ArcheAge, Land of Promise

I have been keeping an eye on the Korean MMORPG ArcheAge for a good while now. Its chief archtiect is Jake Song, former developer of Lineage. With ArcheAge‘s emphasis on its virtual world, though, and on providing its players a plethora of play directions, it appears to be a game with a lot of promise.

On the one hand, I tend to dislike Asian MMORPGs. I disliked Lineage in particular. On the other hand, ArcheAge looks like it pushes a lot of the same buttons as Vanguard, as Chris over at Game by Night has recently pointed out, and as I myself observed a while back over at MMORPG.com. A lot depends on the quality of its localization.

Thankfully, after languishing for quite a long time, the North American distributor turns out to be the respectable Trion Worlds, makers of the uninspired but very competent Rift. I think that the game will be in good hands here. Even Trion’s F2P practices are pretty fair and acceptable as far as I can tell.

Here’s a video of some gameplay, and there are more to be found on Jewel’s channel. I myself would like to try it out, but I’m afraid the Founder’s Packs, which grant alpha or beta access, are not in my budget at this time. So I’ll have to wait for open beta or launch.

That’s kind of a blessing, in a way. The game’s been out in Korea for over a year, and Trion needs more time to finish up its localization, so one would hope for a pretty polished experience once the game does formally launch. Of course, I have been wrong once before in a similar situation. So as always I’m hoping for the best but am prepared for the worst. Meanwhile I’m going to keep watching video on it.

Ardwulf’s Big Rift Giveaway! Rift+Expansion+30 Days

A code from Trion, courtesy of Raptr, has come my way. The code includes the Rift base game plus the Storm Legion expansion plus 30 days of game time — and word is you can use to to claim the expansion and the 30 days even if you have a lapsed Rift account.

Due to time and energy constraints I’ve decided not to use it myself… but that’s no reason to waste it! So I am instead giving it away. How do you get in on this deal? Easy! Hit up my Twitter account, and retweet the Twitter post linking to this blog post. About 48 hours later I will DM the code to a random rewteeter via Twitter.

I’ll also throw in codes for a Storm Legion Arbiter Helm and set of Stone Spaulders to two other retweeters, so chances might not be all that bad you’ll end up with something if you retweet. But you do have to retweet to win!

How Not to Stress Test

I have to assume that, given the severe misbehavior of the Guild Wars 2 servers thus far during headstart launch, that the many-times-a-week “stress tests” that ArenaNet was doing leading up to this day were nothing more than a marketing gimmick.

The servers went up a full three hours early, which was nice. For the first hour or so the condition of the game ran from “unplayably laggy” all the way to “disconnected.” But things appeared to settle down after that, and I got several enjoyable hours of play in before finally passing out with my nose in the keys. This morning the login servers have been down for at least an hour or three.

Now, I don’t see any sense in getting too wound up just yet. It’s not too late for ArenaNet to pull a smoothish launch out of this. But then, I did have 7 hours in last night. Some people may have been trying to get actual gameplay in last night, shrugged and went to bed, and now can’t get in this morning.

Moral of the story: If you’d like your launch to go smoothly, have beta testing that is actually testing instead of bullshit. Go check with Trion for details on how to do this, they seem to know how.

Additional Wisdom: If bloggers are playing your game they are not writing angry blog posts about how they’re not playing your game.

More thoughts to follow in due course.

More From Ardwulf Presents: Returns to Rift and Runes of Magic

Here’s a couple of late-week additions to the Ardwulf Presents stable, both follow-ups. The first offers my final thoughts as I wrap up a round of play in Rift. I went over most of this on the blog earlier in the week; praise for the game but also my reasons for not sticking with it.

The second is a quick revisit to Runes of Magic, where I take a quick spin around the brand-new Dwarf starter area that launched with the Chapter V: Fires of Shadowforge update.

More new vids are in the planning stages, so be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel.

A Rift Too Far

Since Trion and Raptr were kind enough to provide me with a retail code for Rift, it’s been my more-or-less main game this week. A lot of others have come back as well in the wake of the announcement of a very substantial-sounding expansion.

Having played through all of Silverwood back in the beta before opting to pass on the game, I chose to go the Defiant route this time. The game is about as good as it was back in beta — meaning very well-done. The rift events seem better tuned and the pet and mob pathing seems less flaky, and there’s some quests and stuff that appear to be new. And you no longer have to unlock souls — you have your pick from all those available to your Calling (archetype) from the get-go. I’m not sure how you get PvP souls now, but I’ve no inkling that that’s changed.

And Trion has done a great job supporting Rift over the sixteen months since its release — such a good job, in fact, that even SynCaine, that whirlpool of scorn for all things WoW-like, has expressed his admiration for Trion’s management of the property.

I’m now level 21 and well into the second Defiant zone, Stonefield. I’m playing a Mage centered on the Pyromancer soul and am very happy with the way the character plays. Despite that, I am probably only good for another ten levels or so; I’d like to see the next couple of zones, but unless they somehow blow me away I will not be plunking down the $15 to keep playing, and indeed will probably have lost interest before the 30 days are up — as I predicted would happen before launch and which was my big reason for not buying the game in the first place.

