ArcheAge – What’s Wrong With It

I feel like I’ve been giving the impression that ArcheAge is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it isn’t all sunshine and roses. I’m mainly playing it just because “it’s the new thing.” And I do enjoy the fact that you can progress by doing “non-standard” MMO things. But pretty soon, Rift’s Nightmare Tide is going to be “the new thing,” and then a bit later, Warlords of Draenor is going to be “the new thing.” Anyway, here are some things I don’t like about ArcheAge.

Flying around in an invisible glider.
The invisible glider. You will believe a man can fly.

I’ve said many times before that the questing is average at best. Actually that’s being kind. It’s terrible. I have never played another MMO where I have had so little interest in reading anything the NPCs have to say. (Admittedly, perhaps it’s because I was conditioned to ignore them from way back when I experimented with the Russian version.) I feel bad saying that because most of what Trion did to the game was translate all the NPC dialog, and I generally like what Trion does with their games. All in all, the questing is probably my least favorite thing to do in ArcheAge. I only turn to it when I have nothing else to do. In many ways, it’s superfluous anyway because I feel like I get just as much experience progression from commerce activities.

In many areas, ArcheAge doesn’t seem to be “finished.” There are so many places that you can visit that are essentially empty. There are no monsters, no NPCs, no houses, no ruins, no nothing. Just empty landscape. It might as well have a big sign on it that says, “This part is still under construction. Come back later.” These empty areas are often not very far away from the main roads, either. So exploring the terrain turns out to be a bit pointless. All you’re likely to find out in the wilderness is other players trying to hide things, which is not very interesting to me.

Wouldn't it be great if we could put houses on all that empty land at least?
Wouldn’t it be great if we could at least put houses on all that empty land? Or maybe find a chest with cool stuff in it?
Empty, empty space.
More empty, empty space. So much space that could have had houses or mobs or just about anything on them.
Some places in ArcheAge quite literally have an "under construction" sign on them.
Once, I came across a place that quite literally had an “under construction” sign on it.

I find the trial system to be a bit of a joke. It does nothing to deter criminal behavior. If anything, it incentivizes people to behave badly so they can appear in court and have a big public forum for their buffoonery. In other words, people seem to want to be caught. To me, there should be more incentive to avoid being caught for it to have any kind deterring effect on anti-social behavior. Being sentenced to jail for a handful of minutes is not exactly a hardship. It should deduct levels of experience or something. Otherwise why bother having it in the game.

The graphics and animation quality of ArcheAge are sadly not up to the standards of today. Technologically, it looks and feels like a game from five years ago. Rift, Guild Wars 2, Neverwinter, WildStar, Elder Scrolls Online, and definitely Final Fantasy XIV all have far superior game engines, in my opinion.

One of many texture problems that you may encounter in ArcheAge.
One of many annoying texture problems that you may encounter in ArcheAge.

Bots and hacks are a problem in ArcheAge, although for me personally they haven’t yet affected my gameplay. I actually don’t see very many of them out in the world, but then I don’t spend any time looking for them, and I play on one of the less popular servers. (Calleil doesn’t even have a subreddit!) I’m not one of those players that “plays the auction house” so it’s not a big deal to me if bots ruin the economy. Honestly I don’t even know what a “ruined economy” looks like. Economics is a baffling, un-scientific subject to me so it mostly goes over my head. I’ve heard about hacks in PvP, too, but they could just be ordinary exploits. Every MMO that has PvP in it has exploits, and people flock to them.

It seems like everyone else will be driven away by the PvP, but that part hasn’t bothered me much. It’s the things above that will eventually cause me to stop playing. That and the fact that after a certain point, there isn’t much of anything to do except make more and more gold.

ArcheAge – PvE After Level 30

I’ve been dinged in comments for not having experienced the PvE game after level 30 and misleading everyone about ArcheAge. While the game might be rosey for people under level 30, they say, the “real” game begins at 30, and after that milestone, they say, then the game turns into a PvP gankfest.

Well as of this post I’m level 40, and I’ve spent many hours questing in Cinderstone Moor and Halcyona, and sailing around on the ocean. Naturally, I don’t think to take screenshots while I’m in a PvP situation, so I have nothing to illustrate this post.

On Land

It’s true that the PvE game does change after level 30. The quests take you into zones where it may no longer be safe to ignore your fellow players.

But in my experience so far, I’d hardly call it a gankfest.

