ArcheAge – Hello World, The Trade Run (Updated)

UPDATE: This post was written during the Alpha, and only applies to Humans and Elves. (I haven’t played any Eastern races yet.) As of the Western ArcheAge launch, the first trade run quest is no longer Strawberry Jam. It’s Solzreed Dried Food which requires 50 Trimmed Meat (made from e.g. butchering chickens) and 35 Grapes (made from e.g. harvesting grapevines). And the certificate, of course. The cash reward is apparently greater now, as shown below.

I was a little disappointed with my first ArcheAge trade run. I was expecting it to be a little more, I don’t know, profitable. Granted it was the very first tutorial run, but still. It didn’t really sell me on doing it a second time.

The first tutorial asks you to do a trade run of Strawberry Jam or something like that from one region to another. That’s the essence of “trade runs” in ArcheAge. You make something in one zone, and then “run” it to another zone to sell. You get rewarded depending on how far you travel and how valuable the items are at the destination.

So to do the Strawberry run, first you have to have a little Scarecrow farm, which you get in an earlier tutorial. You buy a bunch of Strawberry seeds and plant them, water them, and harvest them, until you have a whopping 100 of them. (It took me about 30 seeds to make 100 strawberries.) It’s pretty time-consuming, because it takes some three hours for strawberries to grow. The process took me three nights. Partly because I was very poor and couldn’t afford all the strawberries at once, and partly because I can’t be sitting at my computer all hours of the day and night waiting for strawberries.

Strawberry Fields (that's right, I said it)
Strawberry Fields (that’s right, I said it) – sadly, not mine.

Once you have the strawberries, you also have to buy a “certificate.” Then you take it all to what they call a Specialty Crafting Table. This is a special kind of crafting table which makes commerce items specific to a particular region. In the tutorial, Strawberry Jam is a specialty of the Solzreed Penninsula, so you have to run all the way over to that zone, find the commerce hub, and make the Jam. Make sure you’re ready because when the crafting is complete, you are saddled with a big Trade Pack on your back, which could also be described as a huge frickin’ ball and chain, with an anchor attached.

The tutorial asks you to take the Jam from Solzreed and sell it in Gweonid Forest, which is two zones away. That’s a pretty long way on an elk mount. It’s even farther away when you’re carrying a Trade Pack, because your movement speed is ridiculously hampered down to a not-so-brisk walk. You can still ride your elk, but it looked to me like you moved even slower on it.

Waiting for the next carriage.
Waiting for the next carriage.

Thankfully, there is a carriage line right near the Solzreed hub. A short walk away you’ll find a group of traders weighed down with packs, waiting at what looks like a bus stop. A short time later one of the blue freaky-looking dudes will drive up in a creaky carriage, and everyone can jump aboard. (It looks like the carriage is traveling at a crawl, but trust me, it’s faster than walking.) Only four people can actually sit down, though. I guess if there are more they’d have to pile on some other way. (By the way, there is collision in ArcheAge, so two people can’t occupy the same space, so no matter how you slice it, only a finite number of people could fit on the carriage.)

Riding in a carriage with fellow traders.
Riding in a carriage with fellow traders. Time to socialize!

If you’re a social person who plays MMOs for the thrill of meeting other people, this is a perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation with your fellow travelers, because you’ll be with them for a good ten or fifteen minutes on this trade run. The carriage ride takes you to the Lilyut Hills zone, and then you’ll wait at another “bus stop” for the next carriage, which takes you to the Gweonid Forest zone. But that’s where the easy ride ends. Then you have to walk the rest of the way.

Walking for fun and profit.
Walking for fun and profit.

Walking is really slow. Riding the carriage was like being on a bullet train by comparison. Make sure you know where you auto-run key is, that’s all I’m saying. You can go a little faster by sprinting periodically when your mana recharges. And when I say “sprint” I mean “jog a little faster than walking.”

After the long walk, you’ll get to the commerce hub. (By the way, make sure you know where it is, because I think there is only one per zone, and you do not want to be searching for it while you’re wearing a trade pack. On the first tutorial quest it is handily highlighted on the map, but it won’t always be.)

At last, the finish line!
At last, the finish line!

