Aion: Tower of Eternity Q&A - Battles, Flight, and Balancing Aion for Western Audiences

Community manager Lani Blazier discusses flying, fighting, and how Aion: Tower of Eternity will cross borders as both a competitive Asian-style massively multiplayer game and a more Western-style quest-based game.

Massively multiplayer games used to be about creating a single character, repeatedly beating up goblins until you gained an experience level, and then going out to beat up slightly larger goblins in a huge, persistent world. They've grown and changed considerably in the past years. NCsoft's Aion will attempt to take massively multiplayer games straight up--to the sky. This unusual fantasy game will let you create a character from one of two races that, at a certain experience level, can sprout wings and fly. And at an even higher experience level, your character will be ready for the game's high-end competitive player-versus-player (PvP) battles. We sat down with community manager Lani Blazier for the details.

Aion will let you do battle with demonic foes, or just fly away from them.

GameSpot: Give us an update on the game's development and localization. What's being worked on at present?

LB: Work on the game is progressing very well. Since Aion's gameplay mechanics were originally developed for a global appeal, we've been able to spend a lot of time focusing on significant localization. And by localization, I don't mean just the text--stories, culture, fables, and even inside cultural jokes all need to be considered and rewritten for the Western audience. It's for that reason we have a team of highly skilled published fantasy writers working on Aion's story. Effectively, they are culturalizing the game. We really want to make sure that Aion is relevant and meaningful to Western players, so it's important to us that we launch this game with localization that is on the same exceedingly high level of quality as the game itself.

GS: We understand that the actual combat system in Aion has been designed to be more engaging by letting characters juggle their opponents in the air, and also by including onscreen icons next to your character to initiate chain attacks (rather than requiring players to stop, look down at their keyboards, and hunt down another keyboard shortcut). What are some of the other changes that Aion makes to the kind of standard turn-based combat we expect from games like this? What do you hope the overall combat experience will be like?

LB: Certainly flight adds an entirely new dynamic to our combat system. For one thing, it isn't just a way to travel; it is very much a strategic and integral part of gameplay. You can also fight while flying, keeping in mind that there are a few factors that players will have to be very much aware of: flight time, speed, and the environment around you. There are both PvP and PvE skills that affect flight duration and speed--some skills will even knock you down from the sky.

We also wanted to reward those players that move around during combat, which is why we created the "positional combat system." If players move forward, points are added to their attack stats; backward [movement] adds to [their blocking ability], and moving from side to side adds to players' dodge points.

Flight and our positional combat system are just two examples of the mechanics we have in place to make combat a really fun and exciting part of the game.

GS: To what extent is the game being rebalanced and retuned for a North American launch? The original version of the game was released to an audience that might be more used to a steep experience-level curve where players need to sink many hours into the game to get ahead. How is the game being returned? Are fights shorter? Gentler level curve? Lower level requirements?

Aion's combat system is designed to be much more dynamic than sitting around pressing hotkeys.

LB: The core gameplay itself has not been rebalanced for the Western audience, mainly because there was no need to. From the drawing board, Aion was designed to appeal to a global audience--the development team looked closely at games from all across the world and did extensive research on what worked and what didn't. What they decided to do was combine the epic beauty and intricate details of Asian games with the deep storytelling, quest-based systems familiar to Western MMOs. So to answer your question, the leveling curve is very similar to what Western audiences are familiar with.

GS:How has the focus of high-end player-versus-player been shifted? Will the extremely high-end content, like Abyss battles, be more accessible to average players, and if so, how, if at all, is this high-end content being tweaked for the higher traffic?

Players of a variety of levels will be able to get involved with higher-level PvP and raiding.

LB: The Abyss will be accessible to players level 25 and above. While it will involve a lot of end-game content, such as fortress sieges, raids, and epic Abyss battles, the fact that players level 25 and above will have access to it will ensure that there will be a wide range of levels roaming about.

The Abyss is essentially the heart of player-versus-player-versus-environment (PvPvE). We didn't want players to pick a path in our game by choosing a route between PvP and PvE; as a result, both styles have been intertwined in order to encourage players to participate in both and be rewarded for both. Players will need to prepare for both PvE and PvP when laying siege to fortresses, fighting for artifacts, and for general exploration and hunting. The Balaur (the PvE faction) will act on its own accord and provide a challenging and often surprising adversary in a PvP engagement. Or a legion can take on just the Balaur in a giant PvE raid.

