Aion screenshot
Hang on to your wings! The news that Daevas and Daevas-to-be have been anticipating (and even hedging bets on) has finally arrived: NCsoft just announced that Aion's 3.0 update and free-to-play-conversion will hit North American servers on April 11th, giving folks barely enough time to recover from any chocolate bunny-induced comas.

And if that wasn't enough to set Asmodians and Elyos astir, along with the raised level cap, mounts, streamlined UI, and other assorted goodies previously disclosed, two additional features launching with Ascension were revealed: a completely unique microtransaction system (C.U.B.E.) and a personalized in-game guide (the Atreian Atlas).

Aion screenshotMade to order

While the move to F2P didn't really come as a surprise to many, this new transaction model probably will. Though this transition has been long touted as a "Truly Free" business model with all content available, other details about the free-to-play transition have been purely speculative. Today it's official: Aion will not only do away with subscriptions but will have no account tiers or purchase requirements, unlike the previous European model. Instead, envision a buffet-style experience with the new C.U.B.E. system.

C.U.B.E. stands for Customizable User Bundling Experience. Basically, players will be able to purchase a C.U.B.E. (hmm, Shugo-crafted?) from the newly renamed Aion store, the Black Cloud Marketplace, and fill it with their personal selection of goodies. C.U.B.E.s will come in various sizes and prices. As a bonus, players who purchase them will also be awarded extra items; what the items are and how many you get depends on the size of the C.U.B.E. purchased. C.U.B.E.s will be available for pre-purchase on April 4th; all new items will be available for immediate use on April 11th.

I have to say, +5 to NCsoft for working toward giving players what they want. One of the facets of free-to-play that players usually run into -- and dislike -- is having to pay for more than they want just to get the specific features they desire. This new system minimizes, if not eradicates, that worry as players can build a personal game package tailored to their specific needs. Hopefully, these bundles will allow players to pick between instance scrolls, crafting bonuses, and the like to really customize their experience.

Aion screenshotTrail-blazing

Have you decided to take the plunge into Atreia but you don't know where to direct yourself once inside? Cue the Atreian Atlas. Described as an "always on, benevolent, veteran gamer willing to help players," this new in-game guide resembles a personal trainer, offering a customized gaming plan for Daevas. This system takes into account a player's character and playstyle to personalize a path through the game. By keeping track of where players have already been, the Atreian Atlas will be able to map out a personal program detailing upcoming challenges to help Daevas get the most out of their gaming.

The atlas will offer a greater level of information accessible right at players' fingertips, including comprehensive interactive maps, video guides, and the ability to check quest difficulty, assess minimum level requirements, and note any related quests. Information on bosses will also be included to help Daevas be prepared.

Bonus: My hero

Want to be immortalized, your visage splashed across the website and launcher? Aion is looking for its next hero to inspire the incoming troops. If you think you've got what it takes, grab a screenshot of your character in action and enter it in the contest. For a full set of rules and prizes, visit the official site. Submissions will be accepted from now until March 24th, 2012 at 2:59 a.m. EDT. Winners will be announced on or about March 27th.

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?

This article was originally published on Massively.