As you may, or may not, remember, I currently live in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia with my family - my lovely wife and two daughters. But as I plan to eventually move back to the United States, I rolled my Classic characters on US servers - Mankrik and Atiesh, specifically. Well, I recently got into a discussion with my guildmates about what it's like to play on a server on the opposite side of the planet, and it got me thinking - what if there are others who are in a similar situation as me? Or maybe there are players out there who want to play with distant friends or family. After all, the world is a big place, and it's getting more and more globalized by the year, so international gaming is just becoming more common.
So, since I've got quite a bit of experience playing from Asia at this point, I thought it might be fun to list out some of the positive and negative aspects to this type of play. Before getting into it though, I'd just like to ask that you add yourself to my mailing list below so you don't miss out on posts like this in the future. Also, consider checking out my YouTube channel if you're into video content, as that's where all my posts end up eventually. In any case, I hope you enjoy!
Distant Servers - The ProsWhile you can probably imagine quite a few problems with playing on a server that's far away from you geographically, there are some great benefits that I've found made my experience quite enjoyable. First off is the simple fact that your prime time is likely much different from the server's prime time. And when there are fewer players online, there's a lot less competition for spawns. This means that you can quest, level up, and generally enjoy the solo play of Classic a lot more. When you want to go farm water elementals up in the Eastern Plaguelands, you can pretty much guarantee that there will be some up there - unless that's where the bots are parked that day. And if you want to tame Broken Tooth, you stand a much better chance of being the first hunter there when he pops.
The reduced competition is great for those of us with gathering professions too, as you're much more likely to actually catch a Black Lotus spawn or Thorium vein while passing through a zone during the dead of night. This happened to me when my shaman was running to turn in a BRD quest in the Burning Steppes at around level 57 or so - a random Black Lotus spawned in the middle of one of the burned down dwarven buildings just outside of Flame Crest. Though I had to clear some mobs to get to it (and almost died), I managed to snag it - something that would've never happened during peak hours. Sure, Blizzard recently implemented some changes to these herbs, making them much more common in general, but I'm sure those of us who play in the dead of night server time will be able to scoop up even more as we simply pass through the zones.
Having less competition isn't the only benefit of playing at off times, however. Many people choose to finish their WoW sessions by taking a trip to the auction house to dump all of the items they've picked up over the day. Since the idea behind this is to log into a nice chunk of change in the mailbox for the next play session, these players often post items at lower prices to encourage someone to buy. With less players online, however, the demand just isn't there. So, if you play during these off hours, you can sometimes find some amazing deals. I, for one, picked up a Brain Hacker for my shaman for around 30 gold back when they were typically selling for around 50. It felt pretty good...
So yeah, browsing the auction house in the wee hours of the morning can sometimes be really lucrative. It does really depend on your server size and player base, though. So, just keep in mind that the market is ever-shifting and this might not always be a pro. There is one thing, however, that is ALWAYS a positive...
Without a doubt, playing when everyone else is asleep or heading off to work has the greatest benefit on larger servers, as you never have to deal with queues. Though I play on Mankrik - which has far fewer players than Whitemane, Herod, and Faerlina for sure - I still hear complaints constantly from guildies, friends, and random pugs about how they are, or were "stuck in the queue." However, I seldom have this problem, unless I try logging on first thing in the morning, of course.
Back when Classic launched, the word on the street was that everyone on every server had huge queues to sit through, then crazy competition for mobs once they finally got in on day 1. Luckily for me, I had work that day, so though I wanted to experience the launch, I had to wait until around 5:30PM to finally start questing in the Valley of Trials. But, oh man, it was worth it. I got home, set up my stream, and played for 3 and a half hours straight with no queues, disconnects, or other issues.
It. Was. AWESOME! And I'm happy to say that I still don't have to deal with queues to this day.
The ConsAlright, so you get to play without queues or other players stealing your nodes - that's great! But what must you give in return?
Well...not really, but still quite a bit. First off, when you play at what is the dead of night, or early morning, for nearly everyone else on your server, you can expect to have issues finding groups for what you want to run. Of course, it's easier if you're playing a tank or healer, but if you're a lone hunter, you're pretty much S.O.L. To make matters worse, out of the limited number of players online at these strange times, only a few are typically functioning properly. I can't count the number of dungeon runs I've done with a terrible player, only to find out that they were simply falling asleep at their keyboard. Hell, I once led a ZG pug at only 11PM server time and it still took 3 hours - people kept coming in and leaving due to "being tired." Pfft. Weaklings...
But that's not the only issue, unfortunately. If you're interested in raiding - or any large-scale group content really - you'll need to find a guild that matches your schedule, or alter your play time to fit into one. Your guild options are really limited if you can't play at the server's prime time (usually around 7-10PM), meaning that you don't really get to shop around for the perfect guild. Instead, you just have to sort of accept a guild that meets at times you can make. So, if there's only one guild that raids at 4:00 in the morning, you know where your new home is, regardless of the actual people in it.
And speaking of guilds, a lot of those that raid nowadays have a big emphasis on getting world buffs before raid night: Rallying Cry of the Dragonslayer, the DM Tribute buffs, and Spirit of Zandalar to name a few. These buffs are huge boons to any raid team, but if you play at off hours, you're pretty much out of luck. Guilds on most servers coordinate these buffs to benefit the greatest number of raiders - meaning you'll miss all of them if you're not online at prime time on any given day. Sure, if you park your character in Booty Bay or Orgrimmar and stay logged in there you might get lucky, but generally people don't turn in Onyxia's head at 2:45AM server time. So, yeah...
Finally, there's one last little con to playing on a server from the opposite side of the planet that people usually think of first - the lag. While my friends and family back in the States tell me about their 20-40ms latency, I'm typically sitting at around 300ms. And while this issue is definitely much more manageable now than the 900-2000ms that I used to get back when I played in Japan back in 2007, it does still cause some problems from time to time. Most notably, I get disconnected quite often, or get the strange buggy disconnect, but where the chat still works completely normally. Honestly though, this is the smallest issue that I've faced in my Classic adventures. So, as long as you've got decent internet wherever you are, you can probably deal with this.
Good luck finding groups though...
So, What's the Verdict?So yeah, there's a few of the good and bad sides to playing on a faraway WoW server. Overall, it's definitely a fun experience, and vastly different from the way in which most people play the game. There are a few other quirks that I think are worth mentioning - such as late night LFG chat and the personalities of the night owls that you'll likely encounter out in Azeroth at 3AM. These guys will definitely keep you entertained...or offended, depending on how thick your skin is. But yeah, I don't think those are necessarily pros or cons - just another fun little difference from peak server hours and the late night/early morning hours that you'd likely be on.
So, in general what do I think? Is it worth it to play on a distant server? My answer is, it depends on how you enjoy the game. If you love solo play, or know of a guild that does exactly what you want to do, when you want to do it, then yes. However, if you really want to have more options for groups, guilds, and participating in the min-maxing culture of world buffs, then definitely no. Overall, I've been thoroughly enjoying my play time on Mankrik and Atiesh, but it's definitely been an uphill battle to make schedules work, and I have struggled to complete my own personal goals in-game. That being said, the lack of queues and competition have really been nice, so I can't complain too much. At least I didn't roll on Faerlina... I can get on, do my thing, and generally have a good time most days.
In conclusion, I'd say it depends on your goals and personal schedule, but it can be worth it. However, I'd also like to know what you think - do you play on a distant server, far from everyone in your guild? How do you make things work? Or do you always stay close to home, to avoid having scheduling conflicts? With an eventual Classic TBC and my family's eventual move back to the US, I'm really considering my options going forward, so any input you all have would be appreciated.
But anyway, yeah, that's it for today. If you liked this post, or found it informative, then follow my blog by adding yourself to my mailing list below, or follow me over on Twitter for updates. Also, check out my YouTube channel where I put all of these posts into video form shortly after publishing them here. In any case, thanks for reading, have an awesome day, and as always...
Take it easy!