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Making the Jump from East to West

William Murphy Posted:
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E3 2013 was the coming out party for ArcheAge online’s adventure into the Western market.  Beta signups for the Trion Worlds published edition of the game are now open, and the San Franciscan based company brought XLGames to the show in order to highlight an early localized build of Jake Song’s massive sandbox undertaking.  Ken Rossman and Victoria Voss were on hand from Trion Worlds to give us a nice overview of the game, while we also went behind closed doors with XLGAMES’ Kyoungtae Kim to chat about how the game’s been received in Korea, how the sandbox is making a comeback, and how players in ArcheAge aren’t just combat comrades… but neighbors in a living breathing world reminiscent of the golden years in Ultima Online.

The demo began by showing us the player housing, how estates won’t be built overnight, and resources come from the world around you.  You’ll plant the trees you harvest, vegetables you cook, and so much more.  You have to transport the wood you use to make your ship and by transport… I mean strap it on your back and hop on your donkey.  Everything in the game world is grown, made, and shaped by the players.  You can take your ship and sail the seas as a trader or a pirate: making money or taking it from those who have it.  Side note: you can ride your cows.  There’s nothing else I need to say about that, I think.

For those who aren’t familiar with the game, there are two continents that are safe from PVP.  But north of them, across the Sea of Serenity is the Land of Origin: ArcheAge’s big free-for-all PVP area.  Buildings can be built, razed, fought over, and sieged.  Alliances will be made and broken, friendships enriched, and enemies made.  The Land of Origin is where castles are built, tenants on your land are taxed, and riches are earned by the players with the gall and wherewithal to build up and hold onto their empire.  Additionally, it’s worth noting that XLGAMES has taken care to make the eastern safe continent reflect the eastern Asian aesthetic, while their western safe continent has a more medieval look and feel.

Victoria also showed off some of the game’s mounts.  There are traditional ground mounts, vehicles, and of course gliders.  The gliders can go stealth shoot arrows out of the front (on a cooldown), so it won’t be uncommon to see players gliding over the walls of a keep while stealthed and firing arrows on unsuspecting enemies. We saw the boats themselves in action, how players can actually take to the crow’s nest, hide in the belly of a boat man cannons, and so much more.  Naval combat will be just as much a part of the game as riding on your mount.  But Victoria was sure to stress that no matter what you want to do in ArcheAge, you can focus on just the tasks you enjoy.  Want to just farm and trade?  Go for it.  Want to just be a pirate?  No one may like you, but you can do it.  Want to build a budding housing contractor business?  The choice is yours!  But these are just a few of the mechanics you can expect to see in ArcheAge.

The big draw will be its sandbox nature, steering very far away from the tired “theme park” model.  Everything about ArcheAge screams classic Ultima Online, and we caught up with XLGAMES’ Kyountae Kim to talk about the Korean launch, and the revival of the sandbox mentality.  Kim told us that the initial success of the Korean launch was staggering.  Even as the Korean market for MMOs is shifting to more competitive eSports titles, there’s still a demand for new and interesting takes on the MMORPG.  The Korean players are sick and tired of the same old rehashed WoW-clones and in need of something refreshing.  ArcheAge filled this need in Korea and the reception has been fantastic.  However, they quickly realized that the subscription model is just as antiquated as the theme park model itself.  

XLGAMES’ solution, quite recently, was to drop the barrier of entry completely from the game.  Anyone and everyone can create and download the ArcheAge client and begin playing the game in Korea.  While this isn’t necessarily indicative of how Trion will handle the monetization here in the states, we found it telling how both the West and the East are seeing the rise of the F2P or hybrid model. Kyoungtae Kim believes that gamers in Korea are finally beginning to realize that a premium product can be offered as a F2P game, and that such models aren’t necessarily exclusive to the dredges of the gaming population.

What the team is most proud of is quite simply the reaction to the sandbox experience Jake Song and the rest of XLGAMES strived to create.  They watch every day as players migrate to warfronts in the Land or Origin, or how rebellious players latch onto living the life of a pirate.  They watch players spend countless hours just building houses, trading goods, or farming.  No matter what you want to do in ArcheAge, you will find a game mechanic that’s there for you to do it.  You can specialize in a certain aspect of the game, or be a jack of all trades.

The choice of what you do in the world and how you make your mark on it is completely your own.   In fact, they’ve been so impressed by how much players have delved into the littlest of systems like tree planting, that they now hope to expand on all of the littler mechanics to make them deeper and more robust in the future.  A large part of the future updates they expect to put out for ArcheAge is expanding upon existing features to make them even more compelling.  They want to give farmers more ways to enjoy farming, pirates more ways to be dirty, and builders more things to build.

Speaking on pirates, Kyoungtae Kim told us that one area they’re continuing to watch and make adjustments to is the piracy system.  Right now, the pirates are so active on the seas that they tend to keep the PVE and economy players away from ever stepping foot onto the Land or Origin. And so the dev team is working hard to find a way to balance things and make it possible for both types of players to coexist without ticking off either.

Finally, we asked Kyoungtae Kim what one thing he hopes Western gamers take away from ArcheAge as its build up to the American launch continues over these never several months.  It was a tough question, but what he really hopes players take from ArcheAge is that this isn’t just a world you’re going into to fight things and get loot.  Your fellow players won’t just be your combat army buddies.  Everyone in the world will be your neighbor, your friend, your enemy, and your colleague.  The experiences you make and the choices you make will shape the world in real and lasting ways, and they’re all very honored to have so many fans from North America comparing ArcheAge to the venerable and revered Ultima series.  They believe in giving the players systems and letting them create their own world, and that’s exactly what ArcheAge will do when it launches in the west later this year. Frankly?  We can’t wait to make our own mark.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.