Waiting and Wishes for Westernisation

Archeage is an absolutely huge project for Trion right now. It is a large risk to release an eastern mmo in the west as there is an inherent bias against them and many are overly critical about the way they are designed and the eccentricities they have. But, with a project this large there is a possible huge reward to doing it. Archeage could be the next BIG mmo, it has all the hallmark traits of a being great… the housing system alone is massive.

Now it was never going to be all puppies and profits for Trion as they are the ones tasked with tailoring this mmo to a new audience, a fickle and critical audience. With the amount of content Archeage has, enough that they were subject to one of the most longest running beta’s I have heard of it will keep them very, very busy. I am not sure how much of an influence Trion will be able to have over the game, usually with westernisation it mainly revolves around translation and tweaking the reward structures but here I hope they can do more. The need to take an active role in creating this mmo, it has been plagued with trouble in its initial release and already deemed to have failed by many in that market. It can be more and I hope Trion can do it.

So to help out, here are my wishes for westernisation

Saving A Soul

Games, and mmo’s in particular have a very rich soul to them. An essence which is undeniably unique to it and which captivates players and it is that soul which helps us feel immersed in a new world and ready to spend copious amount of time questing, killing, and creating. Archeage in its current form has a beautiful soul and it is one of the brightest I’ve seen in a long time. It’s call has cut through the busy media streams to become a game people have wanted for over a year now (and much more).

There are many reasons that people are very excited for this mmo from the east, mostly it seems like a world you could live in and that is a huge deal for an mmo. The world looks amazing, the housing and farming adds a lot of depth to it, the Terra-forming aspects to plant growth and even creating huge castles and structures has me squirming in anticipation. There are also many other mechanics that make it an mmo worth waiting for.

field

My main wish for Archeage is that it keeps the heart of its soul in tact, it has a rather quirky essence that we don’t often see in the west due to our penchant for big movie appeal and soloability but it is something I think people would really enjoy if they give it the time. I want this game, I don’t want a watered down version of it that appeals to the broadest possible playerbases, and I don’t want a game that would sell its wonderful appeal and aesthetic at a chance of cashing in on cash shop Items.

I also hope they don’t cave into the pressure and split the pve and pvp sides of the game into different servers. I know that is a hard sell in the west considering how much we hate people messing with our routines but having it in creates a world that feels more alive, dynamic and interesting. We, the pve and pvp players need each other as much as we would like to claim otherwise, having the two together creates a balanced world which is the way it should be. In most mmo’s I would say this is a bad idea but Archeage has a lot of mechanics that would control this chaos. The pirate system is a defined choice that has consequences, there is a unique criminal system as well as clues to capture people, and invulnerable areas for item storage and farming. Add maybe a bounty system and then it is a collection of systems that make pvp an interesting but important part of the world.

So please leave its soul in tact and I, and many others will be very happy for many years.

Changing Combat

Right now it really doesn’t look very good to the outsider. I haven’t played it so my opinion is next to useless but, even though the holy trinity system seems nice again it all just seems a bit stale…hmm I might have gotten to use to the “actiony” mmo’s of late. I don’t mind the abundance of skills for use, that is ok, but just the way it exaggerates having a certain rotation. Situational skills are important, right now they have the basics of a combo system and are working to make it more interesting and complex which I hope they can do. Depth to combat creates a very active community and encourages growth of the players rather than the  character.

The amount, frequency, and length of the control abilities in the game seems very excessive right now and with the level of burst it’s down right game breaking. Having these skills while fine for PvE is terrible for a PvP environment. The people who mostly engage in PvP hate the abundance of these mechanics, they are great in moderation but the overuse makes combat fell gimmicky. In an open world environment were you have pve players and lower level characters being stun locked to death it is not good and leads to more frustration than fun.

Balance needs a second look as going by what I’ve read there are only a handful of competitive builds out of the large amount of combinations. Not every build should be good, there should be a few ways that you can absolutely gimp your build but the system should be far more flexible than it is now.

Lastly the UI needs a overhall too as it looks really, really, REALLLLY bad. Improve the menu, the orientation and sizeability of the bars as well as the general aesthetic.

Ideal Investment

I said before that I really want to feel invested in Archeage but with the way development goes for mmo’s is that often enough they don’t really support it. Everything is just to easy to achieve which makes much of the achievements rather pointless. Archeage, while getting better doesn’t seem to be breaking that trend too much. I would like difficulty on dungeons and open world bosses to make a comeback of sorts. There should be places and content that are easier by design but there should also be content that challenges the individual and groups. I honestly want to see the addition of systems that Tera had in that there were a lot of group quests given that were rewarding to take and complete but that were not necessarily needed to progress.

