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. :)