ArcheAge: Final Thoughts

Well, that didn’t last long. I quit ArcheAge last week after losing faith in Trion. Like countless other players, last week’s Auroria release was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Bye bye, ArcheAge!
Bye bye, ArcheAge!

Auroria release disaster

The Auroria release was a highly anticipated patch promising new zones, more housing space, guild castles, new dungeons, and new items. I personally wasn’t excited about the patch, but a lot of people were and some spent months preparing for it so that their guilds could claim the limited land in Auroria.

Tuesday was patch day, but when the servers came back online, a bug made it so a large portion of the players couldn’t log in. What land there was was quickly gobbled up by the lucky few who were able to connect to the server. The official forums exploded with horror stories from players/guilds who got screwed over, their months of preparation wasted. During all this, Trion announced they would not take down the servers. The bug wasn’t fixed until the next day and the servers were left up the whole time. The outraged community called for a server rollback, but Trion said they would do no such thing.

The connection bug and Trion’s reaction to it made a lot of people quit. But it got worse. Once players were finally able to log in to the game the next day, they discovered that Trion had added a new item to the cash shop: Rumbling Archeum Trees. For real money, players could purchase Flashy Racing Kits, which dropped the Rumbling Archeum Tree Saplings. The saplings, which only took an hour to mature, had an absurd 10% chance of producing a Thunderstruck Tree. Otherwise, they could be harvested for Archeum Crystals.

ArcheAge cash shop
Flashy Racing Kits in the cash shop

Until this point, Thunderstruck Trees were incredibly rare. When growing trees, there was a very tiny chance that the tree could become “thunderstruck” during a growth phase. I had around 30k logging skill when I quit (about 3000 trees worth) and I never had a Thunderstruck Tree. With such a high chance of producing Thunderstruck Trees, Rumbling Archeum Trees destroyed the Thunderstruck Tree market. The price quickly plummeted as one of the game’s rare items became commonplace. This also killed the fun for a lot of players who enjoyed planting and finding tree farms in hopes that you’d be lucky enough to get a Thunderstruck Tree. Exploring the world to find secret, unprotected tree farms was a part of the game a lot of players really enjoyed and now there’s no reason for it to exist anymore.

Was ArcheAge just a cash grab?

I don’t mind when games have a cash shop, but I think they should be used for cosmetic and convenience items (costumes, mounts, dyes, additional character slots, goofy toys, decorations, additional bag space, etc.). Not pay-to-win. Trion took the most expensive crafting material in the game (Thunderstruck Trees) and made it something you spend real money to get. A game economy like that seems destined to fail.

Trion encouraged people to pay up if they wanted a Carrot Dash donkey mount before they removed it from the game. Carrot Dash was the fastest trade pack mount in the game and it was a rare loot item from a chest obtainable in the cash shop. Shortly after it was removed from the game, a new donkey showed up in the cash shop that is supposedly just as fast (except it’s blue instead of orange).

Trion also promoted a new craftable 80-slot chest that would be coming with the Auroria release, which would replace the 50-slot cash shop chest as the best storage chest in the game. The best craftable storage chest at that point was only 20-slot. You can imagine how disappointed everyone was when they logged in and found out that the “craftable” 80-slot chest required no crafting skill and was made by combining two of the 50-slot cash shop chests. You could also purchase the 80-slot chest directly from the cash shop.

ArcheAge "craftable" storage chest
“Craftable” storage chest

More bad decision-making

Probably Trion’s biggest failure is its lack of connection with the community, which is what makes me think they aren’t in it for the long run, just a quick cash grab. Trion has proven to be terrible at communication with the players and explaining changes. They have not delivered on their promises, especially to those who bought the founder’s packs (bait and switch?). Criticism in the forums has been met with account bans.

In order to be effective at level 50, you have two options: craft it (very expensive, time-consuming, and requires a lot of luck) or grind for tokens. There are 7 different tokens, which are randomly dropped from a small handful of mobs in a very small valley in a PVP zone. Sounds fun, right?

