Why Aion Will Work, While WAR Did Not.

Being a former WAR player and beta tester, I saw first hand the fall of WAR.  I saw a great company (Mythic), a great idea (the RvR concept) and a great world (the Warhammer world) fall into the depths of mediocre gameplay and design.  It was disconcerting and, because I considered myself a Mythic fanboy, depressing.

A post by Syp, of Bio-Break (and, formerly, WAAAGH!) fame, started me thinking about what will make Aion different from WAR on the RvR front.  At first glance the concepts are identical.  Fortress sieging and PvP-centric gameplay, with PvE as an added activity, but not the main game.  As a matter of fact, Syp put it very well in his post when he had this to say about Aion:

PvPvE – Remember Warhammer Online?  That didn’t sell me on the whole Realm War deal, so how is this going to?

Hmmm, a valid point and one I can’t blame him for having.  It never occurred to me because, quite simply, I have seen RvR and Realm Wars work firsthand in DAoC.  That’s why I had such high hopes for WAR, I knew what Mythic was capable of creating.  So, what makes Aion different?  Why do I think it will stand up, whereas WAR crashed and burned?

Lets take a look at why I think WAR failed.

First, is the foundation on which everything is built, the game engine.  Mythic shot itself in the foot from the very begining by designing a game around a graphics engine that just couldn’t handle it.  I know very little about game engines, but I do know when one is not working and WAR’s engine wasn’t.  More than a handful of characters in one area and the engine would be brought to its knees.  Lag and a low framerate made everything a chore to do.  I found myself avoiding large fights just because the lag was so frustrating that the game wasn’t fun.  There was very little tactics or strategy used, simply because it is exceedingly hard to flank your enemy when you are moving at 8 frames per second.

Secondly, the RvR design was horrible from the beginning.  Small RvR lakes and even smaller Keeps with one way in or out and one ramp to get to the Keep Lord, guaranteed a zerg atmosphere.  Because the RvR areas were so small, there were no small groups roaming around looking for fights.  No matter how hard small groups tried they always ran into the zergs, the area was too small.  You couldn’t avoid them.  Once a keep fight started all of the fight was congested into one area.  Having one door insured that tactics were useless.  Once inside you found 60 people trying to make their way up an 8 foot ramp to get the Keep Lord.  All of this and to exasperate the situation the engine couldn’t handle that many people and frame rates dropped into the single digits.

Finally, having two Realms with no real mechanics to balance them, meant that each server was divided into the “haves” and have-nots”.  Once a Realm on a server got going and winning with regularity, the losing side fell further and further behind.  The winning side was able to get the good equipment faster, while the losing side found themselves facing the same enemy that had just defeated them, but now they had even better equipment.  There were no real mechanisms built in to stop this.  Outnumbered Realms were crushed, while the winning side just kept winning.  Until they were bored.  In fact, that was the only real advantage the losing Realm had, the winners would eventually grow bored until they left the game and then the other side could mount a comeback.  A very sad way to balance a game, indeed.

So, that’s the major reasons I think WAR failed.  What is Aion doing differently to stop this from happening to begin with?

To start with, Aion’s engine is top-notch.  In large battle situations I get better and more consistent framerates than I do in WoW.  I have been in some fairly large PvP battles so far in the NA beta and my FPS stay at a high 60-100 at all times.  In the capitol cities surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people I never dip below 60.  Not only that, but I get no ability lag at all, which was a major problem in WAR.  Spells go off immediately with no delay.  This engine is capable of rendering huge battles between opposing realms.  Actual tactics and strategy can come into play, simply because the engine will allow them to do so.  Score one for Aion.

Whereas WAR was doomed from the start because of the design of the RvR areas, I think Aion’s design will be a strength.  The Abyss is absolutely HUGE, dwarfing any of WAR’s RvR lakes in sheer size.  Smaller groups will be able to roam and will not be eaten up by the zerg.  I have seen many one vs. one, 6 vs. 6 and 3 vs. 5 type fights in Aion, those were almost never seen in WAR unless prearranged.  Additionally, the Fortresses are much bigger and have multiple ways to attack them and multiple ways to get to the “Keep Lord”.  No more building a tank wall on the single ramp and AoEing the enemy to death.  Won’t work in Aion, the enemies go up multiple ramps and on top of that, they can fly.  Battlefield objectives, which in WAR were simply to trade back and forth to the enemy for points, are actually useful and needed in Aion.  The provide large buffs, do added damage or added healing.  These need to be controlled and held, to make the rest of the campaign easier.

