Past, Present & Future Insights with Merv Lee Kwai
January 2015 Merv “Khrolan” Lee Kwai joined the ArcheAge team as Producer. Fast forward to July 2017 team adjustments occurred introducing a new Community Manager (Joe “TheBlueMuzzy” Brogno) replacing Seraphina “Celestrata” Brennan who was deservedly promoted to Associate Producer.
Since these changes we have seen a little less of Khrolan on Trion Worlds Friday Twitch livestreams so I wanted to spend a little more time catching up with Merv Lee Kwai and seeing if we could share any more news relevant to 4.0 and the future of ArcheAge while also getting to know him a little more.
MMORPG: Is there any/many differences between the Western 4.0 update of ArcheAge and the Korean version? Are you able to share what they are if there are any?
Merv: There are many differences between all the regional versions of ArcheAge. Most of them have to do with the marketplace and distribution methods for items therein. The NA/EU regions have the most conservative of all the AA marketplaces and that’s mostly due to our commitment to provide as many gameplay methods to obtain marketplace items as possible. I think it’s also important to note that our release version of Maelstrom will have benefited from a minimum of four hotfixes that were applied in KR after XL released 4.0 originally. Lastly, we’ve gone back and forth on Lunagem changes. We originally asked to receive a deconstruction method AND the ability to socket pre-4.0 lunagems. We’ll go live with the second option and that’ll probably be the largest gameplay difference between the regions.
MMORPG: If there are any differences who determines them? Trion Worlds or XL Games? What would be the reason to have such differences?
Merv: It’s a collaborative effort and it’s always been that way. Sometimes XL identifies gameplay issues they experienced during the original KR release so they propose changes to the systems before we ultimately get them. Other times, Trion may identify a system that has too much RNG or is exclusively designed around the marketplace and we’ll suggest an approach that favors long-term progression over randomness or a less aggressive monetization design.
MMORPG: Would you able to share with us any data on race popularity?
Merv: Dwarves were favored in most ArcheAge regions. However, the NA/EU split has the race division much closer. For us, Warborn are favored only slightly over dwarves.
MMORPG: What is the most played Skill tree?
Merv: It varies from release to release but Battlerage has always been heavily played. Darkrunner is one of the most used archetypes of all time.
MMORPG: Do house addicts have any more to look forward to in 4.0, than we already know?
Merv: There are a lot of great features for our “lifestyle” players in the Maelstrom release. I’ll pick my 3 favorite, in order:
- THE ABILITY TO ROTATE PLACED HOUSES. Sure, it might sound insignificant but it’s kind of a big deal. Also a bit of closure there for me – we’ve been asking for quite a long time.
- The footprint for multi-purpose aging larders has been reduced to about the size of a seed bundle.
- This might be a spoiler but there’s an awesome “Nutcracker” physical décor piece that can be obtained with tokens from the upcoming 2017 Winter Maiden festival.
MMORPG: After what I have fondly dubbed "the year of the corgi" in ArcheAge I have to ask why isn't there a Corgi mount yet and are you personally a fan of Corgis?
Merv: As you know, Trion has a dog-friendly (pet-friendly, really) workplace. I’ll never forget the image of the XL team playing with Kirby during one of their first visits years ago. I’m happy that ArcheAge could be included in the long-standing tradition of incorporating corgis into our games. I’m definitely a fan of corgis but am also allergic to dogs. /sadface.
MMORPG: What is your favorite event, race and skill tree?
Merv: Rum Runner Rapids has a special place in my heart, but only for the first or second time down the river each year. I played a Nuian during alpha, an Elf at original release, a Harani during 2.0 Fresh Start and a Warborn at 3.0 Fresh Start – so no favorite race really. Without a doubt, my favorite skill tree is Archery… during the good times and the bad, through sickness and health, until death do we part.
MMORPG: As a sandbox ArcheAge has one of the most intriguing set of game mechanics that affect an entire server. For 4.0 will every shard with its current population be able to enjoy all the content 4.0 has to offer? If not, what do you hope 4.0 brings to help this or if so what is it that 4.0 offers to ensure its players get maximum enjoyment?
