AA: Good design can’t overcome a bad business model and stupidity

Whelp, things went downhill fast huh?

To some extent this should have been obvious, given that ArcheAge is a F2P MMO, the very clear minor-leagues of the genre. Maybe I was trying to convince myself otherwise, or maybe a particularly bleak dry-spell was to blame, or I was just coming off the terribad roller-coaster ride that was DF:UW. Either way, I currently have zero motivation to log into AA, and my sub has been canceled.

What’s interesting about AA is that from a design perspective it gets so much right, both big and little. I’ve covered a lot of them here, and hopefully future MMOs take a note or two on the better aspects of AA. If this is but one of the general directions the genre is going in, I’m ok with that. But ultimately the game was doomed by two major factors, one predictable (F2P), the other somewhat a surprise (Trion).

The F2P aspect is obvious. The Pay4Power aspect is brutal, as is the cheese factor of the cash shop. The taint of F2P is felt in almost all aspects, and the fact that being a subscriber only takes you out of ‘worthless to anyone but bots’ free territory and into ‘you are paying but not enough, give us more!’ land doesn’t make you feel good. The daily loyalty points you get, which only allow you to buy a few things in the shop, are more of a slap to the face than anything else.

But again that part was somewhat predictable, and I’ve played such MMOs before and not minded it that much (Atlantica Online is by far the best example of this IMO).

The F2P factor becomes a bigger issue than normal when mixed with disaster number two; Trion.

I’ve joked and not joked about Trion before, but I say this now being 100% serious; I’ve never experience a bigger disaster than what Trion has done with AA. It’s borderline criminal to be this incompetent on so many levels, and to be so dishonest about all of it.

Very recent and easy example; remember how for the first month, whenever anything was going wrong with AA, Trion would answer everything with basically “we’ll pass a note to XLGames, as we are just the publisher and can’t do anything”? Funny how for some reason (accounts unsubbing) suddenly a month later Trion is having GMs spam chat with how often they catch a hacker, and it seems not a day goes by that Trion is releasing a statement about what they are doing about the rampant cheating in the game. They have even gone so far as following up on specific Reddit threads, supposedly having someone go into the database and confirm that so-and-so was legit and didn’t hack.

You know what might have helped Trion? You not waiting until people slapped you with the wallet-vote before you did something. Maybe instead of waiting until everyone has chat turned off due to spam, you could have launched the game with chat restrictions? It’s a joke, especially because the ‘crackdown’ on hacking is not only too late, it also only catches the idiots stupid enough to run a well-known and easily available hack kit on patch day. Everyone else is still sitting pretty, and Trion knows it but won’t do a thing about it.

The real shame here is that in a genre with so few decent options, one was taking away not because of its core design, but because of its business model and the incompetent fools tasked with simply porting the game over and doing some basic maintenance.

Even when we get something nice, it’s tainted to such a degree that you are forced out. Real shame.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in ArcheAge, MMO design, Trion being Trion. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to AA: Good design can’t overcome a bad business model and stupidity

  1. Dotcalm says:

    I did wonder if things would turnaround. I personally couldn’t get past the whole “can’t invert the mouse” thing since I’m a wonky mouse person and I can barely pvp as it is.

    Now that you’re walking away I should try to figure out how to uninstall the damn thing. I tried googling it a few days ago since Hackshield sticks around and didn’t find anything I could understand/trust.

    On the plus side, you’re back just in time for 2.4 in FFXIV. New class/job and crafting stuff!

  2. zaphod6502 says:

    So what happened with the guild you were in? Was there a mass unsub? Or was it a slow trickle of people leaving?

    One thing I have noticed though is there are far less people logging in. In my housing/farm area there are large numbers of empty 16×16 plots. Is everyone just waiting around for the opening of Auroria?

    • SynCaine says:

      Our guild basically stopped logging in overnight the day I stopped.

      And yea, pop is WAY down across the board. Some servers never hit high anymore, and its taking long and longer for the others to do so each night.

      • Mobs says:

        I’m sorry dude, your my friend, but that’s bullshit. Your “guild” is still playing. We just quit your guild. We quit because you barely logged in and did fuck all to organize our members. If I recall you organized one event to get some quest gear. Which 1 or 2 people attended because the rest of the guild didn’t need the gear and was ahead of you progression wise because we alrdy did it. I play with 5-6 of the active members every day. The pops on every server are very healthy. You frankly barely know anything about the game and what goes on. You think we stopped logging in because you didn’t care to even play with us, so how would you know who was in or out? Did you even really take some time to even pvp? I mean really? You have so much to say negatively about the game and aspects of that game you only know from reading forums. Your literally just saying things you are ignorant of and it sucks.

