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Facepalm of the Day: “Chinese Aion Player Breaks World Record in…” or “…Wait What?!”

January 6, 2011 Leave a comment

“A few days after Aion 2.0 launched the open beta in China, we got a player who reached level 56 while the level cap of Aion 2.0 is set on 55.”

Aion 2.0(CN) Player Reached Level 56 and Broke A WTF Record, MMO Site

Categories: Aion, Facepalm of the Day

“Rotten on the Inside” or “Real Life Parallels”

November 25, 2009 2 comments

Full disclosure: I have not played Aion extensively. My interaction with the game has been limited to about 10 hours worth of gameplay on a friend’s account. Despite over-exposure to the MMO, I don’t much disagree with the opinions of my peers in the blogosphere.

Aion launched two months ago. Since then, despite enjoying a fairly successful commercial launch in a hyper-competitive market, against the caped heavy-hitter by Cryptic and the indie-developed Fallen Earth, I don’t hear good things about Aion. Jayedub, always the diplomat, said earlier this month: “To summarize, I thought that Aion is not a bad game, in fact it’s pretty solid; but not being able to experience the PvPvE till level 25 and the grinding gameplay was too much for me.” Pitrelli also got tired of it earlier in the month. I could link about 15 other blogs, but what boils down to is that Aion, gorgeous as it may be, is a perpetual grind-fest. It is not innovative, it’s design is more banausic than inspired, and arguing that “it gets fun around level 25” is the equivalent of saying “you have to eat 25 piles of dung before you get the cake.” I’d rather just not have the cake.

Ready for an awkward transition? Here we go.

I work in media. We have an anchor who looks like the girl next door, the sultry seductress, and the good girl, all rolled into one. But that is an on-screen persona, enhanced substantially by the application of copious amounts of make-up. I have seen what she really looks like when she rolls into work, and it makes her stalkers (two of which she has taken out restraining orders against) all the more laughable.

My point? Aion is similar to this anchor. On the surface, it looks like your dream MMO: visually stunning, graphically superior, alive with the ebb and flow of a dynamic world teeming with life and energy. But when you play it for an extended period of time, beneath a glossy, shiny exterior lurks an ugly beast, hell-bent on devouring your time and your coin, in exchange for prosaic content, bromidic gameplay and an incapacious, linear world.

Yesterday I stumbled across this new trailer for Aion. I can’t help but wonder if  fresh coat of make-up is being applied to perpetuate the facade. The trailer touts the graphical revamp, and quite frankly it looks phenomenal. But great looks does not a good game make.

There is hope however, and some information gleaned from the trailer (and Korean translations) is quite promising:

  • Graphics: DX10 support; dynamic weather effects; glossier world
  • New Areas: Underwater zones; other new zones; new cities; new dungeons
  • Questing: New quests; questing revamp
  • Playing Characters: New skills for existing classes; new classes
  • Player housing: High degree of customization for interiors and exteriors of player housing
  • Mounts: Tameable mounts; mounts for two riders; mounted combat
  • Combat: Revamped to be more action-oriented; Scorpion-esque ‘GET OVER HERE!’ whip; crossbows

The word ‘new’ seems to be premeditatively married to the list above. However, it seems like more of the same. If you notice, none of the elements in the list above address the issues of monotony, the mindless grinds or the lack of innovation. At least not directly. A combat system with the added aureate effects is pointless, if I have to repeat the process for literally every quest and objective. Customizable housing, tameable mounts, new weapons and improved graphics are all great things, but they add to the periphery of the game, while the core remains effectively untouched. And if the core is still rotten, a shiny exterior simply does not cut it.

My time these days is completely occupied with a wide variety of MMO, RPG, and non-RPG pursuits. Even if the news about Aion was ground-breaking, I don’t know if I would have time to invest in it. But for those that play it, I hope similar dialogue in the MMO community necessitates that the developers pay some sobered attention to the suffering aspects of the game, and stop whitewashing over the glaring imperfections in the game with improved pizzaz and shiny fluff.

Categories: Aion, Monotony, Opinion

“Subjective Objectivity” or “Objective Subjectivity”

November 2, 2009 Leave a comment

As someone offering insight into the ever-changing world of video games, it is important to maintain a balanced perspective. It is important weigh both sides of the story, and to appreciate the innovation and novelty where we criticize the monotony and complacency.

Werit is a fellow blogger and dwarf. He recently put up two posts that examine WAR and Aion, and juxtapose what both games can learn from each other. It’s a good read, and offers insight into Werit’s ability to approach the topic from multiple perspectives.

Here is the first part, What WAR can learn from Aion. And the second part, What Aion can learn from WAR.

Categories: Aion, Warhammer Online

“Halloween Horrors” or “Nothing Rhymes With Orange”

October 17, 2009 2 comments

halloween-horrors-or-nothing-rhymes-with-orangeHalloween is fast approaching. In the U.S., if you are a kid, it is a time for tricks and treats. If you are a young woman, it is a time to dress up in the sluttiest outfits imaginable and go wild. If you are a young man, you are glad for the young women.

