WHAT’S A META?
Every multiplayer video game has a meta-game, a game-within-a-game, so to speak. This is where players interact, band together, and engage in conflict of one form or another, depending on the game. Most of the time, “the meta” revolves around what classes, weapons, and fighting strategies are the most popular – essentially what is the “flavor of the month.” While a lot of this is determined in-game, a good deal of it gets theory-crafted and debated outside the game or a game’s forums or subreddit community. The “flavor of the month” approach is about more than beating a fight or achieving a singular goal. Ultimately, the metagame is about one thing: Who’s on top?
Taking things up a notch, sandbox-style MMO games add additional wrinkles to “the meta” in ways to not only discuss in-game mechanics but to form out-of-game mechanics that go beyond the developer’s design or control. In this area, diplomacy, spycraft, thievery, and personal willpower are the tools of the trade and the gamespace becomes communication channels like Skype, Discord, and Teamspeak. While this has traditionally been a facet that has mostly existed and been covered extensively in EVE Online, it’s apparent that other games have it as well, including Archeage.
ArcheAge is your standard MMORPG. There’s a western continent and an eastern continent who are locked in eternal warfare against one another – but not only that – they also fight amongst themselves. Its interface will be familiar to players of games such as World of Warcraft, Blade & Soul, or Final Fantasy XIV. Each game sets the player on a series of quests around the game world, the completion of which earns the player experience, gear, or game currency. Earning these things allows the player to more efficiently complete more difficult quests, which in turn earns the player more experience, better gear, and more in game money. With money and gear comes power and who has power and who doesn’t is the very essence of what a metagame is all about.
When it comes to discussing who is powerful, a crucial aspect of Archeage revolves around the social element of player guilds; groups of players coming together in-game to cooperate and share resources. Guilds are important, in part, because the only way to experience some of the endgame content is with other players working together. With enough gold and experience guilds can capture castles, control world boss fights so that they can pick and choose who gets to help them loot it while preventing anyone else from contesting them. Success breeds success. Eventually, with enough gold and enough gear, the guild starts behaving like a superpower and the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows ever wider. The big fish eat the smaller fish.
Once a guild reaches the “super guild” tipping point – the point in which a guild can exponentially outperform any rival – servers in Archeage go through a bit of a dark age. Guilds who were once competitive find themselves unable match forces with the super guild and have to either consider aligning with the super guild or leaving the server. Combat is apparently not an option for these pride-wounded individuals. Unlike EVE Online or other single-shard universes where all the players are stuck and forced to fight after a certain point, Archeage allows for server-to-server transfers. Things get too tough? That’s okay just transfer off the server. This is potentially what is brewing on the server of Morpheus where The Imperium’s guild is based.
THE META GAME ON MORPHEUS SERVER
Morpheus was originally created as a solution for players sick of a lot the hacking and cheating that plagued early servers shortly after Archeage’s launch. Transfers to Morpheus were strictly forbidden so all characters on it had to originate there. Eventually a superpower guild called Pantsu came to dominate the major world events and control all of the castles. After a time, they got bored of their superiority and when Trion lifted the transfer ban in July, they transferred to go find and dominate a server elsewhere.
To dominate a server, a guild has to take ownership of one of the server’s four castles – Pantsu had all of them. As a result, getting the gear necessary to complete world boss fights made staying on top trivial as one victory just fed into another. This is perhaps a bit of a simplification, but understand this, neither task is easy to accomplish, even with large groups of people all with the best kit, dominating an entire server like Pantsu did was no easy task.
Upon Pantsu’s exodus from Morpheus towards the end of June and beginning of July, a power vacuum was created where two rival guilds, both on the eastern continent: Tower and Flawless, could vie for control of the remaining castles and world boss fights. Despite the power of some of the western guilds, these two eastern powers found plenty of allies to fight alongside them and for a time it seemed the parties were locked in a type of Archeage style civil war on the eastern continent. And then Disaster arrived (literally).