And this is where my disappointment came from. I was fine with everything up to this point. It’s time-consuming and frankly a bit boring, but if that’s what it takes to make some serious cash in ArcheAge, I can handle it. I can watch Netflix while I’m walking around just fine. At least it’s different from endlessly grinding on mobs. So I anxiously turned in my trade pack to collect my big fat reward…

Which was a whopping 1 gold and change.

Which wasn’t quite what I expected. I mean, I spent three days putting this trade run together, did I mention that? I’m pretty sure I could have gotten 1 gold or more out of questing for the same three days.

UPDATE: After launch, the first trade run got me a bit over 3 gold. Somewhat better. (By the way, the Gilda Trader is no longer an option.)

Well, it's better after launch, at least.
UPDATE: It’s better after launch, at least.

Now it’s possible that the selling price was low because everyone was doing the same tutorial quest, and the Gweonid Forest market was completely saturated with Strawberry Jam. If it’s a “dynamic” sort of marketplace–and my understanding from the tutorials is that it is–that would make sense to me. The tutorials indicated that you might want to “shop around” to find the best prices for your wares. I’ve also since learned that your Commerce skill affects the sale price, so presumably the more you trade, the more you’ll get.

The “best” money is supposedly made by doing trade runs through PvP territory. By ship, I presume, since you have to sail across a big ocean to get to the PvP continent. I don’t think I’d try that without the help of an army of friends. I felt like a sitting duck just walking around the PvE zones with that trade pack on. If I’d walked too close to a mob, I’d have been history.

The next tutorial trade run will get me a donkey, if I read the quest correctly. That’ll be pretty cool.

ESO – Decision Time

Okay I’m just going to say it. ESO is not holding my attention. I keep logging in and thinking to myself, "You know, I don’t particularly feel like playing this." I’ll go through a quest or two and then log out again.

It’s a major factor in why I went ahead and dropped cough cough dollars on ArcheAge.

And yet I can’t think of anything wrong with ESO (well, except for inventory management – it’s really a pain).

It just sort of loses steam after a while. I’m reminded a lot of TERA. When TERA first came out, I played it, liked it, and then put it aside, never returning until it went free-to-play.

I think the core problem is that my character isn’t changing very much. I need my character’s abilities to keep evolving, but I’m stuck doing the same attacks over and over again.

Right now, I’m strongly tempted to cancel my sub and stop playing once my first month is over. I sense the monthly sub will just be wasted money.

But the thing is, if I don’t play ESO, I don’t know what I’m going to do until WildStar comes out. (To be honest, I’m not super excited about WildStar either. I have a very strong "meh" feeling about it, so I doubt I’ll play more than a month of that either.) I can play ArcheAge, but that can’t be my primary game, or I’ll surely suffer from premature burnout.

Rift maybe? Rift 2.7 with the new souls? I’m planning to level a mage tank. Now that they’ve finally figured out how to keep you from sailing through the air whenever you get near a Porticulum on a 150% mount, I can’t think of any other aggravations left in that game. (Except that nobody is playing it, grr.) But then, who knows when that will be released? (UPDATE: 2.7 will be out next week, which is sooner than I expected and perfect timing!)

So I guess the question of the day is, how many hours do you have to play a game in order to justify spending $15 on it? I have bought plenty of Steam games for $15 and not even installed them, or played them for an hour or two at most. Surely I can summon enough interest in ESO to play more than a couple of hours in an entire month?

What to do, what to do.

ArcheAge – It’s The New Black

Remember how I said I talked myself out of buying the ArcheAge Archeum Founder’s Pack? That only lasted through Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday. Then I bought it Sunday. I hadn’t even published my post about how I wouldn’t buy it before I bought it.

Stupid peer pressure.

Stupid ArcheAge RU not being in English.

Stupid ESO not being addictive enough.

Warning: I didn’t feel bad about spending the money because I already knew that I liked the game. If you’re not sure, and you want to try the game before spending $150, I highly recommend finding a way into the Russian version. Or the Korean version, for that matter.

Because it plays exactly like the Russian version, except most of the text is in English, most of the voiceovers are in Korean instead of Russian, and most importantly, you get 5 Labor Points every 5 minutes (online or offline).

