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 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 store... for reasons completely unrelated to bees and fire.


  1. hehe, I wrote something similiar back while waiting for Aion to release. It really is important to play at a pace you're comfortable with and avoid peer pressure/desires to reach level cap. You cannot regain the 'innocence' of leveling your first character.

  2. WOW, that is spooky, the title is even similar. I swear I had no idea you wrote that, but the opinions expressed in it are incredibly similar.

    This post sparked from a comment made by a guildie that had restarted a few days back and was already well into his 20's and said to me in Legion chat on Friday "It won't be long we will have two toons higher level than Kheivalo". I had another friend one time tell me that he no longer enjoyed WoW he just "played it to feel better than others", which really made me sad.

    Plus we all have that friend that plays waaaay too much and constantly tells you that "you level way too slow". In the end though he always hits max level first and burns out because he raced up there so fast no one was able to keep up with him.