Players will also be able to earn Abyss points (the core reward behind PvPvE) from participating in both PvP and PvE. The points a player earns can be spent on gear and consumables, but some points can also be lost when you die. The continuous gain and loss of Abyss points will keep players participating and not just sitting on rank or gear once they reach the top.

We really believe that PvPvE creates a new dynamic in the genre and that players are going to find a wide variety of exciting things to do.

GS: We understand that although players can start with a basic character class, they can eventually move on to one of two more-specialized professions. What are the primary roles that these professions can play? What characters are needed to put together a well-balanced war party?

LB: There are a wide variety of roles that these professions can play. Players can choose to use them in more traditional roles, such as a gladiator as a main damage dealer or tank, and a priest as a typical healer. When you use these together, you can form a very traditional group of damage dealers (melee), ranged attackers (scouts and mages), and support members (healers and buffers). However, with Aion's "stigma stone" system, players can also choose to break those traditional roles and customize their character for whatever the group needs are. If you have a group of players with no healer, then a player can locate and equip a group heal stigma stone. If you have a group of melee characters and need a ranged attacker, you can have one of the characters equip a ranged magic stigma stone. With the stigma stone system, we allow players to adapt to whatever situation they are in, and they can choose for themselves what role their characters play in a group--traditional or otherwise.

GS: We understand that thousands of quests are being added to the game to provide a deeper player-versus-environment experience. Tell us about these quests and what's being done to make them interesting.

LB: There are two types of quests in the game: campaign and standard quests. Campaign quests are tied in with the main storyline, whereas standard quests are more specific to a certain region and are used to complement the main story arc.

The developers have worked incredibly hard to make Aion a deep, quest-friendly game--which is why we are launching with more than 1,500 quests, all of which have plenty of solo content. Some quests will obviously be more challenging than others, and grouping could help accomplish it more easily, but there is plenty of action for both solo and grouped players.

You'll find plenty of competition from other players and from hostile monsters in the Abyss.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Aion?

LB: We'd like to encourage those who are interested in Aion to keep checking our Web site for updates. Our community is growing every day, and we have a lot planned for the months leading up to launch! Stay tuned!

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Discussion

82 comments
epicalyx
epicalyx

Is there gonna be a monthly fee?

Jin_Kazawa
Jin_Kazawa

This game is pure Korean grind. The only difference between other games of this type and Aion are: 1. This game has excellent graphics (if you're into semi-plastic, shiny looking things) and 2. You pay to play. Korean version allready has item mall BESIDES monthly fee. I would wait for some time, cause it will turn free. But even if it turns free I doubt it will keep players.

Abberon
Abberon

Don't bother with this game. It's utterly devoid of personality and character and it offers NOTHING new in terms of game play. The music is cheesy (lame rock and roll combat music) the graphics are EXTREMELY over-hyped (the artistic direction sucks and the landscapes look VERY bland) and finally the PVE is an extremely linear kill/gather 'x' quest grind. I haven't played WoW in over a year but seriously, everything Aion does WoW does better and it looks better and feels better doing it.

jimmy2shoes
jimmy2shoes

It said in the review create a character from one of two races, theres 3 ? Anyway they didnt have any problem in Korea filling 75 servers up, leaving thousands dissapointed. 10,000 a server.

Dacz
Dacz

Open Beta will be up tomorrow. No news yet?!

ratchet200
ratchet200

Might need a bit more convincing with this one. Nothing really stands out thats different to any other MMO out there. Spose we'll just wait and see.

hobobobo00
hobobobo00

ive never bought stock before, but i got a feeling that i should i buy a whole ****load of ncsoft stock right now while the game isnt launched yet =P

Dark_December
Dark_December

I agree with Ceil, the game is coming up nicely, it is very user friendly. The story is well presented, it is also immersing as the voice acting is good, no more or less. Some quests even have a cinematic intro, just so you know what to expect. And one thing is for sure: this game is GORGEOUS! It's a definite buy for any MMORPG fan, it can really become a WoW killer, in my opinion. And if not, let's just hope kids and drama queens stay on WoW and mature players go with Aion.

