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Role Playing (Games) Games

Aion Servers To Merge, XP Grind Softened 108

Massively reports that NCSoft's fantasy MMO Aion will soon be getting a round of server mergers to balance player populations and shore up in-game economies. A newsletter from Aion producer Chris Hager also brought word that character transfers will be an option starting in June, and NCSoft will be "offering them to all of our players for free for a limited time." This is happening in the lead-up to the game's 1.9 patch, due on June 2, which contains a number of measures to make the XP grind a bit less harsh (among other things; patch notes). They're creating more quests, increasing XP rewards from existing quests, and implementing a system that "grants you experience bonuses as you continue to play."
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Aion Servers To Merge, XP Grind Softened

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  • Asian MMOs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dyinobal ( 1427207 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @02:02AM (#32275404)
    It always seems to me the Asian mmo's require more grind than a lot of the western mmo's. It's why I've avoided aion entirely and will most likely continue to do so. I'm not even sure it will continue exist a couple years from now. Still it's a pretty game, I think only eve has better graphics in terms of an mmo, granted space isn't super hard to render.
  • Re:Asian MMOs (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @02:26AM (#32275550)

    You might try Lord of the Rings Online. It's not without its grind to be sure, but it's currently the premier story-driven MMO. The environment is beautifully rendered, and though the characters aren't as nice as Aions they're far superior to WoWs.

  • by hellop2 ( 1271166 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @02:33AM (#32275578)
    Do I have to turn in my geek card since I've never heard of Aion? Is slashdot the place I should go to learn whenever some online game changes their game balance?
  • by mykos ( 1627575 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @02:47AM (#32275642)
    I played WoW for about a year and a half after release, then put it aside for personal reasons, the foremost one being that I'm a flawed person with an addiction-prone personality!
    Played and liked Guild Wars for two years, played and liked Age of Conan for two months, but I'm beginning to see a sameness in nearly all MMOs. Of course each will have their slight variations, but in the end ever subscription MMO is trying to beat Blizzard at what they do best (except Guild Wars...that game marches to the beat of its own drum).
    Until a MMOG offers something revolutionary and enjoyable, they might as well name every single one "Not WoW", because that's how their potential customers see it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @03:05AM (#32275716)

    I can feel this sameness in about every MMO :

    Quest type 1 : kill X of those monsters
    Quest type 2 : get X of those items (which are possessed by those monsters so you'll have to kill them before)
    Quest type 3 : get X of those items on the ground... in an area populated by those monsters, so you'll have to kill them first
    Quest type 4 : go find this guy (oh hey by the way, did I say the road was full of monsters...)
    Quest type 5 : kill THAT special guy. Oh he's surrounded by other monsters, you know what to do...

    Seriously, it's all the same repetitive bullshit ("kill X monsters") with little to no variation, in about every mmo. The only one that I found innovative was Tale in the Desert (craftmanship-based MMO in ancient Egypt with a *big* emphasis on long term teamwork)

  • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki@gmTEAail.com minus caffeine> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @03:37AM (#32275856) Homepage

    Nah. This is one of those MMO based announcements. It was supposed to be the MMO that killed WoW, lots of people switched for all of about 2mo, before they realized that the grind was so heavy you needed to dedicate your life to it. Not as bad as FF or anything, but plenty bad enough. The reality is everyone has been spoiled, for lack of a better word because of WoW. They know playing it, that if you stop for 3mo and you're way under the gear cap you can run heroics and get the gear. If you only want to play for 2hrs a week, you can, and still get somewhere at the end of the game without grouping with anyone.

  • by i ate my neighbour ( 1756816 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @03:49AM (#32275912)
    I don't mind fighting my way through monsters to reach to some special guy or very powerful magical artifact©(which,for some reason, we are not able to use) but it is a great turnoff to just kill X of these and gather Y of those.
  • Re:Asian MMOs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @04:09AM (#32276020)

    You have got to be kidding. Aion would have to be one of the least grindy MMOs out there. Remember WoW is not the norm, it is the exception, the outlier, when it comes to quick and easy progression. On the other hand we have the TRUE grindy MMOs like Lineage 1 and 2, FFXI, and various other (mostly Asian) MMOs.