What happens is that the valley gets infested with players standing around, competing to get the first hit on plant creatures as they spawn. Each mob drops one token at random, so after you’ve competed to attack the mob first, you then get to compete within your group to see who gets the token. It takes hundreds of these tokens to turn in for the respective weapon, so it takes hours and hours to get enough for one weapon.

This kind of mob grinding is not interesting, fun, or challenging, but Trion made it a necessary part of the game. With the Auroria patch, they made it even worse. They added two more tiers to the weapons, requiring people to do 4-5 times more grinding than they had to endure to get the first tier of each weapon.

Other problems that shouldn’t exist

I pointed out some problems with ArcheAge in my initial post, but there are a few more I’d like to add.

ArcheAge DX11 texture bug
DirectX 11 texture bug

First, there are the server/client stability bugs. Launching the game is terrible. It’s painfully slow and half the time, sends you to a Korean FAQ page instead of launching the client. And once you have the client up, you have to put up with frequent client crashes. This is especially annoying when you are trying to get in juries, because each crash resets your position in the jury queue. Someone even found a bug that let them crash servers at will. There is also a bug with DirectX 11 that causes blurry, low quality textures after you play for a little while. The suggested fix? Use DirectX 9 instead. ><

ArcheAge weird item effect
So… what’s the effect?

Then there are the language problems. A common error you will hear when fighting is: “Target is facing the wrong direction.” That’s my favorite one. There are also the Thunderstruck Trees I mentioned above. Too many items also have inaccurate or missing tool tips.

One thing that really bugged me was the first (and only) time I went to trial. I found an unprotected tree farm earlier that day and chopped some of the trees. Thankfully, the jury was reasonable and found me not guilty, but I still lost my ability to be a juror and had my jury count wiped. That isn’t supposed to happen when you are found not guilty. Since frequent crashes make it difficult to get juries, that was a big letdown for me.

ArcheAge mailbox
Owl mailbox

There are also some stupid interface issues. For example, the mailbox has an owl on it and sometimes the owl flies off, leaving you unable to access the mailbox for a 15-20 seconds until he flies back. While this is a good effect (since he realistically should need to go gather the mail) and it’s not that big of a deal, it is still annoying to sit there waiting for the owl to come back. What’s more annoying, though, is the in-game trade window. Players add items/gold to their side of the trade window and click a lock icon when they’re done. After both players have “locked in” the trade, both players must press an accept button to complete the trade. There were some hacks with trading that I guess made it possible for other players to steal gold and items, so Trion made some changes. Now, there is a 3-second delay after either player clicks the lock button and there isn’t adequate feedback for what’s going on or when the next player is allowed to hit their lock button. This makes trading feel slow and unresponsive. Heaven forbid you spam click the lock button while you wait because the extra clicking will screw things up once the lock button is enabled and you’ll have to go through it all again.

One of the biggest complaints about the game is that there isn’t enough land available for people to build farms and houses, which is why some people were so excited about Auroria. Or rather, there wasn’t enough land. That may have changed since the mass exodus. Players would scout the world for farms and houses on the verge of expiring, so that they could claim the land. It was probably worse on other servers, but at least half a dozen people would how up to try to claim expiring land on my server. The players didn’t just have to compete against each other to be the first to place their farm/house, though; they also had to compete against exploits that allowed people to claim land without being present (and, perhaps, without even being logged in).

Final thoughts

ArcheAge naval battle
Destroying a ship in a naval battle

ArcheAge had potential to be a really fun game. I liked the naval aspect of the game, the in-world housing, and how you could level doing just about anything. Unfortunately, Trion screwed it up (and XL Games… it isn’t clear who is to blame for what). They made bad decisions and lost the trust and respect of the players. That’s something that’s really hard to recover from. R.I.P. ArcheAge.

