Cryptic Studios has a history of handling its MMORPG server technology a bit differently than most companies. Expecting the inevitable burn from launch to a stable player base, the company has broken its servers into multiple distinct instances of a game and has broken its master server into multi shards. This enables the company to scale – up at new launches or patches, down during lulls – not on the fly, but perhaps as close as a company needs. It’s been in use since Champions Online, updated for Star Trek Online and now Neverwinter it to have its own twist.
A single shard was available during the Neverwinter closed beta process. This tripled for launch to deal with the influx of players. The expectation was to rebalance sometime post launch, yet the title’s continued growth delayed the plan. The task was briefly removed from the Dev Tracker, but Cryptic has put it back on our radar. The “server upgrade” will be coming soon.
What’s that mean for players? For one thing, you’ll be able to find each other far easier than before. None of those looking for each other shenanigans Lore Hound has had. Guilds have never been able to have duplicate names, so this is not an issue. Along the same lines, character handles are unique, allowing names to have duplicates. As for auction items, diamonds or otherwise, they’ll be expired before the shard merger happens.
The entrepreneurial players out there could stand to make a tidy sum by playing differences in the market for crucial items. One major unanswered question, will players, which currently have two free character slots per shard, have six available upon the merger? Clearly we won’t lose characters, but can we lose our free character slots if we’re not currently using them?