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ArcheAge's closed beta begins on July 17th

MJ Guthrie

The time has finally come: ArcheAge fans who've been been anxiously awaiting a beta date now can mark their calendars and start canceling other plans. Next weekend the closed beta doors will swing open at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday the 17th and remain so until they close at the same hour on Monday the 21st. Founders and invited testers will have a chance to dive in and experience ArcheAge's sandbox world, including -- but not limited to -- pirating, farming, questing, crafting, fishing, PvPing, or even just in gliding from the mountaintops.

With so many possible adventures by land and by sea, it may be impossible to get to them all during the first beta weekend. But don't despair -- there will be more! We sat down with Trion Worlds CEO Scott Hartsman to chat about the upcoming beta tests. We've also got the beta trailer for you.

Many ways to play

Just as there are many ways to play once you get into the game, there are many ways to get there. Although the Founders Packs (with their hefty price tags) are the guaranteed way to get entrance into the beta tests, Hartsman emphasized that they are not the only way. Throughout the beta process, partnered sites will host giveaways, and those who signed up for beta on the official site also have a chance to receive an invite. If players don't get an invite this time around, they might get one later.

To the question of how many beta events may be planned, Hartsman said that although there is a roadmap, there is no hard and fast number. "Future tests depend on what happens during any given test," he said. "The end goal is to have the best, highest-quality launch possible... and we will run as few or as many betas as it takes to get there."

All-new servers

Trion had such an overwhelming response to the alpha (Hartsman stated that four times more Founders Packs were purchased than was expected) that a second alpha server had to be brought live to help ease the overcrowding. In fact, he told us that the price for the Founders Packs was set so high because Trion needed a reasonably high barrier to entry, knowing that there was only one alpha server available. To accommodate beta testers, Trion plans multiple servers for the closed beta, with more coming over the course of the different beta tests. These beta servers will be running on what will become the regular game servers, testing out the technology and the infrastructure of the hardware that will be used for the live game (and the alpha servers themselves will turn into test servers). That means that this beta will be a completely clean wipe and everyone will start from scratch.

Players who might not want to start fresh for this beta should be able to continue their play on the alpha servers for the most part. However, while the alpha servers will likely stay up, Hartsman warned that they will be down intermittently because all of the attention and manpower will be on the beta.

Westernizing the game

Fans are aware that beta was delayed so that the game could launch with the features that were introduced in the 1.2 version. Hartsman noted that the team is looking forward to seeing all the things that have been updated in this version and testing how combat and classes feel, how the economy is working, and what people think of the microtransactions. He added that all hands are on deck paying attention to what works so that adjustments can be made as needed; "We have a great opportunity here to observe what people are doing, see how it works, and then get our feedback back to XL Games."

Speaking of feedback, has there been any feedback from the west that has affected the development of ArcheAge over here? Yes. Hartsman noted that the instances that came readily to mind are the change in the business model and the reintroduction of story quest rewards and trading coin rewards. He added, "We are going down system by system and saying, 'How is this one for our audience?' and 'How's this one for our audience?' and so on. And XL's been great about getting all that stuff done."

Additional thoughts

Interestingly, there has been some debate over how much of a sandbox ArcheAge really is. Hartsman addressed this by saying, "To me, sandbox is less about the individual gameplay features and more about the amount of freedom you have with what's available to you."

One concern voiced by many players involves PvP, especially the toxicity of the PvP community on the alpha forums. Hartsman attributed that partly to the overcrowding on the alpha server, which exacerbated interpersonal conflict -- basically, players were falling all over each other. He noted that things calmed down considerably when the second alpha server was opened, and he expects it to be even better in beta. "Some of that will be taken care of just by the fact that once we are on the beta and live servers there will just be more places for people to be," he told us. And yes, there will definitely be places for those who want to play without the constant threat of being ganked, as there are whole areas that have no conflict and them others that have only timed conflict. However, according to Hartsman, officially designated servers like RP will most likely not happen.

On the subject of having paid testers, Hartsman said, "One of the things that I think is amazing is that the overall quality and passion of feedback has been incredibly high and there has been shockingly little sense of entitlement." He also noted that the devs are finding that players are getting more enjoyment from the game when they branch out and try different activities they didn't anticipate.

And for those who worry about the future of ArcheAge as possibly just a niche game here in the west, Hartsman left this thought: The game has already surpassed all the expectations, and he considers the game already a success. As he put it, "It doesn't need to become the number one game in the west to be a success for us."

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