Preview: Fresh Starts Getting "Fresher" in ArcheAge: Revelation Update Coming Dec. 10th
Sometimes it's just too easy to rag on Trion Worlds and particularly ArcheAge. From the whole "it's not us, it's XL Games" PR at launch, to verbal snafus that cause a ruckus, and to the general mishaps that seem to have come with most content launches, it all can sometimes make Trion an easier target than most.
I'm not here to say that the upcoming Revelation update for ArcheAge (generally referred to as "3.0") changes all of the past or even claiming that the launch will go smoothly, but I am here to say that I am actually very impressed with at least one very big aspect of the upcoming expansion.
This week I spent some time with Senior Producer Merv Lee Kwai and Producer Amanda Fry checking out and chatting about the content coming to ArcheAge on December 10th when Revelation launches. Now, ArcheAge fans, please don't get too angry at me for short-changing the actual content portion of the coming expansion. There's quite a bit for players to experience, such as the new massive zones full of new housing opportunities, PvE content, new races in the way of Dwarves for the West and Warborn for the East, the new Abyssal Skill system for players to continue advancing their character at max level, Loyalty Store changes, and so much more. It's a large update that you can hear all about in the video above and read about in October's Producer's Letter.
While my preview did receive a rundown of this new content, I didn't see much (actually any) of it besides the Abyssal Skills window, to really dig deeply into the content itself. What I did learn a lot about (and may have escaped the attention of many players past and present) is just how much Trion Worlds and XL Games have teamed up to really change the way Fresh Start servers work and how literally all of the changes have come about because of player feedback.
When we say "Fresh Start" in ArcheAge, it's easy to get that confused with Trion spinning up some new servers with zero players giving you the opportunity to enter an untouched world. While that is the case, it doesn't stop there like it would in most other MMORPGs. Fresh Start servers in the past have been a bit of a "hit and miss" proposition for Trion Worlds. With mixed-up launch times between EU and US servers, poor timing on launch in general, and other issues, Kwai will be the first to admit that Fresh Start hasn't been the ideal solution in the past that it appeared to be. This time around though a lot is changing.
How so? Let's start off simple but in no particular overall order.
Player Complaint #1: While "Fresh Start" is a new server, so many progression items (like Loyalty, Labor, and Credits) are gained at the account level. This means that while a Fresh Start character may be "new" in and of itself, the account would trigger benefits on that character that a true Fresh Start account wouldn't receive.
How it's Being Addressed: This time around, "Fresh" means exactly that. Fresh not only as in "new character" but as in "new account." While this may be a bit of a pain in the ass for existing ArcheAge aficionados, it truly keeps your Fresh Start experience and your Legacy experience separate and keeps totally new players in the same boat, benefits-wise, as experienced players. This also includes a ban on transferring since new accounts will be bound to either Legacy servers or Fresh Start servers and never shall the two mix.
Player Complaint #2: The Marketplace, while edited for previous Fresh Start server launches, still contained a number of items that could be used to fast-track progression on a Fresh Start server.
"It's a change of mindset for XL Games and for us to dial it back and do it the way our players have said they wanted it done for a while."
How it's Being Addressed: The Marketplace not only will have the same items removed as last time, but an additional level of removals will take place to remove items that speed up progression. Even codes that gave you items during Legacy promotions have been disabled for redemption on the Fresh Start Servers. Don't go looking for items that even enhance the rate at which you can gather up wood. The launch experience is all about making you earn what you want, just like everyone else. Things like cars and boats still exist, but you won't be able to mitigate the gathering of the materials needed.
"We've taken flak from these types of things in the past," said Kwai. "It's a change of mindset for XL Games and for us to dial it back and do it the way our players have said they wanted it done for a while. This is us dialing it back in response to that feedback. Yes, we will eventually add these items back into the Marketplace at some point but we are not locking ourselves into a date right now. We'll watch the servers and make that decision later."
Player Complaint #3: Faction Balance and Progression are way out of whack on Fresh Start Servers.