THE MAJOR PLAYERS
This will primarily go over the major powers in the East.
Flawless is run by Superkawaii, and is the third-ranked guild on the server, and currently holds one of its four castles. One of the larger guilds, it’s 90 members have an average gear score of approximately 4850. Flawless had a history of working with Sanctus and Thanks for Playing to work against Power, being the only guilds with the numbers, equipment, and motivation to do so. While internal drama has caused Sanctus and TFP to collapse, Flawless is still going strong despite shortcomings in PVP numbers in their fight against Power and have worked with other Eastern guilds like The Imperium to make up for this.
Currently ranked sixth on the server according to the in-game guild ranks, Tower is another of the four Castle holders and is considered by some to be the strongest guild on the east faction. Run by Ahkishi, Tower is the land-based component of the Tower/Power coalition, fighting their enemies such as Flawless or The Imperium on land, while relying on Power to handle them from the waves.
If Tower is said to be Power’s Army, then it could also be said that Power is Tower’s Navy. One of the strongest Pirate Organizations in the game with an average gear score of about 4800, Rage is the leader of Power’s 80 or so seamen, who ply the waters around the East in search of Delph Ghost Ships, when they aren’t at their own castle or fighting their campaign against Flawless, Puss Pack, and The Imperium.
Allied with Flawless, Puss Pack has approximately 100 members and an average gear score of approximately 3200, which makes them middle-of-the-road as far as Morpheus guilds go. Run by ladypusspuss, Puss Pack has been successful leveraging diplomatic relationships with Flawless and the Imperium in their ongoing fight against the pirate organization Power. They are one of the more powerful guilds that do not control a castle.
The Imperium is a mostly newbie guild led by famous EVE Online fleet commanders, Kcolor, Laz, and Dabigredboat. While they are the freshest faces on the server, despite the relative inexperience and lack of gear, their numbers are enough to start considering them a threat. Today’s newbies could be tomorrow’s power brokers. Average gearscore is 2900 but is rapidly growing each week. They are currently friendly with Flawless and have been participating on their side in the struggle between Flawless and Tower..
Of course, in any MMORPG and ArcheAge especially, the status quo is always prone to sudden and often violent upheaval. On Morpheus right now, that particular upheaval goes by the name of Disaster. While they are a western guild and not part of the Eastern continent or aligned with anyone there, they are basically a faction unto themselves. With an average gear score in excess of 7000, Disaster is known as what I lovingly refer to as “King Shit of Fuck Mountain.” Disaster is also known for poaching talented members from other guilds across multiple servers and being comprised of “the best of the best.” Rumors of a single mage from Disaster soloing entire 40 man raids are not uncommon. Disaster has started transferring to Morpheus and right away bought a level 6 guild called INC. Under the leadership of Thundahawk, the mere rumor of the idea of Disaster possibly coming to Morpheus with the intent of fighting has caused a lot of internal tension and talk of leaving the server amongst some of Morpheus’s current power guilds. They don’t currently control any of the castles yet, though many users have predicted that before this is done they will hold more than one, if not all of them.
THE FUTURE OF MORPHEUS: RETURN OF THE KINGS?
At this point, there is a lot of speculation and rumor as to what is going to happen next on Morpheus. There is talk of Pantsu coming back to fight Disaster in what would be one of the biggest rumbles in Archeage’s history. Despite this, there is talk of leaving and setting up elsewhere. As Disaster’s involvement on Morpheus continues to grow, guild leaders all over are planning their next moves. Illusion, one of the leaders of the Western guild Thanks for Playing, had this to say: “We are on the brink of possibly another of archeage’s biggest wars. Everyone from every server is going to want some of this action.” That is of course, if they don’t transfer off first.
One way or another, the meta on Morpheus is shifting. Will Pantsu comes back? Will Flawless, Tower/Power, and other current movers and shakers band together to stave off Disaster? How these questions play out over the next weeks and months will answer the central question of the metagame: Who’s on top?