The overwhelming #1 killer to any persistent world game is "STAGNATION".
Several things can lead to stagnation sooner rather than later. Like character progression being too slow or too fast (there is a happy-medium). And there are also a handful of ways to extending server life and push stagnation further out on the horizon. But ultimately, every persistent world game will eventually devolve in to stagnation. It is simply impossible to avoid. And unfortunately, the most widely used method of subverting stagnation is game developers periodically wiping servers and restarting it's playerbase from scratch. And they typically do this via the "Expansion" excuse/tactic, where they've coded tons of "New" content, balance changes, character race/class/profession additions, and sweeping game mechanics changes or additions.
The problem with this method is that you've now jaded or disenchanted a huge portion of the playerbase who is upset about all their wasted effort in the previous iteration. And this is where the slow bleeding of playerbase takes it's worst hits. Stagnation, wipe/reset, player loss, stagnation, wipe/reset, player loss... and this goes on and on and on until it becomes financially unsustainable for the developers to keep it going. And this is how these games die.
So what's the solution to this problem?
One server, but two worlds that can interact on a limited basis. A multiverse system with one half being totally persistent and the other half containing a player-driven server win-condition that wipes and resets that half when a guild or nation meets/fulfills the requirements needed to essentially "Win" the server.
First, you have to find the happy-medium with regards to character progression. If you make char progression too slow, you create a huge power-gap between people with a lot of time to play (Hardcore's) vs. people with less time to play (Casual's). And if you make char progression too fast, you can create an environment that devolves in to boring stagnation sooner rather than later.
However, the nice thing about the interactive multiverse system, is that you can actually have two separate speeds of progression and make everyone happy.
So here's how it works....
One server split in to two worlds. One side (A) is always persistent and NEVER wipes and resets, and one side ( has a win-condition that wipes and resets only when the players, themselves, deem it wants to wipe and reset that side.
World "A" details:
- The char progression (PvE and means of gaining experience for levels and gold) is extremely SLOW. There is more sense of immersion here. There is more noob-friendly content here for new players to learn the in's and out's of the game in all of it's stages. There are quests or tasks on this side that rewards gear, gold, and experience to assist in leveling up. There is of course also plenty of PvE content here as well. PvP has two different aspects, however, but all PvP also rewards experience. World-A has safezones and NCP towns where safe trade and commerce can take place. These safezones are also hubs for newer players to get access to lower level noob-appropriate PvE zones as well.
- This side has a Faction system that players of a mid-range level and below can belong to (once you hit a certain level, you can't join a faction, you should belong to a guild at this point). Maybe 3 or 4 different warring factions with each having their own designated city or cities in certain territories that can actually be sieged, but ONLY by the other factions. There can be winners and losers between them that are temporary. The cities and territories don't actually change, but there are rewards given to the winning factions such as gear, gold, and experience. This system introduces new players to siege warfare mechanics that guilds/nations participate in the endgame. You cannot PvP against players in your faction, but you can PvP against anyone from another faction.
- If you choose not to participate in the faction system, OR, you become too high a level to qualify to join a faction, you can create or belong to a guild/nation with your friends. And here you can build cities and go to war against other guilds/nations. There is 100% open world PvP and siege warfare capabilities outside of the factions. And again, you don't have to join a faction. You can start on this side from scratch and go straight in to your guild if you choose. The factions are simply an option, and mostly designed for newer players to get a feel for the game without getting thrown straight in to the fire of open world PvP.
- This side is always persistent. It NEVER wipes or resets. And World-A is ARAC (All Race All Class).
World "B" details:
- At creation, you have a choice to go to World-A or World-B. While World-A has the option for noob-friendly play and learning to a certain point before it thrusts you in to the harsh environment of open PvP and siege warfare, World-B has virtually none of that. World-B has a non-PvP noob island only up until level-10, and then it's game on time. Anything goes after level-10.
