So. I love me some video games. Not quite as much as I love books, but there’s a lot to be said for strapping on some armor that barely covers your lady bits and not really anything important and running out to kick some goblin/orc/whatever ass.
Fantasy games are my cup of tea. Although I can usually be persuaded to try out other genres of games, I rarely stay with them for long, preferring to get my elf back on. There’s one notable exception to this rule, but we’ll discuss that later.
I’ve worked in the game industry, so I feel for what game designers, publishers, etc go through to put a game on the market and that not everything goes as smoothly as originally planned. The best laid plans of mice and men, as you well know.
And now to the point!
The most recent offering on the market in fantasy gaming is ArcheAge. It is originally an Asian game being produced and distributed in the US by Trion. Trion made news when they first opened by going with the ballsy move of having three games in simultaneous production with no games out earning money. It didn’t totally pay off for them, but it did give us Rift, which doesn’t suck and is a fun way to spend some time. It had a few really great game innovations that I hope to see become standard features in future games.
Now, distributing and producing someone else’s game comes with a few caveats, one of which is usually that you don’t have a ton of control over content etc.
Unfortunately, I think that this is going to end up being a black eye for Trion.
Cause the game is fucking frustrating as all get out. This is a fairly significant statement from me, because as with movies, my usual rating criteria for anything is “Does it entertain me?” and if the answer is yes, we’re golden. The problem that I have, is that while yes the game does entertain me, it also presents enough roadblocks to my game play and enjoyment that I basically want to claw someone’s eyes out.
We’ll start with the positives. I like the graphics. They’re pretty and not everything is brown, which is a pretty big deal.
The character creation is okay. It isn’t terrifically involved to the point where it takes me a good half hour plus to make my character, but it’s detailed enough to make me happy.
I like the way they’ve done the classes. You get the four main fantasy categories and from there you can customize your class as you wish as you level up and gain points to spend. It makes for a bit of variety and you get to feel like you have a little more control over what your character is throwing around.
The mounts. Love them! They’re adorbs and your first one is for frees as part of a quest (if you don’t skip the quest like some folks *coughmecough* did).
Chris Evans’ biceps in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. No, this has nothing to do with the game, but they really should be mentioned at every possible opportunity, because Chris Evans. Seriously.
I don’t hate the questing system. It’s pretty standard. Go kill these things that are causing problems, etc etc etc. We’re on rails as opposed to being sandboxy, which is just fine for me. It isn’t one of the things that I get irked about.
Crafting! I love crafting and harvesting and all things related to. It’s fun to create. The system is involved enough to not be totally dull, but it isn’t like, say, Aion or Final Fantasy XIV pre-relaunch. Or even really post relaunch for that matter.
Free to play. There once was a time when I was all about paying a monthly sub for a game. No problem at all. Provided that said game held my attention and provided what I considered fair value for my money. As more and more games come out, I can’t afford subs for all of the ones that I am interested in playing, nor are they really producing a game that I feel deserves a $15 a month commitment from me. So free to play is a big selling point. And if I like something about the game enough to spend some money on it, woohoo.
The free to play model being used. I know, I just said that free to play was a good thing. And it is. Provided that the model isn’t too restrictive and doesn’t give me the impression that I am being forced to give them money that I am not prepared to shell out. Unfortunately, that is exactly the feeling that I have about this game. For several reasons.
1) Labor points – Actions cost labor points. Harvesting costs labor points. Crafting costs labor points. Opening and identifying loot costs labor points (or it did in beta, I haven’t been able to get in long enough to see if this still applies without patron status). Without purchasing patron status, one earns a total of five labor points every 10 minutes of game play. That is, you must be logged in to the game in order to get labor points. Harvesting an iron node, costs 10 labor points. If the rare spawn special node appears after your initial iron gather, that’s another 20 labor points. 30 points total. 60 minutes of game time in order to get some iron. Don’t even get me started on the costs for crafting things. Even as part of a quest, crafting costs a significant number of labor points.
2) Harvesting/Crafting – As previously mentioned, these things cost labor points. One the one hand, that isn’t a terrible thing, if you spend a few hours questing and whatever, you have enough labor points to do at least some harvesting. Sort of. Crafting on the other hand. I did a quest wherein I had to craft a pair of gloves. It required 100 labor points. I couldn’t complete the quest until I was ready to move to the next quest hub. Frustrating.
