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Wings Over Atreia: Too much of a good thing

Wings Over Atreia header
Seriously NCsoft, enough is enough!

Now, I know that in the not-even-too-distant past, I openly admitted how much I liked the shiny surveys that popped up occasionally in Aion. Whether they were during events or just out of the blue, the surveys were like a random present just because. And who doesn't like presents? Sometimes you would know what you were getting; other times it would be a complete surprise. I love clicking that little icon and being rewarded with dyes, pets, emotion cards, and other assorted relatively harmless fluff. Yes, I also hoarded the platinum medals and ancient crowns that sprang up infrequently with a near maniacal glee. But there reaches a point when you really can have too much of a good thing (sadly, much like decadent cheesecake) and actually encounter negative repercussions.

Last week I mentioned that the leveling rewards, at least under level 25, got to be a little much. But that doesn't compare to the glut of goods available to every player who logged in during the month of October. I was initially appreciative of getting a few of the "October Special" (stacks of multiple scrolls and power shards). However, the surveys got out of hand before long.

Click past the cut for (no, not a free gift!) Wings over Atreia's look at how over-gifting can actually be damaging to Aion.

Aion screenshot
Now why would getting free stuff ever be a bad thing? In my opinion, it does more harm than good when it dissuades players from investing in and remaining in game, affects gameplay to a significant degree, or actively works against an in-game system.

Aion screenshotDem bones, dem bones, dem lazy bones

First, let's take a deeper look at the downside of getting armor and goods at every level ding (at least in the lower levels). Constantly receiving a gift at every level has a few disadvantages. One, it sets the player up to expect constant gifts, a bad idea when the action is only temporary. Not only will the rate at which a player levels decrease the higher he progresses, but suddenly he will feel like his surveys have been taken away when they start coming less frequently. The gift is now an expectation -- and people really don't appreciate when their expectations are not met. They get cranky!

Another repercussion of hand-outs is that people don't learn to stand on their own. They just coast along and expect the game to hand them what they need. Why not? It has happened so far, right? Piling goods on players at low levels is kind of sadistic when you think about how much work they will have to put into things later (Miragent/Fenris armor, Stormwing armor, Abyss gear). What better way to discourage players from sticking it out than by doing a bait-and-switch: Hey folks, look how easy Aion is, come in kick back... oh, by the way, just watch that first step around 40!

Third, people rarely have appreciation for things that are just handed to them. If you work for what you have, you value it more. If you value it, it is that much harder to just walk away. If someone hasn't had to put any time or effort into things, you have basically removed one of the ties that binds her to the world. I know many a Deava who has felt that pang of boredom at points in the game but continued to play through it or came back because she didn't want to abandon her investment. When the bout of boredom or frustration passes, she is excited to play again and have fun. However, if there was no tie to keep her there or pull her back, once she leaves, you will have lost her to other interests. Honestly, catering to the instant gratification crowd never produces positive results.

Aion screenshotSlashing the economy

OK, so maybe I was never one to spend lots on potions and scrolls (I mainly trade materials for finished goods), but the scroll market is a serious one and a major support for a number of crafters. The recent October survey event had many an Alchemist crying in his flasks, with good cause: Master alchemists have spent an inordinate amount of money if not time to reach that level, all with the expectation of making a profit and recouping funds later. The potion and scroll market is where they get the return on their investment. By drowning players in literally thousands of scrolls (35 a day of five different scroll types for over 30 days), NCsoft effectively eradicated the scroll market. Trust me, this definitely frustrated a chunk of the playerbase who basically had their livelihoods stripped for a good length of time. If the idea of having crafting in a game is so that you can have some semblance of economy, why yank the money bags right out from under a portion of your players?

If you want to give some to be generous and gift some items, give only a few -- not the thousands of multiple scroll types that flooded players who responded to the survey every day. There really is no cause to destroy one profession's livelihood like that.

Plugging the money sink

I don't think many will argue the fact that power shards are effectively a money sink. Whether you like them or not, money sinks do serve a purpose -- to remove money from the economy in an attempt to help regulate inflation as players steadily gain more wealth. In the case of power shards, I can tell you this money sink was sunk! Each day that a player logged in in October granted her 10,000 power shards. Ten thousand! A day! And this event not only went on through October but even lasted until after maintenance on November 2nd. That's an awful lot of power shards. Which brings us to our next point...

Aion screenshotSpace, the final frontier

Last, but not least, the idea of gifting players rows upon rows or things in an already space-starved game is simply cruel. Even with the support of backpack toting pets, cubes and warehouses cannot hold nearly enough -- especially if you have materials for crafting. Many (I dare say most) players have alts simply as warehouses. Not a small number also have one-man legions just to increase space by using a legion warehouse. So gifting 30+ stacks of items means having to find that many available spaces (yah, right!), clogging up mail to yourself or your alts, or simply deleting the gifts in frustration.

I am all for fun and fluff and even the occasional high-valued goodies being gifted to Aion's players, but not at the expense of specific groups of players. Or my poor cube! I am not advocating that surveys and gifts go the way of the dodo, but I would like to see a little forethought and restraint; moderation in all things is truly not a bad motto. Don't cripple a crafting class and don't drown players with items that can't stack -- offer just a few. And don't lead players to believe one thing when they start up the game only to find it changes on them later. The last thing we need is players who abandon the game.

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.