Yes, It’s True….I Have Faith In NCSoft

Going into Aion one of my biggest concerns was always the company that was making it.  I had heard the horror stories about NCSoft, I had seen the debacle that was Tabula Rasa and I had talked to a few friends who had played Lineage 2.  Going in I was very, very skeptical that NCSoft would allow any input from Western players and I was very hesitant to trust them

A couple of months of beta and the first month of live and I ampolitical-pictures-pope-benedict-xvi-faith-bulletproof now at a point where I have nearly absolute faith in NCSoft and their decisions when it comes to Aion.

So, what has changed my mind?  Simple.  Their track record so far when it comes to Aion.  Let’s take a look at what NCSoft has done thus far with Aion in the West, starting with beta.

The first major concern that everyone had after beta started was the issues with Gameguard.  Every time beta went up the beta boards were inundated with anti-Gameguard posts and with good reason.  It caused players to crash, blocked legitimate programs and was an all-around nuisance.  NCSoft listened and upon release we found Gameguard removed from the client.  NCSoft has said that it may come back but only after it is in a state where it does it’s job with a minimum hassle for legitimate players.

Score 1 for NCSoft.

The other problems that players had in beta were mostly about the User Interface.  We tend to control MMOs differently here than in the East.  We use WASD, they use click-to-move and that sort of thing.  A couple of days before the release we were introduced to a patch that added the much asked for features of inverse mouse and left button camera control.  NCSoft listened and added that functionality to the game.

Score 2 for NCSoft.

The release came and we found a stable game that we couldn’t play because of queues.  Much gnashing of teeth ensued on the forums and on blogs.  Bloggers who didn’t like Aion made a point to make fun of the situation and used the queues to “prove” that NCSoft was a bad company and couldn’t manage a game in the West.  More rational bloggers and players pointed out that the hard population controls and less servers were a pain in the short term but would pay dividends in the long term.  NCSoft stuck to their plan, despite the griping, moaning and threats of doom, and we now have 14 servers with balanced population.  No server has more than a 2% population difference between Asmo and Elyos.  No server is dead.  Contrast that with WAR.  One month into WAR and the population imbalances were already a detriment to the game.  Now a year later WAR is still struggling to keep a balanced pop and will probably always have that problem.

Score 3 for NCSoft.

The next issue we came across in Live was the s0-called grind.  Quests, some say, seemed to disappear at later levels and players were forced to grind mobs.  Many said that quests didn’t give enough experience.  Again NCSoft listened. They are now testing a patch that ups quest experience by as much as 500% in some places.

Score 4 for NCSoft.

Gold spammers and bots were always my biggest worry going into Aion.  Lineage was infested with them and so was the chinese Aion servers.  Sure enough they came in droves.  My block list was full in a matter of days.  The LFG channel was useless because of all the spam.  It was bad.  Then came a mass banning and it was alleviated for awhile but did not go away.  However, in the latest patch NCSoft introduced a chat filter and 95% of the spam is gone.  I see a couple of spams every hour or so but nothing more than what I saw in WoW.

Score 5 for NCSoft.

So far NCSoft has been very quick to answer and address our problems.  There are a few outstanding issues that NCSoft needs to address.  The bot situation is ridiculous.  The Crytek.dll error is getting bad for alot of people.  Things are not 100% rosy in game.  But I have faith in NCSoft.  They have addressed nearly every issue the player base has brought up and they have done so in a timely fashion.

Contrast this response to WAR.  Mythic took months to even acknowledge some of the issues players had with WAR.   Server balance has never been addressed.  The AoE issues took forever for them to acknowledge and address.   Players griped about a lack of RvR and Mythic introduced the Land of the Dead which brought more PvE…

Not everything is perfect in Aion but NCSoft has made sure to address the issues as quickly as possible.  They have turned a skeptic into a believer.  I have faith in NCSoft.

Wow.

It’s About Time, Huh?

Sorry I have been away for a bit.  It’s been an extremely busy time for me in the last few weeks.  I am getting ready for the Windows 7 release at my work, taking care of some family matters and playing Aion, which has left me precious little time to post.  Things are starting to calm down a bit so you should be seeing a number of new posts up in the next few days.  This is the first of many.

So, with the little free time I have had lately I have been playing Aion.  Quite a lot actually and I am really enjoying it.  As you may already know I started out with a Ranger, Ahira.  I was loving him and he reminded me quite a bit of my old WoW hunter without a pet.  The leveling on a ranger is very slow at first but at 16 starts to pick up and become much easier.  I leveled Ahira up to level 21 and ran into a problem.