Once in Cinderstone Moor I was accosted by a couple of “robbers.” I was out by myself in a crater, and a pair of folks rode up and demanded I pay them. I ignored them, because that’s a silly demand, and then they killed me. It was 2 on 1 so that was pretty inevitable regardless of levels. After that I rage quitted and ran to the Trion forums to post a nasty note about how awful the ganking is in ArcheAge. Just kidding. I actually respawned and continued my day with a shrug. (I did a different quest for a while first, though, and re-thought the idea of wandering too far away from population centers by myself.) That was the sum total of the questing trouble I encountered in the whole Cinderstone Moor zone.

Let me reiterate that unless you’re carrying a trade pack, there is absolutely no reason to fear death in ArcheAge. Particularly a PvP death, because you lose no experience or even health. All you have to do is run back to where you died. Or run somewhere else. Exactly the same as if a PvE mob killed you.

For me, I think of dangerous enemy players as elite world bosses wandering around the landscape and treat them accordingly. You wouldn’t run up to a boss that’s twenty levels higher than you, so you should also steer clear of reds or purples if you see them. Keeping your eyes peeled and watching your surroundings actually adds a little bit of mystery and excitement to the otherwise relatively dull questing grind.

But I get that not everyone wants questing to be exciting. I know all too well that sometimes you just want to mindlessly tune out everything and blindly kill mobs until you reach a zen-like state of meditation and calm. (This week I am in exactly that mood.) If that’s the questing mood you’re in then yeah you might want to steer clear of contested zones, or play a different game for a while.

Keep in mind, though, that the contested zones also have occasional Peace Times. During Peace Time, which lasts 3 or 4 hours I believe, it’s completely safe to quest. All those reds wandering around nearby won’t attack you, and you won’t attack them, because you can’t target them. Peace Times appear to occur at roughly the same time every day, too. For example, during my evening play time, the Halcyona zone is usually in Peace Time.

Even if you’re questing in a contested zone, there are a few things you can do to make yourself less of a target. One is to stay close to others, as I alluded to above. If you’re one of those people who actually has gaming friends, if you quest in a group you’ll probably be completely safe. Gankers usually look for individuals to target. Another is to make sure you keep your health topped off as much as possible. Gankers will look for somebody with low health. I would also suggest not engaging any mobs if you see anyone standing around suspiciously nearby. They might be waiting to take you out while you’re busy.

At Sea

The ocean is a different story. From my experience so far, nobody is your friend on the ocean. If you see someone, you should be prepared to turn and run, or fight them if you’re able. Reds will almost always turn to follow you, and sometimes greens will, too. They tend to gather around ports and trade destinations, and roam up and down the coastlines.

Ocean thugs are probably looking for trade packs, so they might lose interest if they discover you don’t have one. But some people will attack anyone. Once I sailed too close to another Harpoon Clipper and they snagged me. Inexpicably, they said, “JOIN US OR DIE.” I don’t know if they were role-playing or joking or what, because threatening to kill me in a game with no death penalty doesn’t carry a lot of weight with me. I was thinking, “Um, okay, sure go ahead and kill me then.” But I kept sailing and swerving back and forth and I got away from them. They never actually attacked me so I guess they were just messing around. Maybe they lost interest and detached or the harpoon timed out. I don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to use a harpoon yet so I don’t know how it works.

So don’t expect to have much of a relaxing time on the ocean, unless you go way far out of the way of everyone. I personally can’t imagine how people fishing from a boat wouldn’t get accosted all the time. But then the ocean is really big, so unless you’re on a popular trading route, you might never be found. (Strangely, the ocean is not very deep, though.)

A Brief Word About That Controversy

I generally try to avoid industry politics on this blog, unless it relates to in-game politics. (Like raiders versus casuals.) Which is why I don’t have much to say about the recent kerfuffle known as GamerGate.

But I will say that I fully support equality and inclusiveness among gamers and I find personal threats against anyone loathsome. I try to cling to the possibly naive belief that truly despicable people are a very small, very loud minority.

On the off chance that any vitriol appears in the comments of this blog, I won’t hesitate to delete it.

FFXIV – Okay There’s One Bad Thing

To be fair, here’s one thing that FFXIV doesn’t get right:

I just re-installed it, subbed up, and jumped in again. (I went crazy and got a 3-month sub because I have some money coming in again heh.) I’m installing it on a different PC from when I last played it, so maybe you can guess what happened.

