I was reading this interview with Jake Song, one of the bigwigs with ArcheAge online. And I was struck by two things in this response (they are highighted):
I think Closed Beta Tests are to figure out what players would like to play and to check if the game is being developed in the right way. Through ArcheAge’s 3rd Closed Beta Test, players gave feedback that the gameplay environment in the early levels is not satisfying. I think this is because we developed the end content of the game first. For out next Closed Beta Test, we will improve the early level game environment, include more characters, animation, and also the siege warfare system.
First of all, its refreshing that a developer thinks that the audience plays a hand in the development cycle. I could name more than one MMO company that openly opposes this idea. Now for the biggie…
Yeah, you read that right. And now that I’m thinking about it, I’d bet dollars to donuts that’s exactly how Rift did it too. That is some sharp thinking on their part. Put the bulk of your development hours into the end game, and then go back and finish up the early stuff. After all, players will spend less time in the early levels anyway, right? And they don’t need to be as good, because the “honeymoon” phase doesn’t really wear off until mid-game usually. Especially when you have some interesting ideas and solid graphics, as ArcheAge (and Rift I might add) have.
I also wonder in development cycles about dungeons and group content. Certainly that is part of endgame as well, but these are also part of cornerstone content as one levels too. One of WoW’s strengths is the sheer number of dungeons/group content available (I haven’t counted lately, but probably 20+). Rift launched with only 10, but others are being added, and there is the dynamic group content of the Rifts themselves, along with the World and Region events. What will ArcheAge, as a sandbox MMO, launch with? Any? Some? My guess is that if they focused on end game first, that we will see a decent number of dungeons/group content on launch.
By the way, compare those numbers with SWTOR – a whopping 4 total, with no indication that additional ones will be in by launch.
In any case, kudos for a backward thinking dev team over at XL Games. A good sign of things to come, hopefully.