Wings Over Atreia: Aion turns to outsourcing and dates 3.5 launch

Wings Over Atreia  Aion turns to outsourcing
Despite the fact that the U.S. presidential elections are only a few short weeks away, this isn't the beginning of a political debate, so please leave all politically charged opinions at the door. This topic has nothing to do with politics at all; it's about a contest in Aion that NCsoft announced this last week.

At least it looks like a contest. It's called the Tiamat Slayer Event, and Daevas are called on to compete with others by creating the ultimate guide for Aion's upcoming 12-man alliance instance, Dragon Lord's Sanctuary. The alliance that produces the best how-to guide will receive prizes and accolades, including eternal weapons and a spiffy title with bonuses. But is it really about rewarding Daevas for a job well done, or is it about conning players into doing all the work so the studio doesn't have to?

Let's examine all the facts (including a hint on the release date for 3.5?), and you can decide for yourself.

Wings Over Atreia  Aion turns to outsourcing
The "contest"

First, the basics: Between October 10th and October 24th, players will have the chance to use all of their skill and cunning to find the best way to defeat Dragon Lord Tiamat and turn that knowledge into a how-to guide for others...

Wait, wait, WAIT!!! Stop the presses! In order for Daevas to be able to fight through the 12-man alliance that is coming in the 3.5 patch, wouldn't it stand to reason that the patch needs to be released? Was this a sneaky way of getting the info out that the update is coming October 10th? Was NCsoft testing to see who was paying attention? Well, I was! I suppose the instance could be released before the rest of the patch, but even so -- that means new content incoming in just two days! Pretty cool. [Update: A few hours after this column was published, NCsoft officially announced that patch 3.5 will indeed launch on October 10th.]

Aion screenshotOK, so back to the topic at hand, the contest. Folks wanting to submit guides for consideration will have to detail every step of the instance from beginning to end, including what classes were used and why, what items were brought and used (potions, scrolls, etc.), what skills the mini-bosses and bosses used, and what actions countered them. Alliances must also include a video with all chat except for alliance and group turned off. I could go on and on about the full details (and pad my word count a bit!), but they can be found in all their splendor in the terms and conditions.

Contest entries will be judged on the three Cs and a P: composition, completeness, clarity, and presentation. In other words, if people can't understand and follow it and achieve the same results, don't bother submitting it!

The best and uberest guide will net an eternal grade Tiamat weapon for each member, and members choose the weapons they receive. The top five submissions will receive a new title, Dragon Slayer. Wearing this title will grant Daevas HP +100, Attack +3, Speed +5%, and Magic Boost +15.

In a separate contest, every member in the first alliance to actually beat Tiamat will be granted the Dragonsbane title, which has the same boosts as the Dragon Slayer only with a 15-day timer. Folks who participate in this Tiamat's Welcomers contest do not need to participate in creating the slayer guide but are certainly encouraged to do so.

Aion screenshot
The ruse?

So that's the what, but what's the why? Straight off, the contest declares that sharing strategies is up to the players! Before now, players have, of course, made their own guides for friends and legions, but Aion has provided official guides on the official site. Guides for quests have been plentiful and detailed, but a quick look at the game guide section titled Instanced Dungeons is noticeably blank, the page itself declaring "Coming soon!" Could it be that the first one that finds its way there is the winner of this slayer event?

Aion screenshotI propose that this event, while encouraging competition and community involvement, could be a well-placed shifting of the workload. I think it is a distinct possibility that there were ulterior motives behind this new event: in effect, outsourcing guide creation without even paying for the time and effort involved. I also suspect that future guides will also be off-loaded onto the players if this proves successful.

Is this outsourcing necessarily evil or even lazy? Not if it means the devs have more time to spend on creating content inside the game! Come to think of it, it's pretty brilliant. Get players to do something they already do, reward them with something in-game (which costs basically nothing to provide), and you free up devs' time for other things. Someone somewhere said, "I've got it! A way to maximize our time and efforts without increasing expense!" That guy or gal has to be gloating right now. Maybe s/he got a free eternal weapon, too?

If that's the row we want to hoe, let's take a look at another task that might be outsourced. After all, the playerbase is much larger than the dev pool, so why not utilize that free labor? What about event creation? Make the community think of new events, submit detailed ways that the event would be implemented, and add the best one into the game.

I am sure there are more opportunities to outsource, so what else do you think can be outsourced to the players? (And I'm not just outsourcing; I really want to hear your suggestions!) Or does the whole idea of players having any control over the game just frighten the bejeebies out of you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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.