3) Houses/Farms – I like houses. I am crap at decorating them, because I have like zero artistic ability when it comes to any sort of visual. Even my stick figures are sad. I’m okay with this. My house ends up looking a little like an antique shop with crap crammed in every available corner and no real rhyme or reason. But I still like to have the house and I still like to make stuff to cram into my corners. I also like (as mentioned before) harvesting. Having my own little farm and getting to plant things/have livestock, gives me a happy little tingle in my crafting place. So, it would seem that this really ought to go in the good category, right?
Well it would. Except for one little, tiny, annoying ass detail. You can’t own any sort of property unless you purchase patron status, which starts out at $15 a month. So, no house. No farm. Which then follows, no crafting in the cookery area with anything that can’t be grown on the public farms, which are severely limited. Which also means, no quest completion for any quest requiring you craft with ingredients not zoned in the public farm areas. Yes, I ran into this special little hell in beta and lemme tell ya, I was pissed. Like, I had to turn the game off and go read to get my happy back.
4) Queues – I get it. You don’t want to stand up a hundred servers at launch, only to have to consolidate in a month or so when people get bored and wander back to whatever other games they cycle through. That’s fine. But when you have people who can’t play your game without sitting in a queue for six hours (no shit on this, sometimes it takes this long), your game is really not going to do well.
Not only do you have to sit in the queue to play, you have to sit in the queue to create a character. Which means if you create a character on a server, after having been in queue for three hours, and it turns out that it is not the server that your significant other is playing on, you must then go to the correct server and sit in the queue for another three or four or eight hours just to CREATE A GODDAMN CHARACTER. And since you only have two (without paying for more, of course) you’re kind of fucked if he decides to move. Because in order to delete the character on the wrong server to free up that space? You guessed it. You sit in the fucking queue.
Which leads us to my ultimate rage.
5) Patron status – Basically you pay a sub to play the game. Which is fine. Believe me, I understand. It’s a business and ultimately they need to make money so that people stay employed and they can keep making games. I support this all over the place. My current favorite game, which also happens to be free to play, has hit on a model that has gained well more than $1000 out of us in the past year. Which, doing the math, is quite a bit more than they’d have gotten if we’d been paying a $15 a month sub. Even for both of us.
Patron status gets you: the ability to own property. You can have that house and that farm. If you can find land that wasn’t bought up during the head start and is being held for ransom by those folks who are charging stupid amounts of in game money for it. (Please note, that my SO caved and bought patron status, because he wanted the full game experience. He has discovered, on his server, that there is still property available, but you have to go out into the boonies to find it.) But then, there are assholes in every game. But, lemme just say, if I’m paying you money in your free to play game for something and I can’t get it? You need to give me back my gorram money. In an actual fucking hurry.
Patron status gets you: more labor points. You earn at twice the rate while online AND you can even earn labor points when you’re offline at a rate of five points every 10 minutes. That’s not a bad deal. Cause you’re gonna need that extra labor to build that house. But is this really worth $15 a month? Fuck. No. Especially when the biggest reason (property ownership) for having patron status is not happening cause of a bunch of douche canoe fuck shovels. Oh and there’s nothing in the works to solve this problem. So basically, it’s “Yeah, we know you’ve paid us x number of dollars, but too fucking bad”. That doesn’t really bode well for my relationship with this game. Just saying.
And on to my number one beef with Patron status.
Patron status gets you: the ability to bypass the queue and log directly into game.
So with the current status of the queues (and let’s not forget that I can’t create, delete, or play a character on any server without waiting for three, four, or six hours in a queue) I cannot play the game. Because after six hours of waiting in a fucking queue, you can bet your sassy little hinie that I have found myself something else to occupy my time. Like another game. That doesn’t force me to buy a $15 sub to play a free to fucking play game.
This feature especially makes me feel like I am being forced to pay money to play a game that advertises as free to play. A game that advertises as one of its biggest selling points, the crafting and housing systems. That you cannot experience or experience fully, without giving them money.
No matter how much I like aspects of this, I cannot and will not give them a fucking penny of my money, simply because I feel like they are trying to force me to spend. Rather than give me a game to play and then give me some really attractive things that I WANT to throw my money at them for, they are essentially charging a monthly fee to play a game that they’ve advertised as not having a monthly fee.
There are some cool things about the game, and I pretty much enjoy it. However, I will not be spending my time or my money on it, because they’ve put in place some douchey fucking policies that make it a waste of my time and a rip off in the bargain.
I’ll save my money on this and find somewhere better to spend it. Like at Starbucks.