ArcheAge

ArcheAge is a new free-to-play fantasy sandbox MMORPG by XL Games and Trion, the developers of Rift, that was released on September 16th. It is based heavily on farming and crafting with an emphasis on PVP. I’ve been playing ArcheAge since just about release day (I downloaded the game on release day, but the queues were outrageous for the first several days, so I wasn’t able to play right away). Although ArcheAge has a lot in common with other MMORPGs, there are some cool things that make it stand out.

ArcheAge

Good things:

  • Houses in ArcheAge
    In-world housing

    Housing and farms. There is in-game housing that is actually in the world instead of instanced and stupid like in other games. You can also build farms in the world to grow plants and raise animals for resources.

  • Ships. Players can build ships that allow them to sail the seas, search ship wrecks for treasure, go deep sea fishing, and take on a life of piracy. I like using the harpoon to make ships go places they shouldn’t be able to go — on mountains, in cities, airborne,… 🙂
  • Gliders. Instead of normal flying mounts, gliders work like a real glider would. You can’t just fly up and down and sideways however you want.
  • Trade run in ArcheAge
    Trade run

    Trade runs. You can gather resources into a trade pack that you carry across the world to NPC traders. Trade packs make you move slowly, but donkeys, ships, farm carts, and carriages can help you get around faster. You can do short, safe trade runs for a smaller reward or you can go on longer, riskier routes for a better payoff. Trade packs can be stolen in certain situations, though, which makes trade runs exciting.

  • Trials. Trials are awesome. If you see a crime,  you can report it, and the criminal will eventually go to trial. 5 players are selected to sit on the jury and determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence. If found guilty, the player is sent to jail for a period of time decided by the jury.
  • Crafting. The crafting system is very extensive. You can make anything from potions to furniture to gear to farm tools to musical instruments that play custom music.
  • 120 different classes. Rather than having a handful of predetermined classes, players get to choose 3 out of 10 different skillsets and add spend skill points in those 3 skillset trees as they see fit.
  • Airborne ship in ArcheAge
    Sending my ship flying with some harpoon trickery

    You can play how you want. You can gain experience from just about anything… questing, farming, mining, and even using the auction house. If you get enough infamy, you can even become a pirate, able to be attacked anywhere by anyone.

  • Levels are important, but it’s still possible for lower-leveled characters to take out higher-leveled characters, especially when the higher-leveled character is outnumbered.

Mixed things:

I’m not sure whether to put “free-to-play” in the good section or the bad section. Although ArcheAge is promoted as “free-to-play,” it’s pretty much a necessity to have patron (paid) status. You have to be a patron to own land (houses and farms) or sell things on the auction house. You’re also severely limited in labor points (necessary for performing most actions) if you don’t have patron status. However, you can buy patron status with in-game currency, which I think is great.

Gliders in ArcheAge
Gliders
Trial in ArcheAge
Player trial

Bad things:

  • Queues. Server queues were absolutely horrendous the first week or more of the game. The queues have improved enormously, though, and don’t seem to be an issue anymore.
  • Player collision. It drives me crazy when I am pushed around unable to move because of player congestion. That’s just part of this game, though.
  • Mob tapping. If someone else attacks an enemy first, it’s theirs. You don’t get any credit for the kill and you don’t get any share of the loot. This is common to most MMORPGs, but I really don’t like it.
  • Minimap. The minimap is terrible. It is zoomed out so far that it is hard to find what you’re looking for and there isn’t any way to change the zoom level.
Placing plants in a farm in ArcheAge
Placing plants in a farm
Auction house in ArcheAge
Auction house

And if someone from Trion reads this, here are 4 minor things I’d love to have changed:

  • Name the screenshot files according to the date taken (YYYY-MM-DD…).
  • Add an option to zoom in the minimap.
  • Stop requiring that the auctioneer be targeted when using the auction house.
  • Do not include fences in the decoration limit for houses (or up the decoration limit to accommodate). I have a farmhouse with fences around it and I can only have a handful of decoration items in the house.