But if you just want to take the plunge, rest assured Trion’s alpha is nothing like the Landmark or Trove alpha. ArcheAge is a finished game, it is only lacking English voiceovers and the occasional English text. And, well, it only has one server so it’s pretty crowded. It seems that tons and tons of people paid $150 to get into the game. The starter areas look just like a launch day. The housing areas aren’t quite gone yet, but it’s getting close.

This place is very safe from crows.
This place is very safe from crows.

I found a spot for my scarecrow way in a back corner.

Most of what I’ve previously written about ArcheAge still stands (see Foreign Invasion, Growing On Me, and Flailing Around). Now, however, I will be able to experiment more with gathering, crafting, farming, and trade runs, because I can actually read the tutorials that explain how those things work.

For example, I’ve now been able to build a farm, if you can call a piece of land the size of a postage stamp a “farm.” In a nutshell, the farming is exactly like Farmville (or at least, the ten minutes of Farmville I played before never playing it again). It’s a huge micromanagement time sink. You’re probably going to want to quit your day job in order to fully maximize the efficiency of your farm, because you’ll need to harvest and plant on precise schedules. This part of the game is very interesting, but over the long run I doubt that I will be able to keep up with it.

(As a side note, I have always wondered why more MMOs didn’t insert Farmville into their games, because it seems like a natural fit.)

Now the challenge will be to avoid playing ArcheAge too much. After all, you’ll have to start over again on launch day. (However, I think I heard that the alpha server will be transformed into the test server after launch, so it’s possible you’ll still get to keep your alpha progress in some form. Don’t quote me on that, though.) Ideally, I would want to time it so that I get sick of ArcheAge at precisely the end of the third month after launch. :)

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 Mail.ru, 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…

ArcheAge RU – Flailing Around

I thought I would do a quick update on my progress in ArcheAge RU. I have made it to level 12. Update complete.

Thusfar I have still not been able to enjoy any of the vaunted sandbox features of ArcheAge, because I still can’t read Russian*. I have sort-of puzzled out how to grow vegetables from seeds, and how to make food from the vegetables. (I don’t precisely know what happens when you eat food – you get a buff but it only lasts about 30 seconds.) Recently I also learned how to make potions from some of the plants I’ve gathered.

But that’s about it. It’s difficult to figure out the crafting because when you open up the menus, it tells you everything you can craft, whether you have the ingredients or not. (Probably because you always have to buy one or more components.) Scrolling through pages and pages and pages of Russian looking for the one thing that might list ingredients I have is pretty tiresome. I figure that I need to turn my raw ore into ingots, but I have not yet figured out how to do that.

In other news, I passed by an area that clearly held player housing, but I could not figure out who to talk to about buying something, or if I even had that ability. Nearby there was a portal that teleported me to some kind of island resort. I suspect it was more player housing, but again I could not figure out who to talk to or how to make anything happen, and there were no exclamation points floating over anyone’s head. I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford beach-front property anyway.

One serious problem in ArcheAge RU is the point system that I now know is called Labor Points. I am playing on a free account, so I don’t have very many of them (last night when I logged off I think I had 7). And basically every time you gather something, it uses up one or more points. They only replenish at a fixed regeneration rate, and that rate is quite slow, and they don’t regenerate offline. I’m guessing that if I paid real money, it would be much easier to get these points. I trust that Trion Worlds will not cripple their free players as much as ArcheAge RU seems to.

Oh it never seems to save my keybinds, either. You can change them in-game but it always resets them next time you login. I’m not sure if that’s a bug or a limitation of free accounts. That’s a pretty harsh restriction if it’s intentional.

So mainly the only thing I have successfully been able to do is go from exclamation point quest to exclamation point quest, killing mobs, which is about as mundane as it sounds. (I have only puzzled out a limited number of class features – in addition to the flaming softball, I have added an ice attack to my arsenal which slows the target for a few seconds.)

I’m hoping some of the ArcheAge footage from Trion Worlds or other streamers will illuminate how to do more things. Or that Trion’s will go into beta already so I can buy it and play in English. :)

* I’m a bit scared to install the English language patches.

