ArcheAge is rolling out its third closed beta tournament series, and more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon proclaiming its innovation in the world of on line gaming. On closer examination, ArcheAge may not be as innovative as it appears. It may more be a return to the classical foundations of RPG gaming that has gone missing over the past decades. That may not be the most innovative approach, but it certainly is most welcome.
Non-linear Stories and Civilizations
The use of non-linear progression in ArcheAge is nothing new. It has been present in many multi-player digital worlds since the Kingdom of Drakkar. While there are defined quests, you don’t need to follow them to explore the game. Unlike KoD, there isn’t a goal or purpose that allows you to complete levels. The mapping in ArcheAge is organic, not goal driven. This makes for a much more dynamic play system in which you don’t have to interrupt your plans to complete a goal that may make no sense for your society.
The lynchpin in the game play for Archeage is that you have to create and sustain a civilization, at least to the extent of a village, in order to provide your main character with resources. This is a departure from several other sandbox games with a focus on social and economic construction. It maintains an egocentric focus on a character (or characters) that works to give all of the movement and creation purpose and drive. This can serve to make it much more engaging to players.
How Much Does it Owe to Sandboxes of the Past?
While much is being made of the sandbox construction of the Archeage world, you can’t forget the predecessors in this style of game design. Everything from Civilization to the Sims to Second Life has used the same basic premise. Civilization probably has the closest design purpose to ArcheAge, but much has been heavily borrowed from the rest. The prime criticism of those games is they did not offer enough engagement of different levels so that players with a different gaming motivation could enjoy them. The good news is this may be what is driving the closed beta tournaments; they are testing and showcasing the variety of action that is available while still being within an undefined sandbox.
Despite the potential fact that this game is a revisit to games of decades ago, it does represent a return to what made role-playing games so popular. All of the current iterations of first person, multi-player shooting games aren’t really role playing games at all. While there have been many digital sand box worlds created, they have lacked an overall game design beyond self-indulgence. ArcheAge may be the game that brings together technology with quality RPG design to create a digital world that is exciting, and a long lasting play.