Wednesday, January 17, 2024

The Tarisland Devs Would Like To Tell You: They're Listening...

This morning I watched a video, brought to my attention by MMOBomb, in which Tencent, developers of upcoming, would-be WoW-beater Tarisland, addressed some of what they see as the key issues brought to their attention by the latest closed beta. As an endearingly unprofessional voice, possibly one of the developers themselves, falteringly read aloud the same words I could see for myself on screen, I found myself wondering whether I'd missed an invite to another round of testing. Or maybe never been chosen to receive one.

I was sufficiently puzzled to go check on the game's official website, where I discovered that the most recent beta had indeed been the one I played back in November. I hadn't missed out on a third opportunity to give the much-anticipated title another once-over. I can now go back to looking forward to doing that later in the year, always assuming they're kind enough to ask me.

It would certainly have been a surprise if there had been another beta since the last one, seeing that test only ended in November. Hardly time to fit in another round, what with Christmas and New Year. What made me think it might have happened were the specific questions the video attempted to answer, most of which address concerns I had no idea anyone had, over systems and mechanics I didn't realise existed. It did seem as though I must have missed a trick, somewhere.

On closer examination, it appears I just didn't happen to come into contact with most of the potential problems because they relate to things I didn't bither with during my not-insignificant time with the game. Some of that is entirely understandable, some less so. 

For example, one section of the video deals with PvP. It's no surprise I wasn't aware that players complained there weren't enough opportunities for players to beat each other up or that there were shortcomings in the matchmaking process. I vaguely knew the game had some form of PvP because there's an annoying pop-up in the never-ending Tutorial that keeps suggesting you go check it out, but I never took the trouble to find out what it was like or even where you went to do it.

Which isn't to say that I wouldn't give it a go if the game was live. I've spent a lot of hours in battlegrounds in theme-parks like World of Warcraft, Rift, EverQuest II and Warhammer Online and mostly had a good time, even though I do think of instanced PvP as the candy of MMORPGs - moreish at first but too much and it makes you feel queasy. In a limited-duration beta, though, I'd have to be very short of better options to spend time running around playing digital laser-tag. It certainly wouldn't have said anything very good about the game if I had.

It's also perhaps not all that odd that I wasn't aware that in beta you could get comparable or even better gear by crafting instead of raiding. If it's unlikely that I'd experiment with PvP in a beta, it's all but impossible to imagine I'd find myself raiding. I don't do raids in live games - why would I want to test them?

I do craft, though, so I suppose I might have found out that way. Only, as Tencent themselves have acknowledged, feedback indicates not all players love to craft: "Some players find Crafting to be too complex and time-consuming", which is why the whole thing is going to be "simplified". You can call it "dumbed down" if you like. They didn't and I don't think I will, either.

I did take a brief look at crafting while I was there but I didn't make much progress. It didn't feel like it was going to be particularly complicated but it did seem as if it might be quite tedious. There weren't that many recipes, so you'd have to keep making the same things and although I was surprised how fast some of  the fireworks I made sold, there didn't seem to be an awful lot to make in the earlier levels that would be either interesting or profitable. 

Getting to the point where I could craft something genuinely exciting, like an Invincible Kitten mount, looked like it would take a lot more effort than I would have been willing to put in so I can't say I'm disappointed to hear the plan now is to make the whole thing quicker and easier. I'm increasingly of the opinion that complex crafting is a better fit for survival games than it is for narrative-driven, theme park MMORPGs, anyway.

The real reason I imagined I might have inadvertently skipped a round of testing came right at the start of the video, when the questions being asked and answered all revolve around things I either didn't remember or never knew were in the game at all. Take the "Inscribed Stone System", the vaguest of details about which are slowly starting to come back to me as I write. 

I recall it being some kind of augmentation you can add to your gear to make it more powerful or give it extra functions and features. Lots of games have something similar and I confess it didn't make much of an impression on me at the time. It seems others were a lot more concerned, particularly by the prospect of being allowed to buy and trade Inscribed Stone Energy, fearing it would lead to some sort of Pay-to-Win scenario. 

Tencent has been running scared of the "P2W" tag since the day Tarisland was announced. There have already been some skirmishes between the developers and the playerbase (Curently defined as people who shout a lot about the game on Reddit and Discord, without necessarily having played in any of the tests.) over what constitutes "Pay To Win". If they work it out, maybe they'll tell the rest of us. 

Regardless of the outcome of those discussions, Tencent is determined not to allow anyone to pin the P2W label on this particular system, so from now on the stuff won't be tradable. Moreover, in order to discourage players from "playing too long", there will be a cap on how much ISE you can get per day. 

Playing too much does seem to be something Chinese game developers worry about, although I'm going to stick my neck out and say they're only really bothered about the home market. I very much doubt they care whether Europeans or Americans spend all day, every day, in front of the screen, especially if it involves them spending more Euros and Dollars. Or maybe that's too cynical. I don't know...

I did at least manage to dredge a few details about the Inscribed Stone System up from the swamps of my memory, when prompted. The other two economic issues featured in the video I don't recall at all. One is Gold Coins, which I'm guessing is the in-game currency. I mean, I knew Tarisland was on the gold standard, like virtually every fantasy rpg ever, but I wasn't aware it had any special significance. 