Ceil
Ceil

I just ended the beta this last weekend and I have to state that the game has a mythological feel to it, where wow is a more fantasy feel. I love the storyline feature and the fact that they separated the story and standard quests. Leveling was awesome and collection of gold (kinah?) kept you with enough money to get needed items right away. The other aspect I liked was the mapping of the quests. How many times have you gone to Alakazam or other database sites just to find out where your suppose to be? And, the time it took to look up these quests. Don't need it in this mmo. It had a couple of bugs, which players reported and Im sure the devs will fix, but I am really looking forward to launch time. As a matter of fact, Ill be totally bored until I can play Aion again.

evildom85
evildom85

looking forward to that. even if I don't have that much free time on my hands anymore, looks like this one could interest me for a bit :) gonna get that pre-order thingy :)

Dark_December
Dark_December

Chain attacks and flight combat are a welcome addition to the traditionnal MMO gameplay. That being said, my concern is regarding the adaptation of the script and dialogue. I'm sceptic it can really bonify this game because I've played countless asian games that were poorly adapted for the western audiences. And by the way (anti-flamming comment incoming) it's not because it's asian that it's lame, it's just that the 2 cultures are waaaay different from each other, often leading to bad dialogue or weird humor. And since the story is a major part of the immersion players might seek, it would be sad that this would be neglected. I'm playing on the closed beta this weekend, hope I can come up with good news about this in the near future. *fingers crossed*

mason35
mason35

been playing aion beta since it came out got :on it because of my dedication to tabula rasa,i will say at first i was not really into it,after level 20 though it gets pretty good, considering i usually dont go for fantasy games, its def nothing like WOW, "THANK GOD FOR THAT!!!!" as i beta tester in aion, i would rate is as a wow killer!!!! BACONSQUAD

ZuberaiGF
ZuberaiGF

Well I don't really see a big problem with it just because it might seem a bit like WOW. Obviously people like WOW and it has a very good formula so why not use a similar system if that's what works and what everyone likes?

wolf0
wolf0

this looks cool not a big MMO fan but i kind of want to play this

zephonwing
zephonwing

playing the game right now ... certainly not as radical as it claims to be, and certainly not as PVE-friendly as GuildWars, though it does have a very WoW feel to it. Granted, there is a certain awe when you come across the first PVE quests, but they are not as involving as GuildWars. The quests are still basically down to "kill 10 of this kind of monsters"; "harvest 10 items" and repeat. Combat... chain-attacks are fun and rewarding, since they could easily do 5x~10x the damage of your normal attacks (yeah, your normal attacks have a very low damage rate for a MMO) The character creation system is comparable to Oblivion, meaning you can customize almost every aspect of your character. It is a pretty game, artistic style similar to Lineage II, and the system requirements are not THAT high; here's the minimum system requirements: CPU: AMD Sempron 2800, or INTEL Pentium 4 2.8G. Memory: 1G GPU: NVidia Gefore 6600, or AMD Radeon 1550 (Chinese/Taiwanese build, released 7.7.2009)

niels530
niels530

i love this game but has it monthly fees?

eo_the_shaman
eo_the_shaman

i do believe its all in real time and like moving affects your attacks and defences like some1 attacks you you block and take a step back ur blocking and moving away from him so alot less damage is done rather u stay and get hit and block

BlazeEagle
BlazeEagle

Is this real time or turn based? This article wasn't clear on that aspect.

RPGOmen
RPGOmen

"If you have a group of players with no healer, then a player can locate and equip a group heal stigma stone. If you have a group of melee characters and need a ranged attacker, you can have one of the characters equip a ranged magic stigma stone. With the stigma stone system, we allow players to adapt to whatever situation they are in, and they can choose for themselves what role their characters play in a group--traditional or otherwise." It's about time a MMO figures out that this is exactly what you need to promote the continued and unabated playing of a game without waiting for hours for a group due to a lack of healers or tanks and thus quitting out of frustration. FFXI tried to remedy it with their level synch systems and the ability to change classes, yet games such as WoW still take hours upon hours to find a group for something if you're not a tank or healer and depending on your server/faction.

austinlh
austinlh

I agree with Davidmindy, Most of the Asian games I have played were quite entertaining, and I did have fun with RF Online. Now, I am not entirely excited about Aion being one of those grind-fest games (Hopefully, they take a more Guild Wars approach to it), but if it is, then I will not mind. Really, if you don't like the style of play in a game, don't play it.

