A virtual world – ArcheAge Unchained


Instead of praising more of ArcheAge Unchained’s individual features, like the class- and and farmland-systems I talked about last time, I’d like to have a look at the greater picture today.

Not that there aren’t any more features I like. I could – and probably will at some point – rave about the trade system, means of travel, naval content, varied PvP- and PvE-options and lots of other stuff all day long. However, for me the game’s main draw isn’t any single one of those features. It’s what the sum of all that does: it gives me the feeling of my character inhabiting a living, breathing world instead of me ‘just’ playing a game.

Erenor isn’t just an amusement park where I enjoy the rides that I like until I’m bored (and/or sick in my stomach). It’s a virtual world.

I’ll try to explain why I feel this way by giving you an example of something as simple and – usually – boring as daily quests.

I…think they’re trying to tell me something

There is a set of five dailies given out by NPCs of the Blue Salt Brotherhood, the game’s cross-continent organisation of merchants, traders and crafters. These are very simple quests that involve no combat whatsoever and only require a small amount of resources on your part to begin. Back in ’14 I did these pretty much every day and I’ve started doing them again now.

Initially my main reason for doing them was that they award gilda stars, a currency needed for house deeds, ship designs, better gliders and so on. I continued running those quests long after I’d accumulated all the stars I needed though, because they were and still are just fun. Not the quests themselves, mind you, but the way they let me interact with and experience the game world.

To do all five quests you need to cover quite a distance because the objectives are pretty far apart. The game does have a teleport-system, and I see other players port from one point to the next all the time. Personally, I only make use of that option once, right after accepting the quests, and go everywhere else on horseback from there. Making my round is what I call it.

Expert, highly accurate drawing of my route

As usual, performing the necessary klicks to advance the quests happens pretty much on autopilot. It’s almost meditative. Traveling from point A to B to C though is always a little adventure in itself.

By now I know the general areas where wild trees and other plants grow. On my way I always check if any fully grown specimens are up. Finding a ready-to-fell ash tree, for example, makes me happy every time because that’s 13 to 14 free logs right there. Especially at the beginning one can never have enough lumber, and trees take up a lot of space on your farm, so finding wild ones always feels a little like hitting a jackpot to me.

A hornbeam doesn’t yield quite as much, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Since we don’t have placed our little house and all of our farms yet I also keep my eyes open for free plots of land. Right now the chances to find anything bigger than 8×8 (by far the smallest size of property and not what we’re looking for anymore) are slim of course, but that situation is always shifting and changing, so you never know.

Real estate prices have skyrocketed lately in these here parts

Sometimes, albeit rarely, I run into a player of the enemy faction. The ruleset of these regions, which are technically always at peace, is that ‘foreigners’ can’t attack anyone, but resident players can attack intruders, in which case the attacked is obviously allowed to fight back. Unless both parties have learned each other’s languages there’s no way to communicate, so I have to assess such a situation and decide quickly if I want to attack or not.

Why attack at all? you might ask. That player has done me no harm and might have a good, non-aggressive reason for being there. Yes, maybe. But they might just as well be on their way to camp one of the passages between a peaceful region and a contested one, killing lower level players who are trying to do their story-quests over and over again. I’ve seen that (and have been a victim of that too) more than once. So, yeah, as long as they aren’t much lower level than I they’re fair game when I see them.

Then there’s the traderuns that are happening all the time. I’ll go more into detail about those in another post, but suffice it to say that the roads are always packed with players carrying those heavy packs on their backs. Some just walk, many ride their donkeys, and by now more than a few have built their farm carts and use those to carry multiple packs at a time. This, too, makes the world feel more lived-in and, well, alive. Also, when a driver uses eco-friendly fuel and axle grease (I’m not kidding) those carts are relatively speedy, so sometimes, when I don’t feel like manually riding all the way I hop onto one as it’s passing by and hitchhike for a bit. Conversations between all involved ensue more often than not.

Hello. I’m Peter. Where’re you from…originally?

When I’ve finished my round and turned in all quests about half an hour has passed, sometimes a bit more depending on how much I got sidetracked. Due to all those things I’ve listed here – and probably some more I’ve forgotten – it doesn’t feel like having done some daily chores in the slightest. Sure, I’ve finished some predefined tasks and made some predictable progress, but first and foremost I’ve traveled the world, seized different opportunities, maybe even socialized for a bit (radical idea for an MMO, I know) or protected my homeland from invaders.

