The beginnings of my Aion adventure

Holy long-time since I’ve posted batman.  Sorry about that guys.   This has been a killer week on my time.  Good news though!  The game has been functioning great for me and I’ve been timing it just right to avoid the major queues.

I’m having a blast in Aion.  I reached level 16.5 tonight and I’ve had the opportunity to experience Asmodian content that I have never seen.  I’ve been spending most of my time questing solo because, until now, most of the people I usually play with have been higher level than me.  Putting in many hours today after class allowed me to boost from 12 to 16 and start hunting in the elite area.  The elite area, which Asmodians refer to as “Black Claw” or “BC” is gorgeous.  What I’ve seen so far is a forest-like area with lots of hills and cliffs that borders the ocean.  Inside as you go deeper you come across enormous tree-like mushrooms and all sorts of really fantastic sights.   The hunting there is also a lot of fun because it brings that serious group-dynamic to the teens: Crowd control, dps, tanking, healing is all needed.

There is a real sense of cohesiveness in this game.  Everything feels brought together and a harmony exists between the world and the gameplay.  I’d call it immersion but it goes beyond that becasue it captures that “wow, I feel comfortable” sense.  Some guildies and I were talking about it today and the best description we could come up with was “This feels really good”.  It’s true, Aion does feel really really good.   It feels traditional and grassroots mmorpg.  As I level up and observe my surroundings it feels like that sense of comfort and “goodness” is increasing.  Man, what an awesome thing that is to feel in a mmorpg again.  I’ve been saying it for a while — when something is done right, you notice it.

I’m anxious to play tomorrow and reach my 20’s.  I think I’ll probably hit the high teens and do a lot of the the group quests in BC as well as some more solo content.  The pace I’m playing at right now is definitely behind the curve, but there are so many people playing that it feels like a massive world and I can just sit back and enjoy the ride, letting levels come to me instead of chasing them.

Aion’s launch is right up there with LOTRO in smoothness.  Hats off to NCsoft.

More to come tomorrow, including the pictures I’ve taken.

  • You can crank out four levels in a play session? That’s nuts. I have trouble gaining a level an hour and my character is only 12ish. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have more than 2 or 3 hours to play per day?

    Or maybe it’s because I’m a cleric on Elyos. I wonder if the Elyos content is a little less polished than the Asmodian content.

  • While I often read your posts, I don’t think I’ve ever commented. Aion is a good game, in fact, a very good game (I agree with the Black Claw area, its extremely… natural in a way). However, while Warhammer had too many servers (agh!), I think Aion would do well with another server or two per continent. I mean, an 5 hour queue is quite long, and the longest I actually ever had was an hour queue for Warhammer before September. Otherwise, Aion’s done many things right.

  • I think we should wait until everyone’s free month is up before we start demanding new servers from them. Who knows what the drop off is going to be. I’d rather keep the population as condensed as possible. If the queues are still there in late October, then I think they should add more servers.

  • @evizaer – may I suggest grouping with a sorceror, or one other DPS..

    I grouped with a cleric last night and we positively cruised through the Dukaki Mine areas, was perfect for a two group dynamic.

    It picks up once you get oriented to the new zone. What server are you on?

  • I’m trying to reconcile the penultimate paragraph with the preceeding three blog posts:

    “Aion’s launch is right up there with LOTRO in smoothness. Hats off to NCsoft.”

    Seems to me that Aion’s launch was worse than LOTRO, CO, and probably even WAR. I can’t speak for AOC.

  • Neil what do you mean it has been a bad launch my server has only gone down once and they had it back up in 30 mins. Only time I experinced lag was in the first hour of head start when everybody and there dog was logging in. Never had a que on vaizel so if your getting long ques maybe that’s a hint that you should have moved servers a few days ago?

  • @ preston

    aion is much prettier than wow
    i fell it runs smoother
    and has good pve BUT also has very good pvp
    unlike wow

    i just feel its a more polished MMO

  • I still say the game deserved a better launch without queues.

