I'd like to touch on the subject of rewards, especially in the context of new content and the playerbase's reluctance to engage with it. This is a subject I've wanted to discuss for a while now, but I haven't really found the time to elaborate on my thoughts so that I could say it in a way that didn't just sound like whining or asking for more.
The Achaean development team (both programmers and content developers) have created some fantastic new additions in recent years. We've seen some of the most well written areas, large and inspired stories, and interesting PvE encounters the game's ever had. However, the vast majority of these new additions stand absolutely derelict, completely abandoned and ignored by the playerbase. Scant few people visit Yggdrasil for questing or hunting, virtually nobody does forays anymore, and the Underworld may as well still not exist. Entire mechanics were written for the Underworld, with the faction changing quests, that haven't even been activated by the players. And honestly, I think there is only one reason why any of this is true.
I think Achaea has a fundamental problem with rewarding play, and it has made active strides to become less rewarding as time goes on. I think this problem has two root causes. The first root cause is the encroachment of promotional items upon potential rewards' territory, and the inherent need for there to be desirable cash items to drive revenue. The second root cause is Achaea's economy, which lacks resource sinks but has a relative bounty of resource faucets. Not just limited to gold, but commodities and curatives as well.
The first one is probably the biggest offender in my view. We all understand that Achaea, as the F2P game that it is, very much needs a source of revenue. However, that said, how often has the talisman system been used for promotional items that unquestionably should have been gameplay rewards? The Yggdrasil talisman set should have been rewards from various activities on Yggdrasil. And it sort of has become that, with certain quests rewarding quest-sourced talisman pieces, but that's limited to only the top half of the Yggdrasil set; none of the good or desirable pieces can actually be obtained this way, and what pieces can be obtained are obtained at a very slow and staggered rate. The Underworld set should have been rewards for engaging in Underworld quests, yet it was given entirely as promo material instead and is unobtainable otherwise. How many players would fill the Underworld if playing there had a chance to give Underworld pieces? Even the people who completed the sets would still go there for additional sets to sell, just like elder dragons still farm dragon pieces to sell to others. Honestly, I think the fate of the talisman system as a whole has been a travesty of missed potential that was directly caused by shortsighted greed. An opportunity for long-term player engagement was sacrificed for short-term sales. I don't really know how to put that more politely, and I certainly understand the need for sales from Achaea's side, but I think they've missed the mark here in a big way.
As for the second root cause, Achaea's economy is a bit of a mess right now that I'm not sure how to approach properly. I have no delusions of complete understanding of game economies, there's a reason that companies spend top dollar on actual economists to help develop their MMO economies - it's a very complex problem that takes some serious skill to balance. Still, as far as I can tell, Achaea's economy is stagnant and inflationary. There's fairly little to actively sink resources out of the economy, and the biggest sinks that exist are mostly passive and unengaging things like mining, city upkeep, and warehouses. There's a few big ticket items like ships, but once purchased those never go away, and with a playerbase as small as Achaea's that means they have eventually dried up as gold sinks. Cities have city upgrades as a resource sink, and there's a smattering of resource sinks for things like jewellery, enchanting, and tailoring. Stone's probably got the best sink with housing credits. But none of it really adds up to be ... enough. The only reason we're not absolutely flooded with an overabundance of commodities is because people are mechanically restricted from hoarding massive stockpiles of it, which while it does act as a bandaid isn't a complete solution. Similarly, gold doesn't have enough uses to be in high enough demand for people to seek it out actively.
So, none of this is really new talk, but while the admin have certainly made strides in other areas I think this is one area they've left to the wayside, and I feel like that's a mistake. I hate seeing awesome content come out and just be summarily ignored because it's not rewarding. Well, worse than not rewarding - challenging content actively punishes you for failing at it, with time being lost for no reward and coming out negative in experience. That same time spent on any of the activities that do reward you, even in a small way, are infinitely superior value propositions to the players, and so that's where you see people spend their time.
Since no internet criticism would be complete without a proposed solution from a perspective with only half the information, I'd like to offer my solution to the first problem I mentioned. I think the talisman system was a golden ticket to making content rewarding for players that was dumped without giving it the chance it needed. I understand how enticing it is as an avenue for monetisation, since obviously it's a system that was primed for that sort of thing, but I think the way it was done was shortsighted and left free players out in the cold. To solve that, I'd steal a solution straight from Warframe, and anyone who's played it will likely recognize what I'm referring to. I wouldn't remove talismans as promo rewards - they're obviously a valuable thing to have there for people who want to spend the money and get something immediately. Instead, I'd bump them all up to needing level 7 pieces instead of level 1 pieces, and make caches give level 7 promo pieces instead of level 1s. I'd make the relevant gameplay content give level 1 pieces at a reliable rate - questing in both Yggdrasil and Underworld would give pieces with regularity, and pieces from the entire set instead of just a small subset. Regularity is key here, so that even failure in an area gives a trickle of rewards, so maybe the numbers would need to be tweaked from level 7s so that a constant rewarding trickle wouldn't finish someone's set very quickly. Make these quest talisman pieces redeemable for gold, and reduce the straight gold drops from quests and kills to compensate. Finally, I would make completing a talisman take a significant amount of real time, scaling with the amount of promo pieces used to complete it, and with a sizable credit option to rush completion. For example, if a full quest-sourced talisman took 4 RL days to finish making, but could be rushed to completion for a small fraction of the talisman's total worth in credits. This makes everything from both sets obtainable in game, even at a significant grind, but still obtainable. Those who want to spend, but can't spend as much as the big spenders can, still have a way to get the things they want quicker than those who don't want to or can't spend at all. Ultimately, it means all content becomes available to everyone, and those that pay get it significantly faster and with significantly less effort. It also would add more things moving and trading between players, which is pretty important in any multiplayer economy. With that system in place, I'd also turn all of the Foray talismans into permanent items with a cooldown on use, instead of consumable items that are impossible to complete and once completed have a serious, serious case of Elixir-syndrome.
I feel like I've missed a lot and left a lot out from this post, but it's already too long and I'm more keen on striking up a discussion about how to improve things than just spewing opinions all over the place and crying doom and gloom. Ultimately, I just really hate seeing all this cool content we've been getting being abandoned so quickly.