Wings Over Atreia: F2P and vet rewards and bears, oh my!

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OK, so maybe there aren't really any bears. Wait, I take that back -- there are maybe sorta bears... at least alluded to! Polar bears, to be exact. No really, work with me here: What Winter Festival, Atreian or otherwise, doesn't conjure up images of polar bears? We just won't get into the whole dancing bears thing. What we will get into this week in Wings Over Atreia, however, are musings about a few topics of interest that are swirling around lately, most notably Aion's upcoming conversion to free-to-play in Europe, the changes to the veteran reward system, and the aforementioned Winter Festival (sans dancing bears).

Quick quiz now: Other than involving Aion, what else do these three subjects have in common? Give up? Time. While this column usually delves into single topics at a time, the fact that two of these are time-sensitive necessitates that they share face-time, else the news most relevant to Daevas would become obsolete. The third is less time-sensitive but more time-relevant.

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Free-to-PvP?

When NCsoft announced last December that the European version was moving to free-to-play, I know some heard the death knolls for Aion. Others, however, were cheering at the opportunity to check out or return to the beautiful world of Atreia. Personally, I had to give myself some breathing room from this topic. You know, focus on the merrier things of the season? It's not that I am anti-F2P, per se. But I am a bit anti-let's-dress-it-up-with-PR-speak-that's-not-accurate.

What am I talking about? The "PvP is available to all!" claims. Personally, I find this statement to be misleading and inaccurate and will leave some Daevas extremely frustrated, seriously damaging their experience and marring Aion's reputation. Let me explain.

Aion screenshotThe way this mantra is spun gives the impression that everyone will have an equal chance, regardless of pay model. Yes, it is absolutely true that PvP will, in fact, be "available" to all. Just don't be deluded into thinking that all can actually participate. Those who do not opt for the Gold Pack or fork out plenty to the cash shop really stand no chance whatsoever. These folks will be simple practice dummies with no real hope to compete. Ever. Veritable AP fodder for the paying customers. Think about it: To be even remotely competitive now, you have to acquire some AP gear, and there really is no hope of obtaining AP gear if you are a free player.

Don't get me wrong; it is understandable and fair that it should take longer for the free folks to get the same gear, but it should still be within the realm of possibility. To actually obtain any PvP gear, you have acquire the AP or courage insignias. To collect these, you must win in PvP (not likely to happen when going against already well-geared folks), participate in Abyss and Balaurea fortress instances (which is only possible if your faction has the forts) and sieges, run the Dredgions, or enter the Crucible arenas. You can also still receive AP items from veteran rewards, but that avenue is being nixed (see below).

Even when you can't win through open-world PvP, since you get AP and insignias even if you lose in the arenas and Dredgions, gear is still easier to get, right? Wrong! Have you seen the cool-down timers for the Dredgions, fortresses, and arenas? (I'd show you now, but apparently all the links to those pages no longer work. Hmm. Very interesting.) We are talking multiple days between chances to enter! By the time any Daeva gathers enough AP or insignias for anything, we may well be living on the moon. And that's assuming Daevas can live past the lower-level ganking long enough to even make it to the levels at which they can utilize these AP harvesting methods.

In essence, PvP gear is impossible to get if you are a free player. Now, that's all fine and dandy as long as you openly just admit this! Yes, players are paying to have an edge, so just stop saying they aren't. I will respect you more if you are just up front and open with me. Really. Free players who jump into the game with the impression that they will be able to actually participate in PvP combat are going to be slapped with a harsh reality and feel like they were misled and lied to. This leads not to more cash shop revenue but rather to people leaving in disgust. Just flat out tell people: To really take part in the PvP aspect of the game, be prepared to pay for it.

Aion screenshotDishonoring vets?

Now, about those veteran rewards: As of February 25th all current vet rewards will be gone. By gone, I mean long gone. Not only will they be discontinued, but Daevas will not have any possibility of obtaining them after the cut off date regardless if they earned them. To this I say a resounding BAH! And to add insult to injury, my final reward won't even become available to me until just a couple of days after the cut-off date. *sigh*

Do you know who my heart really goes out to, though? All of those people who joined Aion a bit later who have been anxiously awaiting hitting a benchmark and getting something spiffy like the fairy wings. They have been putting their time in, and now it feels like NCsoft is just thumbing its nose at those who didn't join the game at launch and saying "forget you."

Granted, the devs have announced via the log in page that "New and better things are on the way!" The official news announcement says that the current rewards will become outdated (since when are plat medals and AP items outdated?!) with the coming of 3.0. Well guess what -- newer does not always mean better! Take a look at modern furniture, all pressboard and glue. Is that better than stuff crafted many decades, even a century ago? Nope. Many things from the past were just built better and last longer, even appliances. And there's my grandma... sorry, but newer couldn't possibly replace her awesomeness.

Quite frankly, I don't buy it. I am not a happy camper. I don't like the quip that the devs are removing something that is known and loved to replace it with... who knows what? NCsoft isn't even releasing any information on what is supposedly "newer and better." If you are going to change a system, at least have the courtesy to supply all the information! Maybe it is better, but let the customer judge for himself.

Even more frustrating to me is that I have nearly a year's worth of items still to claim on my main, never mind on all of my alts. Why haven't I claimed them before now? Because there simply isn't enough room! Why would I clog up the already tight storage space on my alts with umpteen major ancient crowns when they can't get to the Abyss to turn them in yet? I was just waiting until those characters were of appropriate level. Now, I don't have a choice -- I have to find a way to store all of the rewards or lose them. Well sheesh, this is going to be painful!

If anyone else was procrastinating or waiting until they had sufficient room, wait no longer -- log onto your account page and claim your outstanding rewards before they are no longer available. And if you had plans for making an alt and you want the rewards on it, get cracking! Time is of the essence.

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The festival (of non-dancing bears)

As time is of the essence, our final topic today involves the Winter Festival. I admit it, folks: Finally there was a festival in Aion that I did not participate in. At all. Really. It's not that festivals aren't great, but now it seems as if it is a never ending run from one to another and they are beginning to blur together. I am still a firm believer in too much of a good thing, and too many festivals is too much! What makes festivals feel special is the fact that they aren't commonplace, that they're something to look forward to. Right now, I feel like I am drowning in festivals. NCsoft, can we please tone it down a little bit? I am very glad that you listened to us when we said we wanted more things to do, but this has gotten out of hand. What we wanted were occasional breaks from the everyday life of Atreia -- key word, occasional. There is still something to be said for plain old unfestivaled Atreia!

If any of you still want to experience part of this festival, you'd better hurry as it wraps up on February 1st. I'd say I am happy about the end of the Winter Festival, but I am pretty dang certain a Valentine's one is right on its heels. So if you miss this festival, either by chance or by design, don't worry; there will certainly be another in no time!

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.