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Suggestions for a healthy longlived server

I'm coming at this with years of RO experience, and the advice of friends who play at the top of WoE, PvM, and PvP. I have also been a GM on 3 servers and an admin on one, and asked for advice from two friends who have been admins on their own successful low rate servers. Additionally, I have some experience with editing the source files and redesigning the game a bit, not that I will get much into that, but I do know what is and isn't possible. I also have experience from other games such as WoW (as a world and arena PvPer at the highest levels), and from political and economic games such as EVE and bloc. Finally, I have some real life knowledge of economics (though I wouldn't call myself an economist) due to being a FOREX trader.
All of that and more has lead to my understanding of game design, some of which I can apply here.
I realize that this is a long post, but that's because I got the input from several people and put (a little bit of) effort into explaining the reasoning. If any of these things are being discussed in other threads, pardon me and just let me dump all of my opinions into one place, as they are largely interconnected.
Most of my suggestions are based on sustainable gameplay, sustainable economy, rewarding players for their decisions, and giving players more freedom. I tried to keep the changes, for the most part, quite vanilla. I have some much better ideas that require customization, but most players recoil at the thought of customization in RO.
I'll start with the unquestionable and move to the debatable.

No donor or normally unavailable items with unique stats.

This means there should be no items with dex on mid or lower. No upper headgears with more than 3 dex, etc. Basically, no overpowered donor items or ones that disrupt normal player balance. Adding a single dex to a build can be incredibly imbalanced, which is why I used dex as an example, but this applies to lots of stats.
Not only can it be imbalanced, but it causes item inflation as well. When players no longer need to hunt for gear (because they replace it with donor or custom quest items), lots of gear becomes either worthless and thus overupgraded to abnormal degrees or obsoleted.
On the same token, this means not allowing BG items to be used outside of BGs, including in WoE or anywhere else. It's devastating to the economy. WoE is a competition between guilds, not just to conquer castles, but to acquire enough resources to do it.
IMO the only items players should be able to donate for are cosmetic, and perhaps things like battle manuals and maybe bubble gum, which have no direct impact on gameplay other than to reduce the grind. But really, cosmetic items should be enough if you're clever. There's one suggestion on this down in the zeny sink section.

Set strict rules for GMs to follow, and don't give them more power than they need.

If all of that sounds paranoid to you, then you're going to end up with GM problems. Even if you trust your GMs with your life, you need to set guidelines. You can't read their minds, even if they are your best friends. They are going to use their own discretion, and that might vary widely from your own decisions, unless you give them strict guidelines.
Not only will this make the GMs better, but it'll give you more confidence in their decisions when players complain, and allow you to handle the inevitable drama better, thus preserving the playerbase.
I have seen a GM go on /vg/ and talk shit to the players there, unbeknownst to the admin.

A PvP room where consumables (with the possible exception of conc/awakening/berserk pots) are disabled, and where all buffs are removed upon entering.

The main interest of many other players, is PvP (not GvG/WoE). Unfortunately, PvP is often woefully underrepresented in server design decisions. PvP is incredibly disinteresting when using dex food and potion spamming, and when getting SL/Assump/etc from outside. Leave the consumable spam and buff stacks to WoE and PvM. Also, please don't use a shitty map for the PvP room.
You can, of course, have two PvP rooms, so this shouldn't be a controversy.
On RaptureRO, there was also a 3v3 PvP arena tournament, which was incredibly fun. Takes some scripting though and isn't top priority.

A draw range of 18+, preferably around 20 to 24.

I'm referring to /conf/battle/client.conf area_size. The default is 14, which is an antiquated value meant to reduce stress on PCs made back in 2000. There are actually mobs that can aggro from outside of your view range, which is quite dumb. There is no reason to use a lower draw range, except for artificial difficulty.
Successful servers like Rapture, ProjectRage, Destina, etc, had an increased the draw range without issue. Newer players won't even notice a difference.
If you are afraid of client lag in WoE (there shouldn't be any, but just in case) you can simply script an NPC to automatically change the area_size value before and after WoE. It doesn't require a reset of anything, not even an @reloadscript.

Turn up the party exp bonus.

Simple enough, makes it worth leveling as a party instead of leeching yourself with a hunter (the normal method for leveling most things as fast as possible).

Take proactive steps to limit zeny inflation and promote a player-driven economy.