Overall thoughts:

I’m enjoying ArcheAge so far. I wasn’t sold on it right away, but it has been growing on me. My friends who used to play Ultima Online back in its heyday are loving it, saying it’s the closest thing they’ve seen to UO. Since the game is free, ArcheAge is definitely worth trying out if it sounds interesting to you.

[Edit] More things I’d love to have changed:

  • An option to disable right-click attack.
  • A way to preview sheet music before buying it. I keep hearing about people who assume they’re buying one thing and end up with empty sheet music or get rick rolled.
  • Fix the bug that resets your settings.

I rage quit yesterday after remaking my chat tabs half a dozen times and being killed twice by guards after unintentionally right-clicking a red on the docks (once, I was just trying to move; the other time, I right-clicked a chat tab, which made me attack a red).

[Edit] Game over

I quit the game and blogged about my final thoughts.

Salem the Game: Final Thoughts

Last month, I blogged about a new game I’d started playing called Salem. Well, as of today, 3 of my friends and I are likely calling it quits.

An overpowered group of raiders found our camp today and were in the process of destroying it when Nick got on one of his characters and was (permanently) killed.

Salem raiders

Knowing that there were bound to be griefers due to perma-death, we had been working hard on defending our camp. We built triple walls and several braziers to attack anyone who tried to get in… and we were adding to our defenses every day. That wasn’t even close to enough to stop the raiders.

With groups of well-established, overpowered players playing the game, I don’t see how it’s possible for new players to stand a chance. There’s no way any of us could have gotten our humours up high enough to have a chance of defending ourselves against one, let alone a whole group, of the raiders.

A few weeks ago, one of my friends was out in the world, away from the camp, when he got killed by one of the overpowered players. The player didn’t even take any of my friend’s items after he died; he just killed him and went about his business. My friend was pretty discouraged, but since our camp was still okay and the rest of us were still alive, he begrudgingly made a new character and kept playing.

After today, though, I don’t think we have the motivation to start over again, knowing we’re likely to just be found by raiders all over again. Yes, if we focused on building a town bell right away, maybe we’d have a chance. We were actually working on getting one for our camp and might have had it by the end of the week. I think that would’ve only delayed the inevitable, though.

Salem had a lot of potential, but with strong, established players effortlessly killing off the new, weaker players, I don’t see how this game could really be successful.

Oh well. Onto the next game!

Salem the Game

Nick and I discovered a new free-to-play sandbox MMORPG called Salem, which focuses on crafting and building. The game is in beta, but it’s still fun to play in its current state.

Salem character customization
Customizing my character

Salem takes place in New England during the Pilgrim times. You start out in Salem, England and travel to Boston to start your life in the new world. You can build up a settlement, learn skills, trade, and fight creatures and other players. The game is really open, so how you play is entirely up to you.

Getting started in Salem is not easy. Once you get past customizing your character (there’s not a lot of customization yet) and the beginning tutorial, you are prompted to talk to a guide about establishing a homestead. Unbeknownst to us, the guide teleported the two of us to totally separate locations, where our homesteads were automatically created for us. After spending a while walking toward each other, we realized we were a lot further apart than we realized… and by that point, we had no idea where our homesteads were anymore.

Salem random homestead
Exploring a homestead I found. Humours are at the top of the screen and my proficiency progress is on the right.

The game centers around learning skills, which you do by studying objects you gather or craft. Studying items increases your proficiencies and you need certain amounts of proficiencies in order to learn skills. Studying a smooth stone, for instance, gives you 350 points of the Hammer & Nail proficiency (among other things), which could go toward skills like Tanning or Carpentry.