        • Mobs says:

          Also, I just read your previous reply to my statement on your last blog, I will comment on those now.

          I wanted to sale the land and move the guild because we were endlessly getting killed by those few members of infinite, which would not of been an issue if everyone in the guild who was on other then 4 of us, would of bucked up and came and fought the 2-4 members of Infinite. They just NEVER did, yeah those dudes out geared us, but on several occasions Jale and I took them out 2v2. I was in my lvling spec most of the time proceeding that so I was gimped at the time and wasn’t effective in a fight.

          Jale quit because no one ever talked in guild, no one ever used vent except a few of us and no one ever did things together. Daily we would invite guildmates to go run packs, pvp, pirate, etc. Other then Ichigoya and Trego it was crickets. Not exactly your fault but you also played so little. When Jale quit he messaged you to explain why he wanted out but you wouldnt respond to his messages.

          Also that guild event you speak of; he didnt read the forums, nor did he know they were even active ( I should mention that was a surprise to me to) and it was scheduled on a night he and I had things we had to do. You say he was supposed to help with an event he didnt even know about. Before I logged out I provided the links I could grab to the info you needed and if those links weren’t sufficient you could of taken a few extra seconds to google a bit deeper and find a better guide because it is literally a group of quests that almost every single player does and is no mystery.

          You are conveying to me, a feeling, that me considering moving the land was a selfish act and it was not. I was including everyone in the plans. You are going to hold a few 8×8 farms against me that a couple members had put down when I literally held and shared 1 house, 3 large farms, 5 8x8s, on top of my boat and my farmcart that I used to run packs with people. Your only contribution to the guild was the name and accepting an invite from anyone that read the blog.

          You reference how much I play, which is fine, I like my games. Not only did you not play as much as me, but everyone played more then you, again, which is FINE, but how can you expect things to be tight when the dude that created the guild doesnt even log in but a few mins a day to check his crops after the first week.

          I will not say that the game doesn’t have hacks and bugs and bla bla bla, but the reason you didn’t have fun is honestly on you.

        • Adam says:


          Wait, so is this why it’s deserted when I’ve been logging on? I’m terribly surprised by this post by Syncaine. I’m levelling slow but am in for the long haul if you guys want to invite me.

        • SynCaine says:

          Not going to get into all of this here with you mobs, because the game isn’t worth it, but in one post you state the guild is active, in the next you state only 1-2 people were active when the hackers where camping you. Which is it?

          And again, I was one of the first 50s in the guild. You can try to spin me playing less than you however you wish, but that fact remains. Pretty impossible to hit 50 in under a month just playing 10min a day, isn’t it?

        • Raelyf says:


          To be fair, he didn’t say the guild wasn’t active – he said that only one or two people would join up to fight the campers.

          “[…] would not of been an issue if everyone in the guild who was on other then 4 of us, would of bucked up and came and fought the 2-4 members of Infinite. They just NEVER did […] “

      • Dynaform says:

        I didn’t quit the game but went back to ezi where I have a 16 x 16. Once all the farms left the guild it was hard to keep playing.

        I am also shocked at Trion because I really enjoyed rift as a sub game and heard the f2p version is fairly generous. They refunded my sub payment from October and now my patron status says it’s good until January. So they either gave me 3 free months or just decided to switch me to the 3 month recurring without my permission. They can’t even handle something as basic as taking a monthly payment without fuck ups.

        • Mobs says:

          Adam, not sure which character you play in game but add me to your friends list. We playing as usual

  3. carson63000 says:

    I remember arguing with people on Massively almost two years ago, telling them that they should be very wary about getting their hopes up too high for a foreign title that was just going to be localized and published by Trion. “No no!” they said. “Trion will have complete control and be able to do whatever they need to do!”

    Fast forward 21 months.. “we’ll pass a note to XLGames, as we are just the publisher and can’t do anything”

    It would have made a lot more sense for Trion just to copy ideas from foreign games they were impressed by, rather than licensing and localizing one.

  4. I told you. It’s a three monther

    • SynCaine says:

      I don’t think this one counts for that, because the game’s actual content is one that could last much longer, it just never got a chance. Most MMOs that fail do so on content/design, either because its not very good or you just run out of stuff; there is plenty of fun stuff in AA, Trion just doesn’t want anyone enjoying it.

