My First Group in Aion

My goal this weekend was to get my Elyos Chanter up to the high teens in order to find a group for the elite area.  I reached that goal yesterday evening and placed myself looking for group (/lfg).  I’m still not sure how to view a list of people looking for group, or if it’s possible to set myself lfg for anything specific, but I guess it worked because I was contacted no more than 5 minuets after putting myself out there.

I ended up in a group that went to the Krall area to do some quests.  Unfortunately I had not gone to the Krall area before or worked on my campaign quests enough to be on the really good quests, so I was more or less along for the ride.  What I thought was going to be just one group ended up merging into an “alliance” which is similar to a “raid”, “wargroup”, etc.  The total size of our group was 8 members and the leader of the group decided that we would go as deep as we can go.  I was the backup healer (there was a Cleric) but with people being level 16-23 I found myself mostly healing the off-tank (Gladiator) and spot healing everyone else.

Grouping is a lot of fun in Aion – a lot more fun than soloing.  MMO vets will feel right at home, as I did, with the group dynamics.  We didn’t have any CC, but the interface feature to place symbols over NPC’s and players made it easy to see which target was first.  Our tank (Templar) had a very neat ability that sent out this glowing tendril, grabbed a mob, and yanked it back to the group.  The animation of this ability surprised me – it’s really quite good.  Pulling mobs in to the group made avoiding adds rather easy in this outdoor dungeon-like region.

This particular outdoor region is well done.  There were plenty of mobs and the respawn rate was comfortable.  In channel 10 there were 3 other groups moving around besides ourselves.  Competing for pulls wasn’t a big deal.  Bosses spawned in various areas and had fairly quick respawn rates.  Their loot was decent and the exp was supposedly very good for everyone besides myself (being level 16 killed my exp in a big group with our level range).

I really, really like the potential of grouping.  It’s reminiscent of the time I spent in places like Spindelhalla and Darkness Falls with groups roaming around getting exp and loot.  Grouping to level is a fantastic mechanic (optional or not) that promotes community and fun.  Loot does not appear to be a driving force in this area.  From what I have gathered, it appears that green items drop and can be decent enough to want them but not something you’d say “aw man I really need my greens to move on”.  It’s more of a cherry on top; That nice little surprise or addition to something already tasty.

These outdoor regions seem like the perfect place to foster that same type of experience I would have back in EQ in places like Highpass or South Karana when I’d make a shout in the zone for a group and get invited to a group of people I didn’t know to spend hours gaining exp and having fun.   It’s going to be my goal to get to these elite areas as soon as possible in each new zone.  This will be far more fun than doing the quest-hub shuffle or the grind.  Aion seems to have lots of opportunities to mix things up:  Instances, PvPvE instances,  Abyss, Quest hubs, solo grind, small-group grind, elite area group grinds, elite area group quests, and probably more that I don’t know about.

My first group experience in Aion, in a pug, makes me want more.  I’d say that’s a good sign.

  • Your experience was much like mine; a surprising and refreshing reminder of what good MMO design can be like.

    For me there were 2 major things about this area that stuck out to me;

    1) If you reach lvl 18-19 doing mostly just questing then this area is not only the only place left to explore… but it is the only place left that you have quests for (and campaign quests nonetheless). This essentially forces you to group up if you don’t want to grind out a few levels… and I enjoy a subtle shove to find a group every now & then. This is especially welcomed when it causes most everyone else to also be looking for a group, making it easy and pain free.

    2) The XP. It was phenomenal XP compared to even fast solo grinding. At lvl 19 it was ~2,000 xp per mob when solo grinding… but 10,000 xp per elite mob in a group of 4. We got to explore the whole area which is entirely off limits even to unlucky Assassins trying to stealth through, we finished everyone’s quests, got a handful of decent green items, and a top of xp at the same time. Win/win/win/win scenario.

    Brilliant design.

    To add a disclaimer though, there IS in fact a boss mob that drops some incredible loot. None of us knew about him until we stumbled upon him inside a cave, decided “what the hey, let’s kill him”, got the loot… then proceeded to do check the other 9 channels. The boss was dead in every one with other groups waiting in almost every other channel. Long respawn + channels + great loot = it’s going to be a sad farm area.

