Autumn is always the busiest time for me, and this fall was hellishly busy. I love the work, of course, but the stress of having so many covers to do simultaneously is horrible. At the moment I’m booked into February and hope to be able to have a bit of downtime around the holidays in order to recharge the batteries and do some personal artwork. Perhaps even some writing. (Along with drinking holiday Baileys and eating pannetone.)
But this was supposed to be a gaming post. It’s liable to be a very short one because I haven’t had a massive amount of free time and being tired makes me feel cranky and unable to concentrate on anything…rather like an exhausted two-year-old, it’s neither a pretty sight nor pleasant to be around. :)
I finally cancelled my subscription to ArcheAge, and Phil and I sold our farms. Our lovely, lovely farms ideally situated on the coast, near the crafting stations. The things we’d worked so hard during headstart to get. I still love the game, but two things were wearing me down: one was the open-world pvp, which mainly means that you get ganked by zergs. It’s the ideal game for PKers, which are people who don’t have the guts or the skill to go off and kill enemy faction but instead prefer to hide and prey on members of their own faction who are just trying to move a tradepack from here to there. Bottom-feeder pvp.
The other, more important, thing that was bothering me about ArcheAge was the Trion/XLGames situation. XL seems reluctant to make any changes to their poorly-designed game in order to combat hackers and bots. It’s a beautiful, immersive game – they did an amazing job there. It’s also coded so that much of the game is client side. Even someone with zero technical skills can adapt a config file that ensures all packs are worth more money, for instance. Packet spoofing abounds, leading to hacks such as the land-grab hack which allows individuals to snap up any free land before a player can claim it without even needing to be online at the time. Bots teleport underground, create items to sell from no actual materials, and teleport to turn in trade packs.
Trion, who seem to have treated this game from day one as a massive cash grab, try to ignore the issues. GMs close thread after thread on the forums and customer service is next to non-existent. The final touch was when I went to cancel my subscription to the game…THE CANCEL BUTTON HAD BEEN REMOVED. It used to exist, but is nowhere to be seen now. There are very long threads on the forums confirming the same thing. I placed a ticket (which remains unanswered to this day), deleted my credit card information and mentally gave them two fingers as I logged out. My, how the formerly mighty (and well-respected) have fallen.
What have I been playing? I updated FFXIV for the free weekend, started a baby rogue and enjoyed it so much that I resubbed. I also have a sub to Warcraft, which I am currently not playing until Warlords of Draenor comes out. Really looking forward to that one. :) And Rift a bit, mainly for minions which are very addictive.
The holiday period, and having some free time, is going to be wonderful.
ArcheAge can be overwhelming at first (as in one of the betas, when you are trying to see as much as possible, decide on classes, races, etc., and also get your head around a very complicated farming and crafting system). There is just so much to do, so much to see, that it seems impossible to evaluate the game over a single weekend. We purchased the Archeum packages as soon as they were available and I’ve had a lot of time to try different classes, explore various areas and learn about as many aspects of the game as possible. Since ArcheAge is such a deep, at times very complex game, that time has been essential and was well worth the cost of the pack (all of the perks and currency are going to be pretty nice as well, but more about that later).
Rolling a Character
Ideally, you’ll be able to get into several beta events. With 120 class combinations you’ll want to try several. All of the races have racials that will actually matter in game, such as the Elf swim speed increase and longer underwater breathing which I am very partial to. Each race has a different starting area and unique mount, and although the quests are pretty typical MMO fare they all manage to convey the characteristics of that race.
With a few caveats, I love the character customisation area. There is a distinct lack of darker skins, which bothers me a bit as someone who normally plays darker-skinned characters. There isn’t a way to customise your body. Aside from that, there is a wealth of facial customisation – for someone like myself who can spend hours building the perfect face, it’s wonderful. And saveable, which is the most important thing for beta! In the lower right-hand corner of the screen is a button that will allow you to name and save your presets.
