Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Think I Just Pooped a Little......

So yeah.... if you haven't checked out the new Aion Vision trailer ..... I will cut you.  All I have to say is that if they are actually able to release this to the degree they have shown in the trailer that will completely shut me up as to their ability to keep the content fresh.

So far I think I have watched this trailer about 4 times now and every time my brain starts to melt from the awesome it displays.  I have heard people saying the content is roughly 80% completed and that we may be seeing a quicker release than we anticipate.

However if that is the case....very very sneaky NCSoft....well played *golf clap*.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Those Who Blog Together...ummm...What am I a Poet?

So there is quite an interesting conversation going on over at Aion Experience, and that has sparked an interesting idea in the comments section.  Interesting enough, in fact, that I thought it deserved its own post.  Alexan over there, and many other bloggers on the interwebz, seem to be having an issue with guilds moving out and friends leaving the game. 

A comment was made about how we the bloggers and community surrounding the game could form our own Ventrillo server to speak to each other while in game.  It really makes a lot of sense when you think about it.  If someone cares enough about a game to blog about it on a regular basis, or even comment on those blogs, it would stand to reason they would be pretty fun company while playing as well.  Also the more you care about a game (enough to blog or comment) the less likely you are to leave it on a whim. 

The issue with this of course is that you can never group, craft, PvP, or generally hang out together.  I would be willing to take it to the next step and form a legion on a predetermined server/faction and play together.  Doing this would be a logistical nightmare of course, but considering a lot of us in the blogosphere surrounding Aion spend a large amount of time commenting on each other's blogs about our shared feelings on the game I personally think it would be a great deal of fun to play with these people as well.  I personally have played both factions and several classes and have no real strong feelings one way or another as far as where we end up.  At this point I would just like to know people's feelings on the idea.

Would doing something like this homogenize the blogosphere? Would it form a stronger Aion community overall? Would restarting cause people to commit mass suicide?  Post your thoughts on both the issue of a guild linked by those involved in the Aion blogging community, or a Vent server for socialization.  If there is a strong enough response we can take the next step and move forward with it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Original Slayer is Dead, We Must Choose a New Vanquisher of Evil

Ok, so the way I understand it we had Gameguard when the game first went into beta (which is used in the Korean and Chinese version with relatively decent success), but due to some complications with the program the players freaked out and requested its removal from the release.  About the same time we seemed to have incredible problems with spam, botting, hacking, and general annoyance from RMT and overall cheaters.  Does anyone yet see the correlation between the two?  Personally I am at the point where I just hope that their current fixes, like banning newb chat (that is right you ARE second class citizens ;p) and preventing general participation in chat channels until level 10, are nothing more than temporary fixes as they work to make Gameguard compatible with the current US/EU client. 

Until then bots (or as I call them "the living dead") run wild as they mindlessly search for their latest victim to clobber to death with their poleaxes (I'm looking at you Gladiatior named "jkfshjsdj"), and feast on their sanity.  Their hunger knows no bounds, and they will even attack an opponent already locked in mortal combat, as they hunger for more blood to spill and brains to feast on.  The Gameguard slayer has died and now our lands are besieged at all times by the mindlessly automated corspes of those we used to call friends.

I will not stand for it, and I will answer the call if the GM's will do nothing to stop.  I will do my best to slay all the disgusting reanimated walkers I can, armed only with my double-barrel botgun (or as normal people call it /AutoReportHunting), I will fire round after round into all the damned souls I see until they are no longer plaguing my hunting spots with their lack of courtesy and tenacity fueled by mindless lust for shineys.  But wait...they only give me nine bullets a day .....NINE BULLETS A DAY! What could I possibly do with NINE BULLETS?  Every time I fire another round into their lifeless husks as they mutter their name to me in a language totally devoid of vowels I swear aloud and pray that this shot will be the one that stills their harrowing rampage.

One day I hope to see a world returned to some level of normalcy, but until then I will continue to fight the good fight and encourage others to band together with me to but the boot to any zombie-glads that come into my home in hopes of raiding our villages and killing our spriggs (you can have the shugo though).  I am the slayer....and THIS IS MY BOT STICK!!!!

Seriously that is just a game I play as I report every bot I see.  I am getting quite zealous about it, and if I accidentally opened fire on you with one of my nine reports....uhh...you should have ducked.  Cut the crap NCSoft and just fix Gameguard and put it back in already, and stop with all the radical measures when you could just as easily fix the initial problem instead of spending countless hours reinventing the wheel.  It is annoying of course, but I am not yet going to quit over it, but at this point it is starting to get out of hand and needs to be on the top priority (or maybe second to the crysystem crash bug).  And we all complained that the folks at NCSoft provided us with no Haloween event. How do we know their hoards of zombies raiding the Elyos cities wasn't just them writing bots into the lore?...sneaky NCSoft.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Semi-AFK Crafting, and the Death Throes of Chasing Butterflies while Gaming.

Don't get me wrong, I like the way the MMO genre has grown in the last decade, but there are things that I do miss (call me old fashioned, but back in my day we had to get forty people to slay a dragon and it took us two hours to do it, uphill the whole way, and we had to kill and skin it with a plastic spoon ....blindfolded).   There are several things that I miss about the genre.  I honestly miss the loss of experience, I miss the difficulty of soloing, and I do miss the length it took sometimes to accomplish anything in games.  I don't believe that especially in this gaming age the casual gamer should be kicked to the curb or anything, heck I probably fall into that category these days, but I do miss feeling like I achieved something, even if it was just a time sink.

One thing I miss the most from the good old days, call me nostalgic, is the downtime.  In EQ especially it took me 5 minutes maybe 10 to recover my mana after a nice battle.  During that time, I had to pick a safe spot to hide, and I had to watch my butt for that time period or any passerby would pick up a rock and bash me over the head, like a caveman picking a bride, and before I knew it I would have a mob metaphorically dragging me to their cave to make little squishy babies as ugly as sin that cry a lot (when full grown) and hate heavy lifting.  To me, the fact that you were vulnerable for an extended amount of time made you think about where to camp yourself (is this place really safe?) and it also added to the feeling of danger you received from playing the game.

Another thing it did, was to give you time in between killing something to turn around and pet your dog, put in a load or laundry, read a few pages from a book, or watch your favorite show.  Maybe it is just the attention span issue, but now that the genre has moved away from that style of play I find myself having a hard time playing for extended periods of time.  The little things in life keep pulling on me until they can't really be ignored any longer and I have to take a break.  In some ways it is better, but there is still a part of me that misses that.

Enter Aion, and their generally dull crafting mechanics.  Nothing revolutionary by any stretch, but what are they? TIME CONSUMING AND MINDLESS YAAAAYY!!!!  To me this is a direct return to the semi-afk moments from older games, and personally I love it really for that reason only.  I never powerlevel my crafting if I would rather be fighting, questing, or PvPing.  But on those off moments when I really want to stay in the game, but don't really want to do much of anything...crafting is my very best friend.  I have a friend that does it at work because he can't afford the attention it would require to do anything else in game.  I do it when I want to tidy up my living area, in the morning when getting ready for work, or as aptly put by a fellow guildie "When there is plenty of beer demanding my attention".  Note: this is also the same guildmate that a few days later said "Woah, I really need to stop crafting or I am going to be way too drunk to get up for work tommorow morning".  Just thought I would put that in perspective. 

Another thing that this semi-afk state does is force me to watch my legion chat and take in the world around me a little more.  Since sitting by the computer watching myself craft is very anticlimactic, I actually pay a great deal more attention to the chat windows and I end up talking a great deal more than when I am furiously grinding mobs or questing.

Am I saying Aion has the greatest crafting system in the whole world, HECK NO! But one positive about it is that I do get to catch up on my reading/favorite shows/xbox library.  To me, it is probably the last chance I will ever get to chase butteflies in traffic while playing my favorite MMO.  And that is very sad, albeit much safer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How should NCSoft handle new content?

So I was reading an article over at Gamerzines.com, where someone there had misunderstood an NCSoft rep on their release schedule for new content (a large content update every year, not a full blown xpac annually).  Initially this made me very sad, as I really enjoy when expansions are added to a game.  It shows that the game is alive and well, and that there is enough players that enjoy it to warrant a substantial investment from the developers.  Plus large amounts of new content is always a plus.  Needless to say I was taken back by the NCSoft clarification and walked around with puppy dog eyes for a good few hours (making my co-workers believe they had upset me and causing them to scramble to console me, thereby earning me free gum, HEY!!! free gum is free gum). 

However, the more I thought about games like Aion, where they require people for their PvP endgame to work, would it really be that good to release gigantic new clumps of content to explore?  New weapons, classes, and all that jazz would probably be fine.  But, would releasing large areas for pvp, such as scenarios or new battlefields, abyss expansions, and more forts, just dillute the pvp down to a level that is unenjoyable for anyone?

That was always one of my major faults with PvP in WoW and WAR.  They had scenarios/battlegrounds, but overall they felt disconnected from the overall conflict, and especially in WAR they detracted from the open world pvp.  Often times, the RvR-Lakes were completely devoid of players with the exception of the ocassional zerg that would storm in and take all the keeps in the nearby area.  Battlegrounds in WoW had literally no impact whatsoever on the actual balance of power in the game, they just served as a minigame to earn players points with which to buy new gear.

That is one reason I am very opposed to scenario's in Aion, as I believe that they would detract from the overall war going on between the three factions.  Any expansion they produce needs to make sure that any content they add to enhance PvP does not work to dillute the experience of the original abyss and the forts and relics within them.  One thing I think they can do to enhance this is make possession of the forts a key factor in whatever enhanced pvp areas are made.

One idea I am particularly fond of is a weekly large scale battle over some awesome battle objective in a scenariolike zone that only opens once a week, that grants the winning side a weekly perk (better prices from vendors, lowered soul healing costs, decreased AP death penalty, something actually worth fighting for).  The battle would have npc mortals that could be either commanded or are programmed to follow the highest ranked daevas into battle behind them.  The size and quality of the units at your disposal could be directly linked to the percentage of fortress and artifact control in the abyss, thus actually giving you some reason do defend your forts and possibly even increasing pvp activity in the abyss the closer to the weekly battle it gets. Plus it would also give us a chance to do some Dynasty Warrior style mortal face-pounding.  As mentioned in my previous post, who doesn't like feeling like a crazy badass with a cannon that fires chainsaws?

That is just an idea, but the point remains valid.  It is important that they do not create a system that detracts from the original pvp and the endgame that NCSoft originally intended, but instead works to enhance it in ways that only increase people's enjoyment of all forms of PvP in the game. 

The flipside is also important.  Korean games are notorious for making an adequate endgame and never enhancing it ever again.  They fully expect you to grind out the same fortresses for months or years to come and somehow be happy with the experience.  We call that having no concept of the human attention span, and if they want their game to succeed they will eventually have to add something else for them to do.  While I never have cared enough (or possessed even close to the attention span required) to make it through the grind of one of those games all the way, but the same old same old endgame staring me in the face didn't really push me to get to the top even a little bit.  NCSoft has to make sure that they don't let the content releases happen so infrequently that people become completely bored of the content they have already. 

At this point I really have no clue how NCSoft will treat true content releases (and am sticking my fingers in my ears and going 'lalala" about the Haloween event because I do not consider that an actual content release).  Try not to let me down NCSoft.  I'm a crier...and it will be messy.  Plus, I drink away my problems, and I can't promise I wont make pantsless prank phone calls to your tech support line.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Surviving Aion: Smelling the Roses and How to Dislodge a Bee from Your Nose

I reached 30 on Kheivalo this week (and my spiffy new blue veiny wings), and decided to take a break to enjoy life outside of Aion, which got me thinking about playstyles and how they can effect your experience with a game.  The normal MMO game takes roughly 5X longer than a regular console game to complete (reach max level and participate in endgame content), and as such gamers have developed a few strategies for attacking a challenge such as this.

