ArcheAge Producer’s Letter – April 2016

ArcheAge Producer’s Letter – April 2016

Hi there! I’m Merv “Khrolan” Lee Kwai, I’m the Senior Producer for ArcheAge. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve been with the ArcheAge team for over a year and am proud to have worked on some great ArcheAge updates including Secrets of Ayanad, Dread Prophecies, Heroes Awaken and Bloodsong.

For those of you who do know me, or watch our Friday Livestreams every week, sup!

Today, I’d like you to join me for a toasty fire-side chat about ArcheAge. A lot has happened since last September’s release of 2.0 Heroes Awaken – most notably that we’ve caught up to the Korean version of ArcheAge and are now only one update behind their content.

In this letter, I provide my personal perspective on the state of the game, give hearty appreciation where it’s due, and most importantly, address the top issues of today. Grab your drink of choice and let’s get started!

Recent Updates

First, a recap of everything that’s been added to ArcheAge so far just this year. Update 2.5: Bloodsong brought content like our new high level PvE dungeon, Mistsong Summit, the sunken ships system to encourage deep sea exploration, Balanced Arenas for our PvPers, and region-wide Equipment Point leaderboards.

I’ve always found it interesting that a small feature like the leaderboards can garner so much attention. Some of the top-geared character profiles can receive over 100,000 views per month!

While a majority of these systems were well-received, others still require additional revision. A good example is the change made to limit arena entries for both the traditional arenas and the new balanced options.

The design goal for limiting Arena entries was threefold:

  • Encourage players to engage in other activities
  • Allow mid-tier PvPers the chance to fight someone other than Arena masters
  • Ensure that honor is even gained from timed events like Mistmerrow, Crimson Rift, and world PvP instead of just the Arena.

Unfortunately, players who truly loved queuing for just Arenas were negatively affected by this change. We are continuing to work with the XLGAMES team to deliver not just meaningful game improvements, but to also change pain points like these with the help of community feedback.

We’ve also seen a lot of enjoyment among players around three recent post-2.5 additions: Tree Houses, the 8-slot Farm Freighter and the Stormwing Pegasus. The art quality of this nightmarish mount is fantastic, and we are happy to finally have it available!

ArcheAge Producer’s Letter – April 2016

Security Changes

Many of you will remember the (celebrated) removal of Hackshield at the end of last year. We’ve made a huge number of improvements to our in-house bot and third-party program detection methods over the course of this year, and we continue to refine them as time goes on.

To give you an idea of the scale, we’ve banned over 75,000 gold sellers, third-party program users, or all-around unwanted accounts just this year. Prior to these large scale ban waves, we warned existing ArcheAge players who triggered a minor offense to play by the rules. While some players took us up on our offer and corrected their actions, others didn’t and found themselves permanently banned from ArcheAge, regardless of their tenure with the game. It was hard but necessary for the integrity of the game, and players far and wide have expressed their support for our stance on hacking and exploiting.

We’re committed to keeping up this level of integrity in the game, and many of you have mentioned that you’ve seen the effects in action through the large decrease of automated accounts, gold sellers, and auction bots.

Server Status Update

As with any online game approaching its third year, some of you have had questions regarding the overall health of ArcheAge NA and EU. We’re happy to report that the core audience of ArcheAge players remains inspiringly strong. It’s undeniable that this is in large part due to the strength of your guilds and communities within the game.

You have left your mark on this world, whether it’s through land ownership and decoration, world boss trophies on display next to three cars, fully kitted warships, or the continuous changes to your character’s customization and growth. It’s fair to say that there are just some things you can do in ArcheAge that you can’t do anywhere else, and a lot of that comes from players finding new ways to play within the world.

At this point we are no longer considering Evolution/merges for servers that fall in the lowest population brackets. While this may not always remain the case (never say never), it’s our approach for the foreseeable future. We intentionally released character transfers to allow players to move to a server that supports their preferred style of play, whether that’s PvP 24/7 on Shatigon and Kyrios or a more relaxed atmosphere on another server.

Instead of merges, we plan to offer players reasons to play on current lower population servers like Ollo, Salphira, Tahyang, Eanna, and Dahuta. Our initial proposal is still in progress (and not final), but the goal is to highlight the appealing qualities of those servers to new players, players who are leveling, players who want to gear up in a less stressful environment, and players who may have trouble finding land. These ideas include providing boosts to experience or vocation, tagging them clearly in the server selection screen for new players, and allowing free inbound character transfers.

Last week, we merged the Auction House clusters to support a stronger economy for ArcheAge Servers. Morpheus and Rangora are our Fresh Start servers and they’re about to reach 7 months live. It was important to ensure they had a closed economy to protect the natural path of progression at their release.

Both servers have grown rapidly since then, and they are now comparable to our average server. The first step to integrating them with the legacy and evolution servers was to join them with an existing Auction House cluster. The next step is to allow character transfers off of Fresh Start servers, followed by allowing characters to transfer in. There’s a high probability that transfers will become available for Fresh Start servers this summer.

We’ve also kept an eye on how new players progress in the game. It’s no secret that there’s a significant barrier to entry for new players who are trying to become competitive.

To change this barrier to entry, we plan to introduce more benefits to new players through the ‘new player boxes’. In May 2016 you will see a continuation of this trend aimed to assist with the leveling curve and the ability reach basic levels of relevant gear. While deeper progression will always remain challenging and an aspirational goal, entry and middle-tier gearing will become easier to attain.

ArcheAge Producer’s Letter – April 2016

Current Events

Enough of the past, friends. Let’s move on to what’s happening in the game today. To open, the team is always looking to prioritize long standing issues in ArcheAge that affect the community. While some are outright bugs, others are quality-of-life changes that have been suggested by an overwhelming number of players.

ArcheAge was initially designed for the South Korean region and this poses very specific challenges to operating the game internationally. Korea has an amazing internet structure, a single time zone, and smaller distances to cover, leading to their fast-paced combat engineering and event design that causes issues with large regions like ours.

Between now and the end of May, we plan to tackle these challenges with the following solutions:

  • Rapid Fire Abilities, also known as the “Korean versions” of the Triple Strike, Rapid Strikes, Endless Arrows and Mana Stars abilities. At the launch of our regions, many players didn’t and still don’t have a connection to the game that’s satisfactory to use these skills in their original, quick fire form. We compromised by converting these skills to traditional global cooldown abilities. This impacted class balance to a great degree by trapping highly reactive PvP classes in long cooldowns or allowing a melee based character to strike with the third hit of a combo ability from an unintended range. Bringing the intended versions of these skills to our version is our top priority and is necessary to properly balance classes. These skills go hand-in-hand with…
  • The Skill Queue. Quite some time ago we made the request to introduce a system that allows players to pre-queue abilities. The goal was to allow higher ping players the ability to use rapid fire abilities or combo-based abilities in seamless succession with a buffer for their connection. This system will allow the client to save successive skill inputs by the player, to be delivered immediately after the previous skill completes firing on the server’s side. We’ve seen many iterations on the skill queue at this point and we continue to work on getting this system ready for its prime time release.
  • North America and European Schedule Separation. ArcheAge has an automated schedule of in-game events that spans a 9-hour window. Due to the game defaulting to a single time zone within the game’s core programming, the event times had to drastically compromise. This meant 50% of that 9-hour window happened too early for North American prime time and too late for European players.I’m happy to say that the schedules are in the final stages of being separated by server region. The 9-hour window for NA servers will occur based on PDT (UTC-7) and will begin at 10:00 AM and end around 7:00 PM. Pacific Daylight Time was selected due to our wide-range of time zones supported by the NA region including PST/PDT, MST/MDT, CST/CDT, EST/EDT, BRT and AEST. The timing offset allows Australian players the ability to participate in mid-day events like Sieges during reasonable morning hours and at the same time allowing Latin America players to participate during their evening.The 9-hour window for EU servers will occur based on UTC+1 and will begin at 10:00 AM and end around 7:00 PM in UTC+1. This offset was important to consider the range of UTC to UTC+2. We’ll also see the removal of the extreme off-hours events like the Golden Plains Battle shifted into the centered 9-hour window. This change will be delivered with the upcoming May 2016 game update.
  • Ayanad Weapon, Armor and Accessory Patterns. The ability to create an Ayanad item has existed for well over one year. That may be hard to believe, but it’s due to the key material component to upgrade a Delphinad weapon being extremely elusive. We’ve passed the point where this was appropriate to the power balance in ArcheAge. Ayanad Patterns of all three types will drop from the Heart of Ayanad dungeon starting with the April update. They’ll be obtainable in the form of a sealed Eternal Library Tome and will yield a random, tradable pattern upon unsealing. Additionally, we’ve been working on a new Ayanad Scrap system. The Scrap system has been developed for our region and will allow players to earn pieces of an Ayanad pattern through daily quests, Ayanad Library tasks, and through a new type of coin purse. Once a necessary number of scraps is obtained they can be forged into a tradable Weapon, Armor or Accessory pattern of the player’s choice.
  • Character Name Change System. In early May we’ll begin offering a name change service that works similarly to how names can be changed during the Character Transfer process. We plan to free up inactive names by renaming characters that haven’t logged into ArcheAge for more than 7 months and are under level 30. More details about this will be announced as the release of this system nears.

