If you don’t already have a PAX Prime day or weekend pass, you might want to avoid reading the rest of this article, because it will probably make you a bit envious of those of us who do. Then again, you’ll get to see everything that’s at PAX for yourself through our lens, so don’t worry too much.
PAX Prime 2011′s keynote speaker, major exhibitors, and concert performers have been announced in an email blast sent out this afternoon. Here’s the scoop: David Jaffe is doing the keynote speech, 2K Games, Activision, Bioware, Capcom, NCsoft and Turbine will all be exhibiting (we’ll bug 2K about its cooperative efforts with XLGAMES), and a bunch of videogame music powerhouses will perform on stage at night after the convention closes (unfortunately the Protomen aren’t on the list).
If you’re going to PAX, leave a comment!
The full press release can be read after the break…
Welcome to the final part of our ArcheAge CBT3 review! It’s been a long journey this past couple weeks, and we want to thank everyone who stuck by us and helped make CBT3 successful and productive, including everyone who took screenshots or livestreamed their gameplay. Together we managed to get a whole new group of people interested in this wonderful game. Thank you.
Now, on to the stuff that you guys have probably been the most excited about since it was announced: building stuff and sailing things. We saved the best for last!
Gathering Materials, Crafting, and Labor Points
To make anything in ArcheAge, you need materials. There’s no “god” material like Aion’s “aether” that can be transmuted into other things, so there’s no shortcuts gatherers can take to amass a quick fortune. You’ve got to pick apples from an apple tree if you want to bake something with apples in it. Cut down trees for wood, mine for stone, ore, and minerals, etc. Everything make sense, everything has a place and time and order and use in ArcheAge’s crafting system. Everything costs labor points to harvest or craft.
Real quick, let us define labor points for those of you who are learning about this stuff for the first time: labor points (LP) are one of ArcheAge’s three main character statistics, alongside health points (HP) and mana points (MP). Literally LP is displayed right next to those two stats near the top of the screen.
Labor points increase rather slowly, at a rate of around one per every ten minutes or so, even while you are signed out of your character. Labor points decrease much quickly. Some things, like crafting a simple item, cost 1 LP to do. Other actions, like mining, cost 2 to 3 labor points each attempt, depending on the difficulty of the task (mining minerals is more difficult than mining stone).
There’s some cool details in ArcheAge’s gathering system that we noticed while playing during this beta test, including how mining nodes and tree cutting work.
First off, there’s three stages of mining nodes: fresh unbroken stone, broken stone with ore showing, and broken stone with minerals showing. If you see an unbroken mining node and you need stone, go break it up and keep on walking. If you need ore too, wait a second or two and the mining node will crack open like a geode and show off the metallic ore, which you can also mine. If that’s all you need, go find the next mining node and start over again. If you need jewels, however, stand around and wait a little longer. If you’re lucky the metal ore node will disappear and be replaced by a mineral ore node.
Second, trees give different amount of logs based on their size. If you cut down a young tree, it might give you one or two logs. If you cut down a larger tree you’ll get two to three logs. It pays to be patient.
Before you go off thinking this is some kind of divine gift to bots and farmers, pause and do some math. Even if every labor action in the game cost 1 LP, which they don’t, you’d quickly exhaust your supply of labor by just gathering materials on one character. “So what?” you say. “Just sign on a different character and keep going!” We tried this, and it doesn’t help much.
We used up around 1000 labor points to build a boat by gathering mats, upgrading mats, and finally putting the boat together. CBT3 accounts were limited to 4 characters each, and newly-made characters only start with 10 LP. Once you use up all your characters LP, you might as well just go to sleep for 17 hours until your points are recharged. “Why not just have a second account?” You’re going to pay for that? Really?
No, labor points are meant to be used sparingly, thoughtfully. You’re supposed to think before you waste your character’s labor power on chopping down an apple tree instead of harvesting from it (yeah, you can do that). You’re supposed to put your own character’s labor up for sale, sell your LP to the highest bidder so he or she can get her house or boat built in a reasonable amount of time, etc.
Labor power is one of the few things that makes ArcheAge truly unlike most MMOs. We like it.
Building Houses and Boats
Building a boat or a house isn’t easy, and we didn’t have time or labor power to do both during CBT3, so we chose to build a boat. Why? Because boats come with cannons pre-installed. Houses don’t. Boats also allow you to sail between the two currently-available continents. Houses don’t float very well, so you can see our decision was practically made for us.
Regardless of whichever one you decide to build first, both houses and boats consume quite a bit of materials. Houses need stone blocks, wood, and a few other mats and a nice chunk of labor power to construct (we saw a lot of half-constructed homes while out gathering materials for our boat). Boats need refined metal ores (iron, tin, copper), wood planks, and flexible cloth.
Refined ore has to be made from multiple bits of raw ore, wood planks are made from multiple logs, and flexible cloth is crafted from rough cloth. Ore has to be mined, trees have to be chopped down to acquire logs, and mobs have to be killed to acquire hundreds of rough cloth scraps (that step took the longest).
