Wings Over Atreia
The shadows dance as the last of the rays of day filter through the window. A hush descends as fingers are poised over the keyboard. Maybe today is the day! Just maybe. Fingers fly. Clinging to that last shred of hope, the player types the code. Just one more step! Breath held, hand shaking, finally the selection made...

*Race creation restrictions are in place. You cannot create an Elyos.*

Race restrictions: a noble idea that causes harm in its quest to do good, an idea in Aion that has outlived its usefulness, at least in its current form. Perhaps you've never been party to the scenario described above, but I (along with countless others) have. It is not a pleasant experience; I contend that race restrictions are causing avoidable harm to the game. At the very least, it's a slap in the face to the idea of playing your way. But even worse than that, it is costing Aion players when the express goal was to avoid that very thing.

This week, Wings Over Atreia looks at why the policies of race restrictions need to be reexamined, and if kept, reimplemented in a different way.

Aion screenshot
A rebel with a cause

Americans have a bit of an image as rebels, of scoffing in the face of restrictions. But rebelling doesn't mean just thumbing your nose at convention; it isn't just being troublesome for the sake of being troublesome (or having really cool slicked-back hair). After all, storied American ingenuity is based on ignoring conventional restrictions and succeeding anyway. Add to that, we hate being told what we can and can't do. Tax our tea? That didn't exactly turn out as anticipated, did it? Rebelling against injustices and unfair practices can lead to something better. That's me today -- a rebel with a cause.

I don't for a minute think everyone should get his own way. For some, playing their way would be inflicting endless griefing and misery on others, a scenario that certainly doesn't bode well for the robustness of Aion's population. Rules and policies are important and are often put in place with positive results in mind. I just believe that NCsoft needs to recognize that the race restriction policies are outdated and should be revamped.

Aion screenshotIt's dead, Jim

We've lost him. Or her. Or all of them. Thanks to the race restrictions present on some of the servers, NCsoft has lost customers; specifically, the chance for people to join the game and play with friends has been killed. And this is preventable!

I totally get why the race restrictions are in place for servers. I do. Race restrictions were put in to help keep the two player factions semi-balanced in the war. After all, few people find joy in repeated slaughters because their side is so underrepresented that they don't stand a chance. That's not fun. So a severely unbalanced ratio of one faction to another could possibly turn many players away. The current solution? Prevent any new players from joining a specific faction until things even out a bit. The problem with this is that many potential players are turned away from the game by the same mechanic.

On a personal level, I find it disheartening when friends get all excited to play the game but then can't join me on my server. On an even more personal level, as things stand, I couldn't even have my munchkin join me in game! Of course, there's always the chance to start over on another server (assuming it didn't have the race restrictions in place!). But we didn't want to. My friends wanted to come where I knew the community, where they could be a part of something I had been talking about for quite a while. On my main server, I could mentor down and help them along, maybe even give them a few things to help them out on their journey. I could introduce them to more people creating more bonds that would help tie them to the game. Given the fact that my friends also spend more freely on their hobbies, I could hook in paying customers!

But as time passed and every log-in attempt was met with the race restriction message, their interest waned. What was once excitement turned to exasperation. Soon, they were lost; the window of opportunity to pull them into the game was closed. They shrugged and turned their attentions away to more accessible endeavors.

The real irony is that on at least one of the servers, race restrictions were just lifted. But it was too late: The damage was already done. Something that could have prevented this would be the ability to have friends join friends (or family) already established on a server. Surely you can restrict the random new players from the lopsided servers while allowing people with connections access. Let players have a small number of codes to give to others to allow character creation on the same server. The way to get people to stick with Aion is to get them invested in the game. And a way to get them invested is to let them play with people they know, not toss them into the wilds alone.

Aion screenshot
Restriction is futile!

While we are on the topic of race restrictions, let's discuss another antiquated restriction: the inability to create both races on the same server. Again, here is a restriction that I really can't see as being relevant now.

In the beginning, this restriction was to prevent spy-type dealings. But enterprising Daevas who didn't mind shelling out extra bucks for more accounts do so and have toons of both factions on a single server anyways. I admit I even tried this once to test whether a friend and I could trade between the races (you know, make a killing in the market with those Asmodian skins and dyes) and have some fun RP. That didn't work, so that account just gathered dust after that first month.

Fast forward to now, when Aion players enjoy free-to-play. Whats to stop people from having multiple free accounts with both races now? Nothing that I can see. So why not just allow players to make either race on their one account? There is no need to do anything drastic like share a warehouse between the races, but why not just allow players to manage one account? This one server/one race restriction really is completely futile and pointless. At least if the toons are all on one account and there are issues of griefing or such that need to be addressed, penalties put on the account will hit home; since it is the main account, the offender couldn't just shrug it off and go play on his/her other toons.

So let's hear it for the re-examination of race restrictions! The game has evolved; so too must the policies. Let's see policies that meet the current needs of Daevas be crafted and implemented.

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.
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