ArcheAge and Its Future as a Viable MMORPG

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ArcheAge and Its Future as a Viable MMORPG

December 02, 2014 - 17:54
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ArcheAge has grasped my gaming universe since Alpha Testing and I’ve been playing it regularly ever since. I participated in Alpha, Closed and Open Beta, Head Start, Launch, Auroria Launch and everything that’s happened in between. I see a lot of people asking if they should try the game and I see a lot of opinion both positive and negative. In this article, I’ll try to be as non-biased as I can be, even though I’m a huge fan of the game.

ArcheAge's Que Times at Launch

My History and How I Started Playing ArcheAge:

I’m a 30 something guy that’s been playing video games since the Atari 2600 days. I watched the internet come into existence, although I was in my early teens when this was happening. I participated in Ultima Online’s launch. I have played many other games, not all MMO’s, my love for anything video game related is unwavering. I could list a laundry list of games that I’ve played but I want to try and keep this short enough for a quick read, so let’s just say, I’ve either beta tested or participated in MANY game launches.

As an avid WoW player back in the Vanilla days, working my way through a few expansions I finally after 5 years, stopped playing WoW. Ever since then, I was searching for the next MMO that would grab my attention like WoW once did. I tried many, beta tested and launched many, some were good, some were, well let’s say, VERY BAD. Darkfall’s launch has to be one of my greatest train wrecks and ever since that launch, I swore that I’d never get wrapped up in any “pre-game” hype, testing or nail biting. However being an Ultima Online player, pre safe zones, I have always been searching for something that would bring me back to what I consider the pinnacle of MMORPG game play. Sandbox style, constant “threat” from both PvE and PvP, thought provoking gaming with real consequences to every action.

I played several games for multiple months, but that’s it, nothing for more than 5-7 months since WoW or UO.

A buddy turned me onto ArcheAge and I was hooked from the beginning. We all bought the Archeum Founder’s packs, basically to get into Alpha so we could just play a game we felt was going to be awesome, and man was I jonesing for a fix, it had been YEARS since a game grasped my attention and seemed to be able to hold it. ArcheAge seemed to be that game, and man, with my computer, it really looked awesome.

My Time in ArcheAge:

Since about mid-alpha in North America, I’ve played way too many hours in this game. Trying to figure it out, it was like UO again, no real good guides to ruin the fun, you have to think, figure things out, no graphs with stats, min/max tables and a lot of speculation. Heck, this game even spurred me onto finally coming out with our guild website and blog.

Alpha was awesome. The game, for all intents and purposes ran great, I am not an avid “hacker” of a game, so I was probably unaware of anything game breaking back then, but to be honest, the players we were playing with also had a love for the game on another level. Let’s face it, everyone we were playing with in alpha paid $150 to get into the game. Not that there weren’t idiots and rude people, but in general the community was very good, everyone was pretty much on the same level with regard to their respect and admiration for the game, the game maker and game publishers.

Now it was Head Start and being that I am the owner of the company I work for, I took the whole time off, and played the week after from my desk. Now I’m fully aware that there were issues and que problems at game launch, but what MMO launched without these issues. Being in corporate technology and server datacenter support, I understand what it takes to serve up a high performance software title to many users across the public internet, let me tell you its very involved. People say that the que times were game breaking but in all honesty, so many founders packs were sold after open beta (everyone, even non-founders were allowed to get into open beta) was closing down, I’m sure Trion and XL had no idea how to handle or gauge the amount of players that were going to actually log into the servers on day one. Well let me tell you, the whole world seemed to log in and play.

Issues, sure, there were issues. Lag, yeah. Que times, don’t even get me started. Much of this was caused due to the fact that people weren’t logging off for one reason or another. It started for labor regen but then reports of 8 hour or more que times to log in as a patron and now NO ONE was logging out. Honestly, if people were decent individuals, this wouldn’t have been such an issue, but as we all know, the masses need constant supervision or they will screw it up for the rest of us. But on the flip side, systems SHOULD have been in place already to handle this sort of thing.