Finally, whereas WAR (I think) made a huge mistake in only having two realms, Aion has three.  Yes, one is AI controlled but it will help to balance things immensely.  The Balaur are unpredictable at the best of times but talking to friends on the Chinese and Korean server they seem to be especially ruthless towards the winning Realm, thus allowing the losing realm a chance to get back in the fight.  Friends have described Balaur attacking while the two Realms are fighting and complete chaos ensuing as each side tries to decide whether they should continue attacking each other, help the Balaur against the opposing faction or just run as both sides come after them.  Neither side can get too far ahead of the other side because the Balaur will not allow it.  Its a wonderful mechanic and one that NCSoft is going to expand and improve upon as time goes on.

So, there you have it.  Three reasons why I think Aion can work, while WAR did not.  To be sure, there are other reasons; general polish, mail that actually works (seriously Mythic, after nearly a year could you not have made mail work correctly?  ITS THE FREAKIN’ MAIL!!), a seriously improved PvE game and ton of other little things that make Aion stand out where WAR faltered.  All in all I think Aion has a nice future in store for itself and its players.  I hate that Aion will succeed at the expense of WAR as many of its players leave for the greener pastures of Aion, but Mythic had their chance and former fanboy or not, I can not justify staying there.


20 Responses

  1. My thoughts on why Aion will not succeed:

    1. no replayability. I’ve played Aion-C and in the 3 NA betas. I dread having to level up through the same 2 zones (Asmodian and Elyos starting areas) yet again.

    2. Class design is too simple. My level 14 cleric spams 2 attacks, one big heal and HOTs that do not stack with other clerics. /Yawn

    3. Boring quest structure. I hate it went the quest chains repeatedly sent be back to the same area to do the next quest in the chain. It also does not help that you can not track multiple quests on either map.

    4. PvP starts at level 25 but who wants to fight level 50’s when your level 25?

    5. No mounts. And no, flying does not substitute for not having mounts as you can not fly in every zone.

  2. “1. no replayability. I’ve played Aion-C and in the 3 NA betas. I dread having to level up through the same 2 zones (Asmodian and Elyos starting areas) yet again.”

    To each his own I suppose, guildmate of mine has leveled every class type to 20+ and is still pumped to play come release.

    I’ve leveled 3+ of the classes to 18+ and have not lost my desire, in fact with the thought of release and people grouping up, I’m more excited to level in release.

    “2. Class design is too simple. My level 14 cleric spams 2 attacks, one big heal and HOTs that do not stack with other clerics. /Yawn”

    Uhm,.. you’re level 14? And at level 14 on my cleric, I had a lot more buttons then 2? Has your mind wrapped around the concept of training up at the capital city yet? Or was that too advanced for the WoWbee in you?

    “3. Boring quest structure. I hate it went the quest chains repeatedly sent be back to the same area to do the next quest in the chain. It also does not help that you can not track multiple quests on either map.”

    This game is built for the endgame PvP, the quests are just a means of getting there. I could careless how the quests are set up, half the time I don’t even read them.

    “4. PvP starts at level 25 but who wants to fight level 50’s when your level 25?”


    “5. No mounts. And no, flying does not substitute for not having mounts as you can not fly in every zone.”

    Did you get past level 14?

  3. Nice Article =)

    The engine I think will be the biggest win for Aion for the amount of players they can attract. If WAR played and ran as smoothly as WoW, a lot more people would still be playing it; it was a big reason many of my guild mates quit – too low fps, too buggy, too frustrating..

    Gameplay is everything, and having nice graphics never hurts either =)

  4. Seregul I will have to disagree.

    1. I have leveled a total of 10 chars 1-20 and have yet to grow tired of the lower levels. You can get through 1-10 in about 2 hours making it not bad for replayability. Also you can start pvp at level 12, ( technically 10 if you are in your cities arena). It is not recommended of course, but it can be done. Also when everyone is first started you can bet you will see plenty for 10-24 pvp using rifts, and then 25+ in Abyss.

    2.) Class design really gets a boost post 20. Before 10 your class is really generic. At 13 you should have 2 normal attacks and each of those should have 1 or more chains attatched. My Chanter for isntance had 3 normal attacks and 2 chained attacks at 13.

    3.) The quest structure is just like any other Western MMO out there, only every now and then you get a break and get a nice little cut scene. I wish the Questing as a whole was revolutionised by someone but they have yet to do so in any game, I will not fault Aion for it.