  • I ran four groups in the Krall areas, gradually finishing all the quests, and had a lot of fun with it, so much so that it was a bit difficult to go back to solo leveling. Each time I got an invite within 15 minutes of flagging as LFG. One time I didn’t, and logged off frustrated after more than an hour of grinding beach animals, but it was early morning.

    I’m hoping that in later leveling it’ll be common to hop on, flag, then head to the area of whatever group recruits you; supposedly grouping areas are numerous in the upper levels. Given the way they allot XP and loot, even if you don’t have any quests for the area group grinding should be better than solo questing. I really like that design since solo questing has worn thin for me; I’m pretty resolved not to play any more 90% solo MMOs (unless they have great writing – TOR?)

    The overall grouping was great and the amount of time spent in group built cohesion – I actually recognized a couple of people in Sanctum the next day and we exchanged waves. Not having been around for EQ or DAOC, I don’t think I’ve ever remembered PUG members afterwards unless they were spectacular failures. I can really see the setup of this game fostering server community.

    Of course, I was playing a sorc. Although it benefited me, I have to say I wasn’t thrilled with the way abilities are split up among dps. Sorc gets the cc you want for a group, both sleep and tree. On top of that, while their dots don’t stack, we do enough dps without them that taking a second sorc is perfectly viable. What do Assassin/Ranger/SM get? They should distribute serious cc to more dps classes, or design things so their silences/stuns/pet tank are more useful.

  • My lvl 13 assasin didn’t make it to any elite areas this beta weekend, but I did get into a group of four people to just farm mobs that were 3 lvls higher than me.

    Soloing has a decent amount of down time if you aren’t a healer from what I can tell, but with a group of people, this game’s fun and efficiency potential goes waaaaay up. The downtime is much less, the xp is better, and it is… omg…. social?

  • http://s83.photobucket.com/albums/j319/Longasc/AionCBW5/ – the very first pics are in the KRALL CAMP area of Verteron. What they do not show is that the boss mob, unfortunately already dead as I remembered taking a pic, dropped a blue item of outstanding quality that will last till level 30 for sure.

    Besides that, I took some pics of the lower and upper part of the Abyss plus a quest that made me fly straight to the center of the fiery ball in the middle – or well, a bit below it. I still felt somewhat like Ikarus!

  • But it should also be said that levels 24-26 are really DRY on quests, with 27 you get a slew of quest and apparently even more at level 28.

    It gets a bit grindy later for our western tastes and the first impression of the Abyss is actually not that good, the upper part of the Abyss Zone is much more impressive than the silly yellow “Sulfur Archipelago”, and “Siels Archipelago” just looks like the Netherstorm in WoW…!

  • This sirs is great news!

    Are their rare dungeon bosses (similar to EQ) that spawn infrequently with better loot? As Qpon was referring to? or was this just one spawn that probably needs to be tweaked a bit for farming reasons. And do the regular bosses sometimes drop better loot? or always same thing.

    I have really disciplined myself from playing the beta this time around, so everything is new when it goes live.. but grouping fun really will probably make or break this game for me.

  • I enjoyed the grouping experience. It was great being in a group with a templar and a sorcerer that knew how to use their CC. I went in there 3 times, and let me tell you, if you have a chanter main healing, it makes a world of difference having a sorc that doesn’t mind using their cc before dps’ing away.

  • I’m pretty sure Qpon is referring to Chief Kraka, the Krall area boss, in which case he’s a regular spawn. The channel surfing that was taking place around this spawn is annoying (though admittedly convenient if you get to him and he’s down in your channel). However, there are no channels after the 10-20 zones anyway, so there’s exactly one boss in the game where this is a problem.

    I would guess that there’s going to be some obnoxious spawn competition in the 20-25 zones, though I don’t know what group content there is in that level range. After that, instances pick up and the spawn competition design seems like it should work pretty well in the Abyss.

  • Hmmmm maybe I should give the game another go…just can’t seem to get over that it’s just like WoW, just a bit more shine to it. I never grouped though so really should try that before passing judgement on it.

