ArcheAge Unchained Interview: Executive Producer Merv Lee Kwai on a Play-To-Win Future

Gamigo is taking a massive step forward with ArcheAge Unchained, an overhauled release of the sandbox MMORPG with a buy-to-play business model. Severing ties with the notion of pay-to-win and yet keeping the Legacy servers running simultaneously, this is an ambitious plan that comes with big risks, but it could also yield big rewards.

We decided to learn more about ArcheAge Unchained straight from the mind of executive producer Merv Lee Kwai. Read the interview below to discover how Unchained started, how the new ArchePass works, and what measures were taken in order to turn housing into a fairer prospect, among other things.

 

Before Gamigo purchased Trion Worlds in 2018, the plan for ArcheAge Unchained was already underway. Was this something that Gamigo fully supported from the start, and could other games follow the same path?

The desire to revamp the ArcheAge business model was something my team talked about for as long as I can remember. About 2 years ago, under Trion Worlds, the initial concepts were born. The idea was initially met with some expected skepticism when we were acquired by gamigo. Shortly thereafter—and much to my appreciation—our dedicated team members began to shape the dream. ArcheAge was in a unique position due to heavy past criticisms. Our genuine want to do it better, combined with the support of the community, is what brought it all to life. I don’t think it’s possible for all games to take this approach and be successful.

 

Ultimately, what makes you believe that Unchained will be successful? We’re used to seeing premium games going free-to-play, but the other way around is unusual.

It’s really simple: our players want it. I can’t count the number of times where I’ve heard someone say “ArcheAge could be one of the best MMOs in history, but….” The pillars of the Unchained project are built around meeting the demands of our players headfirst: the perception of P2W, client vulnerabilities, lax policies, and lack of communication. Nothing is taboo and everything is laid bare. That’s a story people can get behind.

ArcheAge Unchained interview Shadows Revealed update

Judging by the overall excitement surrounding Unchained, do you feel ready to tackle the stream of players and avoid long queues during the first launch days?

We’ve doubled the amount of time that we typically run our Public Test Server and are iterating rapidly. A multitude of issues have risen but our dedicated teams work in shifts around the clock to solve them – that’s a huge benefit we have now that we’re a more global-focused organization. Our teams stand at the ready to address any issues that arise.

 

By saying that “ArcheAge Unchained is focusing on a fair monetization system,” and I’m quoting official marketing material here, don’t you think that you’re corroborating the players’ claims about a pay-to-win system?

Everyone’s definition of Pay-to-Win is different these days. ArcheAge has historically had a liberal business model and I absolutely understand why it’s referred to as P2W. If you want to call that corroborating then yes, sure, we were. I like to think of it more as acknowledging our previous approach and putting forth best effort to transparently meet expectations.

 

Can you give us a brief description of the improvements that Unchained brings in order to level up the playing field for everyone? And exactly how does the ArchePass works?

Unchained has a static up-front cost, we sell cosmetic items in the marketplace through direct sales, and we offer a premium season pass model that provides additional cosmetics as a reward. This version stands in contrast against the Legacy model that offers a monthly subscription (and provides gameplay progression benefits), a tradable premium currency known as “APEX,” items that enhance progression in lockboxes, and a large amount of RNG on monetization dependent systems.

Up to 3 ArchePasses run simultaneously for a 3-month season. Players complete daily objectives, earn experience, and progress in ArchePass Levels. Each time they gain a level, they get a free reward and if they purchase the premium version of the pass, they are awarded a cosmetic item at milestone levels.

ArcheAge Unchained interview Fight

By deciding to keep both ArcheAge versions running, don’t you fear that the Legacy version may see its player count drastically reduced, as players make the transition to Unchained? If this scenario happens, what is your stance regarding the original ArcheAge?

ArcheAge has a solid core of heavily invested legacy players. We intend to support them in the same capacity we always have. Unchained is targeted at players who loved the concept of ArcheAge at release, but fell off somewhere along the way for any number of reasons. Sure, there’s some overlap between the two, but we wouldn’t have made this decision if we believed it would put us in a place that wasn’t sustainable.

 

Housing is always a sensitive subject in any MMO and ArcheAge is no exception. How do you plan on making this system fairer for this fresh start?

As you know, our player housing occurs in the open world and is persistent. The competition for owning land is fierce and we’ve learned a lot from the rush process over the past five years. Unchained servers open on October 15 but the ability to claim land doesn’t occur until October 19. The 4-day grace period gives players more time to earn in-game currency to buy housing designs. Lastly, the rush occurs on a Saturday to ensure we include the wider audience. Players aren’t permitted to buy tax certificates (a cash shop item used to maintain owned property week-over-week) on Unchained servers and that inherently restricts the amount of land owned.

 

Do you think that Unchained has some sort of competition in WoW Classic, or at these substantially different MMORPGs with very distinct player targets?

I think there’s a base level of overlap for all MMORPGs. ArcheAge focuses on player interactions on the large scale: our raid bosses, PvP, and housing all exist in a seamless, persistent, open world. The nature of our gameplay is more sandbox focused and players truly create their own personas in a living, breathing environment.

ArcheAge Unchained interview

What is the plan regarding content updates? Do you plan on rolling them out simultaneously for Legacy and Unchained, and does this in any way affects the workload for the development team? Will Unchained get any exclusive updates?

Content updates will occur simultaneously for both service types. Unchained has some features that Legacy doesn’t like the ArchePass, but Legacy has 5 years of mounts, costumes, and battlepets some of which may never be available on the Unchained service.

 

The Shadows Revealed update is getting a frankly positive player reception. Did you plan to have this ready for the Unchained release, or was it a delightful coincidence?

It was planned. Every time we’ve released a Fresh Start server it’s been positioned next to a massive content expansion. The “rush meta” changes from release to release, and this time we’ll add the new Swiftblade class to the mix.

 

Is Shadows Revealed merely the beginning for ArcheAge graphical updates? After all, it’s nice to have revamped Elves, but what about poor old Harani and Warborn, to name just a few races?

All things in stride! I have a feeling we’ll see a rollout of these awesome graphical enhancements over the next content updates.

 

Thank you for your time! Anything else you would like to say to our readers?

I can express nothing but appreciation for all the love and support we’ve received as we work to deliver ArcheAge: Unchained. Without our community, none of this would be possible. Truly, thank you.

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