I am ecstatic that Trion responded to me in order to clear the air. I can only hope my understanding of the game can now bring things into an even sharper focus.
As most avid MMO players know there are several business models utilized for online games. Some require a subscription, some require a box fee and you pay for expansion packs, some require both a box fee and a subscription. For the past four years Trion, by direction of XL Games, has utilized the Free to Play with a premium bonus on subscriptions and a cash shop for the North America and European Union versions of Archeage. Most readers hear the phrase cash shop and they immediately cringe, however, the mere presence of a cash shop does not always automatically create a pay to win situation. As I have said on my Twitch program on a number of occasions, Trion is a business and every business has a driving goal: to remain profitable. Players of the game must understand without profit there is no Archeage, and I do not begrudge Trion for trying to make a profit in this highly competitive MMO market.
Before I begin, I want to just take a moment to give credit where credit is due. Trion has done an excellent job on this iteration of the Silver, Gold and Archeum packs for the Fresh Start Server. These items can be seen on their store and they are very well balanced and do not give an immediate pay to win advantage over those players who cannot afford to purchase them. So for this, I say Bravo.
With that said, your justification in regards to Superior Grinding Guardian Scrolls brings into question if Archeage has devolved into nothing but a pay to win cash grab.
It is true, that these scrolls can be made via printing proficiency, however, that requires 20,000 printing proficiency. That means a first day player cannot make these. Even a player who pays a subscription, a player who pays for their monthly subscription with cash, cannot make these. To access these scrolls before day 4.6 someone must buy them from the cash shop.
Before we talk about proficiency we must first review a feature of Archeage called labor. Everything you do in Archeage short of killing monsters for the few copper or silver they drop requires labor. From chopping down a tree for logs, to turning those logs into lumber, to further turning that lumber into paper, and with the addition of some additional ingredients eventually creating Superior Grinding Guardian Scrolls, every one of these actions takes this precious commodity called labor.
Now, a non paying member of the Archeage community only generates labor while online, and they regen it at a lower rate than a Patron. A free to play member of the community will only generate at maximum 1,440 labor per day if they leave their character logged in 24 hours a day, which is unlikely on a Fresh Start server which will more than likely have an AFK kick timer. A patron, has the distinct advantage of gaining 2,880 labor per day regardless of if they are online or not. If someone decides they want to pay a significant extra amount of money to play Archeage they can actually gain two labor pots per day for an additional 1500 labor per day. Finally, if someone goes the whole nine yards and buys every pay to win item out of the cash shop as it currently appears, they can regenerate an extra 600 labor via sleeping in the best bed that generates 150 labor (and is only available in the cash shop) plus the rabbit pajama set (which is also only available in the cash shop).
Now, notice the disproportionate amount of labor between a simple free to play player (1,440) and a maximum cash invested player (4,980).
Now, back to that 20,000 printing requirement. Even if a free to play player was to get everything donated to them to make the items (that is the lumber needed to make the paper) it would take them 13.88 days of doing nothing but printing to get a proficiency high enough to make these scrolls. A patron character would take 6.9 days, but that includes doing nothing other than doing printing related tasks. Someone with both labor stipends would be able to do it in 4.6 days, and a maximum pay to winner would be able to do it in 4 days but given that land is locked for 48 hours it would not be exactly 4 days from start, but the difference is apparent.
Now note, I said doing nothing but printing. This then would require them to buy or otherwise acquire all of the other materials, all of those other things that help stimulate a player driven economy. The player max speed racing scrolls is not logging trees, is not converting logs to lumber, is not buying worm compost from the vocation shopis for bait worms, is not doing the fishing, is not converting the fish, to get dawns lake light essence (another bottle neck for non-pay to win players) etc. The person racing to get to 20,000 proficiency has specific needs that have to be filled, and those needs require hundreds and thousands of labor and vocation points.
As stated, as it is impossible for these items to be crafted before day four, and improbable that they will be crafted before day seven, it would have been a totally reasonable response to simply not release these crates until after the first week of the game had passed. Instead, as it is, these items represent a pure bypassing of one proficiency, and included in the crate that awards these are cooking and alchemy items which likewise would not be available until crafters of both profession had obtained significant in game proficiencies. As it is now, this one particular crate represents a massive destabilization to the fragile first month economy.
Making these scrolls available is advantage to flush out your gear, because they do in fact give someone a disproportionate number of attempts to do the dungeon. A player who does not have access to these scrolls can enter each greater dungeon twice per day, and these scrolls allow entry five times, and unless something changes, it is possible to do another round of entries after a six-hour cool down.
Trion seems to have been aware of marketplace offerings, because they did in fact say that marketplace offers were restricted based on the phases of the progression server. That means that some items will come later, this begs the question then why was this particular item not held in reserve until after the minimum achievable time for a player. Putting these out seven days after the launch of the server would have given everyone a level playing field to work cooperatively to attain the minimum proficiency needed. At that point the gravity of this particular item would downgrade from “pay to win” to “pay to advance easier”.
Now, with all that said, let me address what was said about not selling labor potions. Technically it is true, Labor pots are not being sold directly. One cannot go to the cash shop and buy a 1,000 labor pot, however, labor pots are being sold via labor stipends and vocation stipends. While not as egregious as labor pots, the difference they create was previously stated.
These items were referred to as “minor labor regeneration items.” For the price of one Apex, a player can gain an extra 1,000 labor per day. This represents 69% of the labor that a free to play player can regenerate or 35% of the labor a patron can regenerate. If both labor regeneration items are purchased you gain 104% and 52% respectively. There is no argument to be made here other than each individuals personal opinion on what the word minor represents.
I want to say thank you to Trion, Archeage and Mr. Scott Hartsman for reaching out and responding to my Tweet. This represents some of the best Publisher to Community Communication we have had in the four years I’ve been playing Archeage. Hopefully we can continue this collaboration and bring a level to success back to Archeage.