    Aion is a compromise. It is an eastern style MMO (in terms of lore, graphical style etc) with a dash of western-style questing and story thrown in. The grind factor is somewhere between 'grindy' and 'WoW-like easiness, although to be honest it's closer to the less grindy side of the spectrum. An average player (i.e. just plays for a couple of hours every couple of days) should be able to hit the max level in Aion in approximately 6 months (less after the 1.9 patch goes in). Compare that to WoW where max level is achievable in mere days or weeks. And compare again to, say, Lineage 2 where max level even for a regular player is at least 4-5 years, and a casual player will never reach it. So yeah, I think cutting the grind by '75%' in Aion would be ridiculous. It's already fairly quick to level, and the 1.9 patch reduces that further.

    The other thing is - what is with the mad rush to level up anyway? I enjoy the content at the low and mid levels just as much as at high levels. It's only a 'grind' if you want it to be and you are dead set on getting to max level ASAP at any cost. I never understood that mentality though. Enjoy the path, not just the destination. Personally I like MMOs that are a bit tougher (or require more time to achieve things, whether that be level or gear or whatever). Otherwise you end up with everyone walking around at the max level, with the best gear. All virtually identical. What's the point of that?

    Oh and one final thing regarding the article generally (this is not directed specifically at the parent post) - the server mergers are basically necessary because, at launch, there were such serious server login queues that NCSoft rushed a couple of extra servers in to meet demand. So it's not like the game is dying. Even if they merge 4 or 5 or 6 servers, it will just be back to the number of servers they planned at launch anyway. A game does not have to be as popular as WoW with its hundreds of servers to be successful - it just has to turn a tidy profit. And Aion will continue to do so. It's not a game for everyone (due to the fact that, as mentioned, it IS a compromise between eastern and western elements). But I think it's the best new MMO out there right now, and it will tide me over until Diablo 3 comes out at least (yes, I know D3 isn't an MMO ... but it's the next major game I'm hanging for).

  • by Aceticon ( 140883 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @04:39AM (#32276148)

    Actually the stereotypical "Players" you describe with their wants & needs and what they value are only the Achiever kind of player in the Bartle Player Type classification (here [wikipedia.org]).

    The Explorers, Socializers or Killers do not necessarilly derive any enjoyment from endlessly repetitive tasks.

    Even the Achievers don't derive any enjoyment from endlessly repetitive tasks - what they enjoy is achieving something hard or getting something rare or unique: the "hard work" needed to get those hard to get achievements needs not be endless grinding: in fact, complex, difficult encounters with hard to get pre-requisites can be just as satisfying.

    The truth is that, in MMORPGs, grinding based game-playing is a cheap way for publishers to create time-sinks in the game instead of spending money in creating real content like areas, dungeons, boss encounters, story quests and others.

    While most people that played MMORPGs in the time of UO and the like were willing to live with it (since there was nothing beter), nowadays, there's plenty of MMORPGs out there with massive amounts of content for players to enjoy (in my personal experience, both current WoW - it was worse in the past - and LOTRO are very good in that aspect).

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @05:51AM (#32276430) Homepage

    No mention of that, Chris?

    After Lineage 2 sank under the groaning weight of bots and hackers, didn't you pledge to deal with that issue from day 1 in Aion with a dedicated bot/hack hunting team? How'd that play out for you?

    Oh, and how about the the promises about cracking down on egregious gold farming, and the blatant market in bot-grinded accounts? Got all that sorted did you? Like you said you would?

    Speak up Chris, it's all gone a bit quiet.

