CEO Scott Hartsman talks Closed Beta and why ArcheAge is so incredibly different.
It's a place that not many triple-A titles are hitting: sandbox games are left out of the Cool Kid’s Club, often times due to their limited nature. ArcheAge is the antithesis of limited--in a world plagued by too much choice, can a game offering the same truly be successful? Trion Worlds CEO Scott Hartsman took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about ArcheAge's first upcoming Closed Beta session and what makes the game so incredibly different.
If you’ve ever felt left behind, outclassed and outplayed by your guildies in your MMO of choice like yours truly, you may be delighted to hear this. “A lot of MMO’s have one linear path, one linear way to gain power, and there’s that path you must be caught up on or you’re not one of the cool kids able to do the latest-greatest. In a game like ArcheAge, there’s so much width you can go across,” Scott notes. Some of that width in the game comes from the sheer number of trade skills and class combinations. Becoming an expert in even just one of the 21 available trade skills gives you insane value. Climbing to the top of one of the 120 classes, mastering one skill or all the skills, farming, piracy, trading… however you want to create your own experience with ArcheAge, one thing is for sure: you will absolutely have a satisfying place in the world.
One of the many things you can do in the game is to commit a crime against someone in your own faction. You’re able to leave evidence, other players can discover the evidence and arrest you and judge you, and finally they send you to jail. You can even be expelled from your own faction if you’re a repeat offender, and the popularity of the Justice System has been really surprising to the dev team. “It’s more proof that the conflict and interaction between players are infinitely more interesting... if there is one core thing about sandbox, that it: it’s all about having the system be the setting by which players are telling their own stories, and players are having their conflict and cooperation,” Hartsman muses.
ArcheAge, as a whole, is designed as a world experience, with all of the elements of the game contributing to a comprehensive gameplay mode. The classic draw of the sandbox primarily lay in the concept of an actual world environment, and carving out your place in it by doing what you want to do. There are nods to the various different play styles in the existing server design, however, a big concern for many players is whether ArcheAge is planning on dedicated servers for PvE and PvP. Says Hartsman: “PvPers can easily find their life as a pirate. If you are a person who just wants to be known as the crafter of the best swords in the game… then you can find a way to make your home-base in a PvP-free area, and work to support your...friends from that home-base.” Home-setting, crafting types need a market for their goods, and PvPers provide that demand. The global nature of ArcheAge feeds into itself, and it’s a major reason why anyone can find their spot in the world.
Labor regeneration points are a bone of contention between some players, with Patrons regaining their labor points at a faster rate than the free players. I asked Hartsman about this, and he was able to give rather in-depth insight to this system. Basically, it boils down to this: in Korea, in order to make an account for an MMO, you need to use the equivalent of a social security number. Essentially, what this does is tie an account to a single person. Westerners have it a bit differently: we are able to create more than one account. Thus so can institutionalized botters: they can make thousands of accounts. In a world where real estate is a scarce commodity, and where that real estate is then used to grow and harvest things, Labor is really the only gauge that exists to guard against botters, who ruin the experience of the game for all legitimate players. So while the system isn’t perfect, it is an on-going discussion to discover the best, most Western-friendly ways to reward actual players, not bots.
People have been waiting a long time for ArcheAge, and what Trion Worlds is seeing is evidence of that strategy paying off. MMO launches are often a crash course for designers get to see their plans survive an encounter with real players. Invariably, there are things you have to go back and rework, and polish, and with launching at 1.2, Trion will be able to launch with the cleanest, best version of ArcheAge that exists, and negate the launch growing pains. XL Games recently announced plans for their next major update beyond 1.2, which highlights the sandbox theme more seriously with the addition of new ships, new vehicles, and new ways to farm.
In working with XL Games, Hartsman describes it as “a genuine collaboration,” with a lot of back and forth, constant communication, extensions to each others development team. Constant communication helps steer the global development, but also helps home in on specific elements that need to be tweaked for the best Western-friendly launch possible. Application of the free to play philosophy has been a massive undertaking, with a set of changes that are specific to different regions. Hartsman feels it worked well with RIFT, Trion Worlds successful MMO launched in 2011. With RIFT, Trion Worlds gave away as much as humanly can and choose to monetize in a very Western-friendly way. They want to carry that philosophy over to ArcheAge.
From Alpha to Closed Beta, and Beyond
There won't be a character wipe when the first Closed Beta goes live because Alpha will continue to run parallel to the beta. The analogy Hartsman used to describe the relationship between Alpha and Closed Beta is analogous to a live games relationship between its public test server and its live servers. While there won’t be a wipe, they will be wiping immediately following the betas because they do want everyone on the same footing. Before you get your panties in a bunch, think of it this way: land is a limited resource. In a game where land ownership is a thing, the dev team thought it would be fair for everyone to start fresh, and give everyone the same shot at owning land.
I asked Scott for one piece of advice for new players, and his response was simply: “Try out as many different activities as possible… if anything (in the game) sounds attractive, ArcheAge is absolutely worth a look, because there’s a complete world built around all activities and how they all interact with each other.” He couldn’t be more right about that. ArcheAge is currently in Alpha, with the first Closed Beta beginning July 17th and running through the 21st.