      • Mobs says:

        You’re blaming everything on trion, saying they are preventing players from enjoying the game, while the rest of us do just that.

        • maljjin says:

          Every game has bullshit in it and every person has a different level of tolerance to it. Yours is simply higher that Syncaine’s. Mine was hit within a couple hours of beta. No need to go further than this.

  5. coppertopper says:

    Was there one thing in particular they could correct that would shift the balance back in thei players favor? Better sub benefits?

    • SynCaine says:

      Either get rid of the sub and just have the pay4power shop, or allow the sub to be enough to fully play the game. AA has the worst of both worlds, where you can’t play without the sub, but you still sit at a significant disadvantage if you don’t gamble for power in the shop.

  6. Jenks says:

    F2P strikes again.

  7. Ranez says:

    Sorry man but I think you are completely wrong in a lot of what you are saying here.

    Im playing on Nui – EU, which has one of the lowest populations (going by time to hit high each night), but there is still rampant action on freeditch every night, seas battles, hasla PvP, guild politics all over the place, plenty of lovely drama and tears from the carebear guilds. Every MMO that comes out these days has a population drop after 1-2 months as people realise its not-wow, that dosent mean the game is dead, or dieing, or that no-one is enjoying themselves.

    With regards to the p2w aspects – yes it is possible to just buy gold/apex and get strong gear/buff potions, but if you are smart with your farm/labor/professions it is not hard to compete. For example I have brought a total of 2 apex (about 200g) so far, yet I have full Illustrious Lake gear, along with a Unique illustrious weapon. No I am not the best geared player, but I can compete easily, and win the majority of my 1v1 arena games. Your right the loyalty tokens dont provide a huge amount of anything, however they let me pay my taxes on my 2 16×16 and 2 8×8 with no problems. The only gripe I have with the cash shop at the moment is the p2w gliders, but hopefully that will be fixed once the missing “specialty” gliders are added.

    The botting problem, at least the most obvious signs of it (massive bot trains farming coins forever) are massively reduced to how they were only a few weeks ago. I dont see bots spam teleporting into the crafting stations anymore either. Of course there are still some bots and hacks, just like every MMO ever has had some bots and hacks, but making out like Trion is just simply paying lipservice to the problem is downright wrong.

    I feel like if you played the game more, and tried to ignore more of the shitposting on reddit and the forums you would probably have a better time within the game.

    • SynCaine says:

      Cash shop gliders, mounts, and pots are the current p4p items, but already they hinted at rotating more stuff into the lottery chests. It’s not going to get better, only worse.

      Also paying $30 (2 apex) for permanent great gear isn’t an issue to you? Not to mention that the reason the gear was that price was due to the hacking?

      Ultimately the problem here is that AA isn’t meant to be a solo adventure you instance into and not care about anything or anyone, it’s a virtual world where everyone is impacted by everyone else. I can’t get behind that and invest in growing a guild when I know, for a fact, how deep the hacking/cheating issue runs. And I don’t just mean the gold farmers, I mean the top-end guilds who are sitting on basically endless resources now, which has rapidly become the ‘standard’ due to not only how easy it was, but how heavily the game rewards rushing ahead by any means. That’s just an impossible sell to most people, and I can’t blame them.

      • Ranez says:

        The gold I brought all got burnt on power leveling tailoring, not really worth it on reflection. I definitely did not get permanent great gear from that. And even if I did, the apex situation is very similar to what goes on in Eve. Player buys “tokenX”, trades “tokenX” for gold, and gold for either gear or ships, depending on the game.

        To put that 200g in context, I probably spent around 1200g actually getting the gear off the AH, all made through fishing/farming/illegal pine tree hunting, and that is certainly not the only gold I have spent (300g dropped last night on lumber to finish our guild mansion, for example) so it has had a fairly minuscule affect on my total wallet size. The gold inflation due to hacking is kind of obvious looking at those figures, but the removal of bots has already started having an effect on the economy. A lot of gold was removed where it was deemed to have been “hacked in” (im guessing this was the teleport botting trade routes), regardless of where it ended up. I saw this first hand as I lost 70g that day. Not because I had been hacking, but because I had been trading with hackers (obviously without knowledge). Whilst it stung to lose gold as an innocent player, this actually made me more enamored to the game, as I saw first hand the actions being taken to correct the damage the bots had done to the economy.

