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Two months after its official launch in North America and Europe, ArcheAge has been met with a mixed reception. Reviewers praise the game for its unique approach and sandbox style. Dedicated players gripe and stress that game balance and hacking issues are severely crippling (or even killing) it. There have been many ups and downs, and Trion is looking to turn a new page with the release of ArcheAge’s third continent.
Having played the game for the first month of release myself, my personal opinion is that ArcheAge is one of the best MMOs that I’ve ever played, from a gameplay perspective, with one of the worst administrative teams behind it. The game is amazing, but certain things that have been going on with ArcheAge on the publisher and developer side are inexcusable. Now that the dust has settled and the queues have withered, here’s what other MMOs can take away from its launch.
Do Not Break Your Promises
Up first is something that you should have all been taught before you were sent you off to grade school. When you tell someone that you’re going to do something, you do it. When you tell thousands of paying founders that they can expect an in-game feature, you deliver.
Trion Worlds broke this rule, and they should be called out on it. As I recall from Cohh’s stream, which happened to be one of the most popular ArcheAge streams when he still played the game, Trion pulled everyone’s leg on this matter. As a founder, leader of a huge guild, and someone who was looking forward to guild castles, he was not pleased.
ArcheAge was released on September 16, 2014 in North America and Europe. With this release came the expectation of guild castles, one of the most alluring features of the game. Guild castles were said to exist within an expansion continent named Auroria, which was only recently revealed to be shipping out to NA and EU on the 4th of November.
That means that guild castles are about 50 days late. Now, it seems like that shouldn’t be such a huge problem. ArcheAge is a free game. We should all give Trion time to release content when they see suitable, correct? There’s two core issues here:
- Trion never gave an explanation as to why guild castles were being held from release. Trion, the publisher, is holding guild castles back. XL Games, the developer, has already developed and pushed out the feature. Trion is simply refusing to release it, and they aren’t telling anyone why. For all we know they could have a perfectly good reason, but why not keep your loyal founders informed?
- There is an optional monthly subscription to this game. If you want to compete at the highest level, which we should assume that anyone who will be rich enough to construct a guild castle does, then you pay for this subscription (either through real money or in-game currency). Delaying guild castles nearly two months is highly controversial and has been viewed as a way for them to retain subscribers for a prolonged period of time. Guild castles aren’t out by October 16th? Welp, looks like those day-one subscribers are going to be opening their pockets once again.
Failing to deliver on a feature of the game is one thing. Coming across as shady and deceptive is another. Trion took a huge step in the wrong direction with this move, and some players even stopped playing the game because of it. Was this a grab at profit by Trion? The worst part is that we’ll never know.
The Economy is the Lifeblood
Even a casual and inexperienced MMO player can agree with this. One of the most interesting things throughout the course of an MMO’s life is to see how the economy develops.
World of Warcraft went through its twists and turns. Reforms, like forcing the auction house to be global, were eventually suggested. Some even encouraged Blizzard (the company behind the game) to start selling gold to players. Once a virtual economy becomes polluted, the task of saving it becomes overwhelming. Some games completely die out due to it. It’s not fun to play a game where there is a top 1% of players who control and dominate 99% of the wealth. Just like the economies of the real world, there is a designated staff of people responsible for handling these problems. Just like in the real world, they often fail.
An issue exists within ArcheAge that is relatively unique to the game. There are patches of claimable land on every server. There are a fixed number of servers and a fixed amount of land. Long story short, the players who were able to log on the game within the first 24 hours of launch claimed these land plots. That’s it. They’re gone. The only way to obtain land from here is to purchase from these land owners. Land owners are greatly advantaged with being able to create their own houses and farms. Wealth snowballs. Cheaters live like kings.
This same argument can be made, in other areas, for practically any other MMO. For example, the first guild or clan to complete a particular in-game dungeon might be months ahead of the next group, and the loot they obtain from this dungeon may enable them to progress through the game and snowball themselves into wealth that overpowers smaller players. That’s not always an issue, however. That’s how competition works in these games. However, economic balance and a level playing field does become a problem when this matter is coupled with our next issue.
If it can be Hacked, it will be Hacked
Put plainly, ArcheAge was released at a vulnerable state that tiptoes the line of carelessness and neglect. Some of the exploits and hacks that have been shown publicly, on their own forums and the ArcheAge subreddit, are ridiculous. It’s not as if all of the bright minds of the MMO hacking community have come together to target ArcheAge. It’s simply because it was coded in a way that does not prevent them from doing this. Many people, including myself, feel as if this is the biggest threat to ArcheAge’s health and reputation.
Let’s go over some of these hacks.
As aforementioned, land is probably the most precious resource in ArcheAge due to how limited it is. However, that’s an obstacle easily avoided by a land-claiming hacker.
These hacks constantly allow players to immediately teleport to, and claim, a plot of land the instant it becomes available. It doesn’t matter if these properties are on the opposite side of the map. If five pieces of land become available in 30 seconds, anywhere on the map, someone using these hacks can claim them.
