One of the surprises the end of 2021 had in store for MMO players was the move of XLGAMES’ ArcheAge and ArcheAge Unchained from Gamigo to Kakao Games, at least in the west. That transfer was completed in early December but was followed by a cheating-spree and banwave akin to those that unfortunately peppered ArcheAge’s existence long before Kakao or even Gamigo ran it.
Ahead of the holidays – and before those ban waves – we sent over some questions to the ArcheAge teams to ask about the move to Kakao, the problems with land rushes and exploits, the sustainability of ArcheAge Unchained, and the future of the game – as well as the possibility of ArcheAge Classic. Representatives for both Kakao Games and XLGAMES kindly replied to our questions; read on for their responses.
MassivelyOP: The announcement that Gamigo was ceding one of its prize Trion games to Kakao came as a surprise – was it as sudden behind-the-scenes as it appeared to the public? When was the decision made? Is Kakao able to talk about what made it so willing and eager to be the third company to try to wrangle ArcheAge for western audiences?
Kakao Games: It really wasn’t a sudden decision. Kakao Games HQ and XLGAMES had already begun discussing a contract for ArcheAge months before their contract with longtime publisher Gamigo was set to end. We wanted to represent ArcheAge as a publisher because we see it as a very meaningful title, being one of the first sandbox MMORPGs. Kakao Games has been operating in North America and Europe for seven years, and we felt we could take this valuable experience in servicing ArcheAge players well in NA/EU regions. Based on a history of trust between our companies, we were comfortable taking on this challenge together, launching ArcheAge under a new partnership in December.
There’s been tons of requests for an ArcheAge Classic version, and Kakao has been pretty noncommittal about those prospects. Is it something the studio has given much thought to? What might it even look like if the team were going to develop it – would it be some sort of “vanilla” experience, or would the devs prefer to focus on things like fresh start servers?
XLGAMES: Discussions on the development of an “ArcheAge Classic” version were had quite a lot in the studio, but for now, we have decided to focus on maintaining the playing environment of the new server, which uses the same version as in Korea, and optimizing that experience as much as possible.
There was genuine surprise seeing the heavy revisions to the ArcheAge Unchained business model. Gamigo, of course, had launched ArcheAge Unchained under a strict buy-to-play model, only to reverse course midway through and start charging for DLC, saying that the game was unsustainable as it was. Is Kakao also worried about the future unsustainability of Unchained? Or is it convinced that switching to the sub model will fix the problem?
Kakao Games: After much internal discussion, Kakao Games concluded that, given the characteristics of ArcheAge: Unchained, the existing DLC model simply would not offer a fair playing experience for all without additional in-game charges, as was promised when Unchained first launched. Also, the original model does not provide the profit structure required to sustain such a service. In a scenario where, say, DLC includes character growth elements, paying players would always have an advantage. We don’t want that. We feel switching to a subscription model is the best way to genuinely level the playing field and create an in-game environment where everyone can progress and fully enjoy the updates without losing the identity of ArcheAge: Unchained.
We have to ask about land rushes – that was something I also wasn’t expecting, especially after learning that Kakao was spending so much effort fixing Unchained and its public perception and monetization. Land rushes have also been associated with ArcheAge for a really long time; our own ArcheAge columnist swore off the game when she lost her land years ago, so I’m sure other players have grudges about the way the land has been handled in merges in the past. Perhaps players will be more understanding now, since Kakao really did have to start the game roughly from scratch, but what about going forward – is there no other way to handle the problem of land rushes?
XLGAMES: We agree that land rush is an important part of ArcheAge. Yes, server merges consisting of unifying two or more servers have resulted in the possibility of several claimed lands located on the same spot. This, of course, led to land loss issues. It is admittedly difficult to judge who has priority over the land after merges. We understand this might not be the most satisfying answer, but we will continue to search for fairer ways to do this from a managerial perspective.
During the recent AMA, Kakao rattled off a positively massive list of major changes and revamps coming to the game in the future – revamps for everything from crime and trade to fishing and aerial combat to a sweeping overhaul for guild content. How far along are these plans – when might players see them come to fruition? What else are Kakao and XLGAMES working on in terms of new content, rather than just revamps to old content and monthly class balancing patches?
XLGAMES: As you may have noticed in the December updates, the main focus is guild content, including guild-exclusive competitive PvE instance dungeons, and guild merge server PvP battlefields aimed for a 2022 launch. Also, “Prairie” (tentatively named) is a new region that will be revealed this coming summer. The balancing of crime, trade and other content is following the same plans as in Korea, and we aim to announce combat balancing updates on a monthly basis. There is definitely more content on the horizon!
Finally, we must address the situation with exploits and bots and gold-sellers in ArcheAge – they’re synonymous with the game, and it’s a terrible shame as that detracts from the game’s innovation and creativity. What specifically is Kakao doing to manage both the actual offenders and offenses and the perceptions of players who were used to endless cascades of cheating since the original 2014 launch?
Kakao Games: As you may have seen in the last massive ban wave, Kakao Games is working diligently to keep an increasingly tight grip on offenders now and in the future. We are constantly investigating exploit cases and coming up with ways to handle them, in addition to the exchange restrictions per level that have been applied on the new servers. We know it doesn’t always feel like things are happening fast enough, but rest assured we hear you, and are monitoring and systematically combating offending accounts to improve everyone’s experience.