PAX Prime 2014 Day 1 Recap
Trion Worlds – ArcheAge
Now I thought I knew ArcheAge. We’ve only been following the game’s build-up for as long as I’ve worked in the industry after all. After sending JamesBl0nde in to produce a 21 minute First Look video I was even more confident of this fact. Yet when I sat down for forty minutes with Victoria “FireCait” Voss and Amanda “Amary” Fry, I nearly ran out of ink in my pen trying to keep up with the sheer amount of hidden intricacies of this sandbox MMO. All the elements the initial themepark gameplay hides amidst its vast expanses and massive oceans was revealed, and now I can happily share with you what has made me a believer in this game.
Themepark Ride? Not so Much.
For starters, I had envisioned the game as more of a themepark ride involving going through quests to end-game like most any other MMORPG. The sandbox elements were mostly fun side projects to make some extra cash or help support a guild in building epic structures of powerful ships. Turns out I was quite wrong and the best armor and weapons in the game have to be crafted by highly skilled players that have spent countless hours building up their profession.
But while in theory this is present in various themepark games in close to a similar format, it goes a step further as the materials aren’t all just harvested from a random hillside or dropped in an epic raid. Rather you have to raise some creatures on your property with the intention of harvesting materials to build towards these end-game crafting goals. And this has close to as much complexity as Harvest Moon, in that the quality of care animals receive can impact the quality of the materials harvested from them, and in same cases even net you special crafting materials unattainable by any other means. This involves feeding them regularly, caring for them when they’re sick, and just overall playing a bit of house in a virtual world. Once again seems to be quite a lot of work for any one player to accomplish on their own, which is why guilds and assigning professions amidst a community seems so much more vital in ArcheAge than any other MMORPG on the market.
Now raising these animals had yet another twist to them it turns out. You can choose to raise the same species as either a pet or a mount. This can actually impact whether or not mats can be harvested from them so it’s a more difficult decision than one would think. Cross-bred mutations not only look different, such as the kangaroo looking Yatas getting diamonds and stripes on their back or a dotted pattern on their fur, but also gameplay impacting bonuses like being able to jump higher or run for longer periods of time.
Mounted combat is also available, though the types of weapons you can utilize on each mount varies so there’s plenty of strategy in raising a mount that suits you or your intended purchaser’s specialization. One mount supposedly can even enter stealth for a limited time, which surely has plenty of use in an open world PvP game. Mounts can then level up with you through use and combat experience to reward players for sticking with their favorite donkey or what have you for an extended period. You can even dress up your mount with special mount armors to give them a bit more survivability when traveling through dangerous roads, or just give them a visual flair when showing off in town. With polar bears, lions, donkeys, and other fabulous creatures that look like something out of the Never Ending Story, ArcheAge’s mount system is certainly pushing the boundaries of what we’ve experience before.
Living with Outlaws
As I continued to be dazzled by the Producer’s Duck Dynasty farm, we came across a pair of bloody footprints. FireCait had planted a rare tree earlier in the week to show it off to the press, and someone on the live servers stole it before she got a chance! This was the perfect opportunity to discuss the criminal system’s intricacies. Most people are aware that you get sent to a jury for committing crimes in ArcheAge, but the details of it are often lost. Turns out you have a criminal number that gets built up from repeated acts outside the law, but can also be reduced from certain quests or even receiving innocent verdicts from your peers. Once you commit enough crimes to cross over the threshold which is somewhere between 30 and 50 points, you don’t immediately get roped up by NPC sheriffs. So long as you’re skilled enough to live and die by the sword, you can continue committing as many atrocities as you care to. However the next time you’re killed, the trial begins.
Trials in ArcheAge are a hilarious affair of clashing personalities, false promises, and the ridiculousness of choosing the innocence or guilt of a player that’s systematically been reported for crimes that were 100% done on their character. During trials the accused can speak directly to the jury and in many cases world chat tends to join into the affair as well. I imagine this working somewhere along the lines of a crowd of people pummeling the villain with tomatoes from the outer seats of a court room. So in the end it’s not so much a matter of if you’re guilty, because you are. It’s a matter of who your friends are, and how many guilds have you in their kill on sight lists.
Another piece of the puzzle I confirmed was what happens when a player has been sent to prison too many times to count and is eventually cast to the infamous island of pirates. For one, I heard they had to survive without any NPC support out there. Guess they have a little bit, though its a certain downgrade from the luxuries of living in an established nation. The next part is that the language barrier is still present. I assumed this meant there would actually be a few separatist nations living together on the pirate island, but seems the community puts in the effort to all learn each other’s languages as pirates have to be united against the carebear white knights of the world to have a fighting chance.
Does that sound too awful to deal with but you’re the type of guy that just can’t bear to live within the law? Well there’s a talent for that. Larceny to be precise! See while reporting crimes confirms 100% that you committed them, your larceny skill can reduce the time that your bloody foot prints remain in place to be reported. Combine that with committing your devious acts at off-times of the day and boom, you’re a ninja by night and upstanding member of the local church by day.
