Aion: My god, it’s full of grind.

May 31, 2010

Sorry I haven’t posted in a bit. I’ve gotten to level 31 in Aion, and am looking at 6 million EXP to 32. Yes this sucks.

I’ve tried the Abyss. The Abyss is a series of interconnected floating islands. On them there are enemies to kill, some quest givers, and on the main ones fortresses. Around these fortresses are teleporters for fast travel and artifacts which give boosts to the side that controls it. The main “endgame” involves capturing and defending these forts as they become vulnerable.

In theory it’s an awesome concept, and at least on Lumiel they are really into it. In practice, it’s a mess.

First off, 40+ only. I tried a raid as a 30, got oneshotted multiple times.

Second: a fort raid will bring your computer to its knees. Hundreds of people, fighting all at once. It’s so bad they recommend turning off all player models and using the lowest graphic settings. Even doing that, on an okay pc its near unplayable. Large scale combat of that nature simply can’t be handled on any PC: in both FFXI and EVE you see the same problems.

In the Abyss you can also fly freely with no limits except flight time. This is cool and yet sucks. Its nice to be able to fly, but hard to get used to a z-axis you can only access with a timer limit. Imagine a jet that had to land every minute or so, and you get the picture. It also sucks because ranged classes can abuse the z-axis to nail you, and its hard to watch 3 dimensions.

The reward is abyss points to buy gear and raise your rank. It’s an amazing zone in terms of design, though.

The rest of the game…uh well its grind. I did a repeatable coin quest. Kill roughly 40 enemies for one coin. These enemies were somewhat easy, but you need 8 coins for a basic piece of armor. That’s 320 mobs. It’s insane.

I got a piece of what is called a daeva set for free though, but to get the full set….you need to make a new character, get the, to 30, do the quest, and put the armor piece in account storage. So to get all 5 an use the set bonus as well as get a weapon quest…5 characters to level 30.

I’m not even getting into Kinah grind. Stuff starts to hurt now: spells increase in price and are vendor only, experience point penalties cost 20k and up to remove, and gear is approaching half-million or more for blues.

On a plus note I found a nice RP legion, and I am having fun. But this grind is killer.

Aion: Mob density and you.

May 27, 2010

I just got finished a very long party which ended in a wipe. It shows one of the main problems with Aion: the only real PvE difficulty is by superpacked mob density.

We were going to the Ice Claw Mau tribe’s hideout to do some quests there. It was touch-and go from the start. Aion has been having horrible lag and dc problems recently, so having our tank constantly dc as well as other members made for a harrowing experience. An interesting thing about that is even if you dc, Aion saves your spot in a party until time has passed, so when you log back on you are still in party. It illustrates how Aion really is a mix of good ideas and bad performance.

So we get there and we do pretty well. My main is a chanter, which is a hybrid of healer and dps with some buffs. I was main healing. It’s possible to do but we are so illequipped to do so its insane. But we wiped eventually, and it was mostly due to mob density.

Aion just stacks multiple mobs in very close to each other and forces you to use CC just to survive. Not only that a lot of the quests use elite mobs which are designed for party use, and arent just higher level: elites are higher but have a ton of hp and are nasty enough to not bother with otherwise. So pretty much you do ANYTHING wrong its almost a party wipe.

Misjudge the aggro distance as you thread between mobs? Aggro, possible adds, wipe.

CC not stick on one mob? near wipe.

Not see a roaming mob with a long patrol radius come up and link? wipe.

It’s one thing if this were an endgame dungeon, but this is just one of the level 28 campaign quests. The people I were with knew the area and were experienced vets and it was still rough. The mobs themselves aren’t tough except for a few, and some of those were insane: why in god’s name to enemies need to be stealthed right next to a zone-in point? But the density is the killer: just by packing in so many, links and aggro will wipe you unless you follow a perfect pattern.

Aion can be fun, but I can see why it loses subs so fast. I have never seen such a grindy, ill-designed pve and crafting experience ever.

Aion: The grind strikes back.

May 26, 2010

So now I’m…still 26.

26 to 27 is 3 million XP to level.

Yeah, you get 6-12k experience a mob and quests add more on top of it, but that is some major, major grind. It’s not hard grind: mostly so long as I avoid more than three enemies at once my chanter can breeze through enemies up to level 29. But it is a lot of work. I’m going to switch focus to the Abyss and an instance called NTC, but even then its some hard work.

