Lost Ark servers have taken a battering over its opening weekend, with issues and our own team having to wait up to seven hours and bombarded with error codes just to get in game. The developers are looking to address this by rolling out a brand-new datacenter in Europe; however, this might not immediately relieve the game’s woes.
An MMO’s launch has a tendency to be one of the most testing times for a game, where player counts and servers are stressed to their absolute maximum. Until we see numbers begin to normalize after a few months, with the initial rush of players having dropped off of that game or expansion, it’s something that we’ve observed in New World, and also Final Fantasy XIV. However, Lost Ark is taking an approach to dealing with their server woes a little bit differently than other MMOs.
As it stands, Lost Ark provides players with something named a ‘region’ in which they’re able to play. You can find our Lost Ark server list here. Within these discrete regions are servers, where your character can travel, party up with your friends, and retain your microtransaction and player character. America is split by coast, with 15 servers on the East Coast region and five on the West Coast, with South America having its own region with four servers. In America, in total there are 24 servers split across three region. In Europe, there is only one single region, with a total of 18 servers.
With immense queues and a ballooning player count, thanks to Lost Ark’s free-to-play nature, developer Smilegate RPG is looking to add more European servers. But, they come with a catch. They are seemingly unable to add more servers onto the current region, meaning that they are due to establish a brand-new one instead. However, this solution is less than elegant, as you cannot move any pre-existing characters across a region yet. Datacenter travel is an issue that many games have and isn’t anything too new, unfortunately.
Smilegate RPG’s (flawed) solution
However, the unfortunate fact is that players who have already made characters on a server, played with them, got some loot, and have even purchased microtransactions, or have opened a Founder’s Pack will not be able to access their character in any way, shape or form. This change simply means that you’ll lose everything on your current character if you opt to switch data centers.
Then, you’ll need to make a new character, in a new region in order to play. Any time or money you have previously invested in your character will disappear if you’ve opened those particular packs on your account. A statement from Smilegate RPG states the following:
‘This also means that region-wide features, such as your Royal Crystal and Silver balances from Central Europe will not be accessible in the new European region. The new region will be ideal for players who have not yet created their character or haven’t otherwise committed to staying on their existing server. If you plan to restart in the new region, you may wish to hold off on claiming any ‘per Account’ items, such as the additional Founder’s Pack Redemption, until you have created a character and are able to redeem in the new region.’ The Founder’s Pack can cost up to $99.99, which is a huge reason why many early-adopters may not want to switch region.
It’s fairly obvious to see the issues with this, as players who are already queuing for hours to get in-game and are invested, will still be queuing for hours to get in. This solution only serves those who have not invested in the game, or a server at all right now. It’s merely a band-aid in a sea of population issues that the game is currently experiencing. Also, Smilegate RPG is also dishing out free gifts to those who actually manage to fight through the queue and log in, which is good for those who can actually play the game, and functionally useless for those who don’t want to spend half of their evening staring at a queue screen.
The rewards are as follows:
- Vehicle Selection Chest (choice of either mount)
- Terpeion of the Shadow
- Midsummer Night’s Dream Instrument Skin Selection Chest
- Healing Battle Item Chest x10
- Offensive Battle Item Chest x10
- Legendary Rapport Selection Chest x3
- Weekly Trade potions Pack x3
- Phoenix Plume x20
These items are available now to all Lost Ark players who log in until March 1 at 23:59 PT.
Lost Ark region travel; dream or delusion?
The only way to get around this is to begin employing a system for region travel, where players and pre-existing characters would be able to visit the new region and retain their player progression, and all transaction history and items. Right now, Smilegate RPG does not have plans for region travel, it might just be a little bit too much for the developer to take on while launching the game. Their most recent statement on the game’s website makes note of there being no ‘cross-region play availability’. Though, these features might not be completely beyond the bounds, as rival MMO Final Fantasy XIV looks to open up this exact functionality in an upcoming patch.
Lost Ark’s population problem
Unfortunately, since Lost Ark’s player count still continues to grow, there’s no way of ascertaining the growth curve until the player count begins to settle. Until then, the developers need to ensure that they’re able to cater to the players who currently want to access the game right now. Unfortunately, this means that measures like an AFK timer need to be more strictly implemented into the game in order to cycle out players at a higher rate than usual. Right now, Lost Ark has an AFK timer of 15 minutes by default, which is pretty good, however, players can tune this to be up to 60 minutes. If you look at this when comparing against other MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV, which enforced a strict 30-minute AFK timer (that is not user-adjustable) to ensure that the queues flowed as quickly as possible for those waiting to get into the game.
Additionally, the AFK timer can be bypassed by just moving your character, where a more sophisticated solution may have been if your character changes zones, or makes specific actions, also as Final Fantasy XIV employed in their AFK Timer, so you couldn’t just walk forward into a wall to avoid having to queue again whenever you went about your day. If Lost Ark employed a slightly more elegant solution, then they may have been able to have actually quelled the queue problem on their European region.
Having an overwhelming number of players on the current Europe region of Lost Ark isn’t going to suddenly go away when an additional region is announced. Instead, you’re going to need to ensure that enough players who want to play the game, move to the new region and ensure that it remains popular after this initial boom at launch. If we use Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker’s release as a microcosm of the population boom-bust cycle of an MMO, it’s easy to see that the player numbers will bottom out, and normalize after a few months. Our Lost Ark experts say that the game has a meaty amount of progression, and large endgame, which could see the game retaining many of the players signing up to play for a good while. However, many of them might simply fall off of the game entirely after failing to log in thanks to hefty queues.
After the new European servers have been rolled out, newer players should seek to head into the separate region, as it’s likely to have much lighter queue times than the one that it launched with. It’s for existing players where Smilegate RPG has simply have not accommodated for. So then, what will the new servers eventually look like? The hardcore players have already made a week of progress on the default Europe region, meaning that they won’t really want to lose that progress as they wander towards the endgame of the MMO, which is where a lot of players tend to live. Our resident Lost Ark expert reckons that it could potentially take some players months to reach it, meaning that we could see a slower drop off in the player base, making the solutions presented by Smilegate RPG for Lost Ark’s servers simply not good enough, when other MMOs on the market have proven to do it better.