I play with a group of real life and online friends and we have migrated to new games together for quite a bit.  This time we all rolled together and Aion and began grouping and helping each other as we normally do but we ran into two problems.

First, I level faster than they do.  I tend to get a bit more game time in than they do for whatever reason so I was finding myself outpacing them, which is not something I wanted to do.  When I hit 20 they were still around 15 or 16, which meant I found myself doing content over and over again while helping them level.  This sucked for me and for them.

Secondly, none of my friends rolled a healer.  None.  We had DPS, we had tanks, we had off-tanks but we had no healers at all.  This was not good.  I have found healers to be a fairly important part of group make up during my MMO travels and Aion was proving to be no exception.  I am not a big fan of pugging especially (arguably) the single most important role in a group.

So, I decided to bite the bullet and roll a cleric.  When I started the cleric my friends were all between 15-17 or so.  Now they are around 20-24.  I am also 24.  Damn, they are slow.  Painfully slow.   At this rate I am going to have 4-5 characters hit level cap at roughly the same time.  This sucks.  I think I need to bribe my friends to level faster.  Actually, I think I just need to sit down with their wives, bosses and family and explain the situation.  I am sure they will understand.

Anyway, my cleric is now 24.  I am one level away from the greatness of the Abyss and I can not wait.  I expect to hit 25 tomorrow and then make fun of my friends for being slow.  That’s the plan anyway.

Fenriz contemplating the reason for being.....

Fenriz contemplating the reason for being.....

So, that is my cleric, Fenriz.  The battle-scarred, rugged warrior of the North.  Or cleric actually.  Also I think technically he is from the south but you get the idea.  Also he’s a lot of fun.  More fun than I thought a healer would be.  Unlike my Ranger, I can accidentally get an add when soloing and not have to run off like a little girl, screaming in fear.  I save that for when I get two adds.

I have not really been able to do much PvP as I am saving Rifting for a bit higher into my twenties.  I did kill a single Elyos outside of Morheim Fortress the other day but I think he was just trying to get the hell out of there so I don’t think that really counts.

I have been able to duel a number of people and I must say that Clerics are tough to beat 1 vs 1 at this level.  I have no problems with Gladiators or Assassins.  Rangers can be tough but certainly beatable and the same goes for sorcerers.  I have found dueling a Chanter or another Cleric to be almost identical to watching old people have sex, slow and boring.  Spiritmasters, aaaah Spiritmasters.  You remember what I said about running and screaming like a little girl when getting more than 1 add?  Yeah, that pretty much applies to me when a Spiritmaster asks to duel.  It’s not pretty.

So, I am going to wrap this up with a bit about what I am going to cover tomorrow.  A lot has happened in the world of Aion and NCSoft and I plan to touch on some of that, including more about the gold spamming and bot situation, the PvE that I have been able to do so far and some other miscellaneous stuff.  I hope you check it out!

Banning Is Srs Bsnss!

goldbangoldban2goldban3

As you can tell from the screenshots above (taken from the MMORPG.com Aion forums) NCSoft is starting to take a harder line with gold-spammers and botters.  As detailed in my last post, this is an extremely serious problem at the moment.  Gold spam is bad enough that I have to go /anon when logging in and leave all the channels, including general and looking for group.  This does not make for a very enjoyable experience and is the one problem I have with Aion at the moment.

But, as detailed in the screenshots, there is hope.   It’s a start, albeit a small one.  There needs to be easier tools to report the spammers, as it is way too difficult at the moment.  Hopefully this is a step in the right direction.

Gold Spammers, Customer Service And Bots….

I am much enjoying my time in Atreia thus far.  Ahira is almost 21 and yes I am taking it slow but mostly because I have been helping a few friends get caught up to me a bit.  All in all, I am having a great time.  I really, really enjoyed Black Claw Village and my first taste of PvP on Lumiel was really fun.

Really there are only three things that have bothered me so far about Aion.  At the moment it is a minor annoyance but it has the potential to become a major problem if NCSoft doesn’t nip it in the bud quickly.

First of all, the Gold spammers have arrived in mass.  Every night I have to block a few more.  Mostly it’s private tells but occasionally you will see a couple in “general” or “trade” chat.  The worst part about it is that there is no easy way to report them nor an easy way to block them.  Each attempt requires multiple steps and can be a hassle when adventuring.  I know stopping gold spam is very hard, it took WoW years to lower it to the current level, but at least give us tools to make it easier to report and/or block them.