I once wrote a post about Warhammer Online not having a soul. By that I meant that it was a sterile, by the numbers design which while well-executed in some ways ultimately lacked the creative spirit that belongs in an MMO. It played like a game and not a world. There’s a lot of titles out there like that now, and a big one (WoW) that has moved farther and farther in that direction as time has gone on. Rift is another. In fact, as I have pointed out in the recent Ardwulf Presents, Rift plays a lot like Warhammer Online, except that everything actually works. That it does is to Trion’s great credit, but ultimately there is a “something” missing despite the game clearly firing on all cylinders. It’s a terrific game in so many ways and the upcoming expansion sounds like gangbusters, and I went out of my way to start a trial even (just) before the Raptr giveaway — and I’m glad to be able to try it out without the level 20 cap and whatever other limits are on trial accounts. Yet I am strongly disinclined — at this point and I don’t see the next ten levels and two zones changing this — toward paying a subscription fee for it.

This isn’t just a resistance to subscriptions in the face of a field increasingly dominated by free to play titles, either. I’ve been paying monthly for Vanguard for a while now and just upped that to a three-month SOE All Access pass for a summer (hopefully) loaded with Vanguard and EQ2 and maybe even a whirl in Planetside since the sequel is looking more impressive every day. Would I play it if it were fully free to play, inasmuch as much games are? Yeah, probably. In fact, while I respect Trion’s decision to go all in on the sub model, in this respect it’s a game I would compare not to WAR but to LotRO, which was a title I couldn’t stick to until it switched over, and have since spent a couple of hundred hours in. And LotRO is in many ways not as well-designed as Rift. In basic handling and combat feel it’s not even close. But soul… now that it’s got.

I figure by the end of next week I’ll be done. And there’s probably another video ahead where I talk about this and relate it to some other factors and other games.

Ardwulf Presents 12: Rift

This time Ardwulf Presents brings you a bit of Rift, playing on the level-limited Rift Light trial. The announcement for the upcoming Storm Legion expansion was made literally while the video was compiling, making it instantly out of date.

Storm Legion sounds insanely ambitious, with two new continents that about triple the size of the game world, ten new levels, new dungeons and raids, and the promise of more new types of dynamic content. Plus what sounds like some kind of player housing. This is what paid expansions are supposed to be like, folks.

Betas: Guild Wars 2 vs. SWTOR vs. Rift vs. TSW

A beta event for The Secret World has been announced for this weekend. I am signed up, am downloaded and patched, and plan to do a video since there is no NDA. I will not be doing as much coverage as I did for the recent beta weekend for Guild Wars 2, for a variety of reasons.

Readers may recall that I played in both the Rift and SWTOR betas and elected, in the end, not to buy either game. I am taking the plunge with Guild Wars 2 but am in the same position with TSW than I was with SWTOR and Rift — that is, intending to probably not buy the game.

Star Wars is, from my perspective, a tired and threadbare IP, bloated and festering, the days of its glory long past. The amount of wretched Star Wars material now far exceeds the quality stuff. I have great fondness for the first two films (and even to a lesser extent for Return of the Jedi,) but everything else save KOTOR alone can die in a fire as far as I’m concerned. Still, Bioware has a very strong history with the brand, and the extension by them of Mass Effect’s dialogue systems is a natural fit. And the cinematic trailers were freaking amazing. Plus, when I played it, I felt like the quality was very high, beta or no.

Rift had an intriguing core concept, a workmanlike fantasy world and the best implementation yet of the dynamic event idea. The beta was polished and in far better shape than many other MMOs were many months after launch. Trion clearly has its shit together. But in play it was frustrating, and doomed to become more so as population in the leveling zones thinned out. The scaling of the dynamic events was clearly off and level made too big a difference in practice; a gap of a couple of levels between you and the Rift spawns meant near-instadeath.

The Secret World looks to have some interesting character mechanics that I am interested in seeing in action, but the whole modern supernatural/conspiracy thing isn’t really my cup of tea. From a genre standpoint am am interested in it somewhat less than I am in Star Wars. I have, however, liked such games in the past on the tabletop (Vampire: The Masquerade, Mage: The Ascension and Unknown Armies being the offhand examples,) so there remains the possibility that the game will win me over. I haven’t been paying all that close attention to it, so it’s plausible that I just haven’t seen the stuff that will sell me yet.

Now, prior to getting into the GW2 beta I had already bought the game, whereas with both Rift and SWTOR I was on the fence, or at least half on the fence in the former case, when I played their test versions. My position on TSW is in that ballpark. What makes the difference? Why was I willing to buy Guild Wars 2 but not SWTOR or Rift before I tried them, at exactly the same point in the decision-making process?

I see TSW as a game that is more promising than SWTOR or Rift. I think the hobby needs more games without levels, for one, and more games outside of traditional fantasy for another. But the holy trinity, which TSW will retain, is an anchor around the neck of the whole genre, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m also tired of tightly structured progression. GW2 gets away from both of these things and provides an experience that, while not really a “sandbox” in any true sense, is at least less linear. That’s a huge thing for me.

So I shall belly up to the TSW beta this weekend for at least an hour or two, and report back with my findings. I don’t expect to fall head of heels for it, but there’s always hope.