All of my settings, keybinds, and HUD configurations were gone. Even the character-specific configurations like my gear sets were gone.

This is bad, Square Enix! Bad, bad, bad. I’m excited to play again, but the prospect of spending hours setting everything back up is pretty daunting. Surely with all the other brilliant changes you’ve made in the last year, you can put in server-side configuration saving? We’re living in the age of The Cloud, after all. At least save my keybinds! And my gear sets! And … everything else!

This just in: Apparently there’s this thing called “The Googles” which has lots of useful information. You can copy FFXIV config files from an old installation to a new one, and it does actually work. I didn’t copy everything, though. I only copied the FFXIV_CHRxxxxx folder for the character I wanted, FFXIV.cfg, and FFXIV_BOOT.cfg.)

What’s The Best Subscription-Only MMO?

What’s the best subscription-only MMO out there right now? If you could only pick one to maintain, which one would it be? (By the way, the possible answers are: WoW, EVE, WildStar, ESO, or FFXIV.)

This is pretty easy for me to answer, actually: Final Fantasy XIV. Hands down. No need to even talk about it. It’s beautiful, it’s fun, there’s a lot to do, it’s updated often, it does every MMO mechanic (that matters) exactly right, and it’s cheaper than the others at $12/month. The only down side is that replayability is low if you ever want to make a second character. (You don’t need to, though, since you can play any class.)

Somewhere in Final Fantasy XIV.
Somewhere in Final Fantasy XIV.

In second place I would probably put WoW. It’s more expensive but it’s hard to beat the sheer magnitude of content available. For me, though, the lack of modern MMO features gets on my nerves and the gameplay gets repetitive after a month or so.

WildStar and ESO are both great games, too, but only for a limited time. Each one becomes repetitive quickly, so there’s no need to keep a subscription going all the time unless you have friends that play it.

EVE? Come on. Do I even have to say? That game is just not fun. It’s barely even a “game.” It’s more of a point-and-click adventure. The only reason to subscribe now is if you somehow got invested in the game years ago and built up tons of skills to the point that now you have to subscribe because you can no longer learn any skills in under 6 months.

This is not to say that I wouldn’t subscribe to WoW, EVE, WildStar, or ESO ever. I just would only do it for an occasional month here or there. What I’m saying is that FFXIV is the best one to stay subscribed to all the time. At least for me. Opinions may vary, of course. :)

Identifying As A Gamer, Erratum

I’m not entirely sure what happened, but somehow WordPress posted two different versions of my last post. The RSS feed and the front page shows one version, but the post page itself shows a newer version. I think maybe ScribeFire did something to it. Anyway, I added a paragraph to my answer for question 20 at the last minute and this is what it was supposed to say:

20. Do you identify as a gamer?

Only while playing games and around other gamers. I generally don’t talk about games with “normals” because they think at best it’s weird and at worst it’s self-destructive.

I guess this question is aimed at uncovering my thoughts on the whole “real” gamer controversy. I can understand the need to believe that how one spends their time is important, and I can understand the competitive urge to be better than one’s peers, but I think I’ve outgrown all of that when it comes to video games. The only people that I think deserve to be put into a niche of their own are those kids who fly around the world playing in e-sports LAN tournaments and such.

To further elaborate, I didn’t mean to suggest e-sports tournament players are “real” gamers. I just meant that they are different in the same way that I would classify professional tennis players as different from people who play tennis with their friends on a weekend. The goals are entirely different. One is trying to make a living, and the other is just trying to relax and have fun. Sometimes those things overlap, but in my negligible experience with online gaming tournaments, there’s nothing relaxing about playing solely to win.

ArcheAge – It’s Not A PvP Gank-Fest

UPDATE 10/24 – Before you run to the comments to disprove me because of that one time you were ganked in a situation where you probably should have expected it, let me explain the purpose of this post. I’m not saying that ganking is impossible in ArcheAge, especially after level 30 (though I would argue that “ganking” is the wrong term to use after you’ve reached level 30). What I’m saying is that it’s extremely rare if you stay in safe zones, and you’re not going to lose anything if it happens, so there’s no reason not to try the game. You can level all the way to 50 in ArcheAge without ever leaving a safe zone, and maybe without ever engaging in combat. (One could argue that it’s actually faster to get to level 50 by farming and trading than by questing.) Also, your mileage may vary depending on which server you play on. The “original” servers like Kyrios and Naima and Kyprosa are probably more populated with people who came to ArcheAge just to gank people. Now back to your regularly scheduled post.