Humours are another important part of the game and can be thought of as different types of energy. There are 4 humours: Blood (red; health), Phlegm (black; endurance), Yellow Bile (combat effectiveness), and Black Bile (green; learning capacity). You can refill your humours by eating food. Players start with a maximum humour value of 5 and can increase the maximum value of individual humours through gluttony. Gluttony is a little weird, but it’s really helpful to have higher humour values.

Tips:

  • Download Ender’s Salem Client. It adds some nice UI features, especially with the minimap and improved radar.
  • Don’t get attached to your items. I was so excited when I found a Singing Old Log and carried around with me everywhere… until I died and lost it. 🙁 Which brings me to my next tip:
  • You WILL die. And when you die, you lose everything you had in your inventory. It’s annoying (especially at first), but that’s just how the game works.
  • Avoid snakes. They WILL kill you. Using Ender’s Salem Client is super helpful in avoiding snakes (and other vicious creatures).
  • Increase the maximum values of your humours through gluttony.
  • If playing with friends, teleport back to Boston after creating your initial homesteads and then pick a direction and wander off together so you can actually play together. It’s a good idea to spend at least a couple hours walking away from Boston before establishing your camp. Just make sure to build temporary lean-tos along the way, so you don’t lose your walking progress if you die!
  • There is permadeath, so watch out if you see other players (outside of Boston)!
  • The Salem Wiki is full of all sorts of useful information.

Sound fun? Join the beta! They give out a handful of beta codes every day. 🙂

Guild Wars 2: A Few Days Later

I’ve been learning new things every day in Guild Wars 2. Here are a few things I’ve learned about over the last few days:

Gathering resources

Mining copper ore
Mining copper ore

Unlike World of Warcraft, you don’t have to fight over resources! If you and another player see a copper ore vein and start running to it at the same time, it doesn’t matter because both players will get the ore. There’s no more rush to drop what you’re doing to farm a resource before someone else gets to it. Another improvement over WoW is anyone can gather any kind of resource (provided you have the gathering tools).

Crafting

I haven’t spent a lot of time crafting yet, but one really nice thing about crafting is that most crafting components can be stored in a collection vault that is separate from your bank and, perhaps more importantly, you can add items to your collection instantly from anywhere in the world. That really helps conserve bag space when you’re out adventuring. Unfortunately, you can’t craft items straight out of your collection; you need to withdraw them first, which seems weird and unnecessary to me. Another crafting improvement is that crafting time really speeds up as you craft lots of the same type of item. So, if you want to make 100 copper ingots, you don’t have to sit there twiddling your thumbs while you wait for it to finish.

Crafting collection
Crafting collection
Crafting an item
Crafting an item
Side note: In my previous post about Guild Wars 2, I said I wished there were more than 21 armor dyeing colors to choose from. Apparently, there are hundreds of dyes and they can be acquired through cooking (and, rarely, as drops from gathering or mobs).

Pigeons

Pigeon mail delivery
Pigeon mail delivery

One thing about Guild Wars 2 that really amuses me is the mail delivery pigeons. Whenever you receive mail, a pigeon swoops by your character to deliver it. I haven’t tried it myself, but apparently pigeons are so determined to deliver mail that they will even dive underwater if you’re swimming (see video below). Awesome. 😛

Underwater fighting

Fighting underwater
Fighting underwater

Speaking of being underwater, fighting underwater is a bit different than I’m used to. Players have a completely different set of weapons and skills when they’re underwater. Thankfully, you can also breathe underwater. Once you get out of the water, your screen gets covered with water droplets, which is kind of neat.

Vistas

Scattered throughout the world are vistas, which are mini jumping puzzles. The goal is to find a way up to the floating map object at the vista location. Some are super easy, but others can be a bit challenging to figure out. Once you get to the top, there is a short cinematic that pans across the scenery in the area. It’s a nice way of showing off the environment.

At a vista
At a vista
Vista cinematic
Vista cinematic

Picking up items

Holding a rabbit
Holding a rabbit

There are various items in the world that players can pick up and interact with. You can lift rocks and throw them at opponents. You can grab fallen logs and whack your foes. Well, today I picked up a rabbit and was able to use it to temporarily run faster, lol!