Merv: Every ArcheAge server has a unique personality defined by its community. Some favor the East, some favor the West and others are dominated by nations. Some servers are dramatic, others are cooperative and a few are really set in their ways. We went through Evolutions earlier this year and that shook-up the sandbox a bit. 4.0 doesn’t have any new systems that require a large number of people (multi-raid system aside) so yes, I think all servers will benefit from the content available in Maelstrom.
MMORPG: New Fresh Start servers are a hot topic that look to be slated for discussion in 2018. Does this mean Fresh Start servers are successful and would a new Fresh Start server come with a completely different set of mechanics again?
Merv: Fresh Start servers successfully reinvigorate ArcheAge and bring a lot of our founders back into the fray. We always consider how Fresh Start servers impact our valued legacy players as well. I’m committed to shaking up the meta every time we release a new Fresh Start server and there has been a lot of exciting news from Korea this week about what might happen in the future. We’ll have to see how their progression-based Fresh Start servers perform and that result will inform our decisions about whether we’ll use that design in our regions. Regardless, the meta will shift, due to the larger scale item distribution changes in 4.0 and successive updates.
MMORPG: I personally would like to see a subscription server completely stripped of the store with the ability to earn cosmetics (costumes, mounts, gliders) rapidly because I would die without them, they are so good. What would be your ideal next Fresh Start server?
Merv: I think we all have plenty of ideal servers that we’d love to see. But whatever the final decision is, it’s going to be a team-effort between Trion and XLGAMES to find what works. Maybe we will take a good look at the aforementioned progression-based Fresh Start servers, or maybe there could be something new!
MMORPG: For new or returning players it can often be overwhelming to consider playing such an in-depth, game in established communities. Will there be any return/new player incentives implemented leading up to and for 4.0? How do you recommend someone approach ArcheAge if they wish to get the most out of content today starting from scratch?
Merv: We’ve provided leg-up gear kits (Soulforged) from time-to-time, mostly on top of major releases. Those help a bit but the gear disparity of new vs. legacy players has always been a challenge. The most successful new ArcheAge players join large communities in the early game and are supported by their guild until they reach a point of competition. But, if you’re a fan of those types of offerings… you may want to check out Maelstrom’s launch.
MMORPG: My favorite content after land conquering and care is ocean content. The new Bloodsalt Bay content looks awesome but are there any new ships coming with 4.0?
Merv: There’s a really awesome traditional Korean-themed warship that’ll be added soon. The original scope was to introduce it as an honor reward at the release of Maelstrom but there are some functionality issues that prevented us from adding it. Hopefully we’ll see it soon!
MMORPG: What do you personally enjoy most about ArcheAge?
Merv: PvP. I’m not that great at it but I’ve always loved the large-scale open world battles. Some of my best memories include contesting Kraken for hours with an impressive arrangement of ships and player roles. Halcyona’s Golden Plains battle during the first week or two of a fresh start server is an absolutely chaotic amazing experience. Secret tree farms, Freedich Island ninja runs and land rushing strategies.
MMORPG: ArcheAge is also fascinating to consider as a team from publishing with Korea, then the fact the team is divided between Redwood and Austin. As the Producer how easy is it to ensure each day's priorities?
Merv: It’s a big job behind the scenes, but the people who work on the game are an extremely passionate bunch. We’ve gone through some really great moments and have endured our share of heartaches. It’s the closeness of the members on the team that mitigates the physical distance of the production logistics.
MMORPG: In 2013 publishing an MMORPG from East to West was relatively new. Is there anything you wish current Khrolan could tell 2015 Khrolan when you joined the team in preparation for being a publisher for Trion Worlds and ArcheAge?
Merv: I’d like to think some important words of wisdom would be exchanged like “please just totally avoid #dolphingate” or “legendary is good enough.” But future me would tell past me to stand strong, always persevere and to dye the gray hairs before everyone realizes how bad it’s gotten.
MMORPG: Most daring question last. Is it true you are on Trion World's Friday livestreams less because dancing is the trending activity by your team on camera and your dance skills might not be as good as the current community manager TheBlueMuzzy?
Merv: Real talk: I know my limits. Muzzy or Socke could out-dance me any day of the week. After two years of weekly Friday streaming I decided to pass the torch on to the current crew. But I do miss it now and again.
Thank you Khrolan for taking the time to chat with us especially during these busy weeks wishing you and your team all the best with ArcheAge 4.0 Maelstrom.