What’s not to like?

What’s so special about ArcheAge anyway?

What can I say, my horse is just as lazy as I am

I always was under the assumption that most if not all MMORPG enthusiasts were at least aware of ArcheAge and why it was and still is a pretty exceptional game – in my opinion, obviously – in a genre that didn’t see too many great, let alone unique new AAA releases during the past decade and a half, even if they haven’t played it themselves.

Since ArcheAge Unchained was announced I’ve read many posts and comments along the lines of Why should I play this or What’s so special about the game, proving my assumption wrong. Even Bhagpuss, of whom I knew he’d played the game at some point (and found stuff he liked, too), was quite surprised by the hype surrounding this non-P2W re-release.

So today I’ll talk about some of the things that, to me, make the game stand out from the crowd by a mile and then some.


This game’s class/skill system is as close to Star Wars Galaxies’ profession system (pre-NGE) as it gets, and I just love it.

There are twelve independent skill trees. Some are pretty staightforward, like Battlerage, which is all about dealing damage up close and personal, or Sorcery, that lets you sling hurty spells at your opponents. Others are more about buffing, debuffing, CCing, increased mobility and other fun stuff. You freely choose three of those skill trees to make up your final build and class. If my math doesn’t fail me that’s a total of 220 available classes.

Choosing Archery, Shadowplay and Defense results in being a Stone Arrow

Are all of those, like, good? No, of course not. But the amount of classes that are considered to be totally viable for almost any kind of content is still staggering. Some are especially good for PvE, others lean more towards the PvP side of things, but as long as you follow some quite self-explanatory ground rules – like not wanting to be an Archer who’s also a kick-ass mage and can throw in some big heals for good measure – you can make almost anything work under pretty much all circumstances.

Where it gets really complex – and the theorycrafting really fun – is wrapping your head around combos and synergies. That the skill trees are chosen independently doesn’t mean that they don’t interact with each other. A skill from one tree might seem mediocre on its own, but using it right after a certain skill from another tree might result in an added effect like a stun, or the second skill dealing much more damage than it normally would. Knowing about these combos and learning how to utilize them is what makes a class good at what it does.

By the way, you aren’t locked into your chosen class forever. As a matter of fact you can swap skill trees out for a small fee at any time, and a character can have all twelve trees leveled up to the maximum. As long as you also happen to have the right gear for whatever it is you want to do, just be whatever you want to be at any given moment.

Land ownership

Of course one can’t rave about ArcheAge without mentioning this. Many, myself included, usually refer to it as ‘open world housing’, but in reality it’s much more than that. The actual buildings really aren’t the most important part gameplaywise; owning and using a piece of land is what it’s all about, and many of the game’s systems are designed around it.

This is the entrance to my house.         Ok, ok, just kidding

Unlike EVE or SWG, ArcheAge isn’t a game where absolutely everything has to be crafted by players, but crafted goods are very important nonetheless. Consumables like food, potions and teleport-stones, construction materials for ships, farm carts (you’ll want to own one eventually even if you don’t have a farm) and other gadgets as well as trade goods all need to be made by players. What’s more, the game’s very best gear and gems are also crafted, so if you’re dead set on min-maxing and don’t want to settle for the second best, you have to craft that stuff yourself or pay ungodly sums to those who can do it for you.

For all of this lots of raw materials are needed, and many of those have to be cultivated on a piece of land. This can actually be any piece of land almost anywhere in the game world, but if you do it that way your goods aren’t protected and anyone can pick them up. Hence you want to have your own piece of land.

There are also public farms, but those are…kinda crowded

I won’t go into detail too much, but getting your first little farm is pretty easy once you’ve reached level 30, and finding a spot to place it isn’t all that hard either, despite of what you may have heard. Most folks who are complaining most definitely had the aspiration to claim a big chunk of land at their favourite spot right away, which obviously didn’t (and couldn’t) work out for everyone. Lakisa and I didn’t get exactly what we wanted either, but we have placed three small farms now (the third belongs to my alt), two of them directly adjacent, in the region we wanted, so for the time being we’re absolutely golden.

