Taking the Hits
It's been a little over a week since the last ArcheAge column, but the new Scott Hartsman Q&A over on the ArcheAge Source forums was just too good to pass up for a proper discussion. In the end, I asked my editor about penning this piece for the week, and he agreed.
I then praised him for getting his handsome face on an in-game trenchcoat for The Secret World, but that's completely unrelated to ArcheAge, so I'll move on (Seriously though folks, get that trenchcoat: my boss will take a sledgehammer in the face for your back!).
In the Calculations, Schmalculations post, I outlined the situation preventing Trion Worlds from providing a stream of information to interested players. I was worried that Trion Worlds wasn't completely aware of how much of a reputation hit they were taking from eager gamers who just want to play something new or fun.
I find myself smiling after their recent Q&A, primarily because I imagine Trion has accepted the role of MMO battlefield tank, taking the hits for their mage, XLGames, who's new to the game of MMO development but is trying to cast a boss-slaying fireball of gaming to win the hearts and minds of gamers.
A New Player in Hard Mode
Taking my analogy of the tank and the inexperienced mage aside, let's go to the Scott Hartsman Q&A. Hartsman explains the delay as a function of Trion giving some breathing room to XLGames so it can complete its existing set of tasks. From a producer's point of view (as opposed to a gamer's point of view), the patience to wait for the best time to move forward is a necessary step to ensure a better final product.
Hartsman uses two points to explain the importance of the wait, which I'll sum up. XL Games is a new developer that's working on multiple localized launches. By working on its partnered launches one after the other rather than at the same time, they can improve one adaptation of the game to make it better, and then use the refinements of their processes to improve the next localized adaptation (Trion Worlds' ArcheAge) from a technical and workflow standpoint.
Going back to my analogy of a novice mage and an experienced tank, experienced leaders try to understand the strengths and weaknesses of party members, adjusting strategies to suit the situation. Dungeoneering with Mages 101 would probably say, "Don't move onto another big battle without letting your mage replenish mana first, then talk about improving your teamwork before the next fight!"
Part of this is also about everyone in the dungeon understanding their roles and working to fulfill those roles for the party's benefit. I'm going to take this next bit straight from Scott Hartsman's Q&A session so there's no misunderstanding:
With ArcheAge, XLGames is the developer – Anything related to changing the way the game functions, the content in the game, adding or changing features, integrating with our account system, integrating with our billing system, integrating with our operational system, integrating with our patcher – Anything that you’re familiar with “the dev team” doing, those are things that only they can directly do.
We’re the publishing partner – First and foremost, that means localization (which is actually a lot more than just translation!), it means working with them to determine what the best business model is for our regions and develop plans on that being implemented, it means setting up our alpha, beta, and launch schedules in a way that works with the way they can deliver what’s needed for each, it means the marketing and community work for the game, the technical operations setup, hardware, and networking, the metrics analysis for the game, setting up customer, account, and tech support services for the game, and all of those service elements.
On the vast majority of things that an average customer would care about, which a lot of the time boils down to “How fun is the game?”, those elements are generally planned in partnership, executed on by XL, and have to occur on a schedule that works out for both companies.
As mentioned earlier, XL Games and Trion are working on adapting certain refinements or improvements to the game to better the game's chances of being fun to play. There are a number of noticeable things they're trying to do, which includes balancing the character and class progression and economic systems, as well as the viability of particular gameplay styles and paths to progressing in game. There are also discussions in place to improving the economy by introdcing new content and trading rewards for the game.
For those looking for the all-important hook of pricing, that's also being worked on. Hartsman says, "As they’ve adapted their model in Korea, they’ve discovered places where it would be a better experience for everyone if free players had more gameplay that’s additive to other players’ experience, and have found places to add more benefits for paying players as well."
My personal thoughts on this are simple: if a game is making changes to suit the cultural base of players while sticking to the roots of the game itself, I'm all for it. If they have to take some time to make sure there's no miscommunication between the changes being made and the announcements they'll be putting forth. I think I'd be willing to cut them some slack.
The Power of Localization Compels YOU!
What I enjoy reading in these discussions is actually about how they're adapting the text. As someone who enjoys foreign media with subtitles, I realize that different groups who subtitle foreign work use different conventions for their translations.
For instance, some subtitling groups for Japanese live action shows called tokusatsu discuss differences in translation while having the same show script to base it off of. One may choose to keep honorifics in their adaptation while another colloquializes certain terms so they fit the understanding of the people watching.
Coming to different meanings while having the same base idea placed in front of them? That sort of divergence is personally fascinating! In the case of ArcheAge, I'd love to see Q&A sessions with the localization team for the English version so people know the reasoning behind a particuar localization or lore adaptation was made. Hopefully the extra time they have polishing the localization makes the game far more compelling from a lore standpoint to story-minded gamers.
Dates, Dolphins, and BookBeasts
Hartsman ends by saying that they've reached the point where they can actually set concrete dates for a testing and release timeline. I'm assuming that means enough of the technical and account management bits have been worked out. I look forward to getting more information about testing dates soon!
In the meantime... have some videos for your leisure.
The first is of ArcheAge's 2014 teaser trailer. Yes, that's a GOLEM MADE OF BOOKS. A TOME GOLEM. A GRIMOIRE GOLEM. A BOOKBEAST!
The second, from Imporylem’s YouTube page, is a video of a new mount… which I’m calling RAINBOWDOLPHIN!
BOOKBEASTS AND RAINBOWDOLPHINS FOR THE WIN!
Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate, ArcheAge, and Everquest Next 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.