I’ve been waiting for this MMO for a long time, even after the mess that ArcheAge eventually turned into. The graphics are stunning, the character creation is amazing (all the way down to tweaking individual sections of hair!) and it has horse taming. I’ve been waiting for a game to do this for ages…being able to tame horses from the wild, then breed them and train them. Awesome. :)
So, in terms of feedback, I’ve broken it into 1) things that I like, 2) things that I don’t like that will not change, and 3) things that I think need to be fixed. I’m coming at this mainly from the perspective of a longtime MMO player and a UI/UX designer, so usability will be key.
Things that I love:
So pretty. As stated, the game is beautiful. Environment and lighting is gorgeous, characters are beautiful and the character creation tool is wonderful, one of the best that I’ve seen.
Pets: the models are nice, they do things like loot for you, and they’ll interact with you. Cats and hawks will jump onto your shoulder when you are standing at rest. The cat will rub his face against yours, and sometimes your character will break into a smile. Lovely. :)
Story and lore: Nothing groundbreaking here, but not bad. Some of the small stories were quite nice, along with a lot of “kill ten rats” quests, as you would expect.
Server stability: From the moment that the servers opened, then game was stable for me. I have everything whacked up to ultra/high, and the game is running smoothly. I haven’t experienced any lag, although I’ve heard people in chat saying that they have. Overall a very good experience.
Things that I hate that won’t change:
Gender locked characters. I really, really hate games that do this. If you want to lock something to a certain race because of lore (similar to druids in Warcraft), then fine. But having all Warriors be male and all Sorcerers be female…really? In this day and age? Shame.
Grind. To a point, I don’t mind grind. Sometimes after a hard day I just feel like aimlessly grinding mobs as I explore. But reaching those long stretches where you don’t have any quests left and all you can do is grind mobs? Not so fun.
Lack of visual differences in equipment. In the starting areas you’ll hear people complaining about equipping new items and it not being reflected on their characters…it is, but the problem is that there are very few clothing models for each class. It’s a bit boring, but not a deal breaker, and you can dye them.
Asian-style combat effects (BIFF! BANG! POW! SWOOSH!) Thank god there’s a slider upon creating a character that brings the silly fight animation effects, eyeblinding magic effects and vibration down. I’ve hated that in every gameplay video that I’ve seen.
List of things that should be fixed:
As I said, I’m coming at this from the perspective of a UI/UX designer, and I don’t believe in making the UI a challenge for the player. Everything should be intuitive, and where it isn’t you need good error messages and helpful tooltips.
Loading screen: There needs to be a way to skip through the initial loading screen logos…Pearl Abyss sits there FOREVER.
Common features that I expect in an MMO: There are a lot of best-practice features that just aren’t implemented, which is odd – the basics aren’t exactly rocket science. I totally didn’t realise that I had a mailbox full of mail and perks until I hit ESC and just tried the mail icon. Chat and whispers need to come up in the actual chat window. If you’re talking with friends, you need to press “N” to bring up a social window and then you can see an icon indicating that they’ve said something to you. Just put it in the main chat window in a different colour, like every other game. If you leave the social or chat window open so you can see new messages you end up going “wwwwwwwwwwwww” during combat or movement rather than what you indended. :D
Extra steps: A lot of things seem to require extra steps – like looting, where you need to press R twice. Small things, but they could benefit from streamlining.
Lack of explanation and tooltips: The dye system is a good example of this. In this beta we got a ton of dyes in the mail, which was great. They came in unopened packs, which you had to click multiple times to open, and which opened into undiscovered dyes (extra step). Each of these had to be clicked multiple times to discover them, and then they were still in your inventory. I couldn’t figure out how to dye anything, but Phil figured out that if you click the word “Pallet” [sic] at the bottom, then right-click each one, you can learn the dyes. There were no tooltips or anything to tell you that. The GW2 dye system is similar but much more streamlined and easy to understand…again, it’s desirable to study best practice in other games and implement anything that works well in yours. It’s like this throughout the game. I never actually saw any horses in the wild to tame, but I understand that the same problem applies there – needlessly hard, and no helpful tips when you start.
Starting area tutorials: There is a bit of a tutorial in one of your first quests that went through keys for combat. What we could have really used instead was a short sequence of quests which acted as a quick introduction to various systems in the game, similar to what FFXIV does. Have new characters run around and find various characters in the first town such as profession trainers, send me to talk to a guy who says something about logging or skinning or whatever and then has me buy a tool from the merchant next to him. Don’t let me run around for ages (level 15 for my character) getting messages about not being able to loot wolves because I don’t have the right tool. I still haven’t stumbled across the right merchant for that tool. Grrr. Explain about the knowledge system and why certain people won’t talk to you yet, or give you quests. It’s infuriating in places. Phil came close to quitting over that one, as we didn’t know why I could talk to people and pick up quests and he couldn’t.
Social features: As far as we could see, you can’t party up with anyone without meeting them face-to-face (which makes it difficult to actually find them). Block features work well, which is good. I started a clan, but again could only invite someone that I was standing next to. Normally you can do all of this at a distance in games, and it’s something that I expect.
PvP and the karma system. I think that open world pvp is always a concern for a lot of people. Done right, I think that the majority of MMO players will enjoy at least a bit of pvp for a change, and some will do a lot of it. What they hate is being ganked. It’s not fun to not be able to fight back against a much higher-level character, or a zerg. If you log in to do a bit of farming or questing after a long and stressful day at work, the last thing you want is to be teabagged repeatedly by an adolescent douchebag. The karma system, as I understand it, can prevent that by having the aggressor incur a large karma penalty if they attack someone who isn’t flagged who doesn’t fight back.
Of course, the vocal hardcore PvP minority are screaming about this on the forums, and many game devs will listen to these people…and in the end, you end up turning away the PvE crowd. I hate this, and so hopefully they’ll try to keep a proper balance in place where you can still have openworld pvp but being a real dick has a downside, making it less fun for PKers.
Aside from these issues, it really is a beautiful game and I’m looking forward to launch.