Right now we’re using these farms to stock up on most basic materials like grain, flowers, cotton and wood. Among other things these can be used to craft food, potions, fabric and lumber, respectively, the latter two of which are in turn needed for cloth armor, ships and houses.

Cedars, irises and lavender growing and thriving

The gameplay itself is probably much akin to Farmville’s, and it’s obviously a matter of taste if you enjoy it or not. Personally, I find it to be very relaxing. And rewarding too – not only can you use or sell the stuff you make, you even get XP for it and thus can level your character and skill trees without questing or killing anything! These kinds of interaction with the game world, and different gameplay-systems being interwoven like that just make the world feel much more real to me.

Now, of course you can play the game without owning land. If all you’re interested in is exploring the world and/or combat, be it PvP or PvE, you can certainly do so and farm all the XP and gear you need by engaging in combat-related activities. You might find yourself a bit strapped for gold though, as you’ll not be producing anything you can sell, and you’ll also have to buy every consumable and other stuff you need from other players. But if you really, really do not want to be Uncle Owen, you don’t have to be.

You’ll still want to have a farm cart though…

Next time around I’ll talk about the trade system, the world in general and the sea in particular, and some other bits and pieces that I really like about ArcheAge Unchained.

Not a flawless launch, but still lots of fun

Instead of playing the tired good news or bad news first game I’ll try a different format today: first some good news, then a bit of bad news, then more good news. How about that?

So here’s some good news: ArcheAge Unchained launched last Tuesday as planned. That is, as planned after it had been delayed from September 30th to October 15th. The EU servers were slated to go live at 10AM UTC, which they did.

It’s good to be back, I even missed the appropriately named Hellswamp

The bad news is that it hasn’t been a smooth launch. Not even close. Long queues, disconnects (followed by more queues) for many people, character creation being locked on the busiest servers meaning folks couldn’t join their friends who had preordered, and some weird bugs were also thrown in for good measure.

Despite all that our own experience wasn’t too bad though. I was at home early all week, so I could easily log in before the queues were getting serious and also queue up Lakisa’s account half an hour before she came home. We had no disconnects and just one client crash as of yet, so once we were in we could usually play all evening.

Our biggest issue was Lakisa not receiving the ingame mail containing her preorder-pack goodies, which for some weird reason is directly tied to unlocking an account’s labor point regeneration. There’s a whole lot of things you just cannot do without labor points in this game, so that was a problem. Quite a lot of people were affected, and it took Gamigo and/or XL Games two days to cook up a solution. At the time of this writing there has been no announcement regarding any kind of compensation for the ~5k labor affected accounts lost due to this.

But enough about that stuff, because honestly, I’d rather have queues and hiccups for a while than Gamigo opening too many servers. The last thing anyone wants – or that I want at least – in a game with open world housing are server merges every few months.

If you go there now it’s unrecognizable, farms and houses everywhere

So back to good news. Everything we really liked about the game back in ’14 is still here, while most of the annoying and outright shitty stuff seems to have been changed or taken out completely. I’ll get to all that, but for now I’d like to focus on what it feels like to play the game right now, while there’s so many people around, because for us that’s one of the biggest differences compared to our first go.

In the early zones the huge number of players has the same effect it would have in any other MMORPG: people have to fight over quest-mobs and -objectives. It hasn’t been much of a hindrance for us though. Respawns are quick, and overall folks have proven to be willing to work together. I throw a group invite at every player who is obviously doing the same quests as we are, and most of them gladly accept it. I know that not everybody likes being invited by random strangers, but in this case I feel it’s the polite thing to do as the two of us are usually able to tag any mob before a lone player can.

Two competing raids of 50 players each, waiting for event-mobs to spawn

Once a character gets to around level 30 (which happens blazingly fast these days) the whole game changes though. At that point the main quest has all players venture into contested regions, where PvP is enabled most of the time. To clarify, players of both factions have to quest in the same regions, all the way from level 30 to 55.

Five years ago, whenever such an area wasn’t at peace and there wasn’t an event going on either you’d hardly see another soul. Now? It’s blood and thunder, all day long.

I know that the last two paragraphs alone would make 90% of commenters over at Massively OP wrinkle their noses in contempt, mutter something about ‘damn gankboxes’ and stop reading right now.