This is probably the epitome of an unfair advantage and economic nightmare in ArcheAge. Hackers take these pieces of land, hold them hostage, and create this sort of unnatural economic environment that completely ruins the experience.
One of the most common ways of becoming wealthy in ArcheAge is to do trade runs. Trade runs require that you go to one location, pick up a trade package, and take it to another location. When you have a trade package, you are a huge target for other players to murder and you move incredibly slow. Trade runs can literally take hours.
With a teleport hack, it takes seconds. Remember how we talked about the economy being the heartbeat of many MMOs? What happens when thousands of hackers are exploiting trade runs in this way and the market becomes flooded and unbalanced?
Every game that has every been played has probably had someone speeding through it. Reputable games are quick to handle it or detect it.
Again, in a game where racing to claim land and completing trade runs is such an integral part of the gameplay, this can’t be happening.
It’s as if the game has no sanity checks anywhere in the code. The client is trusted in so many areas where it should be checked by the server. It’s a mess, and I hope they fix it. This Reddit post makes everything painfully clear.
Get your Bans Straight
In the process of trying to deal with hackers, botters, and other problems within the game, Trion has slipped up in many ways.
Arguably the largest problem is how many innocent and unsuspecting people are being banned, and they’re not being told why. They aren’t receiving adequate support from Trion’s support team, and they aren’t sure what to do.
Trion has been delivering these heavy waves of bans for weeks now. It goes without saying that even someone who deserves to be banned is going to complain and claim they didn’t, but it’s become a real issue in ArcheAge. They are actually banning players who have done absolutely nothing wrong, many of whom have just started the game.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that false positives are bound to spring up and players will fall victim when automated measures against hackers and botters are implemented. However, you have to be ready to handle this. The first three pages of Trion’s official forums shouldn’t be filled with ban complaints and gold spam.
On top of that, for a game that has been so heavily exploited by hackers, Trion GMs seem to be quite alright with giving even the most severe of offenders a slap on the wrist.
This sends a message of, “Hey, it’s worth a try. If I get one shot, maybe I can make a ridiculous profit. If I do get banned, I get out of jail free.” Again, this is so dangerous and toxic for the game’s economy. You can’t do that.
Being a Publisher to a Foreign Developer is Rough
Now, after four straight headlines that seem to harshly scrutinize ArcheAge and Trion, let’s take a step back.
Trion Worlds is the publisher of ArcheAge. That means that they ship out patches, handle launching and installation, and localize the game for us North American and European folks. XL Games, a Korean studio, is the developer. They are the people who made the game. They did all of the coding. They decide what the game is and ultimately have the final say on what new features will be added, how problems within the game are dealt with, and so on.
Maybe it’s a sloppy analogy, but imagine reporting in to work every day to your boss. Let’s say there are multiple problems within the workplace, the company seems to be on a consistent downhill slide, and the work environment is really suffering. This boss—the overseer of all of the local operations—is generally going to take the heat for it. However, it’s awkward when this “boss” is only there as a messenger and recognizable face, because the head executives of the company don’t speak English. They work behind the scenes, avoid most harsh criticism, and squeeze everything they do through this one person. People criticize him instead of the people behind him. That being said, the office boss still has his own responsibilities to the company.
It seems like a tough position for Trion to be in. However, that isn’t expunging it of all responsibilities. Trion still says what patches reach the US and EU. They are still in control of the flow of the game to these regions. They still deal with payment problems and customer support. They are the middleman, and by no means innocent when things go haywire. However, a good number of the people with their pitchforks raised towards Trion should consider that XL Games is part of this, too. If the game is easily hacked and exploited, it’s their code. If the economy sucks, it’s (in large part) their problem for not balancing the game properly. If we’re bored of the game after a month, that’s on them.
While I can’t speak on how close the relationship between XL Games and Trion Worlds really is, the fact that these two companies are located on opposite sides of the world is obviously nothing like having a side-by-side partnership (or even better, going independent). Only Trion can truly elaborate on the difficulties that this business relationship comes with.
This post isn’t meant to bash Trion or XL Games. It isn’t meant to shovel dirt on ArcheAge and label it as a bad game. It’s not a bad game. As many new MMOs do, ArcheAge suffered a rocky launch. Some issues have been handled, and others are still being worked on. Some of these mistakes are unavoidable, like wrongful automated bans; others, not so much. People freely teleporting around the map? Really?
One thing that is certain is that ArcheAge can and will be a better game when these problems are stomped out. I think it’s an incredibly unique and interesting MMO, and I hope to see it grow. Despite the bullet-points in this article, I still recommend that you give it a try. It’s a really fun game if you’ve got a group of friends, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that the bad times are slowly being pushed behind it.
Looking for some other awesome MMOs to play? Check out our list of the 10 best MMORPGs that you can begin playing today (for free).
Image Credit: Fattierob via Reddit