started my adventures. Although SOE added Europe based servers later on, I never switched to them and only ever played on American servers. And it suited me perfectly.
Apart from thrilling Yanks with the fact that I’m Scottish, the East Coast prime-time fitted in perfectly with my nocturnal schedule. Midnight for me was 7pm for them and the groups were rife. Of course, if I fancied a little bit of soloing (this being EQ meant that was a very rare occurrence) I could just hop on during my afternoon hours and get the whole server to myself. It was a win-win situation. And then Dark Age of Camelot had to come along and ruin it.
I think a large contributing reason to the fact that I only played DAOC for a couple of months (as opposed to years in the case of EQ) was because the developers enforced localization – and by that I mean they restricted the servers you could play on depending on the region where you bought the game. Yep, I had to chose between one of two heavily underpopulated UK severs, both brimming with annoying Limeys. I swear I heard the term “m8″ (mate) about 8 billion times every day. Had I wanted to play on American servers, I would’ve had to import a boxed copy of the game at great expense.
A few years later, Blizzard pulled the same stunt with World of Warcraft and, again, it really bothered me at the time (although it doesn’t any more). I just couldn’t understand the decision to restrict what server you can play on depending on where you bought your copy of the game. In the Internet Age, when the world should be getting smaller, it seems like such a silly thing to force people into only playing with those nearby them.
Fortunately Everquest 2, a game I played for three years, didn’t (and still doesn’t) enforce localization and is, in my opinion, a great example of how the multicultural aspects of MMOs can really be explored when you aren’t restricted to playing in your own region. I ended up in a fantastic European guild on a US PvP server able to use the timezone difference to our advantage. Prime-time US playtime may have been the realms of the Americano but we ruled the afternoons and all Hell broke loose whilst our brethren from across the Pond were busy beavering away in their offices at work. We even had one American guild member who used to raid with us during his afternoon hours and then again with a US guild during his evening.
Although it affects me less as I play “normal” hours now, I still don’t understand the reasoning behind enforcing localization and restricting what server we can play on. Of course, there may be technical things to consider but if SOE can do it, I’m sure anyone can and honestly it seems like such a petty thing to restrict. I can’t play with many of my old American friends on newer games due to this reason and it’s a darn shame. Do I really need to import another copy of a game just to play it on some other servers?