Carrying the load

I’ve touched upon ArcheAge’s trade system a couple of times already, and you might be wondering what that is all about. So today I’ll explain how it works, why I think that it’s really cool despite its flaws, and why it contributes greatly to the game’s virtual world feel.

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Every region on the two main continents has one or more specialty workbenches where players can craft trade packs. To do so you need some labor points and a bunch of resources, varying by region. For example, a Dewstone Fine Specialty requires 50 labor, 180 medicinal powder and 15 narcissus to make. You can get most ingredients by growing them on your farm or buying them from other players. Once you have all that stuff just walk up to the workbench, press a few buttons, wait for a couple seconds and boom, the pack appears on your character’s back.

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Always remember to lift with the legs, not with the back

As one would assume such a huge load slows you down considerably. Inventory-wise the pack is automatically placed in your glider slot, which makes sense because you normally carry that on your back, but it incidentally also denies you that mode of transportation. Needless to say, you can’t use any portals or the recall skill either. All mounts except the donkey lose their speed bonus completely. There is public transportation available, namely carriages and airships, but since those run on fixed schedules your trusty mule is usually the fastest and most flexible option to move a single pack.

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What are you looking at? We all have our burdens to carry

But where do you carry it? Well, that’s your choice to make. Each continent has ‘specialty buyer’ NPCs in three different regions who buy the packs (and some more labor) off you for a price in gold. That price depends on various factors, some of which you can control, others not so much.

To maximize profits craft the pack in a region farther away from the buyer, deliver it within a shorter time span (packs have a “freshness” factor) or deliver it to a region that’s at war, if you dare.

However the biggest contributing factors by far are, quite realistically, supply and demand. For every unit an NPC buys within a certain amount of time, subsequent payouts for that specific pack take a hit. The price recovers over time, but only if no more packs of that type are handed in for a while. At best you get 130% of the base price, only 50% at worst. Fortunately you can look up the current percentages ingame, however you can’t know how many other players might already be on their way with farm wagons full of the stuff you’re intending to make.

Speaking of which, considering the distances involved carrying one pack at a time obviously isn’t very efficient. Enter farm carts and -wagons.

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My farm cart just after finishing its construction

Relatively early on the Blue Salt Brotherhood questline tasks you with building your first cart and kindly provides the blueprint for it. How to acquire the resources needed to craft the sub-components (wheels, engine, etc.) is left for you to figure out though.

In addition to moderate amounts of common and uncommon resources like lumber, iron, copper and silver some upmarket materials are required. Due to good fortune we luckily had the rarest and thus most expensive piece already in stock.

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Luckily I wasn’t standing there when it happened

Yep, trees in this game have a small chance to get struck by lightning while growing – another one of those little details that make the world feel more alive to me – and thunderstruck trees are highly sought after because you need them for many kinds of high level manufacturing, especially vehicles.

A thunderstruck tree can be cut down into four logs, and you need one of those for a farm cart. Which suited us perfectly because Lakisa, Tristron, Merl (another buddy of ours who joined us in Unchained) and I decided to build all four carts in one go. A family project, if you will.

Once we had everything we needed the somewhat chaotic but really fun process of crafting all that stuff started.

Me: “Ok, I’ll make the oils and polishes. Who has our rice and corn again?”

Lakisa: “I do, here you go. I don’t have enough iron ingots though!”

Tristron: “No problem. I have some ore left, we just need to process it.”

Me: “Damn! We’re a couple dozen azaleas short, and here I thought we had everything. Fortunately those mature in less than 20 minutes, I’ll quickly plant some and we’ll have to wait for just a bit.”

Five minutes later…

Merl: “Hey, I have some azaleas, how many did we need again?”

Everyone: “…”

Somehow we managed to craft the correct amounts of everything without screwing up, so all that was left to do was for everyone to assemble their cart and spawn it for its maiden voyage.

