ArcheAge's Labor Points Are A Good Idea, With So-So Implementation
ArcheAge has had its share of problems, but while many of them are technical in nature – queues, hackers, botters, DDoSes, etc. – some are tougher to address. It's one thing for players to be upset at technical issues; those are present in every MMO launch and can usually be overcome. But when they take issue with a fundamental game mechanic, something that can't be changed without a major overhaul of how the game works, then you have a bigger problem, one that can't be addressed with a simple patch or additional servers.
Labor Points in ArcheAge are unpopular with a large portion of the population. To recap, you need LP to do most of the PvE “sandbox” aspects of the game, such as crafting and performing trade runs. (PvP, as far as I know, is unlimited.) You have a limited number of LP, and they regenerate slowly when you're online and even more slowly when you're offline – and if you're not a patron (i.e., subscriber), they don't regenerate at all when you're offline.
Let's set aside that last bit for now. Suppose that LP did regenerate at a suitable rate for everyone, but that you would still be limited in how many of the aforementioned activities you could do per day. Is this still a good system? Is restricting how much you can craft per day a good idea?
Many people would say “no.” MMOs are about doing what you want, when you want, and a system that artificially restricts how you can play is an abomination. It's a travesty! It's some plot by the devs to artificially slow down our process and/or steer us toward the cash shop!
The only thing is... virtually every MMO does this.
The most commonly encountered such system is raid locks. Many MMOs only let you do top-end content once per week. Why? If I want to raid every night, why can't I? This MMO isn't letting me play the way I want to play!
The primary reason, naturally, is to draw out the play experience. If you could raid every night, hardcore players and guilds would have all the top-end gear in a month. This was obviously a bigger issue when every game had a subscription and the makers of the games wanted to keep you in the game longer to keep collecting that monthly fee, but even with free-to-play games being the norm nowadays, companies want to keep you in the game longer so you're more likely to spend.
Another reason for raid locks is to level the playing field a bit. Most people don't have the time to raid every night of the week. But some inevitably would, and if they could, they would gain a huge advantage over their “casual” counterparts. Again, with things like open-world PvP being all but gone these days, the only “advantage” the super-hardcores would get is bragging rights, but it's still some sort of issue.
You might make the observation that “top-end raiding” in most MMOs isn't the same as “crafting and trade-running” in ArcheAge – or is it? What's the end goal of a typical raiding MMO? I'd argue it's acquiring the best and shiniest loot, typically through raids. As that's the primary reason for playing, it's restricted, while lower-end gameplay, like crafting and PvP arenas, isn't.
So what's the end goal of ArcheAge? Some could argue it's similar – acquiring goods and gear and gold – but that's done less through raiding than it is through the sandbox-y elements of the game: crafting and trade-running (at least in theory). If you could earn as much income through those activities as you pleased, you'd likely master the game in a month and not feel the need to play again, not to mention how quickly the game's overall economy would be fubar-ed. Thus, just like the raids, it's restricted.
Of course, you can buy Labor Potions in the ArcheAge cash shop to replenish your Labor Points, which also rubs some people the wrong way. In my analogy, it would be the equivalent of being able to spend money to reset your raid locks – which at least one F2P MMO does. This also makes a certain amount of sense for a F2P game. Instead of keeping you on a strict weekly raiding schedule to draw out your subscription dollars, it lets you play for free – but you can do more raids by paying. In essence, if you normally would pay for three months of a subscription to do 12 raids, they're OK with letting you do those 12 raids in a month or less – as long as you pay something akin to a three-month sub to do it.
To wit, I think Labor Points are a reasonable idea – that restricting how much you can perform the core gameplay of an MMO is something we've always had, but it's usually been in the form of locks on raids and other high-level content. How Trion Worlds and XL Games is implementing the system, with heavy restrictions on free players and limited or no offline regeneration, is much more debatable – and the solution isn't as simple as this – but the overall system makes a certain amount of sense. In a way, it's not limiting you any more than any traditional raiding MMO does.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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