How it's Being Addressed: Character creation will be heavily monitored and restricted at certain times and progression will be changed if needed during monitoring to try to ensure an even progression to max level given some older content can now be run through rather quickly with gear and other enhancements that were released in updates after launch.
Player Complaint #4: Long-time players received no love or recognition for being long-time supporters during certain Fresh Start launches in the past.
How it's Being Addressed: ArcheAge founders will receive a code in their email that lets them obtain a Legacy Founder Lockbox. The lockbox contains (among other things) the costume Desert Assassin's Plate armor and Dawnbreak Dove Glider (gold in color, and a nod to the original glider in Founder's Packs). The lockbox is entirely cosmetic and thus can be used on a Legacy server or a Fresh Start server. "Players were right. We didn't give them a nod for their support when we should have, so this rectifies that this time around with items that aren't just useful or cool, but are also paying homage to items they remember from the beginning," said Fry.
Player Complaint #5: The server/update release scheduling and timing has sucked at times in the past.
How it's Being Addressed: First, EU and US server will have their own very specific schedules for this update's downtime and the downtime is scheduled so the update goes live on a Saturday (instead of the mostly normal Tuesday) so most players can jump on at launch time during the weekend rather than be at work for the land rush. EU servers will go down at 3 AM UTC December 10th and will come back up at 3 PM UTC on that same day. In the US, servers will come down at 1 AM PST on Saturday December 10th and come back up at 1 PM PST, again, on that same day. "Even if the downtime is completed prior to those scheduled times, we will just party until those times. They are set in stone, we will not bring servers up early," Kwai confirmed.
Servers will open one at a time every 10-15 minutes apart and a schedule will be released closer to launch. Be sure to follow that schedule if you plan to be part of the land rush.
"We've learned a LOT about the product over time. We wanted to make this Fresh Start update exactly what players have wanted in the past," Fry told me and I believe them. XL Games and Trion really seemed to have put their ducks in a row and changed Fresh Start to be more in line with what players thought it always should be.
Player Complaint #6: Land concerns, land concerns, and more land concerns.
How it's Being Addressed: Not only do the new zones in this update add basically 3,000 medium sized plots, but over the last two years Kwai points out that some players who left may not know that a lot has changed in the interim. First, security has been beefed up. In addition, players have been restricted to 2 "unbuilt" houses at a time. Kwai explained, "I think it's important that players see that their comments do not fall on deaf ears."
In closing, I asked Kwai and Fry about the recent Facebook terminology snafu that led to some backlash. The team explained that yeah, their post should have been worded a bit differently as it indirectly implied an idea they didn't intend.
"With complex systems, I advise new players to not get caught up in it. Whether it's building your first boat or house, play without the pressure of the internet."
Finally, I asked how ArcheAge should be approached by new players at this point. The game is much larger than at launch and is system heavy and can be a bit more complex. This can be daunting for newbies. What would they recommend as a logical approach for new players. "In my MMO experience, I compare ArcheAge to Star Wars: Galaxies a bit. With complex systems, I advise new players to not get caught up in it. Whether it's building your first boat or house, play without the pressure of the internet. ArcheAge is very communal so join a guild and there are groups on the internet that love to guide new players. Look for guilds that have tagged themselves in game as newbie-friendly," was Kwai's advice.
"Focus on playing the way you want to and over time you can add new layers and become more comfortable. It's about enjoying the game the way you want to," added Fry.
Overall, I was very impressed that so much player feedback seemed to be used in shaping the Fresh Start experience and was done in conjunction with a large update to the game's overall content. We'll have to wait and see if it works out the way ArcheAge players want though, so stayed tuned after the December 10th launch for an update.
Many thanks to the team at Trion for chatting with me and giving us the scoop as they head to 3.0 launch.
About the Author
Mike “Magicman” Byrne has been a part of the MMOBomb family for years and serves as the site’s current Editor-in-Chief. His love for MMOs and gaming in general has led him to covering games for numerous websites including Gamebreaker TV and XIV Nation where he proudly displays his fanboy flag for FFXIV:ARR.