Once you’ve gotten all your materials gathered (takes quite a bit of LP) and refined (also takes quite a bit of LP), then you have to take them and the boat plan you bought from the dock manager to someplace with reasonably deep water clear of obstructions. You click the plan and place a construction dock in the water, much like aiming a cannon but without the firing arc, and then swim out to it.
When you manage to get on or near the dock, the boat’s construction can finally begin. In the video above we got quite a bit of free help from bored CBT3 testers with nothing better to waste their LP on than building our boat, but otherwise we would have used quite a bit of labor power at this point. At release I doubt people will be so generous with their time and energy.
After you complete construction of the boat, it is launched with great fanfare and the item to summon it is placed in the owner’s inventory. This is fine with us, since there’s literally not enough water for every player’s boat to be stored while they’re away from it.
Exploring the Sea
We saved our favorite section for (nearly) last. That’s right, we at ArcheAge-Online.com think sailing ships all over the deep blue/black sea was the most fun thing you could do during CBT3. Why? Brace yourself.
Freedom. Sailing a ship, exploring the unknown, discovering deserted islands or pillaging remote villages, this is the stuff children dream of, the kind of basic human desire that pushes people past the accepted limits of reality and puts human feet on the moon. We might be getting a bit too philosophical for our own pants here, but that’s honestly the best explanation we can give.
Owning a ship and sailing it wherever the heck you want, doing whatever the heck you want…it’s a pretty literal dream come true. Most people will never own a boat in their life, much less go wherever they want whenever they want. We did it all.
So the first time we set sail and passed the invisible swimming boarder (players trying to swim out into the open ocean eventually get teleported back to town if they pass a certain point), we went a little nuts on the inside. The first island we discovered was already inhabited, but it looked cool with it’s little wading pool and three lonely houses. We wondered if the people who built their houses on the island knew or even cared about each other. Then we noticed the next island off in the distance, shrouded by the most realistic storm clouds we’ve ever seen rendered in an MMO.
That’s where this video ends, but we explored much further in a later video, which we’re uploading right now. It should become available within a day or two.
While we wait for it, let us summarize what happened on subsequent trips into the open ocean: we discovered island after island, all of them inhabited by players who had constructed their boats and houses quicker. The stormy island we mentioned earlier was actually a pirate outpost (no pirates to be seen at the moment, however), as evidenced by the shrunken corpses hanging from scaffolding surrounding the island’s steep cliffs. The sea between the two playable continents seemed smaller than we expected, but we cough that up to buffed boat speed during the last day of testing (when these videos were recorded).
Graphics and Glitches
If you were wondering what our test computer’s specifications were, here they are. Be aware that this is classified as high or medium-level setup, so lesser computer should also play ArcheAge just fine.
Just a few things prevented ArcheAge’s CBT3 from being glitch free. We’ll list them here really quickly, since they’re not the most horrible things in the world and don’t require entire paragraphs to explain.
- Major graphic slowdown in some areas, sometimes inside towns/cities but also in the field, which we attribute to clipping errors when certain rocks or trees intersect with buggy geometry.
- Mobs reset too easily, often while standing right next to them.
- Mob/mount pathfinding was horrible.
These problems will most likely be sorted out by CBT4.
In summary: we had a lot of fun and learned a lot of new things during CBT3. ArcheAge looks to be well on its way to being a strong game in Korea and probably abroad, if XLGAMES continues to improve it.
Thank you for reading! Tell your friends about ArcheAge!
Equipment, Items, Drops, and Quest Rewards
Gear in ArcheAge isn’t easy to get unless you buy it from stores or get it from quests, and gear from those sources normally isn’t that great. The best gear is crafted and upgraded with enchantment stones, and good gear (green, blue, etc.) is also rarely dropped by mobs. If you get lucky, mobs will also drop the stones that you need to upgrade your existing gear.
Unlike some other games, you can literally wear and wield whatever you want in ArcheAge. Want to be a axe-toting mage? Then do it, but know that your spells aren’t getting any extra power from your weapon like they would if you were carrying a staff. Want to play a warrior who wears priestly cloth robes? ArcheAge won’t stop you. However, know this: the more of one type of armor you wear, the better the armor performs.
Quest rewards normally consist of either food, potions, or gear, and food’s probably the best out of those three. Why? Because food gives some of the best buffs in the game, there’s so many types, and it takes a fair amount of ingredients to craft (easy to get if you plant a garden outside your home, however). Quest gear isn’t the worst in the world, and a lot of people will probably be using it because it’s easy to get. We just hope they don’t mind running around in shorts whose name translates to “An Old Soldier’s Pants.”
Rings, earrings, necklaces, and other jewelry are extremely rare to drop. We witnessed only one earring and one necklace drop (not for us, either), and the one necklace we stumbled across was a quest reward. If this drop rate holds true for retail release, crafting jewelry may be a big business in ArcheAge!