This has been bothering me for a while. In the western alpha and beta, ArcheAge has been building a rep as a “ganker” game with a terrible PvP community. I don’t mean to pick on Syp specifically, but I think I snapped and decided to respond to the criticism around the time he posted We Don’t Serve Your Kind Here. If nothing else, that article serves as an excellent representative sample of the reputation ArcheAge is building.

Looking down on the desert

I feel like people are getting the wrong impression of the PvP in ArcheAge. ArcheAge is NOT a free-for-all PvP gank-fest. At least it wasn’t when I played. It’s not like the old Ultima Online, where the moment you stepped out of the city, somebody ganked you to take your newbie clothes just for the fun of it. That kind of ganking does not happen in ArcheAge.

And frankly, ganking like that only happens in a free-for-all game if you are unwise, unwary, and unlucky. If you adopt a little more defensive attitude, it’s fairly easy to avoid ganking in free-for-all games. It’s a bit like how we all have adopted basic defensive postures in our real lives: We don’t walk around city streets naked, waving wads of cash around in our hands; similarly, you don’t go exploring out of the front gate of newbie town in torn cloth and a wooden sword without saving your stuff in the bank first.

But that’s beside the point, because you won’t be ganked outside of newbie town in ArcheAge. You can’t be attacked by the opposite faction while you’re on your own faction’s continent, unless a) you attack first, or b) you’re in a war zone. War zones are clearly marked, so you can’t wander into one accidentally. I believe it’s possible to be attacked by someone of your own faction if that person switches into rage mode (or whatever it’s called), but I personally never witnessed such a crime taking place. If it did happen, that person would immediately be a) killed by others and/or b) reported and jailed.

In any case you wouldn’t lose anything. ArcheAge is also not a full-loot game. With one very important exception: You will drop your trade pack if you happen to be carrying one. (But in the course of normal PvE exploration, you don’t carry trade packs.) One time I was in a (clearly marked) war zone and happened to go AFK. That was a mistake, and I don’t recommend it. When I came back, of course I was dead. It was totally my own fault. I should have logged out. But did I lose anything? Nope. Nothing at all. I just respawned and continued my day as if nothing had happened. It was exactly the same result that would have happened if a PvE mob had come across me AFK.

I played the ArcheAge alpha up to around level 30, so I can only speak to that experience. But in that time, I played almost entirely solo, without the benefit of a gang of guild-mates for protection. I was never ganked or griefed unexpectedly (other than the one case above). I was never attacked by someone of my own faction. Once I saw a high-level person of the other faction wandering around a low-level town. It caused some murmuring in zone chat but he caused no harm at all.

Now I did encounter a few opportunistic PvPers on the ocean, but that’s to be expected because all of the ocean is usually a war zone. (Not always, though.) And I did have some of my plants stolen from me on my home continent. I was experimenting with planting some trees on some “public” land that I thought nobody would find while I was at work. Turns out, somebody found it. Lesson learned: Don’t plant on public land unless you’re going to stand there and defend it.

Syp suggested that ArcheAge open a PvE-only server. It’s worth considering, but I think that would be a poor business decision by Trion for one very big reason: The PvE aspects of ArcheAge aren’t that good. I’m sorry to say it, but the leveling and questing is average at best, and the class system isn’t nearly as flexible as something like Rift. Sure, in the first 10 levels, it seems like a whole new world with the cute growing animals and the rowboats and all. But that feeling of freshness doesn’t last very long. A PvE-only server would probably die out very quickly.

What makes ArcheAge stand out in the long term (in my opinion) is its concept of trading, which (I think) makes it similar to EVE. And without the possibility of pirates stealing your booty, there is nothing at all interesting about running trade goods from one place to another place. It’s just a time sink.

Still, you can carry trade goods around in completely safe areas, in completely safe ways. I did it quite a number of times. You won’t earn tons of money, but you’ll earn enough to pay for a farm at least. It’s kind of relaxing in a way, riding a donkey up and down the roads.

So I guess my point is that even if you hate PvP and gankers, you should still give ArcheAge a try. It’s not nearly as bad as forums and comments and Reddit might lead you to believe. ArcheAge may not be designed for PvE players, but there is plenty of room for PvE. I can vouch for perfect PvE bliss up to level 30. Let’s face it, since we’re all so burned out on MMOs, you’ll probably get bored of it by then and want to leave anyway, so what do you have to lose?