A Place To Call Home
One of the more important activities (and one of the most rewarding) in ArcheAge is farming and crafting. This system happens to be in flux right now as Trion tries to Westernise the game. To a lot of players, said “Westernisation” seems to involve balancing their desire for you to buy things in the shop versus the players’ desire to just have a good time, and hopefully they’ll find a midpoint that stops short of an Allods-level cash grab. Hint: just look up “labor points” on the forums. :)
Since housing and land are not instanced in ArcheAge, and there are limited amounts of it, early access is going to be a land grab. People will be levelling as fast as possible in order to get land for farms and houses staked out. I would suggest watching all of the cutscenes and enjoying the beauty and richness of the early game in beta so that you can haul ass at launch. Once land is gone, it’s gone. Remember the land rush scene in Far and Away? Yep, that’s exactly what launch is going to be like, so stop and smell those early flowers in beta.
Friends and Family
It is worth doing some research into guilds prior to the game launching: get to know people, find the right group and be sure to meet up and say howdy at some point during the beta weekend. In this game having the right guild is going to be very important, as much of what you want to do will be made much more pleasant and easier with a group. If you know that you’re interested in farming and doing trade runs, for example, it’s much easier and MUCH more fun to do that first trade run across the sea with your guild, preferably in a ship. I did mine solo, and it took two tries (I lost my first pack to a bunch of sea bugs). The second one I did by swimming the whole way in stealth, which took frickin’ FOREVER.
Although I am by nature a solo MMO player, I’m putting my anti-social preferences aside for this game. You’re going to need a group of people to play with some of the time – and you’re going to want it, as you’ll have some of the most riotous, hysterically fun experiences ever with them.
You can also form a family, which means that you can share each other’s property, work each other’s farms and so on. This comes in handy as you can share chores, pool LP (labor points, you’ll come to know more about labor points than you ever wanted to in AA) and so on.
You don’t need to train gathering skills, so from level one if you see a tree, cut that sucker down. Pick that flower, mine that node. They all give XP, but also use labor points, so use your discretion if you find that you’re running low. Many of the plants you see will be useful for the first trade quests, so I always gather everything I can. You can’t harvest other people’s farms, but if they plant in the wild you can gather their crops. Be warned, though, that a jury system exists in ArcheAge and most trial juries seem to regard stealing crops or uprooting trees as being a crime worse than piracy. If you uproot trees in the wild you won’t get XP but you will occasionally get a sapling, which you can save and then plant on your own land.
Mounts and Ships
There are some pretty cool mounts in game, and you should have your first one by level five or so. If you’re brave, you can cross the sea and buy a mount from the opposite faction, which is always a hair-raising and exciting experience. Mounts level up with you and have their own XP pool, so make sure that you have a pet out when you’re fighting or on foot. At level 20 you’ll be able to get your first battle pet to fight by your side, and he levels up the same way. Quite early on you’ll get a rowboat from one of the quests, keep that in your inventory. You can do your first trade run in the rowboat, but it will be both slow and dangerous.
You can buy mount armor from any stablemaster, which provides speed and health boosts. Upgrade as you level your pet.
Lions and Tigers and…PvP
ArcheAge is in part a PvP game, there is no denying that. However, if you aren’t comfortable with PvP it is entirely possible to level to cap without participating…you will be missing a lot of the fun, though! There isn’t any on-land PvP at all until you reach level 30, and after that you’ll be levelling through areas which are sometimes at war, sometimes at peace. The seas, however, are always PvP. One of the elements of the game that I am decidedly unfond of is same-faction killing (PKing), which I personally think is the lowest form of PvP. Gankers and griefers aside, though, you’ll rarely experience something as exciting as trying to take a tradeship through hostile waters with friends. :)
I normally don’t do a lot of these posts anymore, but I wanted to for ArcheAge. Like many longterm MMO players I’ve fallen out of gaming a bit while remaining nostalgic for that first love, that game where you realised that you could blow an entire evening, an entire weekend, immersed in that world. I think (I hope) that AA is going to be that game for me. This is going to be my home, and I hope that you love it as much as I do.
Like everyone who is eagerly awaiting the NA/EU launch of ArcheAge, I’m not logging into the alpha as much as I used to, while simultaneously watching the forums and Reddit eagerly for any news of beta and/or launch. At level 40 already in alpha it seems silly to do those last levels to 50 – I’ve never put this much time into an alpha or beta version of a game before.
