Wings Over Atreia  Promises, promises
There was a time a while back when I chided NCsoft for being so closed-lipped about news. Although F2P was the biggest change ever to hit Aion, there was scant information about the North American conversion to free-to-play that accompanied 3.0 until it was practically upon us! Now fast forward just one little numeral to 4.0, and we seem to be getting regular doses of information. Awesome, right? Or is it?

At first, I was overjoyed to learn new bits about the upcoming expansion. It even spawned some entertaining speculation. But the fact remained that since we still didn't know when Aion 4.0 might arrive, each added bit of news was a tease. Then it dawned on me: The studio combined my request for more news with my pleas for more frequent, if smaller, content updates. But instead of actual content in-game to excite players and keep them playing, we are getting the intangible promises of content to come! Ingenious. But is it working?

Aion screenshot
Basically, yes. A steady stream of proposed content appears to be keeping Aion and it's upcoming expansion at the forefront of people's minds. Folks who don't play the game are seeing it in the news more, the seeds of interest having been cunningly planted. And Daevas themselves are given that extra encouragement about what they have to look forward to if they hang around long enough. Pretty shrewd if you ask me.

Essentially, the company is getting the same result as frequent content updates without having to expend the effort of adding in the content -- at least for now. The content will be coming; I don't doubt that. It's just delayed gratification. And here some folks doubted gamers could practice delayed gratification!

Aion screenshotPromises are made to be broken, no?

Some folks might argue that since the expansion isn't really out anywhere, anything NCsoft says now can always be rescinded, so why bother getting your hopes up? Without detailed patch notes or a Korean version to cross-reference, we might suspect that any additions announced now could be pulled. To that, I say unlikely.

Unlike a game that's just in development with an FAQ of what it hopes to achieve, Aion is already established. Any reneging on promised features at this point -- and announced features with all that fanfare are definitely promised -- would be catastrophic to consumer confidence. And a F2P game that makes folks unhappy will see said folks walk away pretty quickly. After all, there is less of a cash investment tying anyone to the game. As much as a free-to-play game needs to keep people more engaged, interested, and hooked, it must be equally vigilant in refraining from actions that would break that hook.

Besides, I'm fairly confident that all of the news that has come out so far is already created and in and that it's just waiting for the rest of 4.0 to be completed. So I don't think the promises are empty; I believe that what features we have seen will be delivered. However, I can understand the doubt. One can't help recalling a certain other features video *cough*Visions*cough* that has, to this point, failed to deliver. And without a launch date, who's to say that it won't easily be in by 2015? We could potentially all be waiting a loooooong time to see whether the promises are fulfilled.

Up-to-date intel

With the talk about 4.0's features, it might behoove us to summarize what is known so far. The first morsel, a complete surprise and the first hint about the existence of 4.0, came at Gamescom. There, NCsoft announced a very unique addition to the next major expansion: three new classes. Not too long after that, giving folks just enough time to stew in speculation, silhouettes of the three mystery classes appeared. In time, more details became available, first of the Gunner class (a nifty gunslinger with a very awesome duster!), then of the Troubadour. Many a Daeva is now wondering how to fit more toons into the restrictive eight slots, myself included!

The next bit of info to come would logically encompass that third class then, the Rider... right? Wrong. Just as that class was left in secrecy at Gamescom, so, too, are more details of the class staying a mystery now. In fact, the next big news was about the new land itself. Announced less than two weeks ago, the lush waterfall-laced land of Katalam is where the highest level of Daevas will romp and play.

Even more recently, NCsoft showed off a few new hairstyles. Major news? No. But still news. And any bits of news keep the thoughts on Aion and 4.0 rolling about people's minds.

Now that's all I've got, but there could be other snippets out and about. So tell me readers, have you found anything else out about the expansion? What else can we expect? If you have any more news, please be sure to share in the comments below! (That goes for any random devs who are reading this now too, hint hint!)

Aion concept art
How free is free?

This final thought is just a bit of my musings. I don't have any inside track on information (at least regarding this!), and I am not intending to cause an uproar. But I am a bit curious: How will folks obtain 4.0?

Perhaps I missed something said somewhere or am just forgetting it over the past year, but I'd like to know how Aion's Truly Free model will affect our acquisition of the next big expansion. With the model being so open, not to mention awesome, how will 4.0 be treated? Will it be freely added to every account a la Lineage 2? Or will interested Daevas have to shell out a purchase price to obtain that next set of levels?

It makes sense that it would be a free update; how could it be truly free if people had to pay for the expansion? But this will be the first big box-worthy expansion since the move to free-to-play. So I do wonder, will it have to be purchased or will it be free? I am betting the former, but the argument exists that the game has to make money. With no official word, payment options are subject to change.

Aion image
So is more news better? I would normally give a whole-hearted yes! But with not even a hint on expansion release time, it does start to feel a bit like empty teasing. To keep this strategy up, NCsoft should stick to meatier features that draw attention (like the classes and land) instead of little scraps (e.g., the hairstyles). Too many extra-small morsels and folks may actually stop paying attention, feeling cheated by single bites.

Don't make Aion announcements so common that they blend into the background. And please, put some substance into each one; no Daeva can live by rice cakes alone! As with patch notes, save up and give a chunk of info at a time so folks can fill up on it a bit. No one remembers the nibbles, but everyone remembers the turkey dinner!

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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