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I’ve been remiss on the blog. Been playing too much ArcheAge. Lots of playing, not much writing, but lots of thing to write about. I want to take this moment to talk about losing one of our guildies this week. We only have about 15 core members in the guild, and he was one of the most important. He was a content creator. He logged on, and did stuff. And people gravitated to that. He was a top pvper. He gave our guild credence. And he’s a great guy. He’s leaving not because he’s dissatisfied with the game, but because his internet ping in the wilds of New Zealand is shithouse. I told him to move to Australia, after all he’s just a miserable Scot, or is that a Geordie?

But he’s still on TeamSpeak which is a small consolation. Before leaving he handed out gifts and goodies. I was the most fortunate recipient of his largesse, an epherium squall cap and boots and most importantly, an epherium gale bow. The weapon is a very big deal indeed. There has been talk recently in ArcheAge that the weapon is everything, but until tonight I really hadn’t appreciated just how much. Our guildie logged on tonight as his ping was okay, and jumped into a major pvp battle against the dreaded reds.

And he did it in true Scottish style – he was naked. No armor, no clothes, just a big badass weapon that he hadn’t given away. And he murdered people. He raped the opposition. The kills piled up as I listened on TeamSpeak. It reminded me of Gevlon’s ‘Undergeared Project’ from a few years ago, but this was taking it to more of an extreme. The naked project, if you will. Except for the weapon.

ArcheAge is getting a new patch tomorrow in preparation for the increase in level cap to 55. One of the features of this major patch will be the release of obsidian weapons, better weapons than are currently in the game. I spent a lot of time levelling up leatherworking, but I think I should have concentrated on weaponry. You can have as much armor as you like but if you don’t have a similar weapon to strike back with, you better know how to really play your class.

And that is the key. I play a Stonearrow, which is a ranged dps with defensive capabilities. And If I hit an opponent with a certain combination of attacks, then I will shut them down for ten seconds with blanket silence and trip. They’ll be face-mashing their keyboard trying to attack with that big beautiful overpowered weapon that I just took away from them. Not many players know about these hidden class mechanics as they are literally hidden – the only clue being a small extra icon that you probably didn’t wonder about. ArcheAge has its problems and its detractors, but you can always compete with the credit card warriors if you know how. I like that.

I’d rather have my guildie back to steal packs off the reds in Austera though. Here’s to you, Mr Rip.

I suppose you’ve all heard the news of the demise of WoW Insider and Massively due to those corporate drones pulling the pin. For myself it was somewhat of a reflective moment; WoW Insider linked to me many times over the years, which always generated a crap-tonne of activity on the blog. And I honestly didn’t mind some of their writers, though many left me shaking my head at the screen in wonderment that people would actually get paid to write such rubbish.

Apparently not, it seems. Rubbish ultimately does not generate income. These sites have been closed for a reason and that reason is cash-flow versus cost. But barely have the ashes descended on these sites’ remains when news comes that the writers themselves intend to rise reborn with their very own replica sites, with sufficient crowd-funding from the masses, of course.

They’ll need it, and probably more than they think. But money won’t be their only big problem. All of these ‘creative geniuses’ and ‘unique and special flowers’ will have their own brilliant visions for what these new sites will do. Why they say so themselves:

“… We can choose which technologies we use in our content production rather than the media avenues provided by a parent company. We can generally be more agile. Free of our corporate shackles, we’ll be able to dive back into creating awesome content with renewed passion for what we do …”

Who is going to have the awesome job of keeping this mob in line with a single vision statement while bereft of the iron support of a parent company? Or are they going to go the route of becoming a Socialist Collective, where everybody’s opinion holds equal weight regardless of merit?

I’m expecting a launch that will get much fanfare in the blogosphere, (but little noise in the general population), followed by a hard fall into total failure. Which will be good for the blogosphere, for without these monolithic sites poaching our ideas and claiming them for their own, (which used to happen a good deal if we are all honest with ourselves), readers who want information on these games might be more inclined to come and seek us little bloggers out some more once again. The blogosphere should be celebrating the demise of these creatures, not wailing into the dying of the night.

My foray into the banal and obtuse world of Twitter is at an end. It is what I suspected it would be, a dumbing-down of complex issues to their inevitable 140 character lowest common denominator. And on top of that it adds a level of narcissism that I should have expected but nonetheless was taken by surprise. There is an old saying that goes something like this:

“Don’t argue with idiots because they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

Twitter goes something like this. A individual says something that you fundamentally disagree with. You point out the argument’s logical fallacies. Your opponent responds with ad hom attacks and strawmen arguments. Each side gathers in their respective allies to pound in on the “conversation”. Neither side really wins but retires convinced of victory and/or moral superiority. Further allies flock to each side’s cause by ‘following’ and ‘favoriting’ various people. The troops regather and battle lines are drawn once again.