    4.) As stated above you can technically start in the arena at 10 ( against your own race of course) and you can bet at launch there will be plenty of fun in the abyss and probably even before that using rifts.

    5.) You are correct there are no mounts… I don’t honestly see the big deal with that though. You can fly, indeed not in every zone. While mounts would be nice, its certainly not a game breaker.

  5. 1) that’s subjective. i find it has more replayability than WAR. i have 6 characters in thier teens so far and am not bored yet.

    2) i’ll grant that. i’ve heard the complaint from many of my friends, but i would add that level 14 is very early in the game and WAR should demonstrate that having lots of spells doesn’t make a game better.

    3) quest structure is the same as WAR/WoW, so not really a valid argument unless you’re just tired of the genre in general

    4) if you start at release this won’t be an issue unless you are an abnormally slow leveler, but it’s true eventually this could be an issue, but on the other hand, is it really so different from people pvping in tier for in WAR at level 30? not really.

    i agree with the blog, except that while i agree the zone design of the rvr lakes is bad, i think tying rvr rewards so strongly to the BOs and keep lords (public quests) contributed more to the zergy nature.

    i don’t dislike zerging, but it really is nearly impossible to avoid in WAR if you want to help accomplish anything

  6. “I could careless how the quests are set up, half the time I don’t even read them.”

    Honestly do we want our new MMO’s to give us that mentality anymore?

    I myself am tired of all WoW clones doing this to us. Grab a quest, turn in, grab a quest turn in.

    Even if Aion does beat WAR PVP in a sense, it is still a dreary leveling process and no way I would want to go through those Aion starter areas with an alt ever again. So I agree with Seregul on that point

    You aren’t even playing a game when you play it like that man, c’mon. All it does is give companies an excuse to release shoddy MMO’s with crappy ass PVE content.

    • I don’t know Hud, I enjoyed the quests in Aion for the most part. They aren’t revolutionary, but I found myself following the lore and actually reading the text. Its a new and interesting world and one I am not familiar with so that helps quite a bit.

      I just can’t see docking points from Aion for having a normal questing system. I suppose if you are totally tired of questing then its understandable, but, if that’s the case, maybe you are just tired of MMOs and should look elsewhere for gaming enjoyment? Either way, I still had lots of fun in Aion, both in beta and on the chinese servers.

  7. “maybe you are just tired of MMOs and should look elsewhere for gaming enjoyment?”

    Yes. I have found myself moving toward less conventional MMO’s you are correct. I just found the 1-10 stuff really dull BUT it did pick up I will admit. Hey time in Aion is still more fun and in depth than other MMO’s so I am not knocking it but just grabbing quests and not reading is really a poor way to play an MMO. That just says POWERGAMER and that really ticks me off.

    • Yeah, it picks up a lot the higher you go, just like most MMOs. I would also agree that not reading quests is a poor way to play an MMO. You can blame add-ons like Quest Helper for WoW, the WAR red circles that show you where to go and the Aion “locate” button for that. You no longer have to read the quests to do them anymore. Take the quest, look for the red circle or hit locate, go there and do the quest, no reading involved. MMOs are holding our hands more and more as time goes on. I understand that some things need to be made easier as EQ1 was insane as far as its death penalties and such, but they are taking it too far.

      That is one reason I do like Aion, its still casual friendly, but at the same time it ramps up the difficulty quite a bit. It has a death penalty that makes you actually try not to die, it has quests that require a group in the open world and is just less “easy-mode” than some of the MMOs we have seen lately. At the same time, however, its not insanely difficult and it doesn’t punish a player for playing. Its a pretty good balance at the moment.

  8. Excellent points. Now I’m even a little MORE excited about release!

  9. (@Sam – Is it really possible for you to get more excited than you already are? 😉 )

    I’m really glad to hear that the game runs smoother than WAR. The lag, stutter/stop, crashes, etc were incredibly annoying and made it difficult for me to enjoy.

    I’m really intrigued by the 3rd realm… /ponder

  10. […] all-Aion blog, Aionic Thoughts, compares and contrasts between WAR and Aion, making the case why the latter will work as a PvP game when the former […]

  11. I am still a bit sceptical if PvP as endgame content can succeed at all.

    But you make good points. That the Farcry engine and Aion’s netcode can handle more players on screen without problems is indeed a huge plus.