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Took us a while to line up like this…turns out not everybody’s good at backing up

Each cart can hold up to two trade packs and you can still carry one on your back while driving it, so we were now able to haul a total of twelve packs simultaneously instead of just four. For starters the guys had other plans though…

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I didn’t ask why, I just went along with it. Thankfully the rides are rust-proof

By now we’ve already upgraded the carts to farm wagons, again thanks to the Blue Salt questline. These can hold four packs each and also have a handy nozzle in the front to water our fields.

We didn’t find the time to do a big trade run together yet, so I decided to take the wagon out for a ride by myself the other day. I went to Dewstone Plains, crafted five units of the pack I mentioned above and made my way to Cinderstone Moor, which is the farthest drop-off point and was going to be at peace by the time I arrived.

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Heading out from Dewstone Plains’ community center at sunset

Once I got there the demand-percentage was at 85% or so and each pack netted me just over 10 gold. Production cost was around 12 gold total for seeds and stuff. Using two units of eco-friendly fuel the trip took just over 20 minutes; the time investment for planting, gathering and processing the materials may have been around half an hour. So for less than an hour’s time and a couple hundred labor I made of profit of 38 gold, give or take. That’s not really a fortune, but it’s not bad either (by my standards at least).

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What do you mean, “Not fresh enough”??

So why is all of this great?

Well, I’d say the obvious reason is that it provides a means to make money through non-combat activities (which all too many current MMORPGs lack) and creates a never-ending demand for farmed and/or processed materials. Whether you like to do the whole production as well as the final delivery yourself, or you just want to handle one part of the process and leave the rest to others, there’s a profit to be made for everyone.

Coming back to that virtual world train of thought though, this system creates an environment that feels actually lived-in because it makes players traverse and interact with it. Literally wherever you go there are always players tending to their farms or hauling packs around.

Here’s an example. A while ago, before we had our wagons, Lakisa and I rode all the way from Aubre Cradle to Cinderstone on our donkeys to deliver one trade pack each. We arrived at the border to Cinderstone mere minutes before the region went from war to peace and were greeted by quite an unusual sight…

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As if a gigantic invisible traffic light was standing right there, looking down on us

Just like us these players had taken note of the fact that the region was going to hit a peace-period and had decided to seize that opportunity. As soon as the war ended the ragtag convoy collectively picked up the pace for the journey’s final leg.

Why wait for peace though? Didn’t we establish earlier that you get more gold for packs delivered during war? Yes, indeed. If you manage to make it to the NPC without someone stealing your pack(s) that is. Drop a pack to the ground, be it voluntarily or because you’re dead (or your cart temporarily destroyed), and anyone can pick it up without repercussions. The only place you can drop a pack safely is a farm that’s only accessible by you or by people you trust.

So that 15% war-bonus is purely cosmetic and not actually useful? Well, I wouldn’t say that. Sure, I certainly wouldn’t risk my pack, let alone a full cartload, going into a contested region all by myself. But imagine you’re in a guild and a group of six, eight, maybe even more people decides to work together and protect each other. There’s still a risk of course – there’s always a bigger fish after all – but at least you’d be able to fend off a single player or small group without breaking a sweat. In any case, whether the additional reward is worth the risk or not – entirely your call.

By the way, should you in fact lose a pack to pirates your efforts weren’t all for naught: whenever a pack is delivered to an NPC 80% of the payout goes to the player turning it in, but 20% always go to the one who made it. And if you still think this overly favours the dirty thief – why not become one yourself?

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Of course I am keeping straight…unless an opportunity presents itself that I can’t refuse

Now, the system isn’t perfect. It actually was nearly perfect when ArcheAge launched but got changed a couple of times for whatever reason. The fact that you nowadays can only turn in your packs in one of three regions, and that you can’t deliver normal packs to another continent at all (only special cargo crates directly bought for gold) restricts your choices quite severely and also ensures that payouts are way down almost all the time.

Despite this I still like it a lot. Whether I personally engage in it at any given moment or not, it ensures that the streets and harbors are always bustling with activity and purpose, and it provides content for a wide range of different playstyles. Which is exactly what a virtual world needs.

IntPiPoMo picture count: 11 (this post); 34 (total)

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