Others have already relied on their reputation to live outside the law while still being accepted by their community. The Firecait spoke of the anomaly, Panda the Pirate, who is on trial nearly every week and yet walks out with a innocent verdict without question. Perhaps he is a Robin Hood championing the poor? In other instances, small townships lacking the protection of larger guilds actually invite members of the pirate nation to live amongst them as neighborhood watchmen. In exchange for the community protecting these outlaws and their dwelling, the pirates can act outside the laws to enact vengeance against those that oppose the neighborhood without fear of reprisal for its citizens.
Unrest and Massive PvP
Open world PvP isn’t only a possibility in ArcheAge. It’s quite encouraged. The more NPCs killed and crimes committed in a region, the faster the Unrest meter in that location builds. Once it hits the fifth stage it’s time to lock the doors and bar the windows because all out warbands are on the way.
The sixth stage is full on war. Members of opposing factions are granted honor points for killing each other in these warzones. Crime is rampant and bonus points are offered if you can manage to farm the PvE mobs in the location without succumbing to the madness around you. Essentially its total chaos, and will make you think twice about building your house in a location that already has high levels of unrest.
That said, to keep the bloodshed to a manageable level, once the war period comes to an end, a period of peace is imposed where no unrest can build. This is essentially the best time to build housing as war won’t be returning for quite some time. You however might want to do a little research into this as highly contested areas of the map may build unrest much faster and as a result, war will come again sooner than you’d think!
For those looking into the more organized form of PvP, guilds are able to stake claim over an entire region by claiming a castle. Each region has a variety of locations the castle can be built, each with particular strengths and weaknesses depending on the geographic location of the castle. They can then choose to raise taxes and collect resources for the guild in the form of property upkeep costs that any player owning a house in the region must pay. A interesting side note for current players is that the producers confirmed that the complaints of weekly payments on this upkeep have been heard, and they’re working on adding a system to pay your upkeep a few weeks in advance to support players that need to leave the game for a few weeks at a time.
Now guilds have to find the right balance between taxing enough to support increasing the power of their members and not taxing so much that the people of your land are crying for your overthrow. Auctions take place regularly to obtain a permit to siege a guild castle. Should you be in good standing with powerful friends, they can buy out the auction and not even show up to attack. But if your worst enemy gets hold of this grant, you’ll be given notice that a siege is coming.
At this point both sides of the coming battle can begin constructing siege weaponry or defensive turrets to be used in the war. This period tends to be a four day process, so neither side can complain that they weren’t ready when the battle comes. At last the guild leaders of both parties can select their 75 best combatants to enter a phased battleground for the castle. Other players can be present at the castle at this time, but won’t be injured by the fighting or be able to contribute in any meaningful way. The goal to take the castle is to destroy a certain amount of the castle’s walls to unlock a capturing phase for a giant central sword. At this point, the guild must perform an uninterrupted five minute channeling spell on the sword to claim the castle for themselves. And believe me in ArcheAge, protecting one guy from 75 people for that duration of time can be quite an epic feat.
Even if the attacking faction fails to conquer the castle, any damage incurred during the battle will reflect in the castle after the fight. Destroyed houses will remain gone and walls will need to be rebuilt. And this can take quite some time, meaning without a dedicated guild you may survive one or two assaults, but a continuous assault over time will tear your walls down further and further until you have little remaining to protect your central sword.
One rather odd part of this mentioned was that houses that aren’t destroyed during a castle takeover will remain in possession of the original owner. Combine this with the ability to teleport to your home’s hearth and you can actually bar up the windows and doors of your house and continue living within the castle walls of an enemy faction until the day comes when your guild can liberate your structure.
Miscellaneous Tidbits of Awesome
As FireCait said during our meeting, “Even after working on ArcheAge for over two years, you still will continue to have moments where someone introduces you to a concept that takes you completely off guard. There’s just too much to explore and discover in this game.” Jails for instance are physical locations on the map. Players can learn to compose their own music, utilizing a basic musical scale system that can then be performed by a number of instruments, including a few grand pianos that are actually placed inside massive concert halls. There’s a total of four languages, one for each continent and one unique to each race, and early concepts are in the works for an additional race that will only up the complexity of diplomacy in the game.
Players that fall in love with the auction house will even level their commerce skill to be able to make additional money from trade runs and selling items to NPCs. Titles can even be granted from these efforts. On Korean servers, pirates were known to conquer key points of interest on the map and then charge caravan cargo boxes to ensure safe passage. After which they would they escort ships to protect them from any outside pirates that would try to tarnish the reputation of their troll under the bridge service. The list of crazy wonders goes on but honestly you just have to play this game to discover them all. And it’s time for me to move onto the next part of our PAX Coverage while time still allows!
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