    The client and the game are of so much higher quality than their website features and queues, all seem to be still quite buggy to me. I still could not select my main char as main char, but for some reason I can now at least log in on the Aion homepage.

    Ah, BTW: Aion is not WoW. It is also not what you would like to make it if you really really want to look down on it.

    It is something alien to the western market, based more on Lineage II than WoW and it is cool, give it a chance and get out of the:

    1.) It must not be the same like WoW but
    2.) it still must play like WoW and
    3.) actually, it should be just like WoW, but innovative

    attitude. It is a lose-lose situation, there are too many contradictions in these expectations.

    I am at level 29 at the moment and the gameplay gets richer and richer. I now use blocking, directional bonus movement, interrupt key skills and all that.

    And some shocking news on top of that: WoW is massively overhyped bullcrap. The game that was really cool years ago no longer exists, it is raiding for the mentally poor at the moment. Be as critical with Blizzard as you are with other companies and their games, and stop singing the eternal song of praise how great Blizzard is (sigh!). They are good, but their good reputation is no longer in line with their actual performance.

  • I think the quesiton was whether it was fundamentally different than WoW. I didn’t see or imply any praise in that question. I would ask the same thing but maybe it needs ot be worded differently since players become so over-protective of the games they play.

    Maybe a comparison to many of the fantasy MMOs out there.

    1. Are classes different than other games? Or is it tanks, healers, casters, melee dps, range dps?

    2. Is questing the same? Any different types of quests, ways of doing them, etc?

    3. Are instances any different? Does it differ from the small mobs leads to big boss?

    4. How does crafting compare?

    5. What is the gear like? Is it plain to epic type?

    For me, I don’t want a game that feels ‘comfortable’ because of how similar it feels to other games. I want newness and difference.

    Sound like fair, objective questions but I’ll prepare for the flaming anyway 8(

  • There are plenty of servers in Aion you can go to w/o any que of any kind.

    I’ve been playing from headstart, and it has been the smoothest launch for me, ever.

    a 5 hour que is natures way of saying reroll on another server. This ain’t WoW; faction balance matters.

  • Hi there,

    I’m a long time lurker of your blog.. Keen, I have wateched you get excited about MMO’s. First WAR (which I was excited about) then Darkfall, now AION. You always seem to put a game up on a peadastal for a few weeks or months then when it falls flat on its face you go into a bleak pit of depression mulling over why this failed and why that failed. Im only saying this not a criticism but just to ask that maybe you could approach this game a bit more tentativley than you have in the past and write about it objectivley… then I would enjoy your blog more (yes thats very selfish but shy babies dont get any milk do they) 🙂 Because atm I am awaiting the inevitable “AION wasn’t what I thought it would be” post.

  • Have you had any pvp yet? I have not been following this game at all, what level can you actually start killing opposing realm?

  • @Snafzg – My character is around the same level. He just dinged 14 last night. I’ve been taking it slow, reading all the quests, mostly solo questing, and having a great time so far.

  • The dang queues are ridiculous on Zikel. Can’t leave, but most of my co-workers and friends refuse to move servers and reroll. I’m really hoping that the silly private shop fix they are implementing today fixes the issues with the queue or at least speeds it up a bit.

  • @Pan — Yeah I’ve been taking my time too. Actually, I’ve spent a few hours just gathering and crafting, which is so not what I normally do in MMOs. :p

    @smthin — You can’t PvP until level 25. At that point you can enter the Abyss (full PvP zone) and travel through rifts (portals) into your enemy’s PvE lands.

  • Based on my first 13 levels in the game:

    “1. Are classes different than other games? Or is it tanks, healers, casters, melee dps, range dps?”
    2. Is questing the same? Any different types of quests, ways of doing them, etc?
    3. Are instances any different? Does it differ from the small mobs leads to big boss?
    4. How does crafting compare?
    5. What is the gear like? Is it plain to epic type?