  • Ohhh btw currently playing Champs and loving it. Wish you would give your thoughts on it Keen, I KNOW you have some 😉

  • This is really when the game starts to shine for me. The grouping is completely forced, but because it is forced there should not be too difficult of a time to find a few people in order to complete the quests. The quests/missions are a little grindy (50 Krall Marks = Huge), but in the end they all work pretty well.

    As you get farther along and are in your 20’s in areas such as Elten you will find that you can do pretty well grinding with 2-3 people on these elites. With multiple group/elite areas from 25+ you will be grouping more and more. You do not need to group for a lot if you do not wish to. Yet, much like FFXI, grouping is where the fun is in Aion.

    As for spawn camping, the Chieftain in Verteron is about the only elite boss that you can do this with. That being said, his respawn rate is 4-6 hours, so if you get there and he’s not there in any channel, the likelihood of him spawning for you is low. Even with being able to get lucky and have your group kill him 10 times, it only helps keep the prices at a decent place for his drops which are extremely nice.

    @Russell – I can see that you may think the game is just like WoW initially. However, the differences between the games expand greatly as you level higher.

  • Aww man i’ve enjoyed this weekend immensely. Got some great Krall groups in, Killed Kraka the Raid type boss in krall area. Met some great people that I will remember down the line.

    Please tell me Some of you guys made it through a void? and got to pvp unsuspecting enemies??? AWESOME!!! I put a small party together of six people late saturday night, and we stormed over to the lvl 20+ main area, And caused so much havoc it was hillarious!

    And I made it to lvl 23 with my chanter and I see the wonderful skillset that they have. Chanters are so adaptable and useful. Not only was I able to solo lvl 26 mobs at lvl 23 but I was also able to do it efficiently with no down time.

    And grouping???!!! Amazing, Even being the only healer and dealing with 2 crazy templars, who both said, “wow I didnt know chanters could heal so well!” (which they can’t, compared to cleric, but if you are skilled u will make due) and they decided I was good enough to handle both of them attacking separate mobs (which made my butt hurt!) and I actually didnt let anyone die! If you are a skilled chanter, grouping will never be a problem.

    @Russell Gusto – Don’t forget to alot of people, WOW, felt like many other games they have played, yet it didnt stop them from enjoying wow.

    Honestly, this game reminds me of a WOW meets L2 a bit, it has all the things that was missing from wow, and all the things I loved about L2, minus the bots so far.

    I’m loving this game already, Keep up the good work NcSoft.

  • As much as I want to play the game and put alot of time into it I’m a bit worried it’s balancing along the line of Age of Conan where we have a stretch of dry quests for a run of levels and I simply couldn’t deal with that. I need story, purpose, drive, goals that don’t focus purely around grinding monsters. I like to be distracted you could say by the shiny text.

    So in a sense I’m tempted to wait until an update or two then drop into it but I also know I’ll miss out then on the big rush at the start, have a harder time finding groups than at the time and have a more competitive time finding my way into a guild, killing bosses, etc.

    Ah the elitist raider in my is struggling to find an answer to this situation.

  • I didn’t group with my Templar this weekend, but I got maybe 5 tells asking me to tank for various groups. I consider this a really good sign, as usually in these types of betas people just put their heads down and grind, trying to get to the higher levels to “see the content”. That there’s solid, worth-doing group content at lower levels takes me back to the early days of many MMOs, including WoW and LotRO, not to mention EQ. The most fun experience I’ve ever had in an MMO is still a grind session with 5 other folks in EQ. We weren’t running a dungeon, we were just slaughtering gnolls or something.

    I concentrated on crafting, and got my armor-smithing up to 99. I’m really encouraged by the way crafting seems to work in Aion. Lower-level crafted stuff is very good for its level, but with the bottleneck of the mob-dropped refining stones nobody should be making them just to level up and dumping them on the market. I’m not sure how I feel about the whole private store thing yet, but it has some potential. It is frustrating not having a complete view of the market (hmm…no lesser armor refining stones on the AH. Wonder if I could run around the city for an hour and find a private store with some?) but it encourages entrepreneurship beyond AH arbitrage.

