Tuesday, July 7, 2009

AION and why players are silly

People are creatures of habit—even bad habits like predicting each new MMO that is getting ready for release will bury WoW. It’s a refrain we’ve all heard a dozen times or more by now, and such is the current refrain of AION admirers. One would think that after jumping ship and buying new MMOs only to quickly learn that the new MMO wasn’t as good as they had once believed, that they would be more skeptical about developer claims. One would think.

I can only look on amusingly as thousands of AION fans attack anyone that speaks ill, or even deigns to speak of AION in neutral terms. Death to those who are not rabid fans! Such has been the case recently on Tobold’s blog, but he’s hardly the only such example. Forums and Blogs everywhere that write about MMOs are feeling the same phenomenon and it really makes one wonder why people get so upset that someone they don’t know likes something somewhat less than they. I like the color green, and you like the color blue much better, how dare you!

I’ll admit I haven’t played AION yet. I didn’t even try to get a beta key and I’m certainly not well enough known to be sought out by NCSoft so my information comes only from those who have played. As Tobold found out some of that information may be wrong, but in my case even if select facts are wrong it still wouldn’t change my overall impression. AION sounds like a very polished game. Afterall, it’s not a new MMO. Its been in operation overseas for some time now and its just being ported to the U.S. By all accounts the character creation system sounds fantastic. I’d love to see something like that in WoW. I also like what I’ve read thus far about the profession system, which allows you to learn all of the professions but enables you to learn only one to maximum skill level. That is something I would also love to see in WoW.

AION sounds a lot like WoW in many respects, but also sounds like it has flavors of WAR thrown in as well. Like WAR, AION’s combat abilities are multi-tiered. Using tier one abilities enable you to then use tier two abilities. There are similarities in the class system as well, though the implementation is different. In AION you assume one of a handful of base classes, then at level 10 you specialize. Unlike WAR you can’t cherry pick talents from different “trees”, so you are locked in to whatever specialty you choose. Very linear.

Initial game play revolves around PVE questing but I haven’t read enough to get a sense of how many quests are available, or whether raw grinding is also required. The latter stages—otherwise known as the “end-game” revolve around PVP. What I’ve read gives me more of an impression of WAR than of WoW, and I already know I wasn’t impressed with the system in WAR which requires a stable, substantial character population to maintain indefinitely. My negative impression isn’t so much a result of AION itself, but more of that type of implementation. It only works so long as you maintain a high level of subscribers and the faction balance isn’t out of whack. How often do those things happen?

In any regard, I’m confident that AION will garner a few hundred thousand subscribers, but I’m also certain that it will not unseat WoW as the next best thing. If it follows the typical MMO pattern many people will jump ship from WoW when AION is released but will generally come back in a few months when the newness of AION wears off. I’m someone who invests a great deal in the characters I play, so it generally takes a lot to lure me away from my game of choice. In fact the state of my game of choice has more to do with whether I continue to play it, or leave it, than anything else. I’m happy with WoW, so any competing MMO would have to be truly great to lure me away. And would have to be better than great to keep me.

I may stop by and play AION when it’s released to see for myself, but as of right now I’m just not feeling an overwhelming desire to play it. And that probably isn’t the mindset NCSoft is really shooting for.