The other day Bhagpuss talked about the different gathering systems of various MMORPGs. Like him I’ve always enjoyed gathering a lot, and I’ve spent a huge amount of time digging, chopping and picking up stuff in pretty much every game I’ve played that has something like it.
I’ve actually had to force myself to stop doing it in single player games because I spent so much time with these ‘side-activities’ that I completely lost track of the main plot and associated gameplay, ultimately resulting in never having finished some of those titles because I ran out of steam halfway through – the first Witcher and a couple GTAs come to mind.
Fortunately MMOs are different in that they don’t have (nor want) to be finished, hence I still happily indulge in my gathering habits when I play that kind of game.
So let’s have a look at ArcheAge’s take on resource acquisition today, which is – as far as I’m aware – pretty unique in MMORPG-space, and definitely one of my favourites.
Of course the biggest difference to most other titles in the genre is that the majority of plants and crops that players gather in ArcheAge don’t actually grow out in the wild by themselves. For the most part you actively ‘plant’ animals, seeds or saplings, depending on what you need, which then grow into gatherables in real time. ‘Real time’ as in stuff grows, once planted, whether you’re online or not; it doesn’t take years until a tree is fully matured for obvious reasons.
The bigger trees and animals do take a day or two to arrive at drinking age though, while stuff like crops, vegetables or flowers only need a couple of hours at most. Fortunately there’s no real urgency to harvest as soon as something’s ready. It takes at least two days for a grown plant to wilt or an animal to starve, so there’s no need to set an alarm in the middle of the night.
Unless, that is, you chose to let your stuff grow out in the wild instead of on your own property. Yep, except for roads and villages you can plop down the goods pretty much anywhere. The catch is that anyone’s free to pick them up then, whereas only you – or everyone in your family or guild, depending on your chosen settings – can do so when you use your own land. Something you’ve planted is flagged as belonging to you though, and when anyone else picks it up they leave a trail of footprints. You can interact with those to report the theft, adding crime points to the culprit’s tally which might get them into jail sooner or later.
Due to this it’s rather unlikely that someone will steal, say, your handful of mushrooms, but more valuable goods like trees might be a tempting offer. Nevertheless it’s not that uncommon to come across wild tree farms, especially if you leave the beaten paths and explore the maps a lot. They can even be used to generate content. I’ve once seen a huge such farm, hundreds and hundreds of trees, planted deliberately (I believe) in a contested region and pretty easy to spot. As growing trees have a chance to get struck by lightning every couple of hours whole raids of all factions showed up for every growth cycle to try and claim any thunderstruck trees for themselves, resulting in big PvP battles.
But I digress, back to gathering. Some trees and most animals don’t just serve the purpose to be chopped down or butchered when matured. Apple, lemon, olive trees and the like yield fruit, leaves can be picked from bay and ginkgo trees, cows produce milk, sheep are shorn for their wool, you get the picture. After a while that stuff regrows and you can collect again.
The fun doesn’t end there. Seeds can be watered to accelerate growth. They can also be bound into bundles which occupy more space and yield less produce overall, but save lots and lots of time and clicking. Animals give more resources when fed and can be held in pens instead of placing them individually, again reducing the micro-management.
Unless you own an obscenely huge amount of farmland it’s also quite important to use your real estate as efficiently as possible, which is a science in its own right. Seeds, saplings, animals, they all come in various different sizes. What they have in common is that the space they occupy is always circular, so you can’t utilize your land to the last inch no matter what you do. It’s a lot of trial and error at first; if that’s not your thing you can consult helpful sketches made by community members like this one for planting trees on a 16×16 farm:
Again, if your intent is to make a decent amount of gold with any kind of gathering and/or crafting you pretty much have to grow your own materials.
This doesn’t mean that ArcheAge doesn’t have resources that appear in the wild at all though. Actually I like this game’s implementation of those quite a lot. Most MMORPG’s resource nodes feel a bit out of place to me. Tacked on, if you will. Instead of more or less generic nodes that contain certain crops or plants it’s the crops and plants themselves that grow here, just like they would on your farm, only that they blend in with the environment quite well and don’t look like a foreign object someone placed there by hand (with some exceptions).
I rarely go out and roam the world specifically to gather, but I do stop and pick up stuff whenever I come across something that I need. It’s a lot of fun to me that way because it always gives me a little moment of joy when I find something that’s worth picking up, whereas while gathering on purpose I only get that kind of satisfaction when I find a particularly rare specimen or some such.
So is ArcheAge a gathering freak’s dream? It depends, I guess. If you also like to plant your own seeds and things like that you’ll definitely love it. If roaming the wilds and picking stuff up is the only kind of gathering you enjoy it’s a ‘maybe’ at best, and you’ll not get rich with it either. I do like it a lot though, and…now you’ll have to excuse me, my lemons are ripe for the picking.