  • Re:Asian MMOs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by meglon ( 1001833 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @06:01AM (#32276466)
    You should also remember that while WoW might be an outlier for progression difficulty, its also an outlier for customer base... and there's not a game company CEO out there that wouldn't kill their mothers for a customer base like that. WoW was the first game that took one simple fact to heart: while the hardcore players tend to be the most vocal, they're no where near the largest segment of gamers... no matter how much they try to claim that.
  • Re:Asian MMOs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CFBMoo1 ( 157453 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @06:40AM (#32276660) Homepage
    The mad rush to level is mostly instilled by WoW these days. Since a huge population of MMO players are cutting their teeth on WoW, the game heavily implies that you only start really playing after reaching max level. PvP, PvE, etc are all max level things with mid levels getting a bone tossed at them. The biggest part of the bone is XP these days so you can reach max level.
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:30AM (#32276922) Journal

    There seems to be an odd cultural difference for some reason in MMO's, although to be fair I should perhaps also put this party on age.

    Aion and similar titles are often defended because they are very pretty... no they are not. They are flashy, but that is not the same as pretty. But when you are 12 or asian, that seems to be the case. Consider a tricked out city car, or if you are really gay an American Chopper versus the clean lines of an e-type. No e-type needs blue leds.

    The Asian MMO's seem to play similar to a hack&slash, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bABf-SL3rQQ&feature=related [youtube.com] the action takes a while to get going, but notice what happens when he hits an enemy. HUGE floating damage numbers. No western MMO would do that, you have a health bar somewhere on your hud that tells you this. It might seem a small difference but think about what single player games have huge floating damage numbers and which do not. Beat-em-ups and hack&slash games, Mortal Kombat and Bayonetta (sorry if they are mispelled, they are not my kind of game) vs Fallout and well any Bioware game (why are there only two RPG makers?). I dare say that while I did enjoy a bit of Diablo, on the whole the two types of games cater to different types of players.

    Aion looks pretty, if you like flashy, at first glance, but its beauty is really only skin deep, it has the same very basic character customization that all asian MMO's have. There is no depth to flash and it lacks functionality. You swing a huge sword around in the same basic animation forever and it never has anything to do with the damage. You can sweep straight through an enemy and miss and do a move on enemy behind you 100 meters and score an instant kill. It is the ultimate example of a spreadsheet game with a disco lightening show bolted on top. Great if you like that, but since servers are being merged, apparently not many do.

    Perhaps Asian MMO's are just meant to be played differently, you don't play Diablo when you want to loose yourself in a fantasy world and its rich characters do you? It is often claimed Koreans especially play their games in the social settings of a Internet cafe, were they play for long stretches at a time but do chat, drink, smoke at the same time. A western player is more likely to play alone, at home and be limited to the interaction in the game. I get the impression that a western player expects more downtime between fighting. He has few, smaller battles that give him what he needs. While a Asian player expects to be pounding enemies for an hour straight.

    As said, these are impressions, but on the whole, if you want to play Aion coming from a western MMO background, you better be ready for the differences. Expect to grind. Expect the best quests to be on the level of the worsed western quests. Expect player killing. Don't expect raiding. Expect PvP being the only end-game content. Expect items shops. Expect them to matter.

    It can be fun, but it is NOT the same as a western game. Really, it is Bayonetta vs Dragon Age. As long as you go into the game knowing this, you might be pleasantly surprised. Sadly many people didn't and expected WoW

  • Why discount that? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by twoallbeefpatties ( 615632 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:55AM (#32279504)
    "2) They're playing primarily for social interactions and the "grind" is mostly something to do while hanging out with friends, so they don't mind it."

    Experience boosting weekends and speeding up the grind allow new players to catch up with their friends who are at the level cap so that they can all go raid together. Without server mergers, you may have servers that are so low in population that you can't always get enough people together for a high-end dungeon, so server mergers can help to increase social interaction on low-pop servers by putting you in contact with more people. Heck, I remember people playing on low-pop WoW servers starting forum threads asking for their server to be merged with another for just that reason.

    If you don't have the social experience in an MMO, then you may as well go back to playing single-player RPGs. Stuff like this does actually matter on occasion - some of this stuff might get the Aion players who still want to stick around a better chance to hang out together.
  • by N0Man74 ( 1620447 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @11:22AM (#32279920)

    Make it sound like it's irrational for people to want to get to max level, while you overlook many of the common reasons for doing so.

    1) Many games put more work and emphasis in end-game content, so players feel like that is where they need to be in order to really get what the game offers. It's where the content that lets players set themselves apart by something more than levels occurs (such as high level pvp, raiding, getting the best gear, etc).