Being an MMO-player gives Halloween a different flavor altogether. It is the time of the year when you inevitably engage in digital activities and events designed around October 31st. These activities may range from fluff achievements, titles or items to complete encounters, epic lewt, and complex new threads of a unique scenario etched into the fabric of the existing lore framework. Let’s take a look at some of the upcoming Halloween events in some of the most popular MMOs. And yes, we will continue my obsession with the number seven in this list as well.

Fallen Earth – Days of the Dead – October 23 onwards

George Romero would be proud. If you can look past the extremely creative event title, indie-hit Fallen Earth plans to use throngs of the wandering undead to melt your faces. The developers have chosen not to blatantly incorporate Halloween-related elements to the game play. Instead, they came up with a cool side-story, weaved the threads into the existing world, and created an event that would allow players to fight off an emergent zombie menace.  The zombies are clones that, in a manner of speaking, ‘went bad’, and now carry nanites that may be harmful to humans or other cloning facilities.

I’m sold.

There is nothing I enjoy more than a developer’s ability to use a real-world event and give it the game’s own special flavor, without breaking the lore. That was until I realized that one of the consumable items you obtain during the event is the “Pumpkin of Extraordinary Merit”. Well, at least the overarching concept is fresh and engaging.

Runes of Magic – Halloween Bundle – October 16 to November 1

Herein lies the problem with mircotransactions. While it sounds like a good idea to only pay for what you may be playing/interested in, seasons like Halloween are largely neglected. The only thought given to any semblance of an in-game connection is buried in another microtransaction. Runes of Magic offers a Halloween Bundle, filled with fluff and largely decorative items. As far as I can tell, there are no in-game events or encounters specific to Halloween. A part of me wants to commend them for not jumping on the seemingly inevitable themed-content band wagon, but they did put up a post about microtransaction-based Halloween items. And that, somehow, is much worse.

Age of Conan – Night of Lost Souls – Unknown

While Fallen Earth does a decent job of masking the event in the lore and giving it the game’s own personal flavor, Age of Conan goes a step further and creates a well-constructed mythology around the events of their seasonal content. Here is a short excerpt:

“As the day slowly but inevitably gives way to the longer nights as the year wanes, there is a time when the thin veil between the night as we know it and the true darkness of the worlds beyond the realm of mortal men is pulled back.”

Players will have three new quests, two solo and one group, and several in-game items to acquire. Most significantly, the game promises to take you to familiar places transformed by the recent taint of the Lost Souls. Sign me up!

halloween-horrors-or-nothing-rhymes-with-orange2Warhammer Online – Daemon Moon Rising – October 23 to November 2

There may be a pattern here, I just can’t seem to put my finger on it. Could it be… zombies? Originality, this season in MMOs, seems to have taken a back-seat to convenience. With Left 4 Dead rallying the masses around the zombie extermination cause, America’s obsession with blasting the undead has grown to unhealthy proportions. I suppose it’s only natural that literally every MMO in-game event is related to zombies. In Warhammer, there is a public quest requiring the Daemon’s Cradle, a major PvP scenario in the Highpass Cemetary, and of course, a ton of Halloween masks.

Champions Online – Blood Moon – October 27 onwards

The superhero simulator will see its first content release with Blood Moon. The content patch will introduce – you might want to sit down here because the shock may be too much – zombies! What’s the twist? The souls of the superheroes (the game’s versions of Batman, Superman etc.) have been trapped by the undying Takophanes. What sets this game apart from the crowd is that aside from new items, encounters and gameplay mechanics, the patch will also introduce a brand new Celestial power set.

Oh and there are werewolves.

Aion – Harvest Revel – October 25 to October 31

There is an eclipse. It brings out zombies. End of story.

World of Warcraft – Hallow’s End – October 18 to November 1

Making no attempts to mask the season with significant lore underpinnings, or simply releasing demonic armies for players to fight against, World of Warcraft will again feature Hallow’s End this year. Masks, brooms that double as flying mounts of all varieties, stat-boosting candy, and magical transformation wands are just some of the fluff ietms you will have access to. In addition, the event will see the return of the Headless Horseman, his dancing pumpkins, and another chance to score some of the 87 bajillion trinkets he carries.

Hallow’s Originality” or “Lore Whore”

Seasonal events are a great way to connect with your player base in a novel and interesting fashion. For MMOs that have been out for several years, seasonal events can also create a sense of  familiarity over the course of time, but it also runs the risk of being monotonous year after year. Regardless of your level of comfort, these events do allow players to break away from their daily grinds in the game.

The real juxtaposition, for me, lies between the level of realism in every aspect of MMOs, and the amount of fun said content can be. On any day of the week (and twice on Sunday), I will take lore-saturated, well crafted in-game experiences over events that have a blatant connection to the season at hand. For instance, I am very excited about Age of Conan’s Night of the Lost Souls, but Hallow’s End will be a boring, repetitive and shallow experience. I mean “Hallow’s End”. They didn’t even try with that one!

What are your feelings on seasonal events? Is realism more important to you, or does something else float your boat entirely?