It’s no secret that we make changes in the game through a combined effort of community feedback and internal game design. We understand that we may not always agree on what should be done for certain topics; we always value your input even when it’s in the form of direct criticism.

While this list is not everything that’s been mentioned (or on our personal lists), it’s a direct result of you voicing your concerns and our ability to advocate for change to the best of our ability as a publisher of the game. From smaller issues like the cost to change skills to large issues like separating the event schedules, your input is always appreciated. We’ll keep working with you and the passionate, dedicated team at XLGAMES to bring these changes to light.

Now, let’s get to what you’ve been waiting for.

Coming Soon

Today, we’re thrilled to announce that we will release ArcheAge 2.9: Ascension on May 31st, 2016. We have all been HYPE since we watched the Korean announcement trailer for the first time. Over the next 5 weeks, the team will reveal our localized 2.9 content through Spotlight Articles, our weekly live streams, and a hands-on sessions on our Public Test Server.

Here’s a taste of what’s coming:

  • Castle System – Lords of Aurorian Castles will be able to create, place, and upgrade a stronghold. They will build functional crafting, vocation, political and storage buildings with the combined efforts of their guild and surrounding citizens. All players can reap the benefits of participating in a Castle’s day-to-day activities.
  • Nation System – The highly anticipated Nation System is finally here! With the support of their nobles and the combined efforts of regional loyalists, Lords can rise to claim the title of Sovereign and declare a nation. A nation is an independent, player controlled faction that stands in direct competition with the Harani Alliance, Nuia Alliance and Pirates. Through a diplomacy system, the Heroes of a player nation can ally with the NPCs of other factions while still remaining hostile to their players.
  • Skill Balance – This update brings about another round of skill balancing and quite possibly the most impactful changes since Dread Prophecies. Notable changes include the revamping of the Mettle and Bloodthirst mechanics, the standardization of various passives’ cooldowns, and the addition of a new type of debuff (block/parry/evasion reduction) for multiple Archery abilities. A few extremely powerful abilities have also been reworked, including Battlerage’s “Deflect and Retaliate” passive and Witchcraft’s infamous “Wailing Dead” summon. We’ll make sure to provide the full list of changes when we release update notes for Ascension.
  • Obsidian Weapons and Armor, Tier 7 – The upgrade path for items in the crafted Obsidian line will continue. These weapons and armor will command top tier power and require large scale effort to create. When a Tier 7 weapon is forged, not only will it have a unique new appearance, the player can choose between 4 versions of the item to create. In parallel with this addition, the amount of materials required to create Tier 5 and 6 Obsidian items will decrease.
  • Equipment Encyclopedia – This new catalog will help evaluate weapons, armor and accessories while suggesting appropriate upgrade paths. It’s a master compendium of wearables and a valuable resource when attempting to improve Equipment Point score, survivability or damage output.
  • Lots of Other Stuff – Taris, a new Mistsong Summit boss; Kadum, a new Mistmerrow world boss, new housing furniture including doors, rugs, ladders, partitions and wall art; 64 new exploration locations; an arena matchmaking system based on equipment points; an 8×8 storage tower and much more.

We also plan to give away an awesome, free Ascension welcome package for new, returning and existing players as we did with our past two major updates. If you loved the items you got with those crates, then be sure to look for this next round! (And if you’re in a guild, you’ll be getting a special, extra crate to open!)

In Closing…

The teams at Trion and XLGAMES are committed to developing a rich future for ArcheAge. While what comes after 2.9 is locked away by secrecy, all I can say is that the excitement doesn’t end here. When the XLGAMES development team makes their next announcement, we’ll provide a localized version of it so you can follow along with us rather than trying to decipher some Google Translate wordmash from the web.

ArcheAge is a game I truly love to both play and work on. We all have our challenging moments, but it’s my personal goal to meet those head on, every day with the best of my ability. While we’ve come far in the past year, there’s always room to build upon what we’ve accomplished together.

I’d like to close by thanking you, our players, for your continued dedication to the game. I cheer and congratulate you in times of great success and empathize with you through times of stress and challenge. I commend the fantastic efforts of your guilds and share the memories of empires past, present, and those to come.

Let’s toast the dawning of Ascension and all the new stories that will soon unfold. Grab your drink, raise it up, and get ready to rise higher in Erenor than ever before!
Cheers!

–          Merv Lee Kwai