The most common these days seems to be the power gamer approach.  Any game has a set investment of time required to complete it, and at the end there is always some awesome boss or really cool final content to reward the player for their invested time, and usually to conclude the story.   For some gamers, that is what they look forward to the most, the end battle with their characters at full strength (with all the bells and whistles that go with that) squaring off for the final showdown between some incredible baddie that would make even the most hardened psycho look like a box full of kittens. 

We all look forward to that moment. Who doesn't? Who honestly doesn't like feeling like a hardcore badass in a room full of girl scouts? I am the destroyer of worlds...and YOU sell cookies.  The problem with this scenario, is far too often we overlook small and enjoyable details in our effort to buckle down and get to the top as soon as possible.  We push ourselves far harder than we normally would to get there as fast as possible, and in the end we reach the top (or burn out) to find that it isn't always what we had built it up to be.

I was one of those players for sure.  I was the kid that spent 4 straight days camping the ancient cyclops for my Journeyman Boots.  I played WoW when it came out for 3 days without sleeping so that I could get there first.  I once powerleveled a character all the way from 1-70 in WoW in a matter of days, and the whole time all I thought of was how awesome it was going to be doing the endgame content on this class instead of my old class. And imagine my surprise when I got there and realized that the raid boss I had been fighting for months before DID in fact play the EXACT same way it had on my other character, I was just hitting different button combinations. And eventually that forced me to put it in perspective....it is just a game, and that content isn't going anywhere, but somewhere along the way I had lost the fun.

I think that may be many people's issue with games these days, and maybe why they are so quick to attack the developers or cancel their subscriptions.  It didn't live up to that vision they had when they were powering through the beginning levels to get to that raid boss, or that endgame pvp, or those phat lewts.  Hell has no wrath like a woman scorned...or a gamer disappointed.  People let their expectations dictate how much they enjoy a game instead of looking for little things that they find fun, regardless of what they expect to be awesome. 

That is what I am trying to do with Aion, because I understand myself and my goldfish-like zen focus enough to understand that if I push myself to level faster than I am prepared to, the fun will slip away from me and the game will turn into a job, and I already do enough work during the first 8 hours of a given day (Shut up, you don't know me, I work sometimes).

I read a guide to Aion when I first started that helped me prepare for the grind that it would soon become.  It said that I should put a small thin piece of duct tape along the bottom edge of my computer screen to cover up my experience bar.  Well, me and duct tape don't get along, ever since I decided to wrap my face and head in it to look like a silver mummy ninja and subsequently ripped gigantic chunks of hair out as I painfully removed my shroud to the great enjoyment of my friends and family.  Either way, stupid duct tape made a fool of me, and I will have no part of him (fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me).  The point, however, remains valid.  The experience bar does nothing but track your proximity to a new level, and is not a measure of your enjoyment of the game, and so I do my best not to look at it.  When I play I stop when I no longer feel like playing, I grind till I don't feel like grinding anymore, and I log out when I no longer feel like ganking, grinding, running, splatting, crafting or chasing squirrels.  Also I jump off of stuff a lot to see if i bounce...I don't.

I understand if that is not your playstyle, and if you are a power gamer please understand I have nothing against you or your incredible focus and concentration (lucky bastards), but instead I am urging you to find a playstyle that gives you the most enjoyment out of your game.  The game should be fun for you first and foremost, and the levels and gear should be secondary, and I believe that is the key to surviving Aion.  They built a game that is designed to take a long time to max out, and I have read accounts from so many people that have burned out so close to the end because their focus on the game was not about having fun, but reaching that endgame content as fast as possible, only to give up with their goal in sight. They had ceased having fun in the present, and instead focused on the end where they believed all the fun was to be had.

So stop, smell the roses, and if you happen to get a bee in your nose...use fire DUH!!! Now if you will excuse me I have to go to the hospita.....grocery store... for reasons completely unrelated to bees and fire.