The ease of leveling in modern-day mmo’s is another place where I would like Trion to diverge a little. Speeding through zones in a race to the end isn’t really conducive to feeling connected to them. When the process slows down and when you take your time leveling you often explore more, see things and experience things you normal wouldn’t have, and often enough form new connections with the community. it also place the emphasis on the journey more than the destination which is what mmo’s should be doing more often.

The value of items is once again all skewed as there is end game gear that never needs replacing as well as an abundance of useless drops. To preserve an items inherent value there needs to be more focus on maintaining these pieces. Having an immortal  item not only removes consequence in play but encourages that feeling of completion rather than growth, yet it can be more. It is the reason many quit upon reaching end game as you complete the content, get your gear, and then there is nothing left. There will of course be a certain amount of conflict involved in this, Firefall enacted a durability mechanic recently and not everyone was supportive…far from it but it is a necessary mechanic in terms of encouraging long-term play. There is a huge difference between it being restrictive and immersive and that balance is up to Trion to find.

Effective Economy

Another effect that slowing down the leveling process has is encouraging and fostering the growth of crafting and trade at all levels. This has the two-fold effect of creating more worth within the items in the level as well as materials gathered for them.

Apart from slowing down the leveling process the one thing Archeage requires is some sort of item degradation mechanic. Jake Song, the creator behind Archeage never really supported this even though it was suggested many years ago but for an mmo aiming to create a living, breathing, and immersive world it really should be a required mechanic. It is the foundation of a stable virtual economy. Items should not be immortal, and as I said before they should require a certain amount of maintenance in order to keep them from breaking or becoming temporarily useless. This should be for all items including houses, boats and castles and not just equipped gear. Now with dungeon orientated gear it does get a little tricky but I think there is a way to get around that by maybe having certain crafted items to repair these.

Balance in the crafting professions isn’t exactly equal at the moment either and from what I’ve seen, instead of farmville its cowville simply because breeding cows is the most profitable. There shouldn’t be one material that is more profitable by a large margin than anything else, secondly we should be crafting items with these gathered materials to gain maximum profit and selling to players instead of just gathering and dropping it off at the nearest npc.

cows

The other more fluff orientated Item I would like is for crafters to be able to mix a little more uniqueness into the items can create. During the process of crafting it would be nice if you could also change the pattern or skin of the item in different ways like creating a round shield instead of a square one. Having a certain amount of effort that goes into finding, creating, or researching these patterns too would then create a certain amount of value to these objects and even enabling certain crafters to become renown for their craft if the have a popular but rare pattern.

The question though is even if they are going to be able to enact any serious changes to the game and it’s mechanics. I assume the game proper is still the property of XL Games and that changing anything would involve a lot of communication between them. Also will Trion even employ a decent development team for the game and if so what will they be focusing on. I doubt with only being the publisher of the game that they would want to dramatically increase their overhead for the project considering that the majority of the profit will be going to the creators. I am concerned about Archeages’ future and Trion’s involvement but still very hopeful for it.

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6 thoughts on “Waiting and Wishes for Westernisation

  1. Some of those changes look very necessary, particularly the stun-lock and the balance issues. Others, though, would pretty much kill any serious interest I might have. I flat out wouldn’t play an MMO that allowed other players to destroy the house I’d built myself to live in. I can’t see that has any attraction for the builder whatsoever. I have enough issues building/decorating houses in MMOs already just knowing that the games may not last as long as I want to keep living in the houses!

    PvE and PvP on the same servers could work in theory but is there much evidence that PvE players want it? It sounds like a surefire way to stifle take-up of the game outside of a generally PvP-favoring audience. As for economies, I have never figured out why MMOs are so obsessed with them in the first place. It’s always seemed like completely separate gameplay to the adventuring I thought MMOs were about. The vast amount of developer time and effort that goes into trying to control virtual economies could be much better spent elsewhere or so I’ve always felt.

    Archeage is in a difficult position. It’s been in development so long that much of the excitement about it has worn off, especially with the bad press it’s been getting post-launch. At the same time what was once its USP, the melding of Themepark and Sandbox gameplay, has become the current industry fad and everyone seems to be set on making something along those lines. Trion look to have their work cut out with this one.

    • Well there are many pve areas for people to build there houses in already that keeps them from being destroyed, also with the two different continents for the factions houses in populated areas would be pretty safe as well. It’s mainly things on the 3rd continent that would be far more subject to destruction.

      The thing is though if your house is destroyed, it and all the items inside are returned to your inventory. You still need to rebuild it apparently but the vast cost involved in seriously reduced. Redecorating would be a pain though… I’d probably take a few screenies when i get it just right.