On top of that is a high degree of hero-worshipping, bullying, and general playground nepotism within each camp. The playground simile is apt as the general behavior was barely above the childlike. It is as bad as I thought it would be and then some.

I dove in to try and support the GamerGate phenomenon. I still believe in its message, but the medium is tainted. But it matters not, as I will continue to support the good fight in my own little corner of the internet. To those that followed me I offer you no consolation. The longer you stay on Twitter the dumber you will become.

On the ArcheAge server in which I play, the East faction is significantly outnumbered by those in the West. I play in the East, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I enjoy being the underdog. There is no greater challenge than to play at a great disadvantage and still win. Our guild punches far above its weight, particularly as we recently changed things up. Ten days ago we put into action a plan that had been brewing for a while. Our guild had over 80 members, but the vast majority logged on and played the game without any interaction with their fellow guildies. This was unacceptable for two reasons – AA is a sandboxy game, and the more we cooperate as a guild, the better we do. And any player in the guild is a potential security threat. Who are these people logging on every day and positively ignoring the rest of the guild while they monitor our chat channels? Espionage is not unknown in this game.

So we pulled out the active player core and formed a new guild – Letter of Marque. The name represents how we intend to impact the game world. We are a privateering guild with a focus on trade. We aim to own the ocean in the evening Australian time. That means any red faction trade runs or fishing expeditions will have some problems. They’re already having problems now. Our raiding results are quite good, but when you take into account that we’re doing it with about a dozen players then you can stick an ‘indeed’ on the end of it. New players to our guild have to follow some basic and unyielding rules. You have to be on teamspeak when you’re playing as voice chat is where we organise our events. It doesn’t mean you have to blab away, but you do have to be in the loop. You have to be loyal and you cannot attack our own faction. We are not pirates, we are privateers. However, we do attack known elements of our faction who we know collaborate with the reds. This is unacceptable as is killing your own faction for personal benefit or griefing. There are a few green guilds firmly in our sights, (as in they’re kill on sight if we encounter them). There’s nothing worse than a traitor and our faction is full of them. Why?

Because we’re outnumbered and they’re weaklings who would rather roll over and suck up to the enemy instead of fighting it out. But like I said, I enjoy being the underdog as it makes victory all the more sweeter. And it’s why when the perennial argument concerning pay-to-win raises its head I really don’t understand what the fuss is all about. So some players want to spend wads of real life cash in order to get items that they’re too lazy or inept to get any other way. So what? They might have the ultra delph bow of crushing but inevitably they’ll suck at playing their toon. (I particularly like disarming players who rely on an uber-weapon for their greatness and watch them flail around for 10 seconds as they frantically face-mash the keyboard in an attempt to understand why they can’t use their big tough sword). And they’ll have to keep paying the monies to get the next weapon up as inflation starts to eat at the game.

No, make me the underdog any day. It’s where the real fun is. The type of fun that lasts for a long time.

I was traveling down a dusty road in ArcheAge when I happened across two trade packs lying in my path. A strange occurrence. Presumably someone had de-spawned their cart leading to the loss of their packs. They had been created in Silent Forest and I was in Falcorth, a tidy distance. I could have shouldered one of the packs and walked for a few minutes to hand it in for some tidy gold, but then I pondered the possibilities of transporting it across the ocean for many gilder starry stars, and I shouldered one of the packs and hauled it across to some land I own near the City of Towers.

In short, I got greedy. The pack lay there for days until finally I got around to it. I trucked it down to the coast, launched my clipper ship, and sailed across to the enemy continent. My destination was Cinderstone Moor, a hotbed of PvP bedlam. Just the other day I had been witness to two green tradeships belting into its harbor, pursued by a gigantic pirate ship and what seemed like 50 red players, (just to clarify, a green is an ally, and a red is an enemy). I got caught up in a massive PvP battle as every man and his battle-kitty fought over the trade-packs on offer.