draket15
draket15

From what I've seen, the graphics look astounding... I agree with kills when he says he hopes his computer can run it because I sure hope so too. Finally something to replace WoW I think.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Only games in the future for PC look like they'll be MMO's. Come to think of it, maybe ALL video games will be MMO's in future.

killswitch88
killswitch88

Looking good still, will probably try this if my computer can handle it.

brunorr
brunorr

I somewhat agree with IXIWhistIXI. I don't see anything new about this game apart from flying.

davidmindy
davidmindy

I playing the game now (Chinese retail) and I normally read the comments and laugh , BUT the comment fromIXIWhistIXI was too funny to ignore. statement "They should really just focus on one market for a game so the game can do insanely well in that market than so-so in both." More than half the players who play WOW live outside America Google it. high enough to fly is level 10 ( even if your a bad player it would take to 2 days) and you cant fly forever ( a minute or two when you first start) It can only fail in the western market since it won Game of the year in Korea and has a million accounts in China. It is P2P and most likely will have a monthly fee when it comes to America. I have played a few Asian games and I will admit they are different and mainly to difficult for the casual taste of an American gamer, but even the Asian version is built in the mold of western style MMO, You should play a game before you comment on how all games are the same

Hazzerz
Hazzerz

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

patto01
patto01

They shoulda skipped this so they could release Blade & Soul sooner. Still gonna give this a run when it comes out.

IXIWhistIXI
IXIWhistIXI

I don't get high hopes for any asian mmo... And I never get high hopes when a game lists some stupid feature it has as one of the selling points. These asian games are all the same so they rely on their one "unique" feature to sell the game to players. "WHEN YOU GET HIGH ENOUGH YOU CAN FLY!" (FlyFF an this game apparently) "GET IN HIGH SPEED CARTS AND DRIVE REALLY FAST" (rose online) Neither of those games really were anything new past those functions and one slightly unique travel function in a mmo really isn't going to make the game GOOD. Dunno, at least they do have guild wars experience behind them so hopefully the game will play decently but in the end they are trying to make a international game...this more than likely means it will fail for both markets, asian and western. They should really just focus on one market for a game so the game can do insanely well in that market than so-so in both.

MidniteShadow
MidniteShadow

The next revolution for MMOs is non script fights, thats why PvRpVP and RvR is stepping it up a notch :). Fighting a human controlled character is alot more interesting and fun then script fights. And yeah MMOs do look/feel the same, but thats how it is, you can say that about shooters and rpgs.

Sideras
Sideras

"I once remember people drooling over a "revolutionary" game engine for MMO's. That game was called AoC, and look at it now. " Look at it now? It's doing good now. It had a weak release but the game is going in the right direction. Welcome to MMO's.

sircyrus
sircyrus

The sounds of this reminds me of RF Online. The path the player will take (minus flying) is pretty much identical. And with the way the NCsoft rep evaded the question about the leveling curve, I'm thinking it's going to be glorified grind, just like RF Online as well.

Vlaimir_Lem86
Vlaimir_Lem86

@kupacmac I once remember people drooling over a "revolutionary" game engine for MMO's. That game was called AoC, and look at it now.

Vlaimir_Lem86
Vlaimir_Lem86

Chinese open beta has ended (p2p now), but on April 30th, a new set of servers are opening up and allowing 15 days of free play. Alot of english players headed that way, and an easy english patch helps with the quest. You guys should check it out.

whitemute
whitemute

We have been promised new and cutting edge MMO gameplay that "breaks the mold", but most of those promises fall a bit short. Here's hoping their claims are real!

D3j1k0
D3j1k0

sounds like fly for fun without the horrendous grinding and (with)decent quests. I'll need to keep an eye on this one

nurse_tsunami
nurse_tsunami

Looks intriguing, but I'll have to find out more about it. There have been several MMOs I thought looked good, and even played well for a little bit, but then got bored with when grinding became too much for me. My biggest interest in purchasing this will be if I can convince my friends to give it a try and how easy it is to group up in the game. While PVP is fun, I hope there is also a strong PVE side with dungeons and raids and such. Smaller raids are what I miss most from WoW (10-20 man).

