I have been involved in a lot of MMOs in the weeks and months prior to release. Besides Aion, I beta’d WAR, WoW, Earth and Beyond, Age of Conan and a couple of others. Many MMOs that I did not beta I was active in the pre-release community. It is something I have always enjoyed as anticipation of the game builds.
One thing I have noticed, however, is that Aion seems to have a different buzz around it than any of the other MMOs I have ever participated in pre-release. For one most of the buzz is positive. There are naysayers but most of them limit themselves to talking about the graphics style or call the game a “grindfest” without even having played it. But the biggest difference is the feeling that most of the buzz and hype is almost entirely player created instead of dev created hype.
WAR had a ton of hype before launch. Probably more hype than any game I have seen before. It worked, as evidenced by the fact that they sold nearly a million copies of the game. Looking back on the pre-release hype, however, reveals that much of it was generated by Mythic. Paul Barnett and the rest of Mythic did a masterful job of building hype. Video Podcasts, developer interviews, convention booths and Mythic’s regular visiting of any WAR forum, all contributed to an amount of hype unknown before WAR. The Internet was covered in WAR information and hype and we all fell for it; hook, line and sinker. Of course, after the game was released, we found that most of the hype was just that; HYPE.
Aion does not have the hype of WAR or Age of Conan, for that matter. Interest is starting to ramp up, certainly, but it is no where near the amount of total saturation that WAR had. There are a few developer interviews, a few movies, a Comic-Con visit but that’s about it. No cute glasses. No cutesy catch phrases (WAR IS EVERYWHERE! WAAAGH!!). No developers telling us that Aion is the be-all-end-all of RvR MMOs.
But, what Aion does have is, I think, much more important. It has fantastic word of mouth. By the players. Look on most message boards and the word of mouth is slanting highly positive for the most part. This is by players who have played the game, either in the beta or on the Chinese servers. We don’t have developers telling us how fantastic Aion is, we have real players telling us. We don’t have to rely on someone in snazzy glasses who has a vested interest in the game to tell us whether end-game works or not. We can go to message boards and talk to a player to tell us.
I’ve been burnt once in WAR. I listened as Paul Barnett told me how wonderful WAR was going to be. I listened to him tell me how PvP intensive WAR end-game was. I listened to him tell me that healing was different in WAR.
There is no sitting at the back going ‘And I heal! And I heal! And I heal! And I heal! And I heal!’ because it’s BORING! I’m really sorry, if you’re really one of those people who just like being a medic, who like sitting at the back not doing anything, going ‘And I heal! And I heal! And I heal!’ … go away. Stop watching. Click away. Don’t even leave a comment on the board going ‘I HATE THIS GAME BECAUSE IT HAS NO HEALERS’ because we’re telling you now… we’re not the game for you. We’re the game for the people who want to matter. Every single character can do damage. Every single character can make a significant attempt at beating the living snot out of people.
Lies and exaggerations. The dev’s fed us a bunch of crap and we ate it and asked for seconds. We watched as the dev created reality fell apart to reveal the true reality. A buggy, laggy and unpolished game, in which healers sit back and healed and the “glorious” PvP endgame was revealed as a PvE snorefest.
Aion has its issues, every game does. It doesn’t have as much HYPE as WAR and I don’t have a problem with that. I listened to the dev-speak in WAR, I’m not doing that this time. I’m listening to the players.
It all comes down to one thing: Who do you trust??