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GDC10: NCSoft speaks out on Aion 1.9

Jef Reahard

We've covered a lot of newly released (and as yet unreleased) games this week at GDC 2010, so it's always good to check in with an MMORPG that's been around for awhile to see what's coming down the pipe. Today we caught up with NCSoft's Andrew 'Tamat' Beegle, North American Community Manager for Aion, and asked him all sorts of questions about Aion's big 1.9 patch.

The update, already live on the game's Korean servers, will be coming to the States and Europe in short order, so read along after the jump to get a taste of what NCSoft has in store for it's loyal Daevas.

Massively: Can you talk about some of what's coming in 1.9?

Andrew 'Tamat' Beegle: Well we already have this extra form of XP bonus, Energy of Repose, right, you log out and you build up this extra, you know rest experience, but Energy of Salvation is something that you build towards as you play. So as you're killing and progressing, doing quests and stuff, you're going to be building up these Salvation Points, and when you accumulate enough of them it's going to give you a boost of experience. We haven't decided on the percentage, but it's going to be high enough where you're going to blow through your rest experience and by the time you're done you're not going to want to camp out since you don't have a bonus anymore but you'll have this other bonus [Energy of Salvation]. It's an additional way to increase the experience without just making everything easy.

So as you're in the game and leveling up, you're basically working towards Energy of Salvation, which is just another mechanic to reward players.

So Repose, rest, Salvation, work towards...kind of like Daeva Points?

You could say that, it's going to be a little different, we haven't shown off any of how it looks in game and there are still decisions we need to make in the testing process. But I personally always hated camping out for a day, I've got all this rest XP, I'm excited and then it's gone. Now I'm not getting as much experience anymore. So that's not going to be the case [with 1.9], you'll have that rest experience if you haven't been able to play for a couple of days, to catch up with your friends, and you'll also have that Salvation experience so when you're done with that rest experience, you'll have a bonus coming from somewhere else. It's not something you can just log on and go AFK to accumulate. As you're killing mobs and progressing your character you will be gaining those points.

What parts of 1.9 will bring back older members of the community who may have left Aion for greener pastures because they got bored with the game or some other reason, what do you think will bring players back?

I think there were a lot of frustrations from the players, and we took all of that back to the development team and that's really what 1.9 is. 1.9 is our testament to 'yes we have listened to you, and here's the start of us adding the features that you want.' Experience is a big thing, we've filled in some of those patches, where, it's a little hard to advance, the plateaus that our players identified with. We've added content, we've added daily quests, you can log in and do two or three daily quests and then log out and be able to do the same thing again. Basically you'll have a reason to kill those ten mobs.

A lot of frustations that our players had throughout some of the instances, you know Fire Temple was a big one, and not seeing a gold weapon after fifty runs. We've increased the drop rates for some of those instances so players are going to see some reward for their risk. They're not going to go through this difficult dungeon several times before they see anything they want, so it's going to be a little different.

They're not going to go through this difficult dungeon several times before they see anything they want, so it's going to be a little different.

In addition to that we've done some cool balancing features, Templars and Gladiators are especially going to like the two handed weapon. That's just some of it. It's important to point out that 1.9 is really just the foundation that we're going to build 2.0 around. It's a preview of what's to come but it's really a foundation for a much larger update that we're going to release.

Which is the big 'oh my God it's 2.0' update?

Well we'll see, we haven't really started talking about it, we're really excited about it and we can't wait to start talking about it but we haven't really gotten into a whole lot of detail about what all that's going to encompass. I think it's safe to say that everyone is going to be very excited.

So it's going to be based on the Vision trailer that we saw earlier in the year?

So the Vision trailer is more or less a glimpse of what we want to do within the life of Aion. Aion has so much potential and we're only really just scraping that, we're at the top of the barrel and working our way down. There might be parts of the Vision trailer that you may see in 2.0 but there may not, we haven't really started talking about it. It's just important to point out that the Vision trailer is more or less a glimpse. That's not to say there won't be significant things to be excited about in 2.0, but whether or not you'll see anything from Visions we haven't started talking about that yet.

Now, as you told me earlier you used to be a member of the press, and now you're on the other side of the fence as a Community Manager. How are you liking that so far?

It is different, it is full of a whole different set of challenges. I've been a big MMO player for twelve years, played them since they came out, dedicated a large part of my college career to working my way up the EverQuest ladder, helping lead guilds, MMOs are my life. I've focused on MMOs in a career capacity for six years now, and it's great to be able to focus on one product, and especially one that I love on a personal level, and be able to help speak for the players and take what they want and bring it back to the development team and justify why that's important. So it's really cool, it's full of challenges but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

What is it about Aion, specifically, that you love?

I don't like to compare games to games, but when I first hopped into Aion, some of the popular games out there are a little bit too casual, too easy. Instant gratification is great, but when instant gratification is on every other plate, it kind of becomes 'why am I different, why am I cool, how do I become the guy where everyone goes 'wow that guy's great.' Aion is a little harder, it is harder to be the guy that everyone looks up to. There are items in the game that not many players have, and they take a long time to get, so I like that there are penalties, I like that it's challenging, and it's fun for the casual players but the ones who want to take it hardcore, they can do that and progress further than most players ever want to. And there are the unique features of the game like flight and flight combat. I love the cutscenes, I love doing a quest where you get to see what it is actually about instead of just reading about it. A lot of people today just click through the quest text, I'm no exception, I do that a lot of the time. Being able to watch a cinematic is really good, and really helps bring you into the game a little bit more.

Thanks for your time.

Thank you.

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