On a plus side, I main healed for a couple of boss fights. King Zugog ia a very large named crab mob, and I was part of a pickup group to take him down.

On a minus side, I got my first experience with gankers. The rifts allow 20-45 people to come in from the Elyos faction and attack anyone. The problem with that is usually its not people wanting a fair fight, but to farm people for points. So It was frequently dying to people ten or more levels above me. You lose nothing, really but it gets to be an annoyance.

Crawling to the Abyss.

May 24, 2010

I busted my butt today trying to get to level 25 to be able to participate in the Abyss in Aion. The Abyss is a separate PvPvE area where Asmodean and Elyos fight each other and the computer controlled Balaur. It took some pretty long grinding to get there, but I did it.

Unfortunately, and you guessed it, level 25 wasn’t enough. There’s a prerequisite test. There’s a lot of prerequisite tests. First off you are told to go to the PvP area in Pandemonium to practice against other players. Unfortunately none are there, so it was go in, go out.

Next are a series of multiple choice questions on basic rift history from multiple NPCs. It’s not bad as you can’t fail them and they give basic info.

Then you do a trial quest. Mine was killing 3 different monsters, and it took forever. Finally the last part (I hope) is a flight test. That I had to leave for tomorrow.

It’s a lot of work for to get into what is supposed to be the key feature of the game.

WoW is the devil?

May 23, 2010

Syp quotes Wolfshead about the sad state of MMO gaming. It’s one of the best descriptions of what you could call the classical approach to MMO design. It’s also dead wrong. He deserves a detailed response why, and I’ll make it here. First the quote from Syp:

“As long as is there are copious amounts of reward with almost no risk, as long as content remains static and non-dynamic, as long as players have no sense of ownership in their world, as long as players have no need of other players, as long as player freedoms keep getting curtailed, as long as extracting money from subscribers is the end all and be all of game design — you will have the disease that is World of Warcraft.”

Lets break it down some:

As long as is there are copious amounts of reward with almost no risk-This has to be one of the biggest fallacies in MMO design, that increased risk increases satisfaction, and overloading on reward is bad. What Wolfshead forgets is that risk tolerance varies by person, and the satisfaction gained from that does as well. Not everyone is going to view risk in the same way, even in “hardcore” games: in fact those same games often have surprisingly little amounts of risk as the players adapt to it.

Boredom comes in not due to risk or the lack of it, but when gameplay is stale and unexciting. No amount of increased risk will make up for a dull grind: call this the lesson of EvE.

As long as content remains static and non-dynamic-I agree with this actually, and think we do need to see more dynamic content. However you have to look on the other side, because the developers also have to try and balance that dynamic content. As I posted before about Darkfall’s attempt to get newbies sailing, that may be impossible. It may be a solution but also is a rare one.

As long as players have no sense of ownership in their world-Surprisingly irrelevant. Raph Koster tried to bank on that with Metaplace, but he didn’t realize players view game first, world second. This is why Second Life isn’t held as the pinnacle of virtual world design.

MMOs have to be games first and good ones. The only ownership most players care for is a space of their own, and that can be satisfied with something as simple as a server set aside for housing, or customization options. This is not bad, because land rush after land rush in other games shows that giving ownership also expresses the bad side of players. Second Life started out as a virtual world, and now is a place for people to sell things to other people.

As long as players have no need of other players-This again. Having to “need” other players isn’t as community forming as he thinks, as any Bard in FFXI knows. MMOs evolved from intense interrelation because they soon found out as they aged it became impossible to do things as the population stagnated. Without being self-sufficient to a large degree, players soon became impotent and the game not fun, and they used whatever tricks they could to escape that, be it powerlevelling, buying accounts, etc.

You want to create ties, yes. But dependence never works well in the long run, for newer players especially. Wolfshead sees community: I see 3+ hour looking for party times and grinding weak solo mobs because your class is bottom rung on the dps ladder.

As long as player freedoms keep getting curtailed-No offense, but I wonder if he has played a game seriously in a bit. The reason why players are on a tight leash is because if let loose they will wreck the game. CoH mission architect, bots, wrecking the economy, griefing, and more: enough players will abuse the freedom they have to make a game or world impossible to manage.

