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.

Banning Is Srs Bsnss!

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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?

My biggest fears for Aion.

I am having a blast in Aion right now.  It runs so smooth, looks so good and combat is so tight, its really hard to not have fun if you like this type of game.  However, I do have worries about the game.  Hopefully, they are unfounded, but that is something only time will tell.

1.  Bots.  NCSoft is notorious for being “bot friendly”.  Lineage 2 is totally bot ridden from what I have read, bad enough to be a lost cause on those terms.  Will Aion be the same?  Surely NCSoft must realize that a game can not be successful in the West with those problems?

2.  The Grind.  I don’t mind a bit of a grind.  Hell, I prefered WoW when leveling was much slower.  With that being said, I have a life and gaming is not 100% of it.  Leveling should be challenging but not life consuming.  Asian games, in general, have a reputation for a huge grind.  I hope thats not the case in Aion.

3.  Support.  I will admit,  I’m selfish.  I’m used to American games, where the American player gets the newest patches first and doesn’t have to wait.  With Aion it looks like Korea and the Asian markets will get the patches first, the new content first and we will have to wait.  I can deal with this as long as we are not an afterthought.

4. NCSoft abandoning the game.  I played Tabula Rasa.  I thought it was a unique game with problems.  One that, with the right support and developers, could be turned into a fun game.  It was never given that chance.  NCSoft abandoned it.  I worry that Aion could turn out to be the same.  Now, Aion seems to be in much better condition than Tabula Rasa, with much better content and with a polish that Tabula Rasa didn’t come close to matching, so that will help, but MMOs are a long, tough road.  There are no “instant” successes in MMOs and that include WoW.  Developers have to have a roadmap to where they want to go, how they mean to get there and they have to stay the course even when subs are down.  Hopefully, NCSoft will do that with Aion.

So, thats my top four fears for Aion.  Anyone have others or disagree with mine?