Dying

When your character’s health drops below zero, you don’t necessarily die. Kinda weird. Instead, you enter a “downed” state, in which you fight to survive.

Fighting to survive
Fighting to survive

You’re given four skills you can use that let you continue fighting while you struggle to stay alive. I still don’t entirely understand how it works, but if you’re able to kill your enemy before your downed health bar reaches zero, you get to come back to life. If you die, you choose a waypoint to respawn at. You can also be brought back to life if another player revives you.

Guild Wars 2: Release Day

Standing on a hill (by nebse)
Standing on a hill (screenshot by nebse)

Nick and I started playing a new MMORPG: Guild Wars 2, which was just released yesterday. We hadn’t been planning on playing it; in fact, we knew nothing about it prior to Monday. My coworker casually mentioned that it was coming out and that evening, Nick happened to see a screenshot (on right) posted on Reddit that made him want to play the game. How cool is it that the character’s knee is bent while standing on a hill?! We looked into it a bit and once we found out that there was no monthly subscription fee and that there was even a gnome-like race (the asura), we decided to give it a try. A few clicks later, we were downloading the game.

Getting started

When we started the game, we had to pick which world server we wanted to play on. Unfortunately, you can only play on one server in GW2 (unlike World of Warcraft, where you can have characters on multiple servers). You can switch servers, but it’ll cost you. Apparently, you can still play with friends on other servers, but you won’t be able to participate in World vs. World PvP.

Character customization

There are 5 races to choose from: Asura (short and clever), Charr (aggressive and feline), Human (boring!), Norn (Nordic shape-shifters), and Sylvari (inquisitive plant-like humanoids). There aren’t factions in GW2, unlike WoW.

There are 8 professions (aka classes) as well: Elementalist, Engineer, Guardian, Mesmer, Necromancer, Ranger, Thief, and Warrior.

Character customization
Character customization

Character customization is pretty detailed, reminding me more of Skyrim than WoW. You can tweak all of your facial features, height, skin color, etc. AND you can dye your armor! I wish there were more colors to choose from when dyeing armor, but 21 colors isn’t bad.

After you’ve picked out your race and profession and customized your appearance, it asks you a few questions about your character to help create your character’s personal story. This affects your character’s personality and in-game storyline events. I think it’s really neat that the decisions you make have an effect on the game.

Playing the game

I have to say that our first hour or two of playing the game were a bit overwhelming. The controls and UI were pretty straight-forward, but figuring out where we had to go and what we had to do took a little getting used to, as can be expected when playing a new game. It probably didn’t help that we were trying to stick together in a party with a friend of ours instead of learning the game at our own individual paces. At one point, we became separated and couldn’t figure out how to get back to each other (it seems like the separation was probably due to server overflow).

Cinematic conversation
Cinematic conversation

One thing that impressed me right away was the cinematic conversations that take place in the game. The characters in the cinematic conversations move and do a pretty decent job lip-syncing the words. It’s a lot more interesting to watch and listen to these cutscenes than it is to click through a bunch of dialogue screens. And if you don’t care about the storyline, there’s a button that let’s you skip over it.

Dynamic world event
Dynamic world event

Another aspect of the game that I really like is the dynamic world events, a lot like rift events in Rift. When there’s an event nearby, it alerts you and everyone else in the area. Everyone who wants to participate can then work together to complete the task.

I’m still learning how combat works, so I’m not going to blog about that just yet. I really like how quickly health regenerates when out of combat, though. That was one of my complaints about WoW.

Overall Thoughts

It’s too early to say for sure, but it seems like Guild Wars 2 is going to be a pretty fun game. It doesn’t feel radically different from other games in the genre, but they’ve obviously learned a lot from other games about what works and what doesn’t and they’ve added some neat new features. I’m excited to see more of the game!