    Overall its a slower paced game that rewards grouping, otherwise it can definately feel a bit grindy, although not undoable solo. 1 mob a pull solo! But you can tell a lot of thought went into every detail of the game, from combat mechanics/mob behavior to visual design it all feels purposeful and cohesive.

    One thing – the level 1-10 experience absolutely sucks ass, is totally meaningless once you’ve done it a single painful time. If you are going to try Aion, just suffer thru it, because the world opens up at 10+. Its similar to AoC’s 1-20 Tortage thing, and I hope is skippable some time in the future.

  • @Tarkoins

    What I see in Keen’s posts is, passion for a game. Yay, he simply loves a game for the first couple weeks or months and then leaves in a “fail” post, but it is the passion he has for the game that makes his blog so great. You take that passion away and Keen and Graev’s Blog is just another blog in a sea of regurgitators.

    He takes a game and dives deep into it to bring you the ultimate feel for the game. Yay, I’ve bought some crappy games because of Keen’s passion, but I enjoyed playing the game for a bit. Take his passion and great narration and enjoy the feel of a game through his eyes, but wait a month before you buy 😛

  • @ Steeldragoon

    ” I’m really hoping that the silly private shop fix they are implementing today fixes the issues with the queue or at least speeds it up a bit.”

    what fix is this ur talking about?

  • @Neil: Aion’s launch has been smooth. My own experience with being unable to connect to the servers does not reflect the game, but rather an unfortunate circumstance. I still believe it was 100% AT&T’s fault and nothing on NCsoft’s end.

    Queues are NOT indicative of a bad launch! Queues are there to STOP (or try to stop) something that leads to people saying it’s a “bad launch”. You know those huge lag spikes that bring servers to their knees and make all the players in chat start screaming “WTF IS GOING ONE?!?!” Well, imagine those all the time: That would be the result without queues.

    @Preston: Yes and no. To answer your question would require a rather large response, but let me just sum it up by saying that Aion focuses more on the faction’s success at PvPing together and the group-dynamic throughout the game vs. the arcade-like PvP and the theme-park ride PvE of WoW. Neither is “better” than the other, but different — your tastes would come into play where you decide which one you like more Me? Aion because it’s like DAOC in that regard.

    @smthin: Level 20+ = PvP. Lvl 25+ = Abyss PvP (Like DAOC Frontiers). Expect me to go into great details about my PvP experiences.

    @Tarkoins: I’ve held back about Aion and didn’t hype it even once. Warhammer Online was a great example of what not to do with a game (as a blogger), and I let my DAOC/Mythic (the old Mythic, not this new monster) fanboyism really bleed through.

    I’ll stand by my methods though. I will write to you how I feel EXACTLY at THIS moment. If I like a game right now, I will tell you that I do and tell you why. When I stop liking it, I will tell you when and why. Hopefully you can glean something from that.

  • /facepalm.

    Queues are great, they’re part of a smooth launch? I think you’re smoking something.

    I’m tolerant of all sorts of problems, I assume that MMOs will be at their best about 6 months after launch even if I’m impatient and want to try them now through all of the bugs.

    But queues? Being stopgapped to play because of their own lack of foresight combined with a model that requires forced population balance?

    That’s the absolute worst for launch, right up there with anything else that flat out doesn’t let you play. It’s even worse than a showstopping bug, because it’s intentional and there are a bunch of different ways around it.

    What’s surprising is this isn’t even a fresh launch, it’s a re-launch for a secondary market.

    I’m not playing so I was hestitant to comment at all, but the whole queues are “NOT indicative of a bad launch” thing is just too absurd, too ridiculous.

  • What’s the result of not having queues Rog? Let’s explore the possible outcomes.

    1. Do away with queues.

    Immediate result: Unplayable lag. Angry customers. People immediately going to extremes about the gameplay when it’s not the game, but the server capacity.

    2. Do away with queues and add more servers.

    Immediate result: No wait to play.
    Longterm result: Warhammer Online

    3. Leave the queues in, keep the servers to a minimum.

    Immediate result: Long waits to play in the first week to 2 weeks depending on the popularity of the game.
    Longterm result: Stable population on all servers.