The most emotionally-charged issue on the forums is that of PvP vs. PvE balance. These threads go on for pages and pages, hundreds of responses all saying that any concessions to the “other side” will inevitably ruin the game and lead to failure. The pirate guilds want PvP all the time, everywhere. The PvEers just want to be able to take their trade packs to market without having some jerk strip them of all their hard work. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.
I confess that I’m much more of a PvE type than a PvPer. I actually do a lot of PvP, but I want it on my terms, when I want it, when I have a hope of things being at least somewhat equal. And yes, sometimes I just want to pick flowers. :) This Massively article on alternative server rulesets had one of the best quotes that I’ve seen on gankers and griefers: “The fact is that most of us don’t want to be bothered with Little Johnny Rottentop’s attempts to work out his mommy issues and testosterone overflow after we’ve endured a 12 hour day in corporate hell.” Indeed – and that is the problem that I have with PvP in a nutshell.
I actually want really well-designed PvP in the games that I play. When I started reading about ArcheAge I imagined castle sieges and huge battles, some of them on ships at sea – how cool is that? What we actually got, though, is a mean-spirited playground for asshats to go around in groups and gank lower-level players. We got people who sit on the docks all day, waiting for traders to come in so that they can steal packs. We got zerg guilds that sweep through areas looking for players trying to quest. There is very little risk for gankers and massive risk for farmers and traders. Changes are being made to our version of the client to try to force people into PvP, which never, ever works. Those players will just quit, and then the game will indeed fail as a mainstream game. (I have no idea what the sub numbers on something like Darkfall are, but I would bet that it’s an extremely niche game with a small playerbase.)
Time and time again I’ve seen people on the forums say “This is a PvP game,” thus totally ignoring the fact that the biggest part of the game is actually PvE. It’s gorgeous, it’s fun, and the crafting, farming, husbandry and trading systems are both challenging and satisfying. Yet certain very vocal minorities in the game act as though someone at XLGames came to one of the dev meetings and said “I know we’re making a hardcore PvP game, but I had an idea that we could implement without too much work. What do you think about adding some farming and crafting, just for giggles?” This was an area of the game that they put an enormous amount of work and resources into. This was never a limited-scope PvP-only game, it was always meant to be a full sandbox with equal emphasis on crafting, housing, farming, gathering, exploration, questing and yes, PvP.
What is the solution? I don’t know, to be honest. How do you build a system where both types of player can enjoy themselves? Some of the obvious changes would be:
1. Same-faction PKers. There absolutely needs to be much stronger consequences for killing someone of your own faction. Eve has a system where people who have been too naughty actually cannot go into the higher-security areas without getting killed by NPCs. Something like this would be a start.
2. There has to be some risk to killing players and taking their trade packs – perhaps you can only sell them on the pirate isle, for instance. As it stands now, the trader has spent a lot of time, effort and money to try to get that pack to the other continent, and the other side needs to share some of that risk.
3. Trion really, really needs to begin policing chat and allowing reporting of players. Faction chat and trial chat are cesspits of racism, homophobia, rape threats, etc. Bots and goldsellers are unchecked. I know this is “just” alpha, but you are building a community even now…and the one that is being formed is an extremely nasty one.
4. Give people an incentive to participate in PvP. Right now I’m questing and levelling, and I don’t do it during wartime – I’ll go and do something else, or log out. There simply isn’t any point to trying to quest while getting repeatedly ganked by roving groups of bored 50s. Make the rewards more valuable, though, and I might think about it.
I suppose what I’m really saying, when you get down to it, is I love this game. I want to live here for quite a while – don’t ruin it. After all…this is why we can’t have nice things. :)
Last week Phil and I, after much discussion, decided to spring for the ArcheAge founders packs and have been playing the alpha ever since. My initial impression was that I was having a lot more fun than I anticipated and my second thought was “Dear lord, this game is going to be SO addictive.” I’ve been playing MMOs since vanilla WoW and have played most of the main titles with the exception of Elder Scrolls Online and I have to say…it’s been a very long time since I’ve been antsy waiting for the day to end so that I could play. ArcheAge makes me feel that way.
