Aion too grindy? Nah, it’s just a matter of Concentrated Actions.

People are split right now on the subject of whether or not Aion’s leveling is too long/tedious/grindy/etc.   I’m going to focus on three schools of thought:

1.  It takes forever to level

2.  Aion has a lot of grinding.

3.  Regardless, it’s not as big a deal as older games.

They’re all correct, in my opinion.

It does take a long time to level, there is a lot of grinding, and it’s not as big of a deal as older games.  The key here is that these things are all relevant.  Relevant to what?  Relevant to the experiences we’ve had and the type of game we’re playing.  To me the game falls somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.  However, to someone who started playing mmos when WoW came around Aion is probably a huge grind.  Aion and WoW share the same basic model yet approach that model differently (even though it’s only ever-so-slightly a different approach).

I want to point towards something I call “Concentrated Action” as the main cause for the “grind” or “long time to level” complaints.  Concentrated Action represents how mmos are all about micro-acts, sprinting in the moment, and condensed content today.  We’re always doing something, always moving forward, always this and always that.  There are no real side-paths to take that are designed into the game — you may try to create them on your own, kudos, but they’re not designed into the game.

Inserted Edit: I’d like to add another thought here and I’m going to borrow the verbiage from a friend (Damage).  We’re dealing with finite game design now.  MMO’s, when they were MMORPG’s (I’ll talk about this in tomorrow’s blog entry), were designed with a wider brush stroke making the word ‘expansive’ more applicable.   MMORPGs used to be expansive in scope of design and now they are finite.

Let’s look at an example:

In mmos like Aion the main goal from 1-50 is to level up.  The game is designed for that to be the main goal and everything in the game centers around pushing the player to actively partake in it.  You have to kill mobs (lots of mobs), do quests, and run in groups.  There is no other way to play the game to level up (which I’ve established as the main goal) than to do those things (don’t mention crafting/gathering as it is NOT a valid means of leveling up.  Just don’t.)  So we kill mobs in tiny cages linear zones or accomplish mini-objectives, get a cookie, then get told to go do it again.  It’s Concentrated Action, or Concentrated Acts.

In the Aion/WoW mmo model this repeated and concentrated action makes anything you do very apparent and very much at the forefront of everything you do when you log in to play. There is no world to explore since you’re told exactly where you go at this level and told exactly what to kill.  There is no alternative activities because, as I pointed out, leveling is the dominant activity.

A-> B->C->A->B->C

The concentration of our actions is much greater and a pattern is recognizable.

In the EQ -> Sandbox Model it’s less apparent because Concentrated Action is very rare or very spread out, and thus not as apparent or recognizable.   However, it does exist in these games and perhaps even to a greater degree; We just don’t realize it.  There are other things to do, more important things to think about, places to go, people to see.

A-> B-> C-> D-> E-> F-> G-> H-> I-> J->K-> L-> M-> N-> O-> P-> A-> B-> C-> D-> E-> F-> G-> H-> I-> J-> K-> L-> M-> N-> O-> P

A pattern exists, but it is not as concentrated and takes longer and more attention in order to notice.

This is why people are going on the forums saying “I’ve played for 3 weeks and I’m only level 25!!!”  Dudes, I’m right there with you.   Based on this mmo model, you expected a greater degree of output for the amount of time you spent on these concentrated acts.  In the end you haven’t done any more  than you would do in WoW – you’ve just been rewarded less for it.

My advice to you is slow it down as much as you can and realize that Aion is going to require a much greater degree of effort per act to yield the same results as other games in the same model.  Ultimately it is not any better or worse because of it, that’s just how it is designed.  I like that Aion is this way because it’s going to draw a lot of attention to the concept of Concentrated Actions.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to leveling….

A-> B-> C-> A-> B-> C….

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