• Game Review 08.09.2009

    Aion open beta

    First off, all the following is based on the open beta.

    Without a doubt, Aion is a very pretty game.  I personally enjoy the graphical style of these asian MMO’s.  It reminds me of Lineage 2 and Guild Wars and probably a slew of other F2P games out there.

    But there are a few things that are bothering me, and I only noticed it during the open beta which started on Sunday.  I’m not sure yet if these items are a deal breaker for me yet, but they have stopped me from playing other MMO’s.

    What’s my beef with Aion?  Two things, and they’re pretty annoying as far as immersion is concerned.

    Item numero uno… zones.  Aion is separated by zones much like EQ2 and Age of Conan.  Now, this may not be that big of an issue for some but it’s pretty huge for me.  I personally hate zoning.  Seeing a load screen to get from one area to another just kills the tempo for me and pulls you out of the game.  Now, the loads in Aion are pretty fast, unlike EQ2 which was so memory dependant- I remember waiting over 2 minutes for a zone load.  Age of Conan wasn’t any better.

    Lineage 2 didn’t have zones, and neither does World of Warcraft.  It adds so much to the immersion when you know you can run from one end of the world to the other without any load screens.  It makes exploration seem more meaningful. Zoning should be abolished with available technology because it’s just plain lazy.

    This leads to my second beef, and it relates to the first one.  Instances. Basically, Aion creates multiple instances or versions of a zone. Again, this is something that EQ2 and Age of Conan had. Guild Wars also has something similar.  In Aion, they call them channels but in standard MMO parlance, it’s an instance.  Now, you can jump between instances of a zone every 3 minutes, and let me say it’s a jarring event.  Imagine everyone around you vanishing and being replaced by new people because for whatever reason you had to change instances.  I remember the annoyance in AoC when everyone had to make sure they were in the same instance just so they could group up in the same zone.  It was frustrating and not in any way impressive.

    A typical conversation may be:

    player 1 – “Hey, I’ll meet you by the fountain in the square.”

    player 2 – “I’m standing right next to it. Dont’ see you. You coming?”

    player 1 – “What do you mean, I’m right here. Are you at the right fountain?”

    player 2 – “The one in the square right? There’s only one fountain dude.”

    This goes on until everyone realizes they need to dimension shift ala StarTrek to all be at the same fountain. Awesome.

    And while Aion claims that the instancing only occurs in the two starter areas, I noticed it was also happening in non-starter areas of the game. Now I don’t know if this will only last for the Open Beta and change during launch, but so far it’s looking like there are instances in most locations.

    The whole zoning and instancing points to something else that’s a bit disappointing, and people will start to notice as they blow through the game.  The reason for instancing is because you can’t fit the entire population in a zone without it looking like downtown New York during lunch.  Some of the zones are just too small with too little content to accommodate a true contiguous population.  So Aion cuts the population into instances to make it more playable.

    And when you zone a game you’re telling me you didn’t have the know-how to NOT zone the game.  Honestly, between the two what would you ideally choose?  It’s like buying a sports car, taking it to the track only to have the race track segmented by toll booths.

    Now, Aion may ultimately arrive to the scenario that Age of Conan did.  You get a massive amount of people not re-upping their subscriptions due to lack of content, and let’s be honest, going back to Warcrack.  Then you don’t have to worry about instances anymore because you don’t have two players in a zone to rub together to make a publisher cry.

    And here’s a third problem with Aion (forgot about this).  Guild Wars 2.  One of my first impressions of Aion was, huh, this looks like a really nice Guild Wars.  I mean, the mechanics are about the same, they both have instances and load screens galore.  The only difference is I’m going to be paying to play this version of Guild Wars, and I’m not too cool with that.  When Guild Wars 2 comes out, how many people do you think will start to flock out of Aion?  I’m going to bet a whole lot.

    But even after all of this, I still think Aion is a well crafted game with a good amount of polish.  It feels finished, but it also feels like a project that was started with a smaller controllable scope than say, Warcraft.  Aion is betting on the PvP aspect of the game to carry it through, which always means you’re reliant on these “hard core” player types.  Time and time again we’ve seen that western gamers don’t really flock to these types of games.  We like to believe we’re hardcore PvP’ers and can stand up to the best of them.  But after being pwned a few times you end up playing something… easier.  And though Aion is very easy to play at first, it’s asking it’s player base to deal with hardcore PvP’ers in the end game… which we all know will pretty much kill the population.  Anyone been on a Lineage 2 server recently? How about AoC?

    So here’s to Aion. A very pretty game that is well made which hardly anyone will play 8 months out.  I do really, really hope I’m wrong, but can you tell there’s already a love/hate relationship developing?

    Posted by Otakukon @ 1:01 pm

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Chatter Box

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Latest on Wed, 08:59 am

kurou: i was in awe when i saw these pics. such exelent focus! i was the guy with the face mask [...]

Otakukon: Argh, stayed up too late watching some K-On, again.

Otakukon: Playing Aion closed beta.

Otakukon: Registered for Zenkaikon! I'll be there both Saturday and Sunday. Should be a great con!

Gaijin Otaku: Fish balls. Yummy.

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