I’ll just wait here until the room has cleared

If you’re still here, good for you, because you’re in for a pretty great time.

The thing is, there’s so many players of both sides around right now that fights are going on constantly, but you don’t necessarily have to be a part of it. If you just steer cleer of the skirmishes you’re generally ignored. And even if you are attacked by ‘reds’ you can be almost certain that some ‘greens’ will show up and give you a helping hand. Of course it totally does happen that you get slaughtered mercilessly by a whole gang faster than you can even react, but death penalties are very light and respawn points usually not too far away. It can be frustrating from time to time, yes, but if you like PvP at all it’s a hoot more often than not. Jumping into an ongoing fight and tipping the scales in our side’s favour at the last minute feels great every time, and even when we lose it mostly feels like a good fight being lost, not like being ganked.

This abundance of fights also makes the rules these contested regions operate under shine. There’s three states they can be in: war, peace and conflict.

Peace in Sanddeep, all other contested regions (on this continent) are at war here

During war PvP is obviously enabled and even encouraged by an honor point boost, which is a currency you mainly gain by killing enemy players. The state of war lasts for about an hour and is always followed by a peace period lasting somewhere in the ballpark of 90 minutes. During that time you can safely traverse the region knowing that other players cannot attack you under any circumstances. After that the area falls into conflict, a state where PvP is enabled again. The tricky thing here is that there are six stages of conflict that need to be played out until the region goes to war again, and to advance to the next stage a certain amount of player kills or a large number of PvE kills have to happen.

This means that if there was hardly any fighting going on a region might stay in conflict for a pretty long time, so if you were planning to sit it out and only go there during peace you may well be in for a long wait. Right now though, with all the killing, I’ve seen regions go from peace to conflict to war again within five to ten minutes, which means that for every ~70 minutes of combined PvP-time you have ~90 minutes of peace. The game’s side-quests are also pretty lenient regarding the level you do them at, so you can absolutely jump back and forth between regions to ensure that they’re in the state you want them in while you’re questing.

The bottom line of this is that PvP oriented players get all the action they crave, questing exclusively during peace-time is also an option, and if you, like us, prefer a healthy middle ground you can have that too.


Like I said there’s more stuff to talk about, but this is already getting long, so I’ll save that for next time.

ArcheAge deserves another chance…I hope


Until a couple of days ago my stance on ArcheAge Unchained was yeah, not touching that with a ten foot pole.

Mind you, ArcheAge wasn’t a bad game when Lakisa and I played it. Far from it. In fact it’s among my favourite MMORPGs (and games period) of all time, right up there with Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies.

Our first steps into the game, marveling at the water physics

When you look at these three titles you get a pretty good idea of what kind of game I fancy – they’re all sandboxes, they have open world housing, very flexible skill systems instead of fixed classes, and open world PvP in one form or another.

This combination of features, it seems, is what lets me truly immerse myself in a game, because it makes me feel like I can do pretty much whatever I want, whenever I want, and that anything can happen at any time. The game stops being just a game and becomes a virtual world I actually live in. Other games I’ve played. These three were home.

Home, and myself clinging to a bamboo trunk for some reason

Despite that we quit ArcheAge around July 2015, less than a year after we’d started. We did so with a very heavy heart, but at the time we didn’t see an alternative. I’ve talked about the game’s extreme RNG-heaviness before, the likes of which I’d never seen and hopefully won’t ever see again. Couple that with more and more P2W elements appearing in the cash shop, many of which serving the purpose to lessen or circumvent said RNG aspects somewhat – what a coincidence, am I right? – and you can easily see why any sane person wouldn’t have put up with that any longer.

During the following years pretty much all press coverage the game got was overwhelmingly negative. Server outages, botched “fresh start server” launches, what have you. Whenever I saw such a news piece I was all the more relieved to have quit when we did, but at the same time I always felt a pang of regret and anger because I’ve never really stopped thinking about what a truly fantastic game this could have been with the right people in charge.


So yeah, of course I took note when Gamigo took the reigns of the game’s western version after TRION tanked, and even more so when they announced a B2P version of the game without Patron status (the technically optional but effectively mandatory monthly subscription the game’s so-called F2P version has on top of its P2W microtransactions) and, most importantly, with a cosmetics-only cash shop.