The flip side of freedom is responsibility, but the thing about the virtual life is that there is none. All they can do is ban you, and even then you can evade that at times. Players have shown time and again they will break the system if given freedom, and if given time will destabilize it. Phantasy Star Online was an extreme example: the freedom of offline leveling soon gave birth to hacks and dupes as people destroyed the rarity of items and eventually other characters through cheat devices.

As long as extracting money from subscribers is the end all and be all of game design-This one you have to roll your eyes at. A 14.95 a month sub and vanity microtransactions is the end all of why WoW exists. I am no fan of f2p and real money extraction myself, but this is just pure hyperbole.

You will have the disease that is World of Warcraft. Yes, because the one game that lifted MMOs from a grindy sub-niche of pc gaming into a cultural icon is an infection that must be cured. That’s like saying Japanese RPGS would have been better off if Final Fantasy 7 never existed, or open world game would have been better off if Grand Theft Auto had stayed 2-d.

This is pure cultural amnesia, forgetting how much the old games sucked, how hostile and unforgiving they were, and how meaningless.  A lot of the community had zero to do with game design, and a lot to do with the fact back then only a small subculture of people more or less alike played the things. With MUDs it was the same way. People forgave the flaws and meaninglessness because they were tightly bound together by their shared experiences and loves.

I hate to say it, but a lot of Wolfshead’s diatribe really is elitism. It’s not design, he dislikes the people. for example:

As each year passes MMOs have become more infantile and simplistic in order to pander to the lowest common denominator.

Next thing you know they will be advertising on Jerry Springer.

The caliber of the player community has hit an all time low. The WoW of 2010 is a MMO where community barely exists if at all.

Ironically this was my complaint with Fallen Earth.

Players don’t even talk to each other anymore as they mindlessly farm so-called heroic dungeons. Players are happy to use each other like cheap whores in order to farm more emblems in order to get more shiny purple pixels.

Because it wasn’t about pixels back then either, right? Ninja Looting wasn’t a term invented in WoW, neither was griefing or ganking.

Just visit the official Blizzard forums or your local trade channel to experience the sophomoric angst for yourself for evidence of the abysmal state of community in WoW

Actually he should go to EVE’s forums. You think WoW’s is bad, try a game with the best community of 2009.

There’s an old saying that goes like this: people get the government they deserve. This same logic applies to MMOs: players get the MMO they deserve because ultimately we vote with our dollars.

Then they like getting what they deserve, since WoW makes a ton of money.  He goes on with this, but it’s mostly a religious jeremiad. Calling Richard Bartle a prophet is a hilarious stroke, since the man hasn’t designed much of anything since text muds and actually praised one of the worst levelling areas in WoW as good design, which Lum cheerfully rebutted here.

The sad thing for me is that I agree with him change needs to happen, and I rant myself, but it cant happen like this. There has to be some serious honesty about what can be done and cant, and we cannot go back to the old niche days and try and rebuild them. This is probably one of the clearest, most lucid definitions of that desire I have seen made, but it’s dead wrong. To rebuild them we need to accept what they are now and then look beyond to new ways.

Aion: Don’t drink strange drinks

May 22, 2010

Currently am 19, while Lumiel server seems to have failed. I had my first party, which was okay. Just people roaming and killing bosses, hopping from channel to channel. Partying as a chanter is similar to a meelee red mage but easier. You attack and heal. Buffs are one cast 60 minute things, when they aren’t perpetual.

An interesting quest today had me track down a drink that made people disappear to Elysea. Little did I know Elysea is Elyos territory, and this quest was to get people introduced to rifts. There were three stages to my experience in this.

1. Where is Elysea? Oh hell this is a PvP zone>

2. Where is the exit?

3. Oh hell I’m dead.

Lot’s of fun though.

Unlikely MMOs part 329: Mega Man?

May 21, 2010

Gamespot by way of Capcom is partnering with Korean game dev Neowiz to make a Mega man Online game.

I have no idea why, because Capcom has’t made a good Megaman game since the NES days (9 and 10 are NES throwbacks, and Legends 2 is Megaman in name only.) I think they see F2P dollar signs. They really want to drive their little cash cow into the ground.