UPDATE (2011/12/14 8:45pm PST): OK, so I’m already getting flak for posting this. For those of you who don’t know me, let me clarify for you: I’m a big SWTOR fan and have and will be cranking out rich content (guides, narrated videos, and streams) for the game. I’m not claiming SWTOR is a failboat. I am concerned about this issue and I want the game to succeed. So take what is written below with that context.
Let’s take a look at faction and class data mined from the Pre-Launch Guild Program (PLGP): http://swtorprogress.com/members.php. This not a comprehensive set of data, but it is statistically significant set of data: 450k players, or ~30% of the predicted 1.5MM launch.
Here are the totals by server type as of end of day December 13:
- RP-PVE servers (entire World): Empire 25,986 | Republic 30,393 | Hey look, more good guys than bad guys. A lot of RP players want to be a Jedi or Smuggler. What a surprise! Not :)
- PVE servers (entire World): Empire 107,974 | Republic 86,269 | Empire +25% population
- PVP servers (entire World): Empire 137,732 | Republic 66,586 | Empire has 2.1 times the population
*Note: RP-PVP servers were not included in the PLGP.
If this were an election, the faction voting on the PVP servers would be a landslide.
The question is, why the big difference in population?
Some people have generalized the SWTOR situation by saying that the evil faction tends to be more popular in PVP. But there’s more to it than that. The Empire faction is the more popular one because it’s the more entertaining and cooler faction from a character development and storyline perspective. I’ve heard this from numerous people who tried both factions in Beta. PVP players want to feel and look bad-ass, and Empire’s the ticket.
So we have a situation where we’re going to have population imbalance from the get-go, on most if not all PVP servers.
AFAIK, there are no game mechanics to balance the population:
- No population cap per faction on a server – the cap is for the entire server not by faction
- No balancing mechanic in Ilum
Some players are hoping that new players joining post-Launch will roll Republic, because everyone wants to be a Jedi like Luke Skywalker or Smuggler like Han Solo, right? While that may be true, if they’re new(er) gamers it’s going to take a significant amount of time before they’re functional in PVP. I can’t speak for you, but I’d kick the ass of me from 3 years ago. Most veterans of MMORPGs are already in-the-know regarding SWTOR and have chosen the cooler, bad-ass side accordingly.
So here are my predictions on how the population imbalance on PVP servers will affect PVP:
- Republic warzone queues will pop quickly. Empire queues will pop more slowly, or they’ll pop and you’ll see a disproportionate number of Huttball matches where you face a team from your faction. You won’t see as many Alderaan and Voidstar matches as Empire
- In Ilum, the World PVP zone, there will be significantly more Empire than Republic players, with the obvious implications: Empire will zerg-farm Republic, and this will cause a vicious cycle of fewer Republic players going to Ilum, etc
Duh! These predictions are not rocket science – the 2 bullet points above were what we saw in Beta.
The three things that I have seen kill World PVP in other games have been:
- Crappy class balance, which causes individuals to quit (so far, not a significant issue in SWTOR, although the JK/SW’s should get their CCs earlier)
- Crappy world PVP implementation (can’t comment on this, haven’t experienced Ilum yet)
- Population imbalance, which causes different issues on both side: boredom for the zergy faction, frustration for the gets-zerged faction (there is significant risk here for SWTOR, given that it’s a 2-faction game)
Hopefully BioWare will be able to sort out the population imbalance somehow that makes sense, especially for Ilum.
We shall see!
P.S. I’m rolling Empire on a PVP server with my guild Irony. My preference was to roll Republic but we just merged into Irony so we’re rolling on the server and faction they’ve already chosen. Irony’s leadership has asked that we not publish our server until December 20th. I’m also rolling Republic alts, so that I can group with my followers from social media and other friends.
When it’s appropriate, I’ll let you know which server(s) my characters are on.
P.P.S. see more responses about this article on Reddit.
UPDATE (2012/01/01): I decided to re-roll as Republic on another server, Ajunta Pall. Out of the 115 matches I tracked on Empire side for Jung Ma, 23 of them (20%) were Empire-vs-Empire Huttball. The speed of warzone queue pops and diversity of warzones has been much better as Republic.
GAMEBREAKER Host for “The Republic” SWTOR show: http://www.gamebreaker.tv/category/the-republic/