    2) The older a game gets, the player population tends to be clumped on the higher level end instead of lower levels, making it harder to find groups at lower levels.

    3) Often new people join because of friends, so now the new person wants to be able to catch up with their veteran friends.

    4) Many MMO's include Player vs. Player combat (even if just optional). Quite often, there is a desire to be higher level in order to have an advantage against other players.

    5) Many MMO's include Player vs. Player combat (deja-vu?)... Quite often, players want to get to a higher level in order to defend themselves against higher level players preying on the weak.

    6) MMO cultures tend to equate game achievements, such as level, with your skill. It's flawed, but it still exists.

    The reasons may not apply to you, and you may not agree with the reasons, but there certainly are many reasons, at least a few of which are completely reasonable.

  • Re:Asian MMOs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by allbread ( 1594697 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @02:01PM (#32282492)
    Having played Aion for several months and recently quit I can say that on my side of the server (Asmodian, Israphel) the game has been steadily thinning out; my personal experience as well as what's reflected in legion and general chat (up until last week) speaks to this as many remaining players are receiving a steady stream of "inherited" loot bequeathed to them by friends exiting the game.

    Aion has several major problems none of which have to do with the XP grind, in fact, most players I know personally who have quit did so after they hit the level cap. Ultimately the reason I exited the game (even with v1.9 and v2.0 updates on the horizon) is that, from the respective patch notes, it became evident to me that NCWest, lacking any sort of player level perspective of the game, decided that all problems could be solved by targeting the "grind" and trying to make the game an eastern pretty WoW (which will ultimately fail).

    (Problem 1) Flight mechanic: Aion was heavily marketed on it's flight/battle mechanic however the reality of the actual implementation is a counter intuitive kludge/hack that pretty much every player I know abhors. Furthermore, the fact that flight itself is restricted to a few select zones (and is set on a painfully short timer) limits it's value even as a simple travel mechanic. It was my hope that the mechanic would be modified to better integrate ground & air battle tactics (and make to the flight transition more seamless) however instead NCWest chose to add "ground only" PvP content for their v2.0 patch; this to me is the equivalent of "yeah we know it's broke but we can't be bothered to fix it" and ultimately makes one of the games primary attributes feel like a last minute marketing gimmick.

    (Problem 2) End game content: As I said before, the problem isn't the grind so much as the lack of any discernible end-game objective. Aion has only a handful of end game instances each of which must be run repeatedly ad nauseam as the drop rate for the end game loot is pitifully low and seems to be almost purposefully designed to frustrate the player; much of this gear is class specific (thus when it does drop you will often get useless or redundant gear). Some might argue that "well, Aion is a PvP game and this should viewed as it's end-game content" to which I would reply that, in a sense, this is the only facet of the game where the grind is detrimental as a casual player will never be able to compete with a player willing to invest 8+ hours a day. Furthermore, PvP advantage in Aion gives a faction control over many of the resources available in the PvP zones, effectively denying the opposing (casual gamer) side said resources exponentially increasing the duration and frustration of their grind. This wouldn't be an issue if there was open multi-faction PvP but, as Aion is structured with only two primary factions and given the limited expanse of the world itself (again reflecting a severe lack of end-game content), this is insufficient to prevent the almost total monopolization of necessary resources by a single side.

    (Problem 3) Large Scale PvP: Yes the graphics in Aion are impressive relative to your typical MMO (but still far outmatched by the latest expansion of Eve Online) but due to the zerg nature of most of the fort based group PvP this actually becomes detrimental as the graphical lag experienced reduces large scale group combat to a mess of static unresponsive confusion. The notable exception to this is the PvPvE arena designed specifically for 6v6 combat which was easily the most enjoyable aspect of the game in my opinion.

    Anyways, I thought I'd post as I was surprised to see Aion linked in slashdot. This may come off as a rant but I did enjoy the game however as the game prior to it's NA release had been out for more than a year in South Korea I am under-impressed with NCSoft's management and overall lack of vision for what might have been a powerful MMO.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin