A Game Enthusiast’s Perspective: ArcheAge, The Sandbox Theme Park
We, at Metaverse, are a legion of passionate community folks. We range from foodies to family entertainment bloggers, digital photography hobbyists, super gamers, and beyond. Often, fellow Mods write blog posts on their passions and knowledge base. Not only is it a great opportunity for us to dive into the spirit and diversity of our team, but it’s also a great chance to share another viewpoint on the digital landscape. Please enjoy this fun piece on ArcheAge, and how it appeals to the sandbox gamer, and the theme park gamer alike!
There’s a classic Saturday Night Live commercial-parody in which Dan Akroyd and Gilda Radner squabble over whether a spray-can product is a floor wax or a dessert topping – only to have Chevy Chase interject in his best announcer-voice that they’re both right – it’s a floor wax and a dessert topping! This bit of humor keeps popping into my brain whenever I consider an analogous debate in the world of MMORPGs – sandboxes vs. theme parks – and how that distinction plays out in the latest game I’ve been playing, ArcheAge.
So what do the terms “sandbox” and “theme park” mean when discussing MMOs? They relate to the degree of freedom players have to wander anywhere in the world and do their own thing to earn experience, skills, loot, in-game monies, and other goodies, versus having to stick to pre-programmed activities and level-restricted zones in order to garner all those things.
Many games these days are actually hybrids of the two styles – and ArcheAge definitely fits into the hybrid category. There are indeed quests in ArcheAge – both an overarching story quest for each of the playable races, and lots of side-quests that range from extended dire adventures to cute little errands. But it’s the sandbox aspects that most intrigued me about ArcheAge. The full world is open-access –no instances or restricted zones. Players also have a great deal of latitude to build farms, houses, and even castles, either on their own or in self-organized guilds; to make trade runs with packs of crafted goods wherever and however they choose to organize them; they can even craft sailing ships to explore the extensive open seas surrounding the three main continents. To be sure, since a lot of the land cycles through PvP open seasons, and the sea is all PvP all the time, you and your guild mates need to be prepared to defend self, possessions, trade goods, ships, and land from the opposing faction or even the budding pirates among your own faction … but even if PvP is not your thing, you can work around this by dodging the areas currently or permanently at war and sticking with the exclusively PvE areas.
The sandbox play is of course not the only reason I’m enjoying ArcheAge so far. Another is its cultural background. ArcheAge was originally created by Korean game designer Jake Song and his company XL Games, and the Asian influence is strong in the game’s art, landscaping, character design, and soundtrack – especially in the game’s eastern continent and the playable races that make their home there. ArcheAge’s Western producer/localizer, Trion Games, has even left a number of the open-world NPCs with their Korean-voiced dialog intact (with English subtitles in chat). As an unabashed fan of Asian culture both traditional and pop, I get a real kick out of seeing how the Korean team imagined their fantasy world in the eastern continent (I’m playing an anthropomorphized feline influenced by historic Mongol nomadic warriors), instead of the more Westernized fantasy tropes of chivalric humans and inscrutable elves.
My current plans for this game include hooking up with a friend who has already built a farm and a trading ship, and has offered to let me place my little beginner farm on his property and to fend off the pirate-players as I make my first intercontinental trade run. I was following some of the quests, but I may or may not continue with those theme park rides; frankly, I’m much more intrigued by what kind of fun I can get up to in the sandbox. Heck, I might even get involved in building a “sand” castle… or at least a nice farm of my own.