To begin with, character creation has a lot of options for creating unique faces. There are age options that mean you can look as old as you want, which is a massive relief after the teenage doll-like prettiness of games like Guild Wars 2. The aged options actually look good, unlike other games where all faces were young except for the one cronelike and ugly skin that no one ever chose. Although there are no dark skin options, which I find disappointing as that is what I normally play, everything else is highly configurable and there are some very nice hairstyles.
Body options are strangely missing, but I hope they are added at a later date. It would be odd to have so many options to customise a face and no height sliders or body sliders.
Similar to the system in FFXIV, there are an enormous amount of class combinations that you can choose and build on. Also like FFXIV you have to level up the skill trees separately, so even though one character can learn everything eventually, you’ll find that it is probably easier to level up alts so that you have quests to help you level.
I tried a mage archetype when I started and it was okay. Healer I hated, although perhaps it gets better later on. It just seemed like so much work to kill anything. Warrior was a blast and was highly effective along with being very survivable. In the end I fell in love with Archery as a basic class, pairing it with Shadowplay, and will probably finish off with Sorcery.
Here is where you get into the really addictive part of the game. Now I’m someone who tends to sneer at people who play casual/social games such as Farmville. I’m a real gamer, damn it. But gods help me if I don’t find myself logging in to this game in the morning and at lunch to manage my damned farm. I raise animals and crops, harvest and slaughter, and yearn for more space to do it in.
It dawned on me that Trion could make a lot of money by developing an mobile app for Patron players only (people who actually sub to the game) that would allow them to log and manage their farms. Here you go, a gift from me to you, Trion, because I’ve always liked and respected you and because Rift has such a good cash shop. Here is an app that will print money for the company, and you’re welcome to it. :D
Things I Love
There is so much that I love about this game and some of it is difficult to put into words. Blizzard has always acknowledged that there was an indefinable something about Warcraft that made it special, and they were quite wary about making the type of changes that would negatively impact that. I think ArcheAge has the potential to have that something that makes it enjoyable just to be in their world, no matter what you happen to be doing.
The game is beautiful, although the graphics are a little less stunning than I’d anticipated from screenshots and video that I’d seen. Characters are incredibly detailed in character creation, but a bit flatter and smoother in game. Hopefully this is something that will change, but if not it is still very beautiful.
Boats, ships and combat on the high seas are something that I’ll write about at a later time – but both Phil and I are very much looking forward to this element of the game.
One of the things that I love most is that it isn’t a raid endgame type of MMO, and thank all the gods for that! No rushing to level cap to keep a raid spot, no pressure to race to the end. Just having fun doing everything because the emphasis is on the journey, not the destination. That, more than anything, is what I’m happiest about. Yeah, I’ve turned into a big ol’ casual. So sue me. :)
My main concerns at this point all have to do with the community. Open world pvp can be a lot of fun, if you’re into that type of thing, or it can be horrible if you’re being griefed by a higher-level player, corpse camped, etc. Sometimes I just want to dink around and do quests and not be bothered. It all depends on the community…and this one is worrisome.
We’ve wondered how so many kids came up with the $150 for alpha access. They’re obiviously kids, or at least incredibly immature in that 12-14 year old CoD way. I still have faction chat on (although Phil has turned his off) and there are so many nasty little shits calling people gay or faggot, or talking about raping people. Trion really, really needs to have a report function even at this stage because it is incredibly unpleasant and will turn people off the game. One wonders why they aren’t playing LoL or something like Darkfall, where not only can you kill other players and strip them of their stuff, you can also do really unpleasant things like slaughter their mounts. I suppose they prefer easily targets in games such as this where a lot of pve-types are just trying to enjoy themselves.
I think that this is one of those games where having the right guild will be imperative. Not only will there be a lot of things that you will only be able to experience with a guild, having friends at your back will mean the difference between having fun and having some prepubescent asshat ruin your night.
All in all, I’m really loving this game. Bring on launch!