I recently hit the current level cap of 50 in ArcheAge, so now is a good time to talk about that experience, what changes, and plans going forward.
First thing however is how effortless getting to 50 was. Not only is the leveling experience fairly short by MMO standards, but almost everything you do in the game gives XP. Spend some timing mining? You got a ton of XP. Did some work around the farm? XP. Trade run? Bit of XP. I’d say easily 40% of my XP was gained from non-quest activities, and that number could have been a lot higher had I wanted it to be (I actually enjoyed blitzing the quests and just whacking mobs).
In AA however, more than in any themepark I’ve played so far, getting to the cap isn’t a game-shifting event. There really is no “game starts at cap” for AA, for a number of reasons.
One is that you still care about getting more XP. Because of how the skill trees work, and the large number of them, you will likely want to level more than your original three up (assuming you didn’t switch midway to 50, in which case you haven’t hit 50 in all 3 of your current trees anyway). Additionally things like your combat pet or mount also need to hit 50, so you care about XP there. Keeping XP relevant even though your character level is at the cap is pretty brilliant, because you avoid the motivational and design issue of only some players benefitting from an activity that factors XP into its reward. Blizzard had this problem in WoW (TBC days anyway), and tried to solve the problem by having quests convert their XP reward into giving out more gold, but the way AA does it is not only cleaner, but feels more natural as well.
Beyond the issue of XP, what you actually do at 50 is what you were doing at 49. You still do your farming, you still work on your crafting skills, you still chase after better gear, and you still jump into stuff like rifts, zone battles, trade routes, the arena, etc. And because all of those things still give XP, you are also progressing on that front should you decide to as well. The whole thing just feels very ‘sandbox’, while still using more themeparky elements like XP and quests.
Going forward I have plenty of personal goals to chase after, in addition to working on larger, guild-wide goals (dungeon runs, zone bosses, arena team, getting more land and a bigger house, pirate adventures, etc). And assuming Trion doesn’t Trion things (ha), the next continent is opening soon with additional content options as well.
I see two related long term problems with AA going forward.
The first is the extreme reliance on the random number generator to be able to upgrade gear. This will be very frustrating on a critical fail.
The second is the ability to buy your way to power and the use of hacks to get the money needed. The more in game money you have the easier it is to play the RNG game for better equipment. The more hacks you use or real life money you spend the more in game money you get.
The RNG doesn’t bother me as much because the risk/reward ratio leans so heavily towards risk the higher you go. Getting decent gear isn’t that hard, but after that point the amount of effort required for a small bump in power is pretty extreme. I’m OK with this.
The second issue is a major one, which is why it sucks that AA is run by the clowncar that is Trion. I have zero faith right now in not only their ability to stop the hacks, but also in how they handle things should they occasionally stumble across and catch someone.
I blame Trion for not seeing what happened with the Russian servers and being more proactive before release on the hacking issue. I still blame XLGames for terrible coding practices for an online game to make it so hackable.
Except it’s not a small bump in power, at all. Moving 2 tiers up in crafting, can easily double a weapon’s DPS, assuming you’re not upgrading a green.
I was thinking Hasla weapons compared to crafted, since the Hasla gear is kind of a ‘baseline’ with the way that currently sits.
I will be interested to see how this plays out in the longer term. Finding something to do with XP when players are at level cap is something of a holy grail. WoW gave people Gold, EQ/EQ2 came up with Alternate Advancement, and Runes of Magic let people multi-class.
All of these lead to somewhat predictable ends, where WoW needed bigger gold sinks, like 100K gold mounts, raiding guilds in EQ/EQ2 requiring specific AA levels and builds, and Runes expanding multi-classing to the point that I think you can do five classes on a single character now. So there is plenty of comedy on this front already.
In the longer term, you level all 10 trees to 50, and then the additional XP does nothing; so this really isn’t very similar to the above ideas. It’s still much more of a sandbox then these other games. The only flaw in my view is the hacks. Hacks are much more damaging to a sandbox than too a themepark; perhaps when we wonder why companies keep releasing themeparks instead of sandboxes, we should keep that fact in mind.