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Fresh Start Servers
A fresh start server is described as "new" suggesting there is something different about it compared to the Legacy servers. There isn't and can't be because Trion would never consciously alienate its player base. Fresh Start servers, instead, open sources of income. If the Dev's can convince some players to move over to the FS servers, even abandoning their hard-earned assets on the Legacy servers and start all over again, it's an instantly produced "new" player, and they level up all over again, and continue to pay their subscription fee for several more years. Also, by preventing the servers from crossing over for the "players benefit", a seemingly noble action, it benefits Trion more so. Players who want to experience something "new" must create a whole new account which, in turn, creates more subscription revenue.
Trion makes a high percentage of its money through the marketplace selling highly sought after enhancements, upgrades and boosts. Very few are purely cosmetic. This has been an ongoing debate that has fallen on deaf ears at Trion. Why cut off a major source of income? So, the question is, will they really listen to the player base and eliminate pay-to-win items? Mr. Kwai's response, "Yes, we will eventually add these items back into the Marketplace at some point but we are not locking ourselves into a date right now. We’ll watch the servers and make that decision later." You and I know full well they will be added back in later because it's a major source of income.
Faction Balance and Progression
"Character creation will be monitored..." They're still going to use the "publish then nerf" technique of game management? There has to be a better method, one that doesn't punish the players every time Trion tries to balance the game mechanics. How about doing that BEFORE publish day?
Ms. Fry stated, “Players were right. We didn’t give them a nod for their support when we should have, so this rectifies that this time around with items that aren’t just useful or cool, but are also paying homage to items they remember from the beginning,” Folks, it has been more than THREE years after launch and you're just now stating this? It's a case of too little too late, which, since you mentioned SWG, was the exact mistake SOE made. That game is gone forever. Hasn't the Trion/Archeage team learned from the past mistakes of others? The history and ongoing mismanagement this AA team exercises has become Trion's reputation, an ever increasing one at that.
This topic has been loudly discussed and debated for several years now. No Mr. Kwai, our comments on this subject did fall on deaf ears, that's why so many left the game. Since we're comparing SWG to AA, SWG had a massive number of available lots for housing literally everywhere! Why hasn't the same land/housing system been implemented in AA? It's been so mismanaged that a whole unintended real estate market emerged throughout the zones on all three continents.
Mr. Kwai stated, "ArcheAge is very communal so join a guild and there are groups on the internet that love to guide new players. Look for guilds that have tagged themselves in game as newbie-friendly." Really?! I laughed out loud at that comment. Mr. Kwai fails to realize that AA is really Anarchy-age, that players can and often do "purple" each other just for fun or to take their assets. Guild members will turn on each other and steal their assets. Pirates (an intended game mechanic) roam the only waterways available frequently stealing player's assets. It has only been in the last year or so that player levels have dropped far enough that there simply is not enough pirates to steal all the cargo and packs being shipped. Newbie-friendly guilds?! Where?
It has become quite apparent that the producers are severely disconnected from the players in Anarchy-age. They hear the players comments but are misinterpreting the deeper meanings and then apparently think they know better anyway. It's an all too common point of view and one that sunk SOE and the beloved SWG. So apparent is the disconnect in communication that Ms. Fry stated, “Focus on playing the way you want to and over time you can add new layers and become more comfortable. It’s about enjoying the game the way you want to." Ms. Fry, when you have sheet-for-brains players who play "the way they want to" and cause negative consequences to me just because it's fun for them, I can't play the way I want to. When players can steal anything not tied, chained or fastened down, I can't play the game the way I want to. When players are so bored they resort to "purpling" anyone regardless of their level or gear score in areas I MUST enter to quest and level up, I can't play the game the way I want to. As a suggestion to Mr. Kwai and Ms. Fry, play your own game for about three to six months and be a fly on the wall. Read the chat, switch between servers, and experience the game mechanics yourself. Then you may be a better position to steer the Anarchy-age ship in the right direction.