      I know having everyone on the same server is a hard sell for many, and I won’t lie that certain wolves do need sheep to slaughter but mostly I think it can enrich a world. I believe the game has enough in game tools to moderate it this time which is good so it won’t turn into a darkfall murderhouse. people will get ganked and I’m guessing from time to time there will be a roaming mob of enemies but I don’t think it will be as bad as people think. With the way the trade system works it actually creates a lively scene of merchants, privateers and pirates… who wouldn’t want that!

      It will turn away certain players but in the end the chaotic nature of player interactions is what makes mmo’s different then any other co-op rpg experience. I think it will still get more people then it would otherwise because of the focus on more freedom..and open world housing is awesome.

      I don’t think getting a virtual economy working really would be as hard as it seems the problem is that most mmo’s restrict how people gain gear and emphasise the importance of it. If this is limited and people constantly have to maintain items you have a recipe for a working long-term economy and not a imitation of one. An economy gives an mmo great replayability, I don’t expect Archeage to ever get anything close to the complexity of eve but a piece of that would definitely be good.

      It has been in development for a long long time and it still wasn’t ready, mmo’s never are but this one even more so. The third continent, castle creation and sieging, one of the big promotion points isn’t even open for play yet. I hope trion can add their marketing and development experience to this project.

  2. Was looking at a few westernized Asian MMOs over the weekend and noticed some of the trends that really really really annoy me are simply unfixable.

    The animation and graphics. The static poses.

    Looking at, for example, a trailer to TERA – when a female elf was running from the side her body is bent forward and her thighs push out really high like kicks while she runs by just bending the knees. Its artificial, obviously not motion capture.

    A more extreme version of this was in Scarlet Blade (look at gameplay videos if you can tolerate the um… “selling aspects” … long enough to watch. And back in the day I saw this in Perfect World and a few others.

    The characters have weird idle poses. Body language is a HUGE cultural tell. One of my favorite personal moments in this was standing on a street corner with some Korean and American friends in a rural city in South Korea in the 90s – waiting for a Korean American US Air Force friend to arrive. I was the only one who knew him. Both my Korean and my American friends spotted him a block away as he came down the street, despite him wearing clothes he’d bought locally in Korea.
    – His way of standing on the corner of an intersection, the expression in his eyes, and the way he walked all pegged him an American.

    The characters in westernized MMOs use idle animation styles that are Asian in theme, but Asian ‘mimics’ of western body language with certain aspects hyped up for emphasis.
    – Its like watching old ‘blackface’, but its not meant to be making fun of someone, its just that they view it differently.

    And then the Scarlet Blade factor kicks in: female anatomy has way TOO MUCH “animation”… O.o Even if the figure herself stands perfectly still… (One MMO even had my character look like she was frozen. No animation at all. Except for certain parts the moved quite freely…

    All of which becomes off-putting no matter how much you localize the language and move UI buttons around…

    Its not the grind that bothers so much. Anyone who accuses an Asian MMO of being a mindless grindfest need only look at the quest counter to get 25 ‘monster X hides’ in WoW or EQ…

    But its how they approach the grind, and my note above about animation cycles – these are the things that ‘quietly alienate’ players until they lose the ability to connect to the character.

    • I never really thought about the idle animations too much but yes, they do seem to be more of a characterisation of body language rather than being a reflection.

      Eastern mmo’s seem to over emphasise more than others but to me it seems more a problem with the gaming industry all together. The big booty and hip sway seem like a game wide standard rather than a rarity.

      Most games seem unnatural in their animations to me so one that does it worse than another doesn’t bother me too much, in fact I find it rather comical at times. Dead or Alive and it’s individual noob physics comes to mind. I have no idea if Tera was serious in its aesthetic, plus I only have fluffy popori’s so I never noticed Ed their animations much.

      I understand that it could be off putting though. Here, if Trion actually does have the permissions to alter game code they may be able to change these things as the are not just publishers and have a lot of development resources on hand. It would probably be very low on the list though.

      • A good way to see how much of an impact it can have on your play experience is in Second Life or Champions Online.

        In Champions you can pick your character’s stance – and it can suddenly make your character very alienating or very ‘this is me’.

        In Second Life, since all content is player made, you start with a toon that has zombie like animations (the default). and a basic shopping trip to say… an animator from the west, and one from Japan – and then trying each out. Each is made for people with radically different comfort zones / body image / conception of who the toon is.

        In trying the Eastern MMOs: I often get the impression the toon is designed to be eye candy and watched.
        In playing a western MMO: I get the impression the toon is designed to be something I identify with as me.
        – regardless of how the players themselves approach the characters.

      • Yeh I have seen that kind if stuff in Second life and it really helps to make your character more relatable.

        Western mmo’s do feel more natural, although that makes me wonder how the Asian players feel about their mmo’s when they are often a characterisation of Western stances

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