Now, Gamigo hasn’t exactly the best reputation, and we’ve all heard lofty promises of No P2W in our game before. Also, Gamigo, like TRION before them, is only the publisher for the NA and EU regions. XL Games, ArcheAge’s Korean developer and publisher, still has the final say on what is and isn’t in the game. Thus I remained highly sceptical.

My interest was piqued though, so I tried to gather as much information about what they have planned with Unchained as I could. I wanted to know exactly what changes, if any, for the game itself they might have planned. No P2W is all well and good, but if the game’s systems were to remain as I knew them, RNG madness and all, then why bother? After all, everybody being on equal footing doesn’t mean much when that footing is built in RNG-hell itself.

The official FAQ answered some of my questions, but not many.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find much beyond that until the public test server opened a week ago. I didn’t have time to jump in myself, but I knew it wouldn’t be long until folks who did play it released videos sharing their findings. Of course I would have preferred guides and impression pieces in text form, but as we all know those have become increasingly rare in recent years. Besides, since in this case time was of the essence, what with the PTS opening a mere week before release, I was happy to get infos quickly no matter the format.

There are some good videos summing up their makers’ experiences on the PTS out there by now. Others give advice and tips for the actual launch and stuff like that. They aren’t hard to find, so I’ll just link my favourites.

These are PTS impressions by The Lazy Peon. I’ve liked most of his videos, and this one is no different. He’s always informative, but also weaves bits of humour into his narrative that make me smile.

This is a short and crisp (under ten minutes) piece of advice for starting out in the game. The volume is pretty low, but it’s worth a watch and will probably be of good use for players who have never played ArcheAge and might feel overwhelmed by the many systems and possibilities.

All of this is well and good, and I got answers to at least some more of my questions. Others still remained a mystery though, and I couldn’t quite understand why nobody was, for example, complaining about the RNG-heavy gear crafting and regrading systems still being in the game – or, alternatively, celebrating the fact that they have been taken out.

Then I finally found this video, and all was revealed:

Turns out, much to my surprise, that most of those systems have already been changed in the game’s original, live version quite some time ago. Crafting an expensive piece of gear not knowing if you will get the desired outcome or if you’ll have to throw it away; trying to upgrade a piece and downgrading or even destroying it instead; trying to socket another gem into your piece and losing it and all other gems you had already socketed – those are all things of the past. Hip, hip, hoofuckin’ray!

Apparently the Grimghast raid is still in. Hey, that’s good!

I have no idea why every bit of bad news regarding the game was covered extensively in the gaming press, but not a single one of the patches that did away with these crap systems made the headlines. Like mentioned above seeing the game’s name anywhere still gets my blood pressure up reliably, so I can’t imagine to just have missed them.

Be it as it may, this is really good news. I talked to Lakisa about all this, and we watched that last video and skimmed through our old screenshot folders together. Boy, that brought back some great memories (like this one).

So, yeah. We both bought into Unchained and sat down on Saturday to reserve our characters’ names. We managed to get them both and while we were at it also tried to make us look exactly like we looked back in 2014. Some textures seem to be a bit different nowadays, but on the whole we succeeded to recreate those characters pretty well.

The launch is slated for tomorrow, and we can’t wait! Of course I’m still a bit sceptical, but this might just be what I’ve been waiting and hoping for.

Fingers crossed!

Pumping up the jam


Meet Warframe’s Octavia, the most unique and fun class I’ve had the pleasure to play in any video game ever. This may sound like hyperbole, but I’m serious.

After finishing the great Octavia’s Anthem quest I set my mind on farming the three required blueprints to actually build this frame. With a bit of luck I’d already managed to do so by Tuesday, but since building frame components takes 12 hours and a frame proper three days it wasn’t until late Saturday that I could finally take her out for a spin.

As the quest strongly suggests she’s all about music. Her abilities’ descriptions confirm as much:

Click to enlarge for better readability

To make it easier to tell them apart and also stay within established Warframe-lingo I’ll just call them by numbers, so 1 is Mallet, 2 is Resonator, 3 is Metronome and 4 is Amp.

So what does all this actually look and sound like? Let’s see.