    I’d say I’m smoking some good ole common sense. Want some?

  • @Keen: First, I think NC Soft is probably being correct in assuming that a lot of people will cancel their preorders. That’s not reflective of the game quality, more reflective of players with no respect for paying what you’ve preordered and exploiting the system for a cheap / free trial.

    That preorder problem is probably also why they (and every other MMO) didn’t have a good understanding of what their demand would be, because the numbers won’t end up being accurate to their actual longterm playerbase.

    I’m also not all that critical on NC Soft overall on the queues for launch, because they’re just taking the cheapest and quickest option for their bottom line.

    Warhammer had queues as well. Population imbalance issues for WAR were a design issue. They came to the right conclusion that forcing people into balance choices doesn’t work. And in the long run, having a large and active game population is what’s most needed for this style of PvP.

    The difference I think where Aion will succeed where WAR didn’t is because the rest of the game appears to be more complete. IE: PvE doesn’t suck.

    What I’m ridiculing is not NC Soft’s decisions, but the premise that because those decisions may be sound, it therefore makes it a clean smooth launch. That’s some kinda messed up logic there and I think you just really want to attach a positive milestone to a game you like.

  • If they didn’t have these caps the population would repeat WAR with Asmodians running wild. Like Keen said, if they didn’t cap the servers Lag would have crashed 2-3 servers and nobody would ne playing.

    I bet if WAR had this 20/20 cheeba, they would have smoked it all year long. Aion is coming out with more servers, but I think they should wait a bit and balance what they have. I don’t want a repeat of WAR’s unbalanced game. I think NCsoft is playing it smart.


  • @Scarybooster: Did you even read what I wrote? Yes, NCSoft is playing it smart.

    Could they avoid the queues? Absolutely. Should they? Probably not.

    Does that make it a smooth launch? That’s delusional.

  • @Rog
    yay, I read the first part and posted my comment after your second part, but I was too late and didn’t see your second part. It was my lack of typing slow on iPhone with lack of refresh abilities. I guess it is my situation from my point of view and the lack of 20/20 to do my comment the right way. Sry bout that.

  • @Tarkoins

    I think you are correct. But, I also think that we *all* do that to some extent. We rush out to buy the next shiny box, then after some time we break through the shiny facade, and see the game for what it really is.

    Fair enough, Keen should at this time developed some cynicism against games from being disappointed so many times, but i dunno.

    my measurement of the quality of games is how long Keen is high about them, and how brutal the bipolar swing is when he breaks the shiny cover of the game.

  • @Scarybooster: No worries. I realized after my first comment it was incendiary and tried to indicate how it fits in with the second.

    I hope Aion does well and I expect it will. Having another mass-market MMORPG succeed would be great.

    I am critical that the PvP faction-based model lends to balance issues and queues in the first place, but that’s the model Aion has chosen so this is what they’ve had to do to match. Arguing against Keen’s bullet points would be like arguing against the game itself, which I’d be happy to do in a reasonable conversation but it’d just come across as detractor versus fan.

    It’d be a nice discussion to have at some point, but there’s no sense right now because it’d probably come across as raining on the new game parade.

    Queues suck, but players who like the game will sit them out and play anyway. That’s NCSoft’s bottom line.

  • @Rog: Queues don’t = smooth launch. Don’t get me wrong either. Queues are a mechanism that helps lead to a smooth launch. Queues being in are a GOOD thing because of how NOT having them plays out.

    The launch is smooth for many other reasons: Little to no downtime and short patches to solve real problems, great communication from their team, fantastic performance in-game, etc.

  • Yes, queues are frustrating and yes NCSoft is making some hard choices. Most of them are the right choices for the long term viability of their game with what they can do with the technology they have available right now.