Secondly, Customer Service not 24 hours?!?!?  Seriously?  WTF NCSoft?  You folks just sold around 500,000 copies of Aion so I am sure you have enough money laying around to hire a full time, 24 hour customer service team!  I could not believe it when I tried to create a petition, only to be told that there was no one to receive it.  This is a 24 hour game, there needs to be 24 hour customer service.  Period.

The last thing that is annoying me are the bots.lots-of-bots-book-1-thumb So far it has not been too big a problem.  I see one every so often and sometimes I will see a group of them working together.  However, this has to be stopped.  Like now. Bots destroy the economy, add to the queue times and cause problems in the community.  Get rid of them.  Ban the ones who are reported and do it quickly.  Give us updates to how many you ban.  Make a spectacle of it.

I never played Lineage or Lineage II but I have been told horror stories about the bot problem there.  Do not make that mistake in the West.  In the West players leave when the botting problem gets out of hand.  With the bad rap NCSoft already has about bots, it will only take a short period of seeming inaction before everyone assumes the problem is going to continue in Aion.  Don’t let that happen.

Other than those problems, I am having a really fun time in Aion so far.  Despite NCSoft’s track record, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.  They have to know they are going to be on a short leash with these issues due to their prior failures to address them in Lineage.  They have to know that.  Don’t they?

The Results of NCSoft’s Heavy Hand…

This week has been pretty hectic for NCSoft.  They took a lot of criticism for their heavy hands when dealing with the servers.  They put caps on faction population for every server during head-start, they capped total population very low initially and they opened up relatively few servers for the expected population.

This caused headaches for Legions and friends to get on their preferred server, it caused a lot of griping as players logged in on Tuesday to find 3-4 hour queues during prime time.  Much gnashing of teeth commenced.  Players were mad, blogger’s griped or made fun, depending on their interest in Aion and the situation, for some, looked grim.

I made a post early in the week that this was planned and was actually a pretty smart idea by NCSoft.  The post was met with some agreement but, also, much laughter and accusation of fanboyism.  Then Friday something funny happened. NCsoft announced that they were going to put a timer on the Personal Shops that were contributing to the queue.  In addition, they put up a new server.

Friday night we logged in to find sharply reduced queue times.  What was nearing 4 hours in prime time dropped down to 30 minutes or less for most people.  I logged in Friday night to a 12 minute queue and on Saturday to a 4 minute queue.  The “rage” posts about the queue dropped to near nothing on the Aion Source forums and moved on to other things.  All was right in the Aion world, at least as far as the queues were concerned.

So what was the results of NCSoft’s heavy hand at launch?  Let’s take a look and find out!

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An Energy Drink, A Treadmill, Wii Remotes and…..Aion?

This is full of win:

Introducing Ahira

The first day of Aion was pretty chaotic for me.  As detailed in the prior post, I got in immediately but my friend got stuck in the queue, so we got a late start.  We were only able to get an hour or so of gameplay before I had to log off and attend to some real life matters, so I wasn’t even able to ascend.

Got back on later in the evening and was able to get through the early area and Ascend into Daeva-hood.  Thus was Ahira, Ranger Extraordinaire born.

The Preorder Helm looks fairly ridiculous on a dwarf....

The Preorder Helm looks fairly ridiculous on a dwarf....

I am really enjoying the Ranger so far, they are extremely difficult to level in the early game but very rewarding and engaging.  Kiting is a necessary skill and the inability to kite will result in countless deaths.  To make matters even more difficult, many areas are so packed with mobs that kiting is fraught with danger, as it is very easy to aggro additional mobs.  You have to be very cognizant of your surroundings at all times and plan out each and every combat.

Luckily, I was able to get into a Legion group fairly early this evening.  We were doing the quests immediately after the Altgard Fortress in the first forest area.  We started the night with myself, a Templar, a Cleric and an Assassin before adding a second Templar later in the evening and it was one of the best grouping experiences I have had in a long, long time in an MMO.

We were able to progress through a large chunk of quests all the way up to the Elite Black Claw area with no problems.  We entered the Black Claw area under-leveled, as we were only level 14 and all the mobs were red to us.  Even with that we were able to complete a couple of quests there and down quite a few mobs, though we had to be extremely careful with our pulls.  More than two and we were in a lot of trouble.

Speaking of which, it was so nice to play an MMO that has group content outside of an instance.  WoW used to have a number of areas like this but they have since been nerfed into solo-able content.  I love solo content but I would really like to see some group content in the mix as well.  Aion provides that and it’s refreshing.

At the moment, I am level 14 and moving quickly toward 15.  Not as high as I wanted but I am having fun.  Quite a bit in fact.  Tomorrow our group from this evening is getting back together for some more questing and I can hardly wait.

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