Launch was even worse, huge que times, players waiting days to get in only to dis-connect 1 second after logging into the game and getting bounced back to the end of the line. Systems that many figure were supposed to be already thought of weren’t even in the game. And I must say I agree with some of this, but on the other hand, the Alpha and Beta players never brought this up either, because it never got to this.

People don’t realize what it takes to actually plan for a roll-out of this magnitude, and I can say, you can test and beat down the doors as much as you like, but whenever you roll something out, there will be many issues, and it’s how you handle them that really makes the lasting mark with customers, not how bad it actually got in the thick of things, and this is where I think Trion and XL Games failed.

Put the hacking, bugs, server que times, lack of a dis-connect timer, blah blah blah all aside, if they were better at communicating with the community, even if it was speculation or to calm nerves, it would have gotten them a lot more than what they received from the community. Things go sideways, or in reverse during a migration / launch all the time, I’ve been in the hot seat more times than I care to admit, but one thing I learned very fast was to communicate, over communicate and show progress, positive or negative and show it often. Now with threadnaughts of 1300 pages, and tens of thousands of posts, it’s impossible for community managers to keep up with that. If Scapes actually reads every post, god help him. But you can’t kill the messenger either, someone above him is telling him what he can and can’t put out as information, and whomever that person is, they are making poor decisions.

But this aside, I think that Trion, the publisher of the game is actually doing very well with the resources they have on hand. We are just now coming off a little more than 2 day downtime to god knows what reason at this point, and the servers are back, stuff is there and the game is working well as we speak. Yes people freaked out, many seem to either have short memories or haven’t been a part of early gaming or game launches even as close to this time as SWTOR, but 2 days of downtime, although a bad thing, wasn’t the worst by any means. Again, the communication and updates could have been much better, more frequent and more honest and this would have gone off as no big deal, but due to the lack of moderation in the forums and lack of information coming from the Trion staff, people were left to their own imagination, and man were some of the posts entertaining.

Factor in the Apex exploit where players were able to open the same apex over and over again and get basically unlimited cash shop credits, RnG box exploits where players were able to force the system to give them what they wanted versus them being RnG like they were supposed to be and overall botting / hacking, and this game seems like it’s going to die in hours, not days or weeks. But it’s not and I’ll tell you why.

ArcheAge’s Ability to Come Back:

I really think that ArcheAge has the ability to come back from the brink. First off, the game community can forgive your many mistakes, if you start making positive change. This game is in a good place right now. WoW is in it’s god knows how many expansions now and sorry to say, many of the people I know are sick of playing it but they are either holding on because they “have so much time invested in the game” they can’t walk away or they don’t really see another game being able to take its place. Like UO, and all the other awesome MMO’s that have come out, people are chasing the high they got when they first played said game, the thrill of a new game that is immersive and fun and has a huge population. And even though ArcheAge has had its faults, we can say this experiment at the very least showed that people are ready to switch to a new game, at least more than I’ve seen in recent history. People WANT this game to work, they don’t want to play something else. They are willing to take it on the chin a few times, heck they may even cancel their subs for a few months, but if the game can iron out the bugs, the masses will come back. This game has a little for everyone and a lot for most. It’s stunning in the graphics department, the mechanics and systems in the game are unique and fun and keep you coming back. There is always something to accomplish in the game and the economy based systems really give you the thing that UO had for it, which was domination though other means than just welfare gear grinding to look like everyone else.

Long before ArcheAge came along, the gaming community in the North America region seemed to be looking for a fresh face. The hype around this game was huge. Even to this day, when I see someone say they “quit” the usually put in there that this game has huge potential, but in the long run, they don’t want to participate in a game they feel is unfairly stacked against them between botting and hacking to glitches, game crashing and server instability. And I get it, however many of us are still hanging in there. The servers aren’t as dead as the trolls want you to believe. Yes there is obvious population reduction but I really think this game has more to offer to people than some 5v5 arena battles and scripted instances. I think that the level 55 cap and further release of Auroria will revitalize this game. It will make all those with Delphinad gear need to get something again and I’d think that by then, most of the ill-gotten gains from the hacking will be sucked up by in-game gold sinks.