ssgohan
ssgohan

This game is not looking to be something at all like WoW , Its even going to be better for sure , i am currently in the Chinese version and PvP is Epic!!!. Even if there are 2 factions that keeps a game stable , the 3rd faction (Balaurs) are NPCs that Own as much as a player lol. This is all a strategic game with your skills and flying , well flying is alot better than ground fighting as u fly/attack/and have a 33% in accuracy :D , Questing is amazing , there are group quest s, infiltration quests (You go the to Other Factions world with a force consisting of 10-20 players and basically Raid) , and missions are the best part of it :D This game is definetly looking to be a top mmorpg in 2009 or 2010 , Thats if they freakin' Stall it to release longer >

Valyndir
Valyndir

Not to nit pick here, but I disagree with the first line of this Q&A. While I am personally looking quite forward to Aion, MMORPGs used to be about a lot more than just grinding and killing, UO, SWG (Pre-CU), etc. MMOs in my opinion have been dumbed down for the "massive" market and I don't think we'll ever see them return to what they once were. That being said, Aion looks very promising because it keeps a now tested system and does nothing but add to it.

Roland123_basic
Roland123_basic

" trumafioso Posted Apr 21, 2009 9:09 pm MT From the videos of gameplay I've seen and what I have read up on it, I am of the opinion that while it'll be eye candy, I don't see how a game limited to 2 races can prosper. The boredom factor of the factions, along with the limited flight ability seem to have the earmarks of a generic MMO. That being said I will most likely give the game a try and judge it on gameplay and not the opinions and images I've seen. There is always hope." ummmmm..... wow only has 2 factions and it prospers. and there arent only 2 factions in Aion, there are 3. one is completely controlled by the server, and is used to raid towns and create havok in the world.

Ngeldu5t
Ngeldu5t

I must lol at the comment about western MMOs are better than Korean MMOs.Sorry man but most western MMOs released during the last 5 years are all the copy of a copy and western players like to be spoonfed,everything served on a silver platter,no death penalty,solofest from start to max level. Aion is a good game and I can't wait to play when it releases in NA/EU.

sub-raid
sub-raid

WOW will still be better.

tommynj
tommynj

WOW had it's time now it is Aion's turn. Aion may not be the most innovative thing but it is well polished and the gameplay looks great. Looking forward to playing at launch!

Cynthe
Cynthe

Been following this game for 2 years, pretty much almost 3 and it's going to be a heck of a fun ride!!!!!!!!! Those of you doubting and not giving this a fair shot with be missing out on a wonderful and challenging experience. Gaming is looking hot in fall 2009.

kupacmac
kupacmac

Hopefully this won't be another WoW clone as some are saying. WoW is really starting to show it's age. Personally I think the market is ripe for a game to become a WoW beater as people are getting bored with it and looking for something better. Will Aion be it? Possibly. Personally I'm keeping an eye for Hero's Journey (if you haven't heard of it, go check it out) since new MMO makers (such as Bioware) are drooling over its revolutionary new game engine.

aura_enchanted
aura_enchanted

you see people the SECOND someone says the words "new MMO" they immideately back the flavor of the month (be it EQ.LOTR, Warhammer, WoW, etc.) and start thrashing it so they dont have to jump on the bandwagon. their afraid of changing the established order unless someone tells them its okay and that it wont hurt them socially or w/e so here you go calm down your going to be okay and if you cant stand the sting of switching who your paying monthly fee's then why did you bother getting an MMO in the first place KID!

Oni
Oni

"They r all trying to copy wow..." and WoW copied Warhammer, Warhammer copied LOTR and LOTR copied Grimm's Fairy tales and so on and so forth. WoW took all it's ideas from EQ but did it right. Who cares? If this game is fun that's all that matters.

NeoEnigma
NeoEnigma

I get worn of people's predictable comments. I've been playing this game for 3 days... and have never been so excited about an MMO. It's not a typical korean WoW clone. It's a AAA title that a LOT of money and effort has gone into. When you play it... everything works. I've found zero bugs. Gameplay is smooth. Servers are very responsive, considering the servers are in China. The flight system is limited, but a great aspect and gliding away from a tough situation will save your ass almost every time (assuming you have even a SLIGHT slope to glide down). The combat is fun. Monsters are great. The world is detailed and pretty. The weakest parts are the story and grind aspect, but even the story is better than MOST MMORPGs out there. WoW being one of the exceptions. The payment system for now is based on the way they do it in China. You pay for hours you want to play. So if i can only play 4 hours tomