Interview With Victoria Voss, Lead Producer on ArcheAge
This week we got the chance to talk with Victoria Voss, Lead Producer at Trion Worlds, about the upcoming free-to-play fantasy-themed "sandbox" MMORPG ArcheAge. A very interesting chat in which we learnt a lot about the secrets of this Asian title reconverted to the Western markets.
First of all, thank you for giving us this interview about ArcheAge. Would you be so kind to introduce yourself to our readers?
Thank you for doing the interview! My name is Victoria "FireCait" Voss, and I'm the Lead Producer on ArcheAge here at Trion Worlds. I've been playing MMO for many, many years and I've fallen in love with ArcheAge. I'm primarily an online gamer as I love having folks around when I'm playing! I
love all sorts of gameplay, from farming and crafting, to that crazy run with a ship full of supplies and never knowing when or if you're going to get jumped!
How would you describe ArcheAge to someone who has never heard of it before?
If you've been missing the sandbox experience in the AAA world, or you've played themeparks and are looking for deeper player to player conflict and cooperation, or you're new entirely and just want to play the best, most attractive open-ended MMO, then ArcheAge may be exactly what you're looking
Want to raise your own pet? Own boats and take them to war? Have a farm? Craft the best items in the game? Build a castle with your guild? Glide off a mountain? If those things sound attractive, it's absolutely worth it to give ArcheAge a look.
A lot of ArcheAge fans are describing the game as a "Sandpark" MMORPG, due to its unique mix of sandbox and theme-park elements. Can you tell us something about these features and how is the game going to mix these two different genres?
Think of it as a sandbox at its core, with themepark elements acting as a guide, in an incredibly gorgeous fantasy setting. Think of the satisfaction of Ultima Online or Star Wars Galaxies, with their depth of crafting and owning a part of the world, and the player-driven intrigue, PvP, and piracy of an Eve Online, along with an open class system of a game like Rift.
The focus is absolutely on getting people to the place where they can be fully immersed in the sandbox elements, as that's where the game truly shines. We've been excited about it since first hearing about Jake Song's vision to bring it to life in the modern era.
Tell us something about the combat system in the game. How do the different classes and skills interact?
ArcheAge has a very interesting class and skill system. Very early on in your character's leveling, you have different skill set slots that you can choose from so by level 10 you have selected three of 10 different skillsets for your preferred combination. Then you choose how you want to combine the skills as your skillsets level up while you gain experience.
Each of the skillsets has their own unique abilities. You have to choose how many points to spend in to each active skillset, creating interesting choices in picking the skills that create exact the class you want.
One of the cooler things about the skillsets is the combinations. Powerful combo effects exist both within single skillsets as well as across multiple skillsets. It's up to you how you use the combinations available in your class. You really get to pick the class you want to play!
Can you tell us something about the character progression and customization? Are there classes, levels, skills to improve...? How can we customize our avatar?
There's so much to do in ArcheAge! When creating your character, you have an amazing level of control over the character's face, skin and hair! The range of character that we see on Alpha and Beta is just awesome. Even beyond your character's face, you can change the look of gear with great stats so you can look like anything you want. You can be a mage in plate mail, or a tank in robes!
And then there's the skills and classes! You can choose three out of 10 different skillsets, and you can change them out when you want! You also have the opportunity to switch out your skillsets, so you can have a PvP set of skills when you feel like PvPing, and a PvE set of skills when you want to hunt mobs! You can also level up your crafting and harvesting skills as you choose!
With all of the options available, you can play the game how ever you like, while looking just the way you want!
We know that the game won't be a combat-only experience and that players will have way more freedom and features to enjoy, being able to build their homes, farms, boats... Can you illustrate these features and tell us if there is more?
There's so much more to ArcheAge than just combat! Almost everything you can do in the game can gain you experience. We have folks on Alpha who focus on the non-combat aspects and have reached max level already!
You can build a house or farm and raise cows for milk; or grow cotton to make the best cloth armor in the game; or collect pelts from hunters to make leather armor; or mine iron ores in a cave to build packs to build the houses! You can build your fishing boat, compete in fishing contests to
gain awesome loot, or just fish peacefully by the side of a river.
There are over fifteen different skills that you can do without killing a thing - from alchemy, to husbandry, to tailoring to commerce! Do what you want to do!
What can you tell us about ArcheAge's PvP?
PvP in ArcheAge is definitely one of the more interesting elements. The initial areas of the world are PvP-protected, and you're protected from same-side combat at low levels as well. As the game progresses, more options open.
You later discover areas of the world that cycle between peacetime and war between the factions, and level into the range where people of your own faction can enter bloodthirst (PK) mode and even harm their own side. Which leads into the justice system, where players can be arrested and tried by their peers for their crimes, and even be exiled from their entire faction, and forced into a life of piracy. The depth of the system is one of the things that we found most interesting about ArcheAge.