Many people are playing this game like end game is supposed to be here or is already here, and it’s not even close. There is so much more content to release yet, there are so many other things you can do, and even though you may not feel like it, supporting a company other than Blizzard is healthy for the gaming community. If everyone judged WoW like they did ArcheAge on launch, WoW would be a ghost town. They had a week’s worth of downtime in the beginning.

The Gaming Community and Our Responsibility:

It’s up to you to make a new game viable. Yes, someone may have cheated to get gear, yes you may lose some stuff or PvP because someone is in gear they probably should not be wearing right now, but is that going to get you to the point where you completely walk away from the game? Are you going to let a few internet trolls and hackers ruin a game with as much potential as you all claim it has? In the grand scheme of things, this game has been out since September 12th, about 10 weeks. If this game really has the potential I keep hearing about from players, and I also feel it has, what’s 10 weeks in the grand scheme of things? Not saying that everything that’s happened is excusable, but just like you expect more from Trion and XL Games, you also need to step up to the plate. I see so many threads where people are actually threatening the lives of staff members, being unjustly rude, yes you have had some bad things happen, but if you were my customer, no matter how wrong I was to being with, I’d have fired you as a client long ago and never looked back, and I’ve done this, so I’m not just saying this.

If you want something like this to work out, you need to work at it too. Not saying you need to blindly give them your money, or even continue to subscribe to the game or play it for that matter, but if you want a game developer to come out with new content, either play the game or leave gracefully, don’t try to burn down the house on your way out. You’re just ensuring that World of Warcraft and clones like it are the only content you’ll ever play in the next 5 years. Sure there are other games that are on the horizon that look promising, but I can assure you, they will also have game-breaking issues, massive problems, hacks, exploits, busted mechanics and general poor design in certain areas. If you don’t convey your issues in a manner that can be constructive and then wait while these fixes are put in place, you are actually shorting yourself, not the company you’re trashing.

Many of you subbed to this game because you, at one point in time, believed this could be the next big thing, and yes, it’s been broken 15 ways to Sunday, but unrecoverable it’s not. And all you need to do is put the game down for a while and play something else, or stick it out, whatever you chose to do, and see where it leads you. Now I know this is asking a lot for our generation of instant gratification, give it all to me now people, but let’s get real. You will grind for a head piece in WoW for days, weeks even, this game hasn’t been out even 3 months and you’re not only writing it off, but saying it has no future. Give me a break and stick it out like a real person would or go away and let the rest of the people that like the game play in peace. Heck you may even come back a year later to see the game, and its publishers have matured to the point where you may try it again. Jumping to the next fix without exhausting all possibilities and letting the game mature is weak at best.

The Million Dollar Question, Should I Try ArcheAge or Should I Stick Around:

That’s a personal question and I’m not going to tell you how to spend your money, but in the end, if you don’t have a game to call home right now, and you’re looking for something new, I’d try it. This game looks awesome, it’s got some truly new, fresh mechanics and game play ideas and at the end of the day, it’s generally fun to play.

But know this, a game like this is not going to be won in a few months, this is meant to be played for a long time. You need to give it the same respect you give other games you’ve played. You need to be committed and willing to take your losses like a man (no offense to the ladies, just a figure of speech). Move on and learn from it. No you aren’t going to be in high end gear in 2 weeks. Yes you are going to get face rolled by people that have better gear than you. Yes some of them may have even cheated to get there, who cares? It’s the chase, the growth and learning that if you really think about it, is what kept you playing the last game you came from. If you can complete the game and be in end game gear in a few weeks, what’s the point? If you don’t have someone that’s better than you to strive to beat then what the hell is the point? It’s too easy, it’s not a struggle and it’s not fun.

If you’ve been playing and you’re put off by the hacking, the exploits and all that crap, well join the club, it pisses me off too. Should XL or Trion thought of some of this before launch? Maybe, but heck, you don’t know what’s going on over there, they could be up to their eyeballs trying to make things better. Changing code isn’t that easy, and every change usually brings up new issues or unforeseen circumstances. If you can’t see past ArcheAge’s faults, then by all means, leave, stop supporting the game, find something else to do with your time, but don’t throw gas on the fire on your way out, and please don’t turn others off to the game by simply saying the game is dead, even if you think it is. I can say that I know many people that play this game, and in the long run, the actual damage the hacking and botting has done is allowed a few people to get ahead of the rest of us faster than normal. If you are leaving because of it, that’s fine but make sure you tell them why you stuck around or why you subbed in the first place too. There had to be a reason why you decided to play the game, and make sure they know the good with the bad. No matter what, the exploits didn’t put someone on a plane that can’t also be had by you, it will just take you longer to get there.

