I haven’t played any games since I gave up on ArcheAge, so I’ve had some time to think. To ponder the intricacies of the game’s failings. One of the main reasons that it failed for me was the brutal patch that turned back the clock and made me start levelling again. For no good reason at all apart from the fact that Trion apparently thought that their players needed to be occupied.

The thing is, we were occupied. We were occupied with what was supposedly a sandbox PvP game. We were occupied with sailing the oceans and stealing packs, killing reds wherever we could find them, raiding the pirate’s stronghold island fortress, disrupting and griefing the red’s daily honor events, playing political games and maneuverings with our own faction, hunting out suitable players for our guild, and crafting and tending to our land.

Most of this ground to an immediate halt with the release of the patch that raised the level limit from 50 to 55. Here are the rough xp requirements for the levels.

50-51: 3 million

51-52: 8 million

52-53: 18 million

53-54: 30 million

54-55: 38 million

To put that into some context, farming a mob by yourself in the end game dungeon called the Library grants around 2500 xp. You do the math. Also, it originally took 3 million xp to get from 1-50.

This is crazy for a PvE game, but for a game that is explicitly geared towards PvP this is out of this world I’m licking the windows of the crazy bus crazy. And it has had the effect of literally pausing the game. For about a month now.

But I want to look at this from a more general context. Why are we still using levels in PvP centric games? Levels orginated in old school D&D back in 1974 or something like that. They were used so you could scale yourself against your adversaries. And they worked fine, although they did create the somewhat unrealistic situation of always being able to pit yourself against a suitably equal foe. But in PvP we are battling each other, not monsters or npcs. So why are we still leveling? The thing is, in pvp games, leveling is something that you do while you’re waiting to play the actual game. For a new player to ArcheAge, (when it was still a level 50 cap), they had to plow through the level grind while we played around them. You saw them in the guild window; one week they were level 18, the next they had managed to claw their way up to 31, and so on. When the finally hit the level cap then we could welcome them to the game. Because before that they were just puny cannon fodder in a PvP world.

The crucial elements are your character’s skills, abilities, and gear. A new character should be able to start working on these while still having some chance to be competitive. In other words, make them level 50 from the start and let them get on with it. Or in other other words, just make everyone level 1.

The level grind barely made any sense before, but it makes no sense now.

This is the story of a great game that got progressively weaker. ArcheAge has had its problems, but it’s never turned its back and run away from a cop with a gun. Until roughly a month ago when we were the unfortunate recipients of the latest major patch. Before I detail a few aspects of that patch, let me make one thing clear – ArcheAge was and still is an end game content MMO. In other words, the game began at level 50, and everything before that was a sideline lead up to what the game is about. This is open world, mostly sandbox, pvp, and to do that successfully as a player you have to tick a couple of crucial boxes:

1. You must be at the level cap.

2. You need some opponents.

The last major patch took that away from us by increasing the level cap to level 55, and by making the majority of the available xp grind in a dungeon called The Library. First of all lets talk about the grind. A month after the level cap release and I am half way to level 52. This is a Korean grind-fest that is insane. Some players got there in the first week. I am not one of those players. And with every moment I logged on I felt my will to play drain steadily away. Because where was everyone in the game? In The Library. And what is this Library?

A completely unimaginative grind fest pvp free zone. So Trion increased the level cap in a predominately pvp game and made the only reasonable leveling option a pve grind fest from hell. And the oceans and the lands emptied as one as every player and his dog ground out The Library, (which incidentally is a geometric pattern grid with rooms with books and the same mobs repeated over and over again. No story, no surprises, just grind away). Did I mention the grind yet?

This patch proves a few things. Firstly, we know for certain that there is no future vision for this game in its current iteration. Secondly, we cannot trust that it won’t happen again. Game getting a bit stale? Player-base rightly calling out your game’s defects on the open forums? Throw them another level cap increase, some new crafting options for weapons or armor, and let that keep them busy for a few months while we throw some more cash boxes in the cash shop with some heavenly goodies to distract them from their wallets.

This game was great. I had a galleon, a clipper ship, substantial land, and I was on my way to being in the top tier of geared players. More than that, I was one of the lead officers in a guild that I helped found which in my humble opinion is the best guild on the server with a clear vision statement for the future. The guild was the only thing holding me back from pulling the pin, but in the end it was the one thing that made me pull the pin. As one of the three officers, I owed it to the guild members to provide them with clear direction on why my playing time had slowed down so dramatically.

I’ve played this MMO full time for 6 months. It’s been a blast. But a good poker player knows that when he suddenly suspects that he might have the second best hand, every dollar he has invested into the pot belongs to the pot. It’s not worth hanging around on the unlikely chance that an inferior hand might become good again.

And now I can safely add Trion to my list of do-not-touch-again gaming companies.

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.

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