To merge or not to merge

I have an interest in game balance, so the issue intrigues me.

On the Cabal community front (yes, I still lurk forums), apparently a hot topic that’s been brought up time and time again is the prospect of merging the two servers in Cabal Online; namely Mercury and Venus. For the uninitiated, due to technical limitations, MMORPGs often have multiple servers to choose from in order to balance bandwidth and processing load. Spreading the game’s playerbase evenly across multiple servers allows everyone who plays to enjoy a faster, more stable game experience.

I haven’t been playing the game long enough to really get a feel for the difference between the two, and to be honest I just randomly picked a server because it didn’t matter to me when I created my first character, but I get the gist of the debate: Some players choose one server or another because their friends are there, or they transferred from the other server due to personal issues. The idea of merging servers, especially considering the latter cause, can thus be unsettling.

From what I’ve heard so far, the number of players in Venus is quite low compared to Mercury’s population – to the point of players referring to Venus as “dead.” However, to compensate, EST Soft (the game’s publisher) increases the rate of XP gain in Venus, allowing players to level up faster than they would in Venus. Also due to the lower population in Venus, boss enemies are more readily available – making it easier to hunt them for their loot.

The benefits to merging are clear: no more barrier between players, no more dichotomy in gameplay experience, and people who felt lonely in Venus would enjoy being introduced to the rest of the Cabal population. However, not as apparent are the downsides: some players (despite Cabal being a multiplayer game) prefer smaller populations, less chat noise, less competition, and higher XP gain. Additionally, merging the servers may have a major (albeit temporary) effect on the in-game economy – a real concern to some, as the game is based on a microtransaction model.

It’s an issue that shouldn’t be taken very lightly but which, if ultimately implemented, could literally be a game-changer. And it seems like, at least from one developer’s point of view, a topic that is still open to discussion.

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