    I’m curious to see what kind of complaints they’ll have in the forums after all of the queueing is gone. The classes are really well balanced, the game client is solid, the player race balancing system is working well which is great for PvP, and what I saw in the CBT forums for complaints suggests there’s not a lot of foundational problems to be solved.

    While quickly logging in may be a short term issue, compare it to many other launches where you see all of the unbalanced classes, unfinished areas, basic game mechanics that don’t work, etc. Aion, in comparison, is a breath of fresh air. It’s imperfect like anything else, but it gets a lot of things right.

  • Eh, whether you have a blast now or not isn’t really relevant. With you, it’s whether or not the game can make you stay long-term. You tend to be very enthusiastic about a game at start, but can drop off very quickly, and I will look forwards to your stance on Aion in 30 to 45 days from now.

  • What I’m gathering is that after getting into the game itself, things are smooth. And that’s good. It’s getting through the queues that is bad. No one wants to wait … they want to get in there and play.

  • I think the real quality of this game will known in 3 months. If Keen lasts 3 months, it’s a good game. If he is shopping for something else by then, it isn’t a good game.

  • Fast leveling! I’m still level 7 5 days since I started playing 😀 I’m such a slacker, I know 🙂

    I agree with you about the “feel”. It does feel like a serious and professional MMO. Guess we’ll see how things look for them in 1 month when the subs kick in.

  • I’m level 19 on Azphel as a Elyos Cleric. On this server, queues have been 2 1/2 to 3 hours during prime time. I think we have had 2-3 server crashes a day. I’m pretty sure most of the other servers are more stable. Hoping they get it fixed soon but I’m being patient….it will lessen up. Game plays great most of the time…until lag hits and it crashes. I’m happy with the gameplay, crafting, etc. It’s very enjoyable to me. I’m just about to do the Krall group quests.

  • Yes there were queues, but Aion’s launch is undoubtedly one of the most smooth launches in MMO history. If you want to gripe oabout queues, you should have been there for the launch of Darkfall. Now that game had queues!

  • Quarter of the way from level 24 to 25 here on my gladiator, and I’m having a blast. (I don’t expect this leveling rate to continue, I had a lot of free time this week.)

    But I can’t really say why. There’s a lot that has already been done in other games, and there are flaws that I can most certainly think of. But I’ve been playing it a lot, and I still want to play it more. There’s just something very satisfying about it. Like Civ style games, where you constantly are getting something done, while something else is half way there, so just a few more minutes and that’ll be completed…

  • The 20+ PvP is a blast. Absolutely great to have asmodians appear in your leveling area to break up the PvE. The rifts provide great entertainment. I haven’t quite gotten to 25 yet, but I’m eager to check out the Abyss for sure.

    Let me tell ya, when a group of asmodians show up in Eltnen, and somebody posts the location link in chat, you better get there quick or you’ll miss out, lol. It’s really cool to see the realm sort of rally together.

    There is no doubt in my mind this game has all the makings of a superior spiritual successor to DAoC than WAR was.

  • in case it wasn’t stated enough, for those that are amazed at how smooth and bug free the game is, it’s been out for closing in on a year now! I should hope it’s in a pretty good state at that point 😉 this is like the 4th release of the game. on a different note, keep talking about it Keen so I might be tempted to try it out =D

  • PS. Fixing the private store issue meant I sat in a Lumiel queue for 17 minutes last night during prime time compared to 1 hour and 17 minutes.

    I think people just need something to complain about this game and they latched on to the forced balance mechanic. Should Aion have had three PLAYABLE sides? Damn straight imho. Are they mitigating against imbalance way better than WAR? Damn straight imho.

    At least they’re making up for their design flaws by making some smart decisions on the server end of things.

  • Must resist urge to start playing a new MMO… 😀

    Aion sounds pretty good tbh. I have almost no background knowledge of it. I think that’s a good thing.

    It’s kinda strange that I haven’t been planning play Aion at any point but now I feel that new MMO thing again. Looks like I’ll just have to pick it up.

    I don’t play much during prime time, which means the queues probably won’t bother me much either.