Back to my adventure. I made it unscathed across the seas. Then I ran my clipper up the beach just south of the harbor. My plan was to stealth and sneak in the back-door, so to speak. Creep up the beach and around the back of some buildings and then I could pop the gilda merchant without fear of being discovered. I had already done this many times before. But this time, over-confident in my success rate, I got lazy. Creeping past the airship platform I noticed that my stealth had only 8 seconds remaining. The prudent thing would have been to wait in a corner, reboot the stealth, and then make the creep across the open area to the safety of the buildings. But like I said, I got lazy. My stealth dropped halfway across, I restealthed, and just at that moment a red rode by on his mount. He couldn’t see me, but he had seen me restealth and he had seen I had a trade-pack on my back. I made for the airship platform, my heart pounding in my headphones as he jumped around looking for me.

And then he caught me. It’s pretty hard to effectively fight as a kiting class when weighed down with a load that drops your movement rate by 70%. I died, and then I watched him shoulder that pack and hand it in himself for the reward. It was the first trade-pack I had lost in the game thus far, but I know it won’t be the last.

The trade-pack game mechanism is a stroke of genius on the developer’s part because it allows for and encourages meaningful open-world PvP. Players muster their resources to craft the materials to make the packs. Then they have a choice; play it safe and get an average reward, or roll the dice and try for a run through territory flagged in conflict? If you really want to get lucky you could load 20 packs onto a trade-ship and hope that you make it across without being attacked, boarded, plundered, and generally wiped on the ocean floor.

There is always something to do in ArcheAge, but more importantly, there is the constant opportunity to generate meaningful game content that results in genuine events. I’ll remember that little trade-pack adventure for some time, as will the lucky bastard who ultimately profited from me finding a pack that fell off the back of a cart.

It’s Xmas morning and I’m waiting for my wife to wake up so we can open the presents. Waiting a long time. Sure we had a late night at a little social do, but this is Xmas morning to open the presents for Chrissakes and doesn’t she know that I’m waiting patiently??

To hell with it, I’ll log onto ArcheAge. Yesterday I got my clipper ship. I only got it because I was chatting with guildies on TeamSpeak and someone mentioned that spending 50 gildas on getting a clipper was a serious waste of gildas when I could pick up the plan off the auction house for a cool 60 gold. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Sure enough the plans were there and I got myself a harpoon clipper. I had all the mats already to build both the dock and the ship, so I slung down my dock in the middle of Lutesong harbor and about 20 minutes later I had my very own clipper ship.

Time to sail the seven seas. I’m at level cap after hitting 50 a couple of weeks ago. When I hit 50 I asked in guild chat what I needed to do now and I got a most divisive reply:

“It’s a sandbox, you knobhead.”

Indeed it is. The clipper ship has been added to my large scarecrow farm and a couple of underwater aqua farms. I’m levelling a bunch of crafting streams as well as engaging in as much PvP as I can handle. The new gaming rig lets me have all the video settings at ultra-high and this game is the best looking thing I’ve ever seen, (wife excluded, obviously). The Duke of O joined me this morning from null signifier and I took him for a cruise on my new clipper, his first ocean adventure in the game. Then I handed him the wheel and he almost managed to steer us straight into a PvP fight between a trade ship and a bunch of red nasties. However, cool as the other side of your pillow, he managed to steer us back to safety after much heart beating from us both. I asked him why he hadn’t been spending much time in game and he admitted that apart from being distracted by WoW he’d heard so many bad things about the game from other bloggers that he’d stayed away.

I put him to rights. Trion might have fucked up the game for the whales and the players that were first in line, but the ultimate effect has been to create a level playing field for new players who missed the initial land rush. Land is cheap and plentiful and many guilds are steadily rebuilding after the Auroria debacle. The Trion stuff-ups have not effected me in the slightest. The game is brilliant, the player-base is healthy, the moron factor is low, and the amount of options available to pursue is so extreme that it just isn’t possible to do everything.

One of the other major hurdles to new players is that they are put off by the fact that this game mixes up subscription with free-to-play content. Let me get one thing straight for all those thinking this:

ArcheAge is not a subscription game. You may pay a fee for Patron status, but that is merely another aspect of the cash shop. Get it out of your head that this is a subscription game. It is a cash shop across the board. What aspect of the cash shop that you choose to partake in is up to you. I myself have patron status and I have so far purchased one apex for $10 which I sold in game for a cool 235 gold. That little gold hit has enabled me to position myself to make some very good gold. You have to have money to make money. In total I’ve spent $40 on this game so far. When you consider that TESO was a $85 box purchase and then the monthly $15 on top of it, ArcheAge is incredible value.

So a lot of bloggers reckon the game is crap. So what? I say it’s great. I also say it’s currently the best MMO going, and I’ve played a few. Don’t believe them and don’t believe me either. Get in and make up your own mind.

Now I have to go as the good wife has stirred. Merry Xmas everyone!

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