With every new expansion comes particular topics that simply will not die. One of those such topics is server population and the imbalance that is found on many servers. The discussion is a valid one with many serious concerns. I believe it is safe to say that we are all aware of this issue and can agree that something should be done to correct the problem. I think where the agreement stops is in how do you correct such a problem and then would those corrections result in larger problems?
I want to set aside the typical discussion though for a moment and focus on a more personal aspect of a server merger... the impact upon those on the servers. My own server is now consistently showing as a low population server with there being substantially more Horde; however, I do not want to see a merger forced upon my server. I say this because I have developed an identity with my characters and there is a high chance that any sort of merger may result in someone, including myself, being forced to rename their characters. Stop and consider for a moment how would you feel if after five, six, or seven years of playing your characters, you were forced to change their names?
As silly as it sounds, I would very seriously have to consider leaving the game. The characters in a way, have become a part of who I am. That doesn't mean I walk around in my everyday life believing that I am a Holy Paladin who can raise the dead, but rather that I have simply grown attached to the characters. So how then does Blizzard go about preserving the active player's characters while merging servers?
I do not know, but a start may be in developing new programing that could allow for multiple uses of names upon a server by assigning a character avatar a specific number that would be identified with the account itself. My mind cannot fathom the amount of technical know-how that would be required for something like that, but what other options are there? Should they consider deleting old characters that are no longer active after a set time frame of two, three, or four years? Perhaps they could force name changes to characters who have not been logged into the live servers for a set time frame of maybe six months, one year, or two years? Other ideas have included a reduced fee of $5 to some suggesting a free transfer.
While all of these suggestions are legitimate ideas, I tend to prefer ones that would permit me to make a decision on my own. I say that because it would permit me to spend some time reviewing servers for things like "is my name available", "is there a gaming culture that I can identify with", "will my friends/guildies consider transferring", and other such concerns that I personally would like to know prior to making a decision about transferring.
I think one thing that you can rely on is that Blizzard will not make any sort of decision regarding server balance/population until after the release of the MoP expansion. The last thing they want to do is take on a project as far reaching as that, only to find out that they have now overpopulated their servers from new and returning players.
At the end of the day, this is not a simple problem with a simple solution. It is a complex technical problem that is compounded by our attachment to our characters. For the moment, I am content on my server. I have a good group of people who I enjoy spending my free time with and I would not trade that for the world. We certainly do face issues in terms of being able to recruit quality players, but considering we are not looking to go for server firsts, I feel we are in a good spot. What about you guys? How would you feel if you were forced to change your character name? What suggestions would you voice to Blizzard if you had their ear?