So, aside from paying tribute to Timbuk3 and aggravating the Debbie Downers in the audience, I feel the need to discuss the recent Aion happenings both here in the west and in Korea. Despite ripping on the game's grind a bit last week, the fact remains that I still enjoy it and it seems like NCsoft has at least turned the ship in the right direction, even if it's still proceeding at a glacial pace.
Hit the jump to see what's worth looking forward to.
Reasons for optimism around the Aionosphere will vary depending on who you talk to, of course, and I'm sure there are many among you rolling your eyes and setting your jaw to deliver more proclamations on how Aion a) sucks and b) is dead. While the first one is certainly true from some perspectives and a perfectly valid opinion, I'd like to take a moment to examine the second, and poke fun at those who continually throw the word around with no firm concept of its actual meaning as it relates to online gaming.
Let's examine, shall we, an excerpt courtesy of Merriam-Webster.
3 a : inanimate, inert
4 a (1) : lacking power or effect (2) : no longer having interest, relevance, or significance b : no longer in use : obsolete c : no longer active : extinct d : lacking in gaiety or animation e (1) : lacking in commercial activity : quiet (2) : commercially idle or unproductive
I'd like to call your attention to the bolded portions above, and then to the fact that NCsoft continues to update, expand, and otherwise operate Aion in both the Eastern and Western markets. Common sense tells us that companies do not continue to pour money and resources into products that generate no income, so therefore Aion, in point of fact, is clearly not dead except in the minds of the occasional forum warrior to whom personal dislike equals "dead." Just to further drum home the point: dead equals Tabula Rasa, Auto Assault, Earth & Beyond, and The Matrix Online. Aion (or Age of Conan, or Warhammer Online, or Star Wars Galaxies, or any number of other games that have fallen under the dead-troll crosshairs despite remaining provably profitable) are by definition, alive.
Aion, in point of fact, is clearly not dead except in the minds of the occasional forum warrior to whom personal dislike equals dead.
I'm not convinced that NCsoft will ever eliminate the soul-sucking grind entirely, as it seems to be a part of their corporate DNA, but 1.9 looks like a nod in that general direction. And, for the truly hardcore in the audience, yes I know that Aion's grind is considerably less than Lineage II's grind, but that fact only serves to illustrate how L2 was wrongly labeled as entertainment when in fact it was closer to corporal punishment and hard labor rolled into one sadistic ball of unfun.
A second reason for Aion-related optimism is the appropriately labeled 2.0, as in the 2.0 patch that went live on the Korean test server this past week. While some in the community cried foul that it doesn't incorporate absolutely everything NCsoft showed off in last year's Vision trailer, it does feature pets, a new adventuring zone, a new RvR fortress, and some sort of mysterious new flight mechanic called Path of Wind. Did I mention it features pets?
Unfortunately for those of us who abhor grinding levels, it also features a cap raised from 50 to 55, and it remains to be seen if those new levels will be as hellish as the current 40 - 50 gauntlet. Regardless, it's good to see large chunks of new content incoming. Realistically, it could be several months before us lowly Americans get to see it (if the 1.9 gestation period is anything to gauge by), but did I mention it features pets?
The third, and hopefully not final reason to be optimistic about Aion is the recently released public test server. In addition to enlisting armies of bug-squashing players to help iron out issues prior to the live servers, the PTS also offers a bit of a break from the high-level grind by serving up the game content along with accelerated XP, item drops, and the ability to roll either faction on the same server. None of it is permanent of course, but it's a welcome change of pace, and the very existence of the server illustrates a willingness on the part of the development team to collect player feedback.
At the end of the day, the point of all this is that NCsoft seems committed to tweaking Aion for the long term. It's quite fashionable to declare a game "dead" in forums and blogs, but the reality is that the world of Atreia is very much alive and possessed of a reasonably bright future. Is it all roses? Certainly not as there are a number of design and usability issues to be addressed. Aion fans should nonetheless take heart, if recent events are any indication. Until next week, keep the blue side up.
Look! Up in the air! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a snarky Daeva! Join Jef Reahard every Monday for news and views from the world of Aion. Whether he's soaring over the battlefield or hunkered down in the trenches, Jef is your combat correspondent in the world of Atreia.