    I wonder how the PvP will be. It is supposed to be a huge part of the endgame content, so it has to be very good. It must be, all pvp centric endgame content games tanked pretty hard.

    DAOC was different, it lost appeal because other competitors had a better overall package and because of some mistakes by Mythic.

    I just wonder if we get a level 25 premade char or if I really have to level up my Sorceress – I just joined on late Sunday in the last beta weekend, I could not get that far yet.

    • “I am still a bit sceptical if PvP as endgame content can succeed at all.”

      Are you crazy? Well designed PvP is the BEST end game you can have. Ask anyone who played DAOC b4 the expansions killed it. Have you ever played games like Counter strike, or Quake, or Starcraft or Warcraft 3 or DOTA?

      These games have no raiding, no PvE questing online. They just have PvP, and yet people spend HUNDREDS and thousands of hours because it’s fun to play against other players and because no two fights are exactly the same.

      That’s why PvP in MMO’s has such potential, so far ONLY exploited correctly by DAOC and perhaps EVE online. A Persistant world, where you build a team and cooperate against the enemy faction. It’s everything end game SHOULD be.

      I love WoW for what it was and making MMO’s so popular, but it drives me crazy how so many people are so clueless about PvP and bash it based on their ignorance.

  12. […] because of some mistakes by Mythic. […]

    ToA and not upgrading the front end client and net code while milking it for every last cent while they worked on Imperium a title who’s very concept was panned? 🙂

    Aion has potential, so did WAR. WAR was awesome until the first city seige then we realized the end game for an RvR focused game was PvE grinding PQs.

    Aion can go south just as fast, remember that Garriot and company tried?

    I’ll wait until the first patch after launch to get my feet wet.

  13. […] yes that's a 6 person group owning zergs, an interesting watch. Why Aion Will Work, While WAR Did Not. Aionic Thoughts <— interesting read comparing WAR and […]

  14. Very interesting. I enjoy this site and am Enjoying Aion Beta, It reminds me so much of the orginal Everquest.

    His criticisms of War hold true.

    His hopes for Aion are pretty accurate but a AI based Third faction could be as bad as just having two factions, its the big judgement call on Aion.

    His article needed 3 reasons unique to Aion that might make it fail.


    Its grindly.

    Its very group orientated.

    It is possible to PVE yourself To PVP sucess.

  15. “It’s possible to PVE yourself to PVP success”

    While generally true, there was something about “Kills/deaths ratios” playing a part into your rank.

    So if all you want is a mediocre ranked toon, I guess the pve side is alright.

    But to be truly good, you’ll ignore the pve aspect and go searching for other players.

    This is great, it helps get rid of the WoW-60 rank grind. If someone kills 1000 players a week, but dies 600 times, chances are they won’t be as high of a rank as someone that kills 500 players a week but dies 20 times.

    The ‘kill/death ratio’ aspect will also increase the amount of thought that goes into someones tactics, instead of always head rushing into a group. (ie. Running head first into 5 person zerg in AB).

    Even in WoW, I would try and lure 1 person (2+ as a warrior pre-wotlk) away from groups of players in hopes that they would follow, thinking they would beat me with help, but none would come.

    I wouldn’t get many “hk’s” that way, but I would live and be feared by the realm.

  16. Good article. As a former RR50 Magus, your WAR points are very accurate.

    However, I disagree that Aion will succeed where WAR failed. The concept of PvPvE is itself broken, and any game that portends to cater to both is doomed from the start.

    To all you fanbois commenting ‘I have eight level 14 characters and I’m not bored yet” just wait. Shortly after launch, 50 will be the table stakes for PvP.

    And if the end game is PvP, then PvE is simply a time sink, and sooner or later, once you’ve seen the same areas, NPCs and done the same quests dozens of times, that will become painfully transparent. And the thought of leveling yet another alt to 50 will become increasingly tedious, if not downright joyless.

    The third AI faction sounds interesting . . . but I’d bet dollars to donuts it gets cheap over time, especially in situations where one PC faction is dominating the other.

    Think about it . . .if you’re part of a massive, 5-6 hour raid and just turned the tides against the other PC faction . . . do you really want to do with a horde of NPCs that are there artificially? It sounds eerily like Mario Kart AI . . .

    Anyone that believes differently is fooling themselves. No game engine or visual polish can change the fact that PvPvE simply doesn’t work.

    And where it *almost* did — DAoC — Mythic had to start giving away free levels every few days to ease the meaningless PvE push to 50.

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