Late breaking news: It looks like Trion labor points regenerate a lot faster, and have a cap of 1000.

WildStar, ArcheAge, and Landmark

Some random news bits.

I pre-ordered WildStar, which now allows me to finally play in the beta. By the way I did sign up for the beta many, many long months ago, but they never invited me. They thought they could keep me out, but who’s laughing now?

Trion is apparently hoping to get ArcheAge out this year (2014). That would be super. I hope it’s after summer, though, so that I can be sufficiently bored with WildStar before it comes out. http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/03/16/trion-cm-confirms-f2p-archeage-says-earned-and-crafted-items-a/

Landmark is going into beta next week. I’m having a hard time not feeling like SOE is ripping people off with this product (and by people, I mean me). The biggest feature they added to the game during alpha was a store where you can spend Station Cash. And by the way, after the latest patch, I can’t even run the game any more. Each new version gets buggier, while they continue to avoid adding sorely-lacking gameplay features. http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/03/20/everquest-next-landmark-adds-in-parties-mail-and-teleports/

ArcheAge RU – Growing On Me

Note: Apparently you’re not supposed to be able to play ArcheAge RU from the U.S. anymore, but for some reason I’m still able to.

ArcheAge is growing on me. I feel like I was too harsh on it in my first report. The graphics actually aren’t bad at all, and better than Fallen Earth, at least color-wise. (The first time, I had played AA after FFXIV, which has drop-dead gorgeous graphics, so my perception was probably skewed. This time, I did not.)

(The animations however are still somewhat primative. By which I mean your character only has about four frames of animation when they jump, run or get on a horse.)

I also made another error in my first report: I said that the flame spell looked like pitching a flaming baseball, but upon further review it looks like tossing a flaming softball. Ie. It’s an underhanded throw.

Here’s some new things I’ve discovered that made positive impressions on me. They are all little things, but anything that is "different" in an MMO makes it more interesting to me.

You can climb trees. It’s cool, but I’m not sure what the point is, unless it’s another gathering resource. Speaking of gathering, I found ore to mine, trees and plants to dig up, bushes to … pick? I guess. I like that I don’t have to train any skills before I can start gathering. (Especially when I can’t read the NPC dialog to even know where to train these things.)

Gathering appears to be a very complex activity in ArcheAge. After a couple of playing sessions, I finally realized that you can only gather a limited number of resources before you run out of "gathering stamina" (a name I completely made up because I don’t know what it’s actually called). You regain gathering stamina slowly over time. The end result is that you have to pick and choose what you want to gather. You can’t just stop and pick everything you see. Also, sometimes gathering nodes appear to be on a cooldown timer, so you may have to wander around a while to find one that’s "ripe."

I came across a beehive and clicked on it, and then a bunch of bees came out and stung me until I ran away. That was pretty cool.

I found a plate of food on a table and was able to eat it. I don’t know what it did, but it looked like some kind of effect happened. I’m assuming it was something good. Anyway it’s neat that you can interact with the environment like that. You can also sit on chairs. Once there was a mount standing there that I could get on. I thought it was someone else’s so I quickly got off of it. Not sure what that was all about.

Speaking of mounts, I got my first mount in a pretty interesting way. One quest gave me a little fawn cub that looked like a miniature Bambi. When I summoned him, I could interact with him, and over time he "grew" bigger and bigger until eventually I could summon and ride him. There was a vendor nearby where I could buy other baby mounts, which I presume I could then grow into different kinds of mounts.

I see a lot of animals just kind of sitting by the road as if they are waiting for something. When I click on them, there’s a chat bubble that might have instructions but obviously I can’t read it. It makes me wonder if they are tamable pets that I can acquire somehow.

My character had a flute and there’s an action on the bar that plays it. I have no idea what its purpose is but it makes a jaunty musical tune. At some point I got a lute (as loot, har har) and "upgraded" my musical instrument. I still don’t know what it does, but it’s a neat idea, whatever it is.

My spell-caster can use a sword and a bow on auto-attack. Neato. They aren’t as effective as the fire spell, but I got a new sword that came close. I like the idea of spell-casters that can do more than just stand around throwing spells.

