Wings Over Atreia: Rant powers activate!

So there I was, with another topic planned and article well on its way to completion when fate intervened and thrust a new subject upon me. And not in a happy-Fed-Ex-guy-handing-it-over kinda way either, but a growling, grumbling, grit-my-teeth-and-try-not-to-speak-in-asterisks (%#$**!) kind of way. Oh yes, this is a topic of great rantiness for me.

I freely admit that I rarely reach the heights of true frustration within Aion (not counting launch queues where I simply chose to stop logging in altogether), especially to the point of actually tossing aside another column to express and share said frustrations with you. But now, you have a second opportunity to witness my small yet developing rant lobe -- placed, I believe, somewhere behind the occipital lobe judging by the fact that when it revs up people tend to see red. And the truth of it is, I am going to derive great pleasure from venting about this topic. So what has me so fired up right now? The venerable AP harvesting grounds of the truly lazy: AFK Dredgions.

Queue up then enter past the break for a discourse on the evils of this practice and what NCsoft should do about it.

I know that right now some of you have already jumped on the defensive, so please give me the benefit and hear me out. After all, you know I don't just fly off the handle at any trivial thing. You may even actually agree with what I find fault with here.

Enter, stage left

So, here's the situation: Due to timing, I couldn't make it into a Chantra Dredgion with my friends. No biggy really, because I don't mind using the quick entry option and joining up and working together with new people (I rarely use the recruit group function precisely because it's often populated with advertisements for AFK groups, which I want no part of). As it so happened, the excitement of actually getting a Dredgion to pop was quickly extinguished when I was confronted with the announcement that the group was a premade AFK with no intention of fighting. Too bad for me, they said.

Chalk this up to an aggravation? Sure. Maybe I could even stomach it if it was a rarity, but numerous times this week I have entered Dredgion only to be told that the group -- or certain members -- would not be participating in it. Grr! Ironically, I may be one of the few who don't get totally perturbed when a Dredge team isn't perfect or makes mistakes, so I really am OK with being randomly placed in PUG groups... what I cannot stand is going into a group where a certain number of members have preplanned to simply AFK throughout the instance.

What's my beef?

Why do I have a problem with people who are exercising their choice to play the game how they want to? Because this circumstance completely affects my game! I honestly don't give a hoot or nanny if you have six friends who together want to totally abuse a system for gaining Abyss Points (yes, I say abuse and completely mean it; I am not even a great PvPer but I still take pride in the fact I actually earn what I gain). If you want to do your own thing, fine -- but other players should not be forced to suffer because of you. Never mind that the enemy just gets free AP because of you.

You may argue that because Daevas get AP whether they win or lose now, why get my wings tied in a wad? Well, because 1) if I am after AP, then I'm pretty sure I will like getting more for winning then settling for less and 2) I actually go into Dredge to participate! Believe it or not, there are players who want to test their skills, PvP, and take part in the content that was developed. Some players like Dredgion! Each one is a different experience and I go to them FOR the experience, not to just idly sit on my keister. A person or group that goes AFK strips me of that opportunity. And because of the mechanics of both Dredgions, it is a pretty severe penalty if I choose to leave.

Currently, if a player leaves Dredgion (either because of a disconnect that timed him/her out or to avoid an abusive situation), s/he is summarily locked out of participating in a Dredgion for that entire cycle. Even better *cue sarcasm*, Dredgion is only available three times a day; rare is the day any working person can manage to attempt all three, let alone actually make it into all three! So to have another player/other players destroy your opportunity is understandably frustrating.

Possible solutions

One solution would be to allow the ability to kick someone out of a group inside Dredgion. Face it, AFKers are not the only ones who can affect your group -- there are those who are just plain verbally abusive, who purposefully sabotage, and otherwise grief the other members of the group. And the group has no recourse! This just isn't acceptable! In any other place in Atreia a group leader can remove a troublesome person; sometimes you don't even care of you can replace the offender as long as you just remove them from your gaming experience. Playing with a handicap (smaller team) is better than playing with harassment.

Now we know that the leader of Dredgion is random depending on who clicks enter first when the queue pops, but I have taken this into account. Instead of giving group leaders the ability to boot (to prevent selective griefing), why not implement a voting system that anyone in the group can initiate. Then, if four total members vote the offender off the Dredgion, then said member is tossed out of the nearest portal and the space is open for a possible replacement. Saddled with a notorious blankety-blank or the server klepto? No more worries, just call for a vote and move on.

OK, well that solution addresses if there are one or two bad apples in a group, but what if the problem happens to be the majority of the group? Look at my case where I port into the Dredgion only to be told my group will not be bothering (or if I am extremely lucky they at least try to get the quests done). What recourse do I currently have? None -- if I leave that lame group I will be blocked from entering another Dredgion for the remainder of that cycle due to the timer and lose all possible reward. No, if I want to receive any reward, I am forced to remain in a bad experience.

The solution here? Allow players five- or 10-minute grace period to leave a Dredgion and still attempt to go again. This could also benefit those who are kicked from one group so they have the opportunity to still participate (cutting down on people being griefed out of the experience by being kicked from a group).

At the very least, another possibility is to allow the feature to lock a group within Dredgion. By this I mean that if an AFK group wants to go in, fine, more power to them, but let them lock their group so that unsuspecting players who want to go to Dredgion to participate are not placed in their group when it starts. If you can't stop them from abusing the system, at least stop them from ruining the gaming experience of others.

My last suggestion is to get rid of AFK groups in Dredgion all together by implementing a forced removal of anyone who remains in the safe zone for more than 5 minutes. Sadly, this option will also penalize groups who are simply trying to stay away from an opposing team who is acting like jerks by repeatedly griefing. Considering that there are times when a team may want/need to remain in this area, I think the previous suggestions would actually be more beneficial.

Wow, that really was cathartic! I may have to give more credence to the whole process of ranting. My teeth aren't even clenched anymore. And who knows, maybe some good will come of it: NCsoft -- you let it slip that you actually do read this column (*waves*), so I implore, I plead, I BEG on battle-worn knees, please consider these -- or any other -- solutions that will help alleviate or remove these unfortunate situations. Give us the tools to make our gaming experiences free from abuse and harassment at the hands of others. Let us walk away from bad situations without penalizing us for being the bigger Daeva. Remember, frustration leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to leaving. Use your powers for good and prevent this awful fate before it becomes a reality. Thanks in advance.

Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down weekly to bring you Wings Over Atreia. Featuring tips, guides, and general snippets of life in Aion, the column is better than Tutty-on-a-stick, ackackackackackack! Have a suggestion to share? No need to bribe a Shugo -- just send mail to mj@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.