ArcheAge is the CryEngine 3-powered MMO from XLGAMES, devised by Lineage creator Jake Song. Publisher Trion Worlds has just announced that it's bringing the RPG to Western territories and more - that's North America, Europe, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand to be precise - and Pat's even had a chat with Song to find out more about why this RPG sandbox has recently taken the East by storm.
The MMO has been in development for six years and has undergone two years of closed beta testing, but it's now heading to Western shores. You can check out the game's official site here. It takes a sandbox approach to RPGs - think a DayZ slant on Guild Wars 2 - that does away with character classes or rigid roles, instead leaving most of the motivation, plot and purpose up to the player.
This freedom to carve out your own role in a relatively plot-less, classless world is a trend we're seeing a lot thanks to games like the previously-mentioned DayZ and Klei's survival game Don't Starve. The only real, forced choice is which of the game's continent you want to start on - Nuia and Harihara. The rest is up to you.
"ArcheAge is an MMORPG developed by XLGAMES," explained Song. "It features a story and design by Jeon Min Hee, one of the East’s best fantasy novelists, and music from top Korean composer Yoon Sang. ArcheAge interweaves ancient Eastern and Western myths across a vast world brought to life by visuals and gameplay powered by CryEngine 3 technology."
So technically it's no slouch, and it should go some way to dispelling the odd stereotype that MMO titles are less technically proficient than triple-a home console titles, which is still a tad baffling to see. Song himself is an ex-NC Soft developer so it's perhaps unsurprising that there are visual similarities between ArcheAge and both Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV - a decidedly Eastern vibe that fans of the JRPG aesthetic will no doubt find appealing.
Despite its JRPG-esque visuals, Song explained the game's globally inclusive pitch, "We started developing ArcheAge with global service in mind. During my stay with NCsoft, I worked a couple of years out of the LA and Austin office with American colleagues. I had a chance to experience the North American market first hand as well as work with American developers.
"What we are aiming in ArcheAge is to let the players feel the true fun of MMORPG by forming a community like real life by interacting with other players, whether it be conflict or cooperation. The motto of ArcheAge is ‘A world made by you!’ I think the Western game players are excited about and looking forward to such aspects of ArcheAge."
As we said earlier, ArcheAge operates on a rather loose framework, with no classes to box players in. Song gave us some insight into character progression, "There are ten abilities in ArcheAge and each player can combine three out of ten. That makes 120 unique class [combinations]. In ArcheAge, even if you are in the same class, players can choose the skills they want to learn, and I think this would give originality to each character.
"Characters will level up, but [their] three chosen abilities have their own level gauge too. If the player changes his or her mind and changes a certain ability before reaching a character’s highest level, the changed ability level will be low but can be improved by earning XP through activities such as hunting.
There's even farming, Song explained, "Farming is one [example] of ArcheAge's lifestyle content. You can raise livestock like cows, sheep or grow crops like strawberries, barley, or plant trees." He added that produced farmed, "is used as material for various items from potion to clothing. With a tractor player can carry and give water to many crops at one time."
While the thought of driving a tractor around all day certainly sounds appealing, no MMO would be complete without combat, and Song was more than happy to give us some insight on one of the game's most epic features: siege warfare, which sees vast warbands of players attacking player-created cities and engaging in fierce skirmishes.
"Siege warfare is one of the main features of ArcheAge but it is not the ultimate one. In ArcheAge, player guilds - we're calling it expedition - can capture land and build castles and houses. Other rival expeditions can try to take over that land through castle siege warfare.
"There will be several factors to consider when building a castle, but basically it is up to the players as to how they will build, manage and defend it against future aggression. Both the defenders and attackers have various siege weapons to utilize. Siege warfare may be a very intriguing content itself, but the change of power between expeditions or factions after the battle is another fun fact."
As there are no defined roles, quests or ingrained plot to follow, ArcheAge has the potential to spawn an open playing field where a natural hierarchy can emerge, where players can choose to follow their own path and be the kind of character they want - be a it a simple farmer, or the leader of a war faction leading a great siege against a fortified city.
It's an ambitious prospect, but one we will be keeping an eye on as it rolls out across our shores.
What's your take on the open-ended ArcheAge prospect? Let us know below.