Well, in EQ/EQ2 you level up your AAs until they are done, and in RoM you level up their alt classes until they are done, so aside from writing the word “sandbox” you haven’t really distinguished AA from at least those two.
I don’t know enough about EQ/RoM to get super specific about them; it’s pretty reasonable in AA to max out all ten trees in a few weeks. My impression was that getting to max level alone in EQ1 took longer than that, even before starting on AA. I have enough gold in WoW from 3 years ago (2+ million gp) that I’m “done” making gold there, even if I were to resub, so applying this criterion literally we’d fail to distinguish WoW from AA as well. By legal means, I think it would be difficult to make 2 million gold in WoW in a few weeks, so the difference there is also the same; shorter versus longer.
I think they are somewhat similar in some ways, but I think the big separator is in AA once you have 3 trees to the cap, you can’t get more powerful by getting more XP, kinda like how you can’t get more powerful in EVE once you have all frig-related skills to V. In WoW (gold) and EQ (AA) you do continue to get more powerful.
Well if your first 3 trees were poorly chosen, like mine were, leveling more trees will add to power. :) If we define max level as maxed AA in EQ, and all ten trees in Archeage, then the end state is the same; and the differences we’ve pointed out were first my observation that ‘time-to-max’ is much different, and then now you’ve pointed out another observation where instead of just looking at the end state we look at the power curve as we approach max level. In this second formulation, we’re dealing with ‘time-to-viability’, instead of ‘time-to-max’, which is an important point.
But you can only use 3 trees in AA, so having a 4th maxed doesn’t make you stronger, it just gives you more options pre-combat. AA in EQ actually makes you stronger in terms of stats/abilities than a max level character without AA.
If your first 3 trees are poorly chosen, then a 4th tree does make you stronger, as now you can make a proper choice and not be gimped.
Also, if gold makes you more powerful, by giving you more options, then more trees makes you more powerful, by giving you more options. We’re running into semantical issues here where we have so many definitions for power and ‘max level’ that people aren’t even being consistent with themselves.
Or one could point out that unlocking every tree in Archeage gives you a sweet title that does make you stronger in terms of stats/abilities. We could get lost in the relatively unimportant minutia that gets thrown into MMOs to make them more distinguishable; but when it comes down to it, there’s a power curve in MMOs, when you are at the top and can’t increase your character’s individual power with current mechanics, you’ve reached the maximum. The most fundamental pieces of information about this level of power are twofold: graph the power versus time played(granted that skill multiplies time investment)–1. How much time/skill does it take to get to the very top? 2. How is the graph shaped, most importantly, how much time/skill does it take to get to a point of reasonable competition in the endgame? Talking about levels but not flexibility, or levels but not gear, is restricting the discussion to an incomplete subset of the above data. We can certainly do that, but I don’t understand to what end.
On the ” what you actually do at 50 is what you were doing at 49″ point, that is exactly how GW2 works. I know you didn’t get on with it for all kinds of perfectly understandable reasons, but for those who do like the game that’s very much one of its best features. There is no appreciable change in what you do or how you play from 1-80 and ever after. Of course if you were already fed up of what there was to do by the time you got to 55 that doesn’t help much.
Anyway, as someone who plays, and has always played, most MMOs in the way you describe playing ArcheAge, I don’t really see as much of a radical difference as you do. Most of them play that way if that’s how you choose to play them. AA just gives that playstyle a bit of a following wind. It’s a good MMO for people who do play that way though. I’m enjoying it.
Soft level caps are the best. I loved AA points in EQ.
The biggest problem I see is that most activities I encountered so far are not interesting enough to keep me playing. I am having fun doing them the initial few times, getting to know the game mechanics in the process, but overall farming and trading are a brainless click-repeat activity. Minimal decisions to make, seed-water-collect, the same with trade runs. I am only lvl 25, haven’t tried sportfishing, PVP, treasure hunting…I just hope something will be fun enough to play longer. You can only repeat boring tasks for so long even if fueled by progress/power incentives.