  • Questing, leveling speed, and anything to do with dry spells and the like should not be considered set in stone. We’re testing 1.0 right now in the NA beta weekends but the game has undergone two big changes to the leveling curve and number of quests in 1.2 and 1.5. Keep that in mind.

  • Only downside I see to this is a year later when everyone is raiding the upcoming expansions is it leaves newbies nobody to group with at these “grouping forced” levels. Making them solo grind and get discouraged.

    Good stuff though. I miss the Multiplayer part of MMO.
    Cheers.

  • @Dismantled – No worries NCsoft will find ways to help newbies who are coming in. I recently started a new account in L2 and they have added things to help newbies lvl making it tremendously easier then when I first started back in 2004.

    I’m liking Aion more and more as the weekends pass by. Looking forward to the good group dynamics that seem to be on the way.

  • @Shamutanti – While I understand your gaming motives are as valid as any other, I must respectfully disagree to the point of never wantint to see another post again like this ever.

    Anyone following the underlying discussion of this blog the last few weeks will understand that your post summarizes what many of us feel has been the ruin of MMOS.

    Damn good game mechanics, beautiful visuals, complex gameplay, social interaction… All I need is a bunch of mindless quests to string me out to the end game.. preferably with an ‘in-game guide’ so that I actually barely even need to touch my computer. I can just watch! Like a movie!

    Now understand, I am not persoanlly attacking you.. but the representation of your market value, the one that may not even realize this game has been released overseas when they first hear of it. A far different situation from AOC.

    And that is what I think about ‘shiny text’ !!!

    @dismantled – This is a fundemental problem with how new MMO levelling curves are too quick.. you can outlevel friends alts etc.. making good low-level zone design useless as everyone rushes to endgame. A company needs to stand up and either be a MMO with 90% solo play, or an MMO with 70%+ group play, where solo is viable, but definitely not optimal. I hope they don’t cave in on this.

  • Question for you folks who’ve been playing in the Closed Beta: it sounds like the content is good, and the game is polished and performs well.

    Am I the only one who doesn’t like the “feel” of the game controls? A lot of abilities require the player to stand still when using. It just doesn’t feel as fluid as other games I’ve played (e.g. WoW, LOTRO, WAR, etc).

    @Keen

    I thought you weren’t going to play in the CB any more 🙂 I’ve stayed away from CB for the same reason you stated a while back: I don’t feel like leveling a throwaway character.

    I was really itching to see Aion more, but WAR has gotten immensely better with Patch 1.3b. No more AOE cheesefests.

  • @Taugrim: Aion’s combat fluidity makes LOTRO and WAR’s look embarassing. Not sure why they were included in your list, but I agree with WoW’s being a hair smoother. Aside from spells and heals, I didn’t have any abilities I had to hold still in order to use. The controls are the same as any MMO for me – and they get better in patch 1.5 (we’re on patch 1.0 right now for some odd reason).

    Aion servers were lagging very, very badly early this weekend and it made the game feel 100x less responsive than it should have felt. This went away for the most part.

    I’ve limited myself to level 18 and under and only on the Elyos side since I’ll be playing Asmodian at launch. I think it’s a fair compromise for myself since I want to play badly, but don’t want to spoil content.

  • @Taugrim – As far as fluidity is concerned, For me, Aion performed close to the fluidity I experienced in L2 and much better than what I experienced in WAR or AOC.

    Quick question, What OS were you using to play AION?

    I have played Aion this weekend on 4 different Os’s, and fluidity and problems ranked like this:
    1=(No issues) 5=(Lot’s O Issues)

    Vista X64 sp2 = 5
    Windows XP x64 sp2 = 4
    Windows 7 RTM = 3
    Windows XP x86 sp3 = 2

    This was my personal experience, no real world Fps testing or anything, just what I noticed, with fluidity, reaction time to keypresses, CTD’s and general gaming experience,
    The same rig was used with the same components, all with updated drivers (non beta or in case of windows 7 had to use either a beta if available or vista x64 specific driver) and most recent servicepacks.

    It seems to me that windows x86 is still the best gaming rig especially when dealing with directx 9 specific games.

    If aion Patch 1.2? or 1.5 includes any Optimazations / Stability fixes, fluidity will not even be an issue.