- There are no factions here and aside from a noob-island up to level 10, there are no safezones here either. If you choose to start on this side, you need to know what you're doing. That said, the character progression on this side is FAST. The gold and experience gains from PvE and PvP are significantly greater (probably 10x that of World-A). The PvE content is much the same as World-A, however you're completely exposed to open PvP no matter where you go in the process.
- World-B is NOT ARAC, it is LORE-BASED and has guild/nation affiliation restrictions based on race, class, and profession Lore (ie. Minotaurs and Elves form a High Court Charter, bringers of fire form a Temple of the Cleansing Flame Charter, or an all Dwarf Charter, etc. etc.). Every char that starts here is "Errant" until they join a Lore Charter that their character is allowed to be a part of. Lore Charters cannot interact and are by default all at war with each other. You cannot heal, summon, buff, or group with someone who is not of your same charter.
- And Errant's can't do anything with anyone. No healing, summoning, buffing, or grouping with anyone, not even other errants. Errants are the solo class of World-B. Errants get rewards for conquests on a solo level. Most of these conquests are PvP based, such as successive kills without dying. They are given titles to recognize them for these conquests, which also give them bonuses to things such as stats or skills. They can also wear special gear that gives them some abilities that those in charters can't get. There is a lot of added content that caters to these solo adventurers because it is extremely difficult to be errant in World-B. You essentially run around with a bullseye on you and you have no place to actually call home, where there might be safety in numbers and walls of a city surrounded by NPC guards, along with vendors and trainers.
- In World-B, there is a WIN CONDITION. After a few months from this side of the world's landrush/reset, a world event initiates or goes active where guilds/nations that have done certain things to meet qualifications (like owning a certain amount of cities and/or retaining control of certain realms for a period of time) can begin attaining certain goals and completing certain quests (most of which is GvG/PvP oriented, with a side of NPC raids), and it becomes a race with other guilds/nations to get the win. And any other guilds/nations can come along and either create a stalemate/tie or take the lead simply through sieges and taking of towns or realms. If they choose to simply "pause" the race, they don't move past the stalemate/tie. This is how they prevent the server from resetting if the playerbase wishes.
- At some point in this, if a guild has stayed qualified and then attained all goals and completed all required quests before another guild has forced them out of qualification, or another guild hasn't created a stalemate to essentially pause the event, then that guild/nation wins the server, and shortly after, World-B is wiped and reset. This system actually puts the power of the wipe/reset in the hands of us the players as a result. If the players want to prevent a World-B wipe, they have to do it through PvP. If they want to win the server, they have to do it through PvP.
- When a guild/nation "Wins" the World-B side, there is a short period (maybe a week) where everyone on the World-B side are given the option to move their characters to the World-A side for free. However, when doing this, their characters would move over completely naked and no banks or vaults. Essentially they get nothing except their leveled up chars as they are. This way, they lose all their World-B assets, gear, gold, and belongings, but they don't have to keep re-creating and leveling the same characters over and over.
Now here's the interesting part. At ANY TIME, no matter which world you started on or are currently playing on, for a gold cost, you can transfer your character over to the other world. But it's expensive. The base/lowest cost (which is still not cheap) will transfer your char over completely naked. For a higher cost, you can bring worn equipment over with you. The more items you bring, the higher the cost, but ONLY what you can wear. You can never bring inventory, gold, banks, or vaults. And you can do this sort of character transfer between worlds as many times as you like as long as you can afford it.
So there it is, best of all worlds on one server. Guilds can maintain cities and be at war with other guilds on World-A AND be active at the same time with cities and wars with guilds on World-B. You don't have to constantly re-create your chars over and over again every time the server resets either, but you can if you really want to. It's all your choice. You get slow progression if you want or you can have fast progression if you want, but with a lot more danger. You can have ARAC if you want or you can have Lore play. You can strive for winning the server without having to completely stop endgame content to start everything over from scratch.
The problem of stagnation in a persistent world game, solved.