        I guess the fact that XL games have created a virtual world is what is giving me more scope to allow some things that in other games WOULD immediately put me off. There simply isnt competition in the market at the moment for a fantasy world, so I am sticking with Archeage in the hope that it will improve. Trion might have been slow to the party, but at least they are dealing with the botting/hacking issues, I wouldnt say that I have faith that it will get better, but due to a lack of options (lol DF:UW), I have to hope!

        • SynCaine says:

          Gold spent in AA isn’t similar to ISK spent in EVE though; in EVE if someone were to hack and get enough ISK for a Titan, that Titan would be gone in short order, and the effect of the hacking would be very minimal. In AA once I have BiS gear, that’s it until the next tier of gear is released. Store potions are a different problem.

          Same goes for crafting; in EVE if one area gets flooded, it corrects itself in short order. In AA, a max crafter is a max crafter, and once gear is being sold near break-even (or below), that’s it, your effort to become a crafter in that area is ‘wasted’.

        • Trego says:

          The next tier of gear comes out in 1 week. Do you really think Titans in EVE are usually “lost in short order?”. *Hint: they are not.

          “In AA, a max crafter is a max crafter, and once gear is being sold near break-even”

          Due to the rng and effort involved in crafting in AA, your assumption that this will happen is not one people will accept without evidence.

        • SynCaine says:

          The story of someone buying a ship they aren’t ready for and losing it quickly because they don’t know what to do with it is very common in EVE, yes. Titans don’t happen as often as Carriers or say a kitted BS, but the same basic rule applies; a fool with ISK is quickly separated from it. A hacker or whale in AA keeps his gains forever. You can’t harm them or punish them for ‘skipping ahead’.

          RNG has no impact on a crafter; the % is calculated into the profit margin, and over time it stops being a variable, This, of course, assumes profit is to be had, but given how BiS BoE gearing works, combined with rampant hacking and a shared AH, that isn’t really the case in such economies.

        • Trego says:

          I don’t understand why you’re assuming that hacked titans would end up in the hands of fools. Someone smart enough to hack titans, who knew he couldn’t fly one, would probably sell it to someone who could and RMT the money. I fail to see the difference here. Someone in AA with BIS gear who sucks at his class will repeatedly die to someone with slightly subpar gear but who knows how to play. You’re allowing for skill in one game, but not the other.

          As for RNG, it does matter, because the RNG increases the total tries to craft a decent weapon by many orders of magnitude, which increases required time investment, knowledge investment, and capital investment. As someone who crafts in every MMO I play, I know from firsthand experience that these factors are key in determining whether a market goes to zero return over time or not. The AA crafting game looks tailor-made to stay vibrant; if the game as a whole does, of course.

        • Trego says:

          Anyway, to sum it up, AA’s economy slots in nicely in between Wow’s and EVE’s, so there’s no reason to believe it can’t last a decade as those games have, based solely on the economy. So far Trion isn’t doing as well fighting bots as Blizzard and CCP have, on average, although their success ratio varied over time. There are some little holes where AA lets bots have a huge advantage, as in the mechanics for placing a new house/farm down on empty land; and hopefully those will be fixed. That said, the real test for AA is whether it will be able to keep players interested at max level for a long period of time. That’s the real test facing all MMO’s, and you are letting your personal experience and bias distract you from that truth.

  8. John says:

    Good Design by your standards and tastes, bad design for mine…The good design would be the link on top of your blog and a pve server.

  9. Anti-Stupidity League says:

    Syncaine quits yet another MMO after a month or so, blames F2P, his guild, and other people on the server – News at 11. “We’re absolutely baffled,” local man said. “None of us saw this coming.”

    • Kels says:

      This is my favourite comment. Ever.

      I just feel bad for people like his guild and Mobs who failed to see it coming like the rest of us and then got promptly shat on. Guess we’re going to be hearing even more about how good Syncaine is at Clash of Clans, “yay”. At least until the cycle begins again.

    • Xyloxan says:

      WTF you talking about? He has repeatedly been blaming Trion.

  10. Rynnik says:

    Ah good ol’ could be successful but :AV: syndrome.

    Did you hear though? Jesus patch coming for UW any day now.


    • SynCaine says:

      Forumfall is still a guilty pleasure of mine, if only to watch every prediction made come to painful fruition.

      • Rynnik says:

        Noice. Wasn’t sure if you would have seen that one or not.

        I certainly lol’d.

        FML what is the next hope anyways?

        • SynCaine says:

          INQ is officially looking at CU. I tossed them money for the Kickstarter so I have that at least. So far nothing I see wrong happening with that title, but there is always time for Mark and Co to Trion the game up.

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