In one of the newbie villages I came across someone who looked like a priest of some kind. After talking to him, or when I got near him, or something like that, I started to see these little pink hearts floating around me. Then when I would go near other NPCs, they would get little pink hearts floating around them too. It was like a floating heart infection that I was spreading around to people. I don’t know specifically what it meant, but I gather it was some kind of charisma effect that made NPCs more friendly toward me. (At first I wondered if I had accidentally accepted a marriage proposal from a troll or something.)

Back to gathering and crafting, you can buy seeds and plant them in the ground. After ten minutes, the seed grows into a plant that you can harvest. (Thankfully you don’t have to stand there for ten minutes; you can go do quests and come back to it. I think only you can harvest it later.)

These are all things I’ve seen and done in the first eight levels of the game, not even going that far into the map. I think I might be a third of the way down the "path" of the first map.

It’s really interesting to play a game in a foreign language. You really depend on visual cues to finish quests when you can’t read what you’re supposed to do. Maybe I should be nicer to those people in chat who keep asking how to finish quests. Maybe they can’t read the quest text.

ArcheAge RU – Foreign Invasion

In a burst of ambition, I installed and played the Russian version of ArcheAge for a little while. You have to sign up for a Mail.ru account (which I guess is the Russian version of Google Mail) and then you can download it. At least you could over the weekend, I don’t know if it still works. I used these handy instructions: http://www.mmocast.com/featured/archeage-ru-account-registration-guide-english-patch/

Not being able to read or speak Russian hampers the experience a bit, but not as much as you might think. If you’re an MMO veteran you should be able to figure out which buttons to press. The only thing I wasn’t able to find was an invert mouse feature, which served to remind me again that I should strongly consider re-training myself not to need it. I play shooters and MMOs a whole lot more than I ever play flight simulators.

So about the game. It was … well … kind of disappointing. After the initial movie, which was pretty cool, the game’s graphics were not nearly as good as I expected. One of the things that attracted me to this game in the first place was the incredible screenshots I’d seen. In reality it looked a bit like Fallen Earth. Which is not a compliment.

However I should say that, to my eye, most Russian-style games look like Fallen Earth. They have a quality that is hard for me to define. They often look like they have no anti-aliasing, or that someone has sharpened the entire picture to an extreme. It’s as if they are intentionally trying to make the game look like it came from the days when 3D was done in software, before graphics cards. Perhaps they tweaked ArcheAge to look like that for its Russian audience.

I could forgive so-so graphics if the gameplay was really great. (Fallen Earth, for example, is kind of fun, if you like gaterhing and crafting.) But the ArcheAge gameplay was … ordinary. Of course I only played to level 2, so take that with a huge grain of salt. I played a spell-caster. I had one fire spell that worked exactly like you’d expect. Visually the casting animation looked a bit like the Loremaster in LotRO, that is, my guy looked like he was pitching a flaming baseball at his enemies.

(Interestingly, my spell-caster also had a bow and could shoot arrows right away. That was probably the most intriguing gameplay mechanic I saw in the first two levels.)

You start out standing in front of a quest-giver, just like every other MMO ever. Obviously I have no idea what he or she was saying, but you can just click the button to continue. Your first quest is to go to a second quest-giver, as I recall. Then you go kill some monsters wandering around nearby. Pretty much exactly like every WoW-clone ever. I killed some thingys and leveled up to 2, and then I logged out because I hate playing anything without invert mouse.

The world looks like it’s built in the same way as TERA and Aion. That is, it looks like a big world, but you’re actually just following a path from the start of the zone to the end of the zone, and you’re boxed in on either side by mountains or forests or whatever.

So after my first impressions, I can see why Trion isn’t rushing this game to market. Rift is a far better experience in the first two levels, and it’s free. Whatever strengths ArcheAge has are not at all apparent in the beginning. I think they’re going to need to bring out those strengths more if they want it to have any kind of mainstream appeal.

But having said all those negative things, I do want to play and explore ArcheAge some more. I wasn’t left wanting to rage-quit and un-install it. I was mostly left being frustrated that I couldn’t find an invert mouse feature. :) (I have seen mixed reports about whether it has one or not, but after clicking every single checkbox, I suspect it doesn’t.) Stay tuned to see if I get any farther.