Zeny inflation is one of the biggest problems for the longevity of any RO server. The game was not designed in a way to have a stable economy. You must tweak a few things to get something workable. I'll talk about item inflation a bit later:

Roll out content in waves

It's a suggestion I heard elsewhere and it's a good one. Start with trans disabled and less dungeons available. Gradually release more as the server grows and people hit higher levels. This is a good idea for a few reasons:

Consider splitting the server into a pure-WoE server and a non-WoE server

This might at first sound unappealing by splitting up the playerbase, but it allows you to more easily design both servers to fit their respective playerbases. Also keep in mind that many of the players from each server will play on both servers. Only a minority will be exclusive to one.
Potion spamming completely trivializes a large portion of the game's content and reduces the skill ceiling dramatically. It reduces the importance of healing abilities, eliminates the need for mana efficiency, imbalances PvP (asura spam is a lot harder when you can't just mash blue pots, for example. The same goes for SinXs and White Smiths with white pots, and so on). In PvP, abilities that are not 1HKOs become nearly worthless, due to white pot spam. This reduces ordinarily incredibly complex jobs like champ, to nothing more than asura-machines. Additionally, no pot spam means that if a champ wants to spam asura in PvM, he needs a Professor. This concept applies to other classes as well.
In WoE, potion spamming is necessary to survive. In the rest of the game, though, potion spam ruins much. No WoE means no need for pot spamming.
The rest of my suggestions assume that you aren't going with this suggestion, so bear that in mind.


PS: Yeah you can't upgrade Orlean's gloves, but it could at least become a decision between +1 dex vs. +2 dex and -1 vit or -1 def, or something, instead of just "yeah these are better than or equal to regular gloves in every way". There's literally no reason to farm gloves because you don't need gloves to farm Orlean's gloves. That's how it works for a lot of older gear, and it's not a good thing.
Ideally, newer gear should scale better than older gear, but not be better inherently. You won't be able to do it with everything, but every bit helps to stave off inflation and inevitable server death.

PvP enabled on MVP maps.

This is controversial, but hear me out. I think this can, by itself, increase the longevity of a server dramatically, while solving a plethora of problems as well.
MVPs are a scarce resource, and players often compete for them. Normally this leads to a meta of trying to out-grief other players. Instead, with PvP enabled, you could fight for the MVP. It changes the competition into a meaningful part of the game, rather than a rat race. This will be especially important on a high population server.
And remember the costume hat idea? Now people can fight for the boxes that low level MVPs drop, creating competition over the usually worthless MVPs, and reason to go out and play the game.
Particularly challenging content, like bio3, will be extremely difficult to clear if players are trying to kill you. This will encourage diplomacy and cooperation between players (as seen in sandbox games like EVE, DayZ, etc). Either you work with the other group, or you become rivals. This is good for the health of a server. The increased difficulty will also increase the longevity of the server by reducing the rate at which players clear the content and collect the gear.
There's the other added benefit of making it more of a challenge to reach max level in places like Abbey3. You might want to turn on PvP in Thor1 for the same reason. Again, players can choose to work together or make enemies while leveling in these high level zones. And, again, the increased difficulty increases server longevity by reducing the average rate at which players progress.
Finally, you can have mobs on PvP maps drop white and blue herb boxes, and spawn on timers. This way, players can compete for the resources they need in WoE, rather than grind for days. You can use regular white/blue herb boxes, or use WoE-only potion drops and have them drop in somewhat higher quantities. The more generalized the drop is, the fewer should drop, to have a smaller impact on the overall economy. Players who don't WoE can simply sell the WoE pots to WoE players, so they have just as much reason to compete for the mobs.
Since the WoE players need these resources to win WoE, they'll fight each other for the resources between WoEs, reducing the boredom. It also gives every high level player a thing to look forward to doing: world PvP. Something that pretty much never gets old. Just make sure that the mobs are scarce enough that you don't make it too easy to collect herbs/pots. It's supposed to be a supplementation to normal farming, to make it easier in a fun/competitive way.
This change will have no impact on low level players. I have seen this done and it works beautifully. If you're imagining constant fighting between players on every MVP map, you're forgetting that there are dozens of MVP maps. Most maps are usually empty, especially at certain times of day.
You will probably need to turn off teleporting and memo on non-dungeon maps to prevent things like champs from running in with asura in relative impunity.
As far as players who are disinterested in PvP go, remember that there are instanced dungeons now. There are also dungeons in which it's highly unlikely that you'll run into other players due to quest requirements: Thanatos, Vesper, Ktullanux, probably a few others I'm forgetting. You could just turn PvP off on those maps for that matter.
You also have the option of disabling PvP on some other MVP maps if you feel that's necessary.


If you go with my last suggestion, I'd LOVE it if you simply don't include BGs on the server. In my opinion, BGs are a terrible and trivialized bastardization of RO PvP. They're tedious and unfun, and unnecessary when you have world PvP, a PvP room, and WoE.
However, if you're going to include BGs, then:
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