According to the feedback recap in the video, players felt it was too hard to get gold, meaning when the game goes live there could be a problem with bots and gold sellers or as Tencent prefer to call them "illegal program users". It seems that in attempting to pre-empt this problem by limiting Gold Coins to "more challenging" encounters, Tencent "pushed their guard" a little too far, something they intend to remedy in future by employing "more technical means" of countering those pesky illegal program users and by making Gold Coins easier to get for everyone else.

To which I can only say - good luck with that!

The other potentially game-breaking inclusion in the last beta, at least according to the feedback Tencent received, relates to something called CBT Benefits Cards. I have absolutely no idea what these are or were. I never saw any mention of them and as far as I know I never received any, unless it's jargon for those handouts every game throws at players just for logging in. 

Whatever they were, they were tradeable through the in-game Auction House, which sent people into a tizzy. There was great concern expressed over whether CBT cards would be included in the official launch, when the game goes live. 

Now, I would have thought that was a question that answered itself. What would you you imagine CBT would stand for if not "Closed Beta Test"? Obviously, these cards were specific to the testing process, something the video confirms. Still, just in case it was keeping you up at night, be reassured: no, Closed Beta Test Benefits Cards will not be included in the official launch version of Tarisland!

The last piece of feedback addressed by the video that I want to mention is the reaction to the dungeons in the game and the way they can be accessed. I did do a couple of dungeons, albeit only because there are points in the Main Storyline Quest when you have no choice, and I thought they were pretty good, as these things go but apparently some people - inevitably - complained they were too easy.

Other people kvetched about the time restrictions. Unlike in most Western MMORPGs, you can't just chain-run dungeons in Tarisland until your eyeballs bleed. There's an energy or access mechanic, which the video just refers to as "dungeon attempts" that once again seeks to put a brake on players whose enthusiasm for the game might verge on the self-destructive. 

It seems that the combination of easy basic dungeons and limited attempts per day led players to concentrate on knocking out as many lower-difficulty Arcane Realms as they could, while swerving the more challenging Elite Dungeons. This in turn pissed off the hardcore, who couldn't get groups for the tough stuff. I'd like to say First World Problems but...

Hearing all this in the video, my own selfish concern was that Tencent would respond by making the Arcane Realms harder to appease the concerns of the hardcore. If they did, you could hardly blame them, seeing that would be the demographic most likely to pay the bills. Hearteningly, however, their reponse was much more nuanced, taking into account the requirements of both sides. 

They're going to consider separating the two kinds of dungeons so each uses its own "Dungeon Attempts". They also want to avoid making dungeon-play grindy, instead keeping it focused on being a fun way to level. Instead of making the Arcane Realm harder across the board they're going to give it a Challenge Mode with cosmetic rewards, while leaving the regular version much as it is (Although they do mention making it "more fun", which adds an ominous note to the proceedings...)

There's a fair amount more in the video, which manages to pack a lot into less than ten minutes. There's more about crafting and also an acknowledgement that they may have gone a little overboard in the "exploration" stakes, by which I think they mean PoIs and mini-events, which did indeed come thick and fast in closed beta.

All in all, I found the video largely reassuring, particularly when taken in conjunction with the earlier feedback report published in mid-December. Tate one covered many of the same points and also confirmed there'll be no gender-locking of classes in the final build. I get the feeling Tencent are attempting to rediscover that sweet spot WoW enjoyed around the time of Wrath of the Lich King, when it seemed for a brief while as if the same MMORPG could appeal equally to casual and hardcore players, without short-changing either.

That's a tough one to pull off but I hope they can do it. And even if they can't, good on them for trying.


  1. Considering one of the main changes being made is to prevent people from getting top end gear without raiding, I'd say they're moving away from Wrath of the Lich King's design philosophy rather than toward it.

    1. Now, that's an instructive reading. I took the change to imply that the developers were recognising most people neither need nor want "raid gear" to do the things in the game they enjoy. By restricting that gear to raids only, anyone not interested in raiding can just forget it even exists, the way they already ignore the raids themselves.

      Having raid-equivalent gear at the top of the crafting tree implies an expectation that non-raiders will need to acquire it as well, suggesting the non-raid difficulty level will be equivalent to the raid level. If not why would it be there? Removing it suggests the content outside of raids will be easier or more casual than it otherwise would have been. I mean, it's either that or we'd all have been substantially over-geared, which I guess would have made the content easier still...

  2. Okay, I'm confused. Isn't that toon in the graphics your toon? (Yeah, of all the entire post that's what I'm hung up on.)

    I mean, I don't have really a dog in the fight about Tarisland, so I'm more a casual bystander, but I am curious about how it'll work out. If the Chinese WoW crowd does get sucked away by Tarisland, that's big trouble for Blizzard.

    1. Ah, I see what's happened! They've used Jeya, a storyline NPC, for the illustrations and she's in some of the screenshots in my posts with my character. Mine is the one with the blue hair!

    2. Seriously, Google? I'm literally logged in to my own blog on the same PC and you don't know who I am? What is wrong with you?

    3. Been there, Bhaggy. Been there.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide