ArcheAge: Sandbox, Themepark, or Farmville?

Alright, let’s continue the ArcheAge commentary.  I’ve put in several more hours and I have a ton to say about several of the core game mechanics.

An Ode to Farmville ArcheAge Farming

Oh little strawberries so tiny and red,
I thought I would eat you but then suddenly read,
I need one effing hundred of you to complete this quest,
According to that annoying NPC’s demanding behest.
No big deal, I’ll just wait a few,
I had no idea how slowly you grew.
Five hours later, my coin purse destroyed,
Only then did I realize THIS is when I should get annoyed…

I think I missed my calling as a poet.  Anyway, that poem describes one of my first experiences with farming in ArcheAge.  I was tasked with making Strawberry jam to prove my worth as a hero adventurer farmer.  I was given a tiny little plot of land (8×8 or something) to use for completing these farming quests.  Farming in ArcheAge takes real time  and requires planting, watering, harvesting, etc.  It’s really neat for a MMO, and though I give it a hard time for reminding me of Farmville I think it’s fine.

This quest in particular had me plant about 30 strawberry bushes in order to harvest 100 strawberries.  They take about 2-3 hours per bush, so I was able to plant them then go hunt and come back. Long story short, I then had to run pretty far away to craft the jam, then realized I had to travel almost 40 minutes to turn it in at a location several zones away.  It takes so long because they slow you down while you carry the stuff.

The fun just begins, though.  Now to prove myself worthy of a donkey (to make these errands faster), I must obtain goose down.  To get goose down I must raise goslings that only eat beans.  Well to get beans I need to plant them much like the strawberry experience.  I need enough of them to feed enough goslings to grow into geese that will, one day, provide enough down to complete this quest.  I think I’m going to make a spreadsheet to manage the whole thing (3-4 down per goslings at 3 hours per harvest + beans).

For those of you who love farming, ArcheAge has you covered.

Quests, Quests, and MOAR QUESTS!

This is the part of ArcheAge I do not like at all.  The questing extremely shallow and really quite boring.  The quest text can just be skipped, it’s that good.  You just follow arrows around or look on your map for the indicators and do whatever it wants you to do.  It’s always click this or kill that.  Really too bad since I wanted ArcheAge to be a sandbox.  This questing-to-level system breaks what could have been a very, very good time.  I wish the questing was removed completely in favor of a big open world.  The zones are definitely linear, and you progress THROUGH the game rather than living in it as you grow as a character.

Ahoy there! A Ship!

I finally made my way into this zone where, if you can wrestle one away from someone else, you can try out the ships.  I sailed around for 45 minutes.  That was a really neat experience.  I loved boats in UO, and to think that the same type of experience can be had from this perspective… that’s easily the main draw for me.  Imagine just finding water and sailing out and fishing.  There’s combat out on the water, other people acting as pirates, etc.

If I could find a way to skip all of the questing and just get my ship and sail off into the horizon I would.

There might be a sandbox in here somewhere…

I’m starting to think the game as a sandbox doesn’t begin until level 50.  1-50 is just a filter and time waster.  At level 50 you’ll be able to afford the good ships, build castles, siege people’s property in wars, sail out into the ocean and live the life of a real pirate, drive in race cars, etc.  Until then it’s this weird quest grind.  I’ll keep you updated as I progress as far as I can during the alpha and beta phases.

  • I see that you derive poetic inspiration from the Black Sabbath school of homophonic rhyming.

    “Generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses.”

    Technically they are homonymic, but anyway…

  • I think you could say 1-50 is more themepark then end game is a sandbox.. thats probably pretty accurate.

  • I do love MMOs with boats. I wish more would go that route rather than opt for the really horrible flying mounts. With today’s technology, ocean zones could actually feel like large oceans. PLUS, UO-style Treasure Hunting would be an awesome feature for Collectors/Achievers/PvE’ers/Casuals!

  • “I’m starting to think the game as a sandbox doesn’t begin until level 50. 1-50 is just a filter and time waster.” I was never really interested due to the art style (just not my thing) but with a comment like that I am confident I will never be interested.

  • I dont mind the level 1-50 quest content.. ever game does it. I actually like questing.. how would you do it without quests keen? grind? or just no levels?

  • I think ArcheAge would have been awesome with no levels and just skills. Or if they were going with a sandbox/pseudo-sandbox world they should have gone with the EQ style of world. You’ve played EQ so you know what I mean.

    Keep in mind that while I feel the questing is pretty bad, it’s surrounded by some really great things like boats, farming, the combat is good, etc.

  • @Keen Age of Wushu is like that. They took the EVE style of levels, you just put skills on que and wait to be complete (of course there are ways to speed up the process). Mobs in the world don’t give “xp” , you just farm them for materials. I liked it a lot but oh well, I could not go far on it (since I am the pve guy here..). I think Archeage could go that route too, similar to EVE/Age of Wushu.

  • Keen: “This questing-to-level system breaks what could have been a very, very good time”

    So true for many games. I’d say the same about ESO although many have disagreed. When the primary purpose of quests is to level, and the only way to level is to quest, it’s practically impossible to come up with a system which a sufficient volume of questing to get to max level, while keeping that questing meaningful. It becomes quantity over quality very quickly and I struggle to think of a (modern MMO) game where this isn’t a major problem.

    If there are quests, they should be large, meaningful multi-stage quests which feel properly epic. Not some stupid side-quest to find someone’s pig when you should be saving the world but which you realistically have to do to get to a point where you’re able to save the world.

    I’m increasingly of the opinion that the only workable solution is sandbox play with lore and story injected appropriately. I liked the suggestion in the EQN devspeaks that during the tutorial you wouldn’t have quests to do certain things; instead you would be told you can do things -if you want to- and get a small recognition if you do them. And I think rather than quests, if you are told that there is an interesting dungeon somewhere, or something’s happening that you could help with you can go and do it but there’s no feeling that you have to.

  • @Thuun: Exactly

    @John: I think it’s too late for ArcheAge to change such a core feature. Questing to level looks like it’s here to stay. I wish they would drop it entirely.

  • Finally someone saw the FarmVille aspect and wrote about it. I slipped into Russian beta with an English patch hoping to check out the crafting systems. Got to the same point as you and realized I would have to play FarmVille rather than explore the world for materials and haven’t logged in since. I felt the same as you, seems like all the sandbox is deep into the game, the starter experience feels very theme park. Not sure I will check this one out any more.

  • hmm.. thanks for the info. I had my Wildstar Beta this past weekend, and not sure it’s for me, but then your description of ArcheAge makes me wonder if it’s for me either.

  • Is it just a single server for now? I got my alpha invite and am downloading now. Could use some friendly faces to add to my friends list.