We love The Escapist over here at Massively. Take for instance Jared Rea's recent article, "Beautiful 21st Century" -- a piece about one company's attempt to overcome the stigma attached to most older Korean MMOs that make it to the western market: beautiful but grindy. Perhaps the most notable Korean title currently played in the west is NCsoft's Lineage II which, despite being a beautiful game, has drawn some flack from gamers about its steep grind (although this is becoming less of a problem).
NCsoft is working to change this perception of their forthcoming Korean-developed titles, particularly in light of their upcoming MMO Aion: The Tower of Eternity. Much of the problem that NCsoft faces is similar to what all companies, game or otherwise, face when taking their brand overseas -- being recognized as a global brand rather than seen in the limited light of their offerings in a given region of the world.
"Aion: The Tower of Eternity represents their first step to become a truly global company and, ironically enough, the first Korean developed MMOG they'll have released since Lineage II," Rea writes. The challenge now, 10 years after the advent of Lineage, is for NCsoft to adapt to what gamers expect in a post-World of Warcraft era.
NCsoft is bringing the goal-based progression of WoW and a sense of narrative that follows players as they level up to Aion, which is "very much up to pace with the likes of World of Warcraft and The Lord of the Rings, appearing more like an action title than a time-sucking MMORPG at first glance," asserts Rea.
But in a market where players are keenly aware of cookie-cutter emulation of successful titles like World of Warcraft, among others, Aion will need to bring something new to the table. Winged flight, of course, is one such feature that's already gaining the attention of MMO fans. Rea says,"Not only do they make for an easy method of travel, but they're also a key component in combat, as controlling the skies becomes just as important as the ground game." The skill chaining systems which have proven to be popular in Final Fantasy XI, and more recently Lord of the Rings Online, will also be present in Aion, thus appealing to fans of these conjunctional effects. However, their fresher take on skill chains is to make them easier, accessible to even new players. The blending of PvE and PvP in Aion is another interesting addition and hopefully something we'll see more of in the upcoming crop of MMO releases.
It's usually a positive thing when game developers recognize some of what makes the industry-dominant titles popular, without simply attempting to emulate what's already been done before. So while NCsoft isn't reinventing the wheel with Aion, they are giving players wings to soar. Will these twists on familiar features in MMOs be enough to make you gravitate towards Aion: The Tower of Eternity?