  • The first group usually is the best. Time will tell though, as class imbalances get found out and the game ages. I’d be interested in seeing you revisit this in about six months to see if you will feel the same then.

  • @Keen:

    I mean stuff like this:
    http://www.aionsource.com/forum/chanter/9489-ask-chanter-question-get-chanter-answer-30.html#post792107

    “Yes, instant abilities (cast time 0) with longer animation durations requires you to stand still. Aion has no gcd (global cooldown) system like many other mmorpgs. Instead, ability spam is controlled by animation duration. Abilities with a cast time always requires you to stand still as well.”

    In PVE, you may not notice instant-cast abilities stopping your movement, because you might not have been moving in the first place. Mobs move very predictably and come to you.

    But PVP is a different ball game. Unlike mobs, players don’t move predictably. And this will impact you and me, since we’re both planning on playing Chanter, a melee class with very little CC.

    I will do more testing in CB6. But right now, I’m bummed NCSoft implemented instant-cast animations the way they did.

    ————————

    @Hellified:

    XP SP3

    But my issue is not a FPS issue. When I say fluidity, I mean fluidity of movement in terms of using skills, not fluidity of FPS.

    ———————————

    If any of you are interested in what I mean by movement issues, you can read/see them here:
    http://taugrim.com/2009/08/04/aion-thoughts-positives-negatives/

  • I’m not sure how that can be because I use instant abilities on my sorc and my chanter while running all the time. There is a bug (or intentional?) with auto-run (Numlock) that stops you. If you force your character to move with the controls this stop does not exist. My experience in the game seems to conflict directly with this claim.

    In fact, this claim directly conflicts with the game’s combat mechanic of moving in directions and having + to attack or +to evade. You’re supposed to be in motion a lot. Assassins use the circle strafe tactic to gain evasion chance which allows them to use their stuns. Being constantly in motion using instant cast abilities seems to be inherent to the class.

    Additionally, I do insta-cast HoT’s on people all the time as I run by them.

    Am I misunderstanding what you’re saying, or is it your experience that you can’t do those things?

  • @Keen:

    I’ve been dialoguing with veteran C-Aion players, e.g. a WAR guildee who has a 34+ Gladiator and some other veteran Chanters (45+).

    Some instant-cast abilities (e.g. the Chanter’s HoT) can be cast without stopping.

    Some instant-cast abilities have longer animations (e.g. Incandescent Blow, Rupture Blow, Pentacle Shock), and this causes an “animation root”.

    I’m a movement freak, probably much moreso than most players, so I’m sensitive to this kind of thing. Once the game goes live and we grind into the upper levels (30+) and have more abilities, we’ll see how much an effect this has on game play.

  • Incandescent Blow worked while moving for me. This “animation root” might explain some things though. If you’re not currently moving, and you hit Incandescent blow THEN try to move while the animation is going it might have you rooted in place while executing the animations for what feels like forever (in reality a split jerky second). However, if you’re in motion at the time of using it I do not believe it roots you.

    Seems like an issue with only some abilities, not an issue with the game’s combat mechanic itself.

  • @Taugrim – I also have used many skills, HOT, Inc. Blow, and the one that leads to the chain skill that stuns, while running after people in pvp all without problems. Had it caused me problems I would have noticed it and complained about it. Also I understood what u meant by fluidity, I was just expressing my feelings and saying that I hadnt done any real Serious tests in the different os’s whereas Fps is a major benchmark, for some, to convey how good a game handles. But I had noticed minor hiccups occasionally in the other os’s corresponding to responsiveness of keypresses.

  • I forgot to add that I havent made it past 23 on my chanter in beta so I dont know what the future holds as far as casting/movement but so far there hasnt been an issue as far as I remember.

    It could also be this situation, Eastern players are not as critical of things such as movement casting, it may be a minor gripe to them, as opposed to the western world where we want things to be fine tuned down to the littlest detail. So if it was an issue it may be fixed or tuned for our liking because what’s ok for them may tick us off. And i’m sure ncsoft understands the differences between cultures, another reason why they are making sure we will be playing on the most current patch come launch.

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