Massively Exclusive: ArcheAge's Jake Song on consensual PvP, inflation, and more

Jef Reahard
J. Reahard|09.21.11

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Massively Exclusive: ArcheAge's Jake Song on consensual PvP, inflation, and more
ArcheAge - newbie coast CBT3
ArcheAge news has been a bit sporadic of late, and it's also been quite some time since we talked to the devs or took a spin through one of the game's closed beta phases. Like many of you, we're dying to know more about XL Games' forthcoming fantasy sandpark, so we went straight to the source to see if we could drum up anything new.

Lead designer Jake Song was kind enough to field a few of our burning questions, and we're pleased to present you with another Massively ArcheAge exclusive that touches on everything from localization and story to consensual PvP and item decay. Join us after the break for that and more.

XL Games' Jake Song
Massively: ArcheAge fans in Western markets have had to rely on translated (and occasionally inaccurate) news blurbs to keep up with the game. Is ArcheAge going to be localized for the West, and if so, will this include a more accessible web/marketing presence?

Jake Song: We started developing ArcheAge considering global service in the first place. Currently, we are focusing more on developing ArcheAge, but also we recently updated the English ArcheAge website and tried to provide more information to fans in the West.

What we try to aim [at with] ArcheAge is to let the players feel the true beauty of an MMORPG by forming a society like real life, by networking with other players within the game. The motto of ArcheAge is "a world made of your own free will." I think these facets of ArcheAge are what Western game players want and enjoy.

ArcheAge - elf girlIs localization mostly an issue of translating the text and UI, or will actual game mechanics change as well?

ArcheAge is still under development, and the publisher for the Western market is not decided for now, so maybe it is a bit early to answer the question. But I do understand the importance of localization. We have to figure out data such as each country's features, its IT environment and so on, as well as find out the best way to service ArcheAge.

But above all that, we should finish development and find a publisher who will partner with us to introduce [and distribute] ArcheAge to Western players.

Some Western fans have asked for PvP servers, and many of our commenters are very interested in ArcheAge but are turned off by the fact that it has open PvP. Most sandbox games default to free-for-all PvP these days, leaving these sandbox PvE fans with nowhere to play. Are there any plans for dedicated PvP servers or will it be left up to the players to avoid FFA areas on all shards?

I know that some players like PvP and some don't. ArcheAge features a half-open PvP system. If a player kills another player of the same faction, he/she will get penalty points. If a player's penalty points (blood prints that appear after killing a player work as evidence of a crime which leads to penalty points) reach a certain level, he/she will be summoned to court, will receive a trial, and might be imprisoned. Though ArcheAge is half-open PvP, it is not the main fun feature. It will be developed as a game that PvE-lovers could enjoy too, while also enjoying the PvP system.

What do you see as the biggest hurdle to ArcheAge's success in the Western market? Cultural barriers? Competition from other AAA titles? Something else?

I think the biggest hurdle to ArcheAge would be the cultural barrier, which seems to be the same issue that all Korean games confront. Cultural difference does not only mean the game content but also the IT infrastructure, such as the size of the client according to each countries internet environment, game log-in method, and so on.

ArcheAge - cat girlWestern MMO developers are jumping on the "story" bandwagon lately. Does the ArcheAge design contain any dev-engineered story elements or is the game more a facilitator of player-generated stories and content?

ArcheAge contains both dev-engineered story elements and also player-generated stories and content. In the early levels, players will play the game following the usual quest-based game play. This is to guide the players to the many activities they will be able to enjoy in the latter phases of the game and also to let players understand ArcheAge's massive worldview.

Do you prefer the sandbox approach of letting player crafters influence the game's economy as opposed to the now-standard loot drop model that most new games seem to follow?

We hope player-crafted items become a key aspect of the in-game economy and combat. But, if equipment was solely led by crafted items, it could become somewhat of a restriction to the growth of solo players. Thus items for simple leveling are also obtainable through quests or from monsters. Crafted items will be improvable with enhancement stones, whereas such easily obtainable items wouldn't. Of course, some nice items will be exclusively obtainable from monsters with a high level of difficulty.

Materials for crafting can be obtained by gathering or from item drops, which is another form of monster drop. However, we wanted to avoid the situation of items being obtainable only by hunting monsters in groups. Our goal is to let a solo player own a high-end item, if the player tries hard enough.

Is item decay in the game? For example, does a player's sword wear out to the point where he'll need to obtain a new one from either a monster drop or a player crafter? If decay isn't in the game, how does the dev team plan to address economic inflation?

ArcheAge - armor dudeItems can be damaged or lost while crafting. The item would have to be repaired after use, but a durability decrease won't make the item vanish or get damaged. Economic inflation in the game will be controlled by taxes, repair fees, consumables, and so on.

What kind of feedback did you glean from CBT3? Did any major gameplay changes come about as a result of the testing phase and the public reaction to the game?

We held three Closed Beta Tests (CBT), and each CBT had new additional content that we wanted to get feedback on from players. After the first two CBTs, we reflected on players' feedback and improved skill action and character movement. During CBT3, players told us that gameplay in the early phases is not immersing enough, so we are working on this too. We have not revealed all the content yet and will get more feedback during our next CBT.

Can you give us any idea on the timeframe of the next beta test?

ArcheAge's next CBT, the fourth CBT, is not fixed yet. As with other games developed in Korea, ArcheAge CBTs are for Korean residents only, due to technical support and the language barrier. We will introduce a localized version of ArcheAge to Western players in the future.

We're looking forward to it -- thanks for talking with us!
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