The Responsibility of the Publisher and Developer:

It’s also time for Trion and XL Games to grow up. Trust me, I get it. I’ve been a part of roll-outs for Electronic Medical Record systems for hospitals going to the cloud since 2007 and I’ve been in corporate technology contracting since 2004 and overall I’ve been in technology / IT since 1997. Let me tell you, if you think a few pissed off gamers are an issue, wait until you have to explain the issues to a doctor or board that’s been doing things the same way since the stone age and now the system you told them 6 months ago was going to save them is now fubar and you need to re-think the whole plan because you didn’t know the whole story, mainly because they didn’t fill you in on the whole story, but in the end perception is truth, no matter how far away from the truth it is.

Things fail, patches blow up, servers melt down, and downtime is a part of your job. I can’t tell you how many nights’ I’ve been up for 24-36 or even more hours in a row. Your job is not only to fix the issue but to calm down the client and all the employees. No your stuff is still there, yes, we are working on it, no I don’t know why yet, but this is what we are doing, this is why we are doing it and this is what we think it’s going to do for you and this is how long we expect this to take. You are goddamn right you need to do patches at 4am on the least populated time and day you can. Yes, you need to do backups and test, and test and test some more before you roll it out and you better have a failover plan, and it better be good.

You better have stories that line up, your left hand better always be talking with your right and your customers better feel like they know where you are, what you’re doing and why you’re doing it at all times, and to top things off, with ETA’s and ready-made excuses to why it’s taking longer than expected. You better show improvement and compassion for your customer, you need to show them that you understand this is what they are choosing to do with their life at that moment in time and why they can’t do that if they can’t. You need to give them the attention they crave and the thoughtful responses they demand at all points, good or bad, better or worse. If I were you, and it got really bad, I’d have a live stream of the server room, or of the guys working on it. I can tell you, when my rollouts go bad (they rarely go really bad but they always have issues) I have a direct audience, they all act like the users in your forums, some nice, others not so nice, and I can tell you that if you plan on taking any more of their money in the future, you better be what each one of them needs you to be at that time or you better start looking for a new job. If you can’t handle this, re-think your line of business, because this IS what IT does, we take shit from everyone and only hear from them when it’s not working. No they don’t care you’ve been up since 3 days ago and you haven’t had a decent meal in a week or that you haven’t seen your bed in days, not to mention your family.

You should have gotten into this business for the challenge, and when that challenge come knocking, your performance is what we all judge you on. The end result is worthless if the perception is that you did a poor job during the hard times. You’re paid to make people feel at ease, that their trust in you is warranted and deserving of the money they are giving you.

Final Thoughts:

All I have to say is both sides need a wakeup call. This game is more than just another MMO, it’s a new MMO, and it’s a new idea that will take time to develop on both sides. It’s not another clone of a game nor is it a sequel of another game, it’s the next generation of gaming, and everyone needs to treat as such, even if this isn’t going to be the game that finally takes the “next big thing” prize it’s still worth more than just throwing it away and dismissing it as junk or dead. Both player and publisher need to see what they actually have here and try a bit harder to make what they want materialize from the ashes of the past 10 weeks.

Oh and if you’re playing this game even close to the minimum system requirements, do us all a favor and have someone that knows what they are doing spec out and build it for you. No you don’t know anything about computers if the last time you put one together was 3 years ago and you need assistance to make sure you didn’t screw it up beyond repair before you go bashing a game that is system intensive as “full of bugs”. My system doesn’t have any issues with this game in general and I get hours of playtime without incident, so if you keep crashing and BSODing, stop blaming the game and re-assess your situation and dump that paperweight you have under your desk and step into the 21st century. And for god sake, get an SSD.

/rant