As for the question of why someone would bother to kill bosses at all if crafted gear is better than dropped gear: bosses drop mats to craft the best gear. There’s your answer. Now you have a reason to do both!
Exploring the Land and Getting Around
When wanderlust grabs you and doesn’t let go, there’s only one thing to do: explore until you run into invisible teleport boundaries, and then go running off in the opposite direction to do it all over again. This is what we did, and we’ve got to hand it to XLGAMES: when this world is finished, when all the sections of all the continents are ironed out and ready for virtual tourists, this world is going to feel huge. Bigger than big. Gigantic.
At the moment, however, the world seems a bit small, and it’s no illusion. Only certain sections of the map were available for exploration during CBT3, and if you tried to go past them, you’d start seeing graphical anomalies and eventually be teleported back to the nearest town. Is this how it’s going to work at retail? Maybe if you insist on traveling past of the borders of the world map, but otherwise there shouldn’t be any invisible teleporting barriers, so don’t be worried.
Regardless of your race, you’ll receive a completely free mount around level 4 and cherish it for the rest of your time in ArcheAge. Your mount will help you (and one other person, if need be) get from point A to point B in a fraction of the time it would take on foot. It isn’t just an item taking up space in your inventory, however. It’s a real, living entity, it can be killed and it doesn’t regenerate health when it’s not by your side.
You could go to battle while mounted, but it’s normally not the best option due to the lack of mount skills at start and the length of skill cooldowns. Mounts can be equipped with armor, level up and learn new skills (both for combat and travel) if you spend enough time killing things with them. You can summon or despawn your mount if you want, but it’s technically better to have it follow you around instead. Why? So you can jump on it immediately instead of waiting a couple seconds for it to appear. Really, our only gripe with XLGAMES’ implementation of mounts is that you can’t name them. Yet.
Other modes of transportation include mechanical carriages which roll through areas at nearly the speed of horses and allow anyone hitch a ride for free, airships which fly above areas a little less than the speed of a mount but bypass all ground obstacles and take you from town to town, and in-town transportation that moves you from one side of a large city to the other extremely quickly.
It has been mentioned that players may be able to own a carriage and charge for rides, though why anyone would do so is beyond us (unless the carriages become considerably faster and safer than horses). As for airships, they are currently the best form of travel for folks who like taking screenshots, because they give the best view of the world XLGAMES has lovingly crafted.
Class Balance and Player-vs-Player Content
Let’s get this bit out of the way quickly: if XLGAMES tried to balance every class in ArcheAge, then we’d probably have to wait another five years before the game got released. Balancing classes in ArcheAge just isn’t going to happen, and it doesn’t need to happen, and anyone complaining about “balance” after retail is probably crazy. ArcheAge allows you to choose three professions and combine them to form a class. There’s no limitations. XLGAMES has given us players freedom to choose, and in doing so they’ve necessarily removed their hands from forcing a rock-paper-scissors class balance.
PvP during CBT3 wasn’t even close to what it is planned to be by retail. Few players bothered to kill each other outside of the 10 vs 10 battlegrounds, but some griefers would habitually destroy a rider’s mount (most mounts could be one-shot at low levels and there seems to be no penalty for doing so). The result was a lot of annoying running back to stables to get your mount resurrected.
Retrievable PK blood splatters were implemented and working during CBT3, as was the trial and prison mechanic, though they’re probably not finalized. We didn’t get to personally experience any of that since we (sensibly) didn’t bother to go on a murdering spree. Remember, blood can only be picked up by someone who’s not the victim, so make some friends before getting yourself killed!
As for battlegrounds themselves, they were mainly for fun and bragging rights during CBT3. How battlegrounds work is this: you get spawned into an instanced map with (hopefully) 19 other players, thus forming two teams of 10. The objective you’re given is to basically carry out a 15-minute arcade FPS-style deathmatch, where every kill gets you a certain amount of points (100). You get 500 bonus points for staying alive the whole match, 500 for killing the most people compared to the rest of your team, and 500 for killing the most out of everyone in the deathmatch. At the end of the 15 minutes the team with the most points (most kills) wins and its members are awarded an extra 1000 points.
The physical battleground itself is the interior of a castle. Scattered crates give players cover from spells and cannonfire that come from above. The cannons are reachable by ladder and not very flexible in their firing arcs (also seemingly underpowered during this beta test). If you manage to survive long enough to kill a few players, you can unlock special skills/summons like clockwork sentry turrets and minibosses to send against the enemy (as seen in the CBT3 trailer).
We could include ship vs ship battles in this section, but they were sufficiently awesome enough to earn their own paragraph in the next part of this review!
Also, if you’re wondering why we didn’t talk about sieges, it’s because they weren’t ready for this test.
- Gathering Materials, Crafting, and Labor Points
- Building Houses and Boats
- Exploring the Sea
- Graphics and Glitches