During the time I spent away from from writing The Devil’s Advocate and putting out points regarding ArcheAge, I kept any interesting new tidbits regarding ArcheAge bookmarked for later use. There weren’t a lot of bookmarks, but one did strike me as particularly significant: MMORPG.com’s forum talk with Scott Hartsman of Trion Worlds.
Scott was sly enough to not reveal anything concrete regarding ArcheAge, but he did mention some tidbits about the worldwide rollout of ArcheAge that gave me some points to consider. The following entry, which I’m quoting below left me with a burning question in my mind about ArcheAge’s potential localization and launch roadmap.
“A Similar Order of Events”
On Page 3 of the forum discussion, Hartsman said he was “planning on applying a similar order of events that worked exceptionally well for us with Rift - Ensuring we have a 24/7 alpha running for stability and ongoing update testing, then expanding it into the beta, then into events, then setting the launch date once we're confident in the betas.”
He added, “A good number of the same people on our side are fulfilling the same roles for ArcheAge that we did in Rift's launch.” The burning question is this: If RIFT took 5 years to develop and launch, according to what I’ve read, then how long would a Trion’s ArcheAge localization take in relation to RIFT’s roadmap?
Place Your Bets
The answer to the question I just posed is obviously, “When it’s ready.” Speculating a date without much information to go on isn’t my style, and it isn’t as fun as asking you guys to come up with your own calculations (or in this case, “schmalculations” seems more apt.).
Of course, I’m not going to let you schmalculate without some information, so let’s see what we can parse from his talk and existing information available based on what’s just been said. Take this backtracking as you will, however, as it’s not set in stone.
RIFT launched March 2011 and its development reportedly began some time in 2006. I can’t find any specific dates for Alpha and Closed Beta testing, but it does seem as if closed beta was already underway before November 23, 2010. It also seems open beta began on February 15, 2011.
Before this, they had to implement some kind of system for their servers and accounts to be used for testing the alpha and beta. Anything prior to this is likely to not relate much to ArcheAge, as the game has already got its assets, storyline, and other doohickeys in place and has launched or is in testing elsewhere.
ArcheAge has two main variables that make it difficult to peg any sort of date. One is operational, and the other, creative. Hartsman explained it to a forumgoer on the discussion as a matter of languages and operations.
On the technical operations side, there’s the integration of ArcheAge as a game with Trion’s servers and technology. According to Hartsman, “there's the mass of technical integrations and operational infrastructure work to be done.”
He used patching as an example, stating that the patcher front end and patch server backend of XLGames is different in certain respects to Trion’s, requiring Trion and XLGames to work together and find ways ways to make ArcheAge work with Trion’s update server infrastructure.
That’s just for patching the game. “Multiply that kind of work across about 20 or 30 technical topics,” he says.
In terms of creative variables, Trion Worlds also has to localize the game in 3 languages. With a base assumption that an MMO starts off using around 2 million words, that’s 6 million words that need to be localized. He adds, “Proper nouns in Korean look a lot different than proper nouns in English, so new words frequently need to be invented, and be made to be consistent across the entirety of the game.”
Hartsman also mentions something that never occurred to me as an individual: with a team working on a game, the localization has to be coherent, meaning it’s easily understood. The localization also has to be cohesive, meaning the game’s tone has to be maintained despite having different people working on varying aspects of localizations.
He explains this by saying, “Dictionaries need to be made and you need to make sure everything's consistent and cohesive in its new form.” I don’t even want to imagine how long it takes to build a dictionary of game terms and lore, multiplied by three.
The Obvious Hidden Aspect
Perhaps the most confounding thing, however, is a little bit of a shakeup that also got posted here: that interview of mail.ru with MMOZG.net. Hartsman actually noted that in one of his posts during the forum conversation, saying, “We've been talking with both mail.ru and XL regularly. Everyone wants the same thing, which is great: A great game that's accessible, fair, and enjoyable to the largest number of people possible. Truly.”
The implications of this statement are interesting. It means XLGames may have to juggle the information that’s now out there about the Russian version’s monetization system with the other stakeholders of ArcheAge: the other localization teams.
Whether that means options for the revenue model for the game will expand or will be deliberated on by multiple localizations teams is anyone’s guess, but we’re hoping the air will be cleared soon enough once Trion hammers out the specifics.
Once that’s done though, there’s one last step: Trion has to integrate and implement that revenue model relative to its current systems. If it’s reminiscent of RIFT’s current model, I would assume that the only difference would be what they call the credits for ArcheAge and thus not entail as much work, but that will still take time to complete.
ArcheAge was supposed to be a part of the next set of regular posting updates, according to the end of this post, but I’m not quite sure when that’s supposed to start. That said, I welcome anyone who wants to put a time frame to his patience as a comment below.
As for me, I’ll be observing the goings-on of the localization companies and of XLGames quietly, looking for something worth sharing. Cheers!
Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and ArcheAge columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.