ArcheAge – Founder’s Packs, Resisting Temptation

As announced on Trion’s live stream Thursday, ArcheAge Founder’s Packs are now available.

They are expensive. $149.99, $99.99, and $49.99 for Archeum, Gold, and Silver, respectively. Archeum gets you into the game right now, playing until launch day, otherwise you only get to play in beta “events” starting in June.

So let’s discuss. With myself.

My first Russian glider!
My first Russian glider!

I think they are fair prices.

Based on the laws of supply and demand, it makes perfect sense that it costs $150 to get into the ArcheAge alpha. If you’ve seen any of Trion’s live streams, you know that the hype and demand for ArcheAge is through the roof. I can’t remember the last game that I saw such blind, ravenous hunger for. (I’m not quite sure it’s justified but that’s another story.) People will do anything to play this game. It’s more of a cultural phenomenon now, I think. Like waiting in line to buy the first iPad.

There was a time when I might have waited in line to play ArcheAge. Instead, I went through the hassle of downloading the Russian client for ArcheAge RU. (Which was actually pretty easy at the time.)

Um, yeah, whatever you say. I guess? Don't mind me.
Um, yeah, whatever you say, I guess? Don’t mind me, I’m just a foreigner in this land.

In fact, if you’re dying to play ArcheAge and you don’t have $150 to plunk down for Trion’s alpha, I would highly recommend getting the Russian version from, if it’s still possible. It’s free. (It’s also incredibly restrictive, but hey, it’s free.) If you have any kind of experience with previous MMOs, you can play it without knowing a lick of Russian. I am living proof of this. In fact, it’s been an interesting exercise in observing core MMO game mechanics.

Of course, after playing around with ArcheAge RU for a while, I now know that the game is, while pretty good, not worth selling one’s kidneys for. The hype is a classic case of idolizing something that’s out of reach. So to all you people out there dying inside because you can’t pay $150 to get into the alpha right now – perhaps it will ease your mind to know that you are not missing the game of the century. You are only missing the cultural status of being one of the “chosen ones.” Okay, maybe that didn’t help ease your mind. Because you probably want to be a “chosen one” more than you want the game itself.

So having said AA isn’t quite all that and a bag of chips, it’s still really tempting to plunk down $150 for the Archeum Founder’s Pack. Because it looks like a great value. And omg y’all it’s ArcheAge in English!!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But UV, you’ve spent the last few months ranting and raving about how SOE ripped you off with that $99 Trailblazer’s Pack. You’re a filthy hypocrit!”

Well, yeah. But this is different! I swear!

Landmark was a poorly thought-out impulse buy, I admit it. It was a completely unknown commodity. I knew nothing about it except what I’d seen in a couple of highly-staged gameplay videos.

But I have actually played ArcheAge (in Russian), and I like what I’ve seen so far. I can make a much more informed buying decision here. Unlike Landmark, I know that ArcheAge is finished and running in two countries, ready to play. Trion’s testing for ArcheAge is mainly for translation issues.

Also, I have a lot more faith in Trion Worlds than SOE, just on general principles. They did an awesome job with Rift. I like Defiance too even though I don’t play it very much. And Trove is kind of cool. So I don’t feel bad about rewarding them.

Still, the majority of the “value” in that $150 Archeum Pack is getting to play in English right now, months before launch (I’m just going to guess a launch date in August, given they’ve said that the beta is planned for June). Most of the other perks are just cosmetic fluff. The value of the useful post-launch items (3 months of Patron status and 11,250 credits) only adds up to $120, and $75 of that can presumably be obtained by normal playing in-game.

Therefore I need to consider how much getting to play right now is worth to me. Maybe not very much, because I am already playing ESO, and I’m planning to play at least a little bit of WildStar in June. Not to mention that I want to play some Rift 2.7 whenever that comes out. In light of that, getting to play ArcheAge early is not that much of a benefit for me, since I wouldn’t have that much time to play it. If one could dedicate all of their time to ArcheAge, that $150 would have a lot more value, because you would have three or four months to develop characters on alpha (as a Patron, even) before launch.

So I think I’ve talked myself out of an ArcheAge Founder’s Pack. If I ever feel an overwhelming desire to play, I can always jump into the Russian client for a quick fix.

On the other hand, the Russian version does have a lot of annoying restrictions…