In light of all the goings on, we were able to sit down with NCsoft's Chris Hager, Lead Producer for the western version of Aion, for some frank questions about the game, the company behind it, and the future.
Fly past the cut for the full interview.
Massively: Many players are unclear as to how the relationship between NCsoft (Korea) and NCsoft West actually works. Does NCsoft West "take orders" from NCsoft proper in terms of updating Aion? Put another way, does NCsoft West have any pull with the mothership in terms of giving American players more of what they want? Along the same lines, NCsoft releases a lot of game-related information to Korean fan websites, much of which is not translated or accessible to American audiences until well after it's become old news. Are there any plans to expand the communication pipeline between Korea and the West?
Chris Hager: NCsoft in Korea is the home of the developers of Aion and is where the game originated. All territories, including NCsoft West, actively submit feedback and bring to light issues affecting our players. A prime example of that is the upcoming 1.9 update, where a lot of very specific concerns brought to us by the players were evaluated by NCsoft West, discussed with NCsoft Seoul, and changed. Because we have worked hand in hand to provide data like that to the development team, better communication has happened. We are slowly but steadily opening the communication channels between NCsoft West and Seoul. The latest round of 1.9 and 2.0 patch notes are a testament to our commitment and efforts to provide free-flowing communication. We've also got several cross-territory initiatives being planned that would let all of us release more information at the same time globally.
Any plans to ease the pain of acquiring miragents/fenrils?
With 1.9, the requirements for these sets are eased a bit. Specifically, when undertaking the crafting quests required to make these sets, the number of Boiling Balaur Blood Stains needed to craft the Heart of Magic has been reduced from 125 to 100. While it doesn't seem like a huge leap, needing 25 Boiling Balaur Blood Stains less is a big deal because of what it takes to collect them.
The double XP weekends have been well received by the player base, and NCsoft West has been consistently rolling them out a couple of times per month for the last several months. Why not just permanently bump up the XP rate?
The point of the double experience point weekends was to help players through areas where the leveling curve was a bit steep and players were discouraged from playing until we were able to improve the game with the 1.9 update. The fix is not as easy as just bumping up the XP rate, but really involved fixing the reasoning behind why play feels to have a slow leveling curve at times. Providing more quests, bumping up the XP reward for completing quests, and so on are all issues that we can address on a content level that also will make the game feel better overall beyond just letting players level up faster. Plus, if we did increase the permanent XP rate, players would still want double XP events. (I know I would.)
My group of four (low to mid 40s, well geared) were killed by a single level 50 rifter the other night. Not only that, we were unable to make him break a sweat or really dent his health bar at all due to the gear he was wearing and the level differences. Are there any plans to reduce the PvP gear and level disparity?
I've fallen victim to the exact same issue you faced with your group, and while some players find such play fun, on the whole it can lead to a lot of players griefing others and overall dissatisfaction. We are working on evaluating the current rifting system, from level requirements, to where and how often rifts occur, to the slayer penalty system for repeated killing while rifting.
People seem very excited about the Aion 2.0 pet system. Can you talk a little bit more about what it will entail? Will it feature any of the mounts seen in the Vision trailer?
For 2.0, we'll have three different types of pets: vanity pets, storage pets, and functional pets. Vanity pets are cute, and their main function will be to look good and come in a wide variety of types (sheep, dogs, cats, in-game creatures, and so on). Storage pets will come with various storage options (much like additional player inventory space). Like vanity pets, they will come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Functional pets will have the ability to convert some items that you would routinely sell at a vendor ("junk" items) into potentially useful items like manastones. Mounts aren't part of the 2.0 pet system, but like most of you, I can't wait until they day they show up.
What is the status of the housing, underwater zones, and graphical upgrades shown in the Vision trailer?
The development team is always working on both improving existing content and adding new content and systems. While we don't have specific dates for any of those features, I can assure you that the development team is looking into how to best integrate those ideas, along with other new ideas that weren't included in the Aion Vision trailer, to bring the best possible experience to our players.
What feature of 2.0 are you most proud of/most excited about?
Can I say all of it? Obviously, pets are exciting, the new solo instances throughout the existing levels are great for current players. The new zones and instances for levels 50 and up are something players are extremely excited to play. Better gear, more skills, more levels-it's really hard to choose just one thing!
And the big one, when is 1.9 launching? 2.0?
We just announced the timing for both of these. Aion 1.9 will be up on our public test servers May 25 and will be on all live servers on June 2. We are already hard at work on 2.0 and are targeting a fall launch date.
Thanks very much for your time.