Your 1 drops a little ball to where you’re aiming. It’s indestructible and stays there until its duration expires or you recast it elsewhere. Enemies within its range (depicted by a pulsating sound wave as seen here behind me) attack it and have their damage reflected back to them. This is doubly great because not only does it draw enemy fire away from you, it kills even the strongest foes with ease as it’s their own damage that kills them, not yours. I assume this doesn’t work on bosses though.

In terms of music and visuals it emanates a drum beat, and those volume bars coming out of the ability’s center point pump rhythmically to it.


The 2 by itself is nothing to write home about. This ball just rolls around seemingly at random and makes enemies run after it. It plays a bass line, other than that it’s not of much use like this. Combine it with 1 though…


Cast 1 then 2, and the beat latches onto the ball. Disco ball for the win! Now it makes the baddies follow and shoot it, thus killing themselves, and covers a larger area since it’s moving. This might not always be desired as it sometimes leaves your immediate vicinity before all foes are dead, but it works great for clearing out a level in front of you while you’re still looting or scanning stuff. The drum beat and bass line play in unison when doing this.

The 3 plays the song’s melody. It isn’t screenshot-worthy because it just makes some lines appear on the ground moving towards you, one for each note. This is supposed to help you find your rhythm, because you indeed have to crouch, jump, fire or melee to the beat (to the melody, to be precise) in order to activate the various buffs. It’s very worth it to do so; who doesn’t like to have speed and damage buffs running while being invisible at the same time?

The 4 does exactly what it says in the discription. It gives your team and your 1 a damage buff, and the louder it is around you the stronger the buff. Shooting and slashing do count into it (I think), but to get the most out of it just activate all of Octavia’s abilities at once and enjoy the show.

While listening to the complete song in all its glory

Let me tell you, if you have any love for music this is pure joy. When I play this frame my face starts to hurt quickly because I’m grinning the whole time.

It also changes the way the game is played quite a bit. I imagine that if you can make her abilities strong enough you actually don’t need to bring a gun to most missions anymore. Of the frames I have at my disposal right now she’s arguably the strongest by quite a margin.

But this ain’t everything yet. No, I’ve saved the best bit for last.

A couple of times now I’ve mentioned “the song”. It’s the music you hear during Octavia’s Anthem, and it’s quite nice. But this is only the default song the mandachord, Octavia’s instrument, can play. You can actually compose your own!


Holy crap, so Digital Extremes release a new frame (in 2017 that is), and not only do they give her a really great set of abilities and unique way to play, they also give us this? For free? In my opinion this is above and beyond what a good F2P title can do for its players. Thank you DE, and take note everyone else!

Anyway, as you can see the notes you can scribe are divided into three categories for your abilities. Your 1 has three different notes (bass drum, snare or clap, hi-hat), while your 2 and 3 get five notes each. Unfortunately this means that you can’t use the full musical scale. For bass line and melody the notes you can use are D, F, G, A and C, from low to high, so just short of one octave in range (ironic, what with her name being Octavia and all). The game doesn’t tell you this, by the way, I had to figure it out myself. You also can’t change the tempo (about 115 BPM), the meter (4/4) and the song length (four bars) after which it repeats.

This means that you can’t compose or replicate just any song (like I had so much fun and success with in APB Reloaded), at least not perfectly. But as it turns out many known, catchy tunes are indeed so simple that you can make it work.

As a big football fan my first idea, for example, was of course Zombie Nation’s Kernkraft 400 (the part you’ll probably rercognize starts at 0:41).

Except for one note I was able to recreate this pretty well I think. I obviously chose a passage with beat and everything, namely the four bars starting at 1:29. Now I get to hear “my” football hymn whenever the Rolling Disco Ball of Death shreds everything. The mandachord-screenshot above shows the first bar and a bit of the second, but if you play the game and would like to have the whole thing just send a whisper to Mailvaltar.

For it to sound just right I bought a couple of additional instruments for platinum though, so I guess it’s technically not quite correct that they gave us everything related to Octavia for free. However 50 platinum for a set of instruments (one drums, one bass and one melody) isn’t all that much, and I was more than happy to give DE a bit of support for this truly awesome frame (and game).

Now, if you dislike looter shooters in general this probably isn’t enough to make you like Warframe – especially as it takes a good while to unlock her – but if you do like this kind of game and also love music you really owe it to yourself to experience this.