Speaking about PvE, how will it be structured? There are the classic quest chains, instances and raids, or can we expect something different?
The joy of ArcheAge is that you can play the way you want to play! There are story quests that teach you why you're in the world, standard quests where you interact with the npcs in the world, and quests that teach you about the sandbox elements. There are instanced dungeons where you and your friends can challenge yourselves, as well as open world and instanced raid content for you!
The cool part is that you can play those quests, do those instances, run those raids, or not! It's totally up to you and how you want to play.
Can you tell us something about the social aspects of the game?
Social interaction and reputation are a huge part of ArcheAge! When your own faction can choose to attack you, knowing who you are getting on a ship with is very important as they could turn on you and steal your tradepack!
The justice system in ArcheAge allows players to dictate penalties for killing or stealing crops from your own faction. When you have killed or stole enough, you will get arrested and put on trial. Your jury is a jury of your peers - and possibly the same characters that you have killed or
stolen from! They get to influence just how much time you spend in jail! The more often you go on trial, the longer your possible sentence can be. There are definitely penalties for a negative reputation!
We know that the game will be published as a free-to-play title. Can you tell us something more about this decision?
ArcheAge follows the same AAA F2P philosophy that we pioneered in RIFT where we give away as much as we can, without putting up geographical pay-gates, and making sure you're always able to play with your friends. In Rift, we focus primarily on Convenience, Cosmetics, and Catch-up (to your friends) gear, and avoid being P2W that way.
In ArcheAge, since it's brand new, we're focusing primarily on Convenience and Cosmetics, while making modifications for its unique gameplay elements. For example: in ArcheAge, unlike Rift, land is a scarce resource, and in the F2P world, people can make infinite accounts. And also in ArcheAge, the best gear is crafted, so crafting needs to have some amount of pacing applied to it to prevent the game being dominated by bots.
The underlying philosophy remains true - We want to be as generous as we possibly can and let the games' quality speak for themselves, while protecting real human players from the legions of bots out there. (We've already banned over 17,000 attempted botter accounts in alpha alone, so the limitations we do put in place are legitimately important to keep the game healthy.)
As for labor specifically, it's our desire to steer the game more toward a Patron (optional sub) and APEX system (similar to Rift's REX) than an non-demand consumable system. We're continuously working with XLGAMES on the best ways to get as close to goals as possible in their game's existing framework.
Will the game feature something like a premium account option and/or a cash-shop? If yes, what can we expect to find inside, powerful items or just boosters and cosmetic items?
With ArcheAge, we're about giving you options. We have a Patron system that you can purchase with either real money or credits, and we give you a way to get credits with in-game money via APEX! APEX is an item that is purchasable with real money, but is tradable and auction-able! Players who prefer not to spend real money can purchase APEX for in-game gold, and get
credits to purchase items on the Marketplace or, if they choose, to purchase Patron status for themselves!
The Marketplace focuses on convenience and cosmetics. In the Beta 1 Marketplace, you could purchase vanity costumes, or mounts, mount equipment and gliders that are similar to the mid-range items that you can get in the game. You could also get items for changing the appearance of your armor and weapons,items that are needed for uploading your own images into the game,
XP boost potions, labor boost potions, and other, similar, items.
We are reviewing the feedback about the Marketplace from Alpha and Beta 1 and will be adjusting the offerings from the store for alpha and future Beta events.
A lot of eastern players are complaining about the recent changes made - or going to be made - to the other versions of game with the latest patches which are apparently increasing the grind and reducing the sandbox flavor of the game. Is your version going to follow the exact same evolution of its eastern counterparts, or will it be different? In this case, what kind of differences can we expect to see?
We collaborate with XLGAMES' teams regularly, and their head of ArcheAge has assured us repeatedly that his teams are there to help us in our requests. Honestly, we learn as much (if not more!) from them about their markets and original design intent as they do from us about our customers.
Our version already has a number of westernization updates in it compared to what has gone on in the Korea and China locales. Primarily in terms of balancing trade, labor points. Some of the biggest changes have been in MTX, where the relative tastes in the markets are very different from west to east. And the XLGAMES teams have been doing very well at helping us realize our intent.
As we move through the Alpha and Beta testing phases, we're continuing to review the beta that we have received from Alpha and Beta. We are reviewing the feedback with XLGAMES to make the game even better!
Thank you for all your answers. Would you like to add something?
We're really looking forward to seeing all of our European friends in ArcheAge! We promise that we're working extremely hard on making sure your languages are well represented, in the AAA manner that it deserves. We're extremely grateful for your patience as we get better and better throughout beta!
If you wish to know more about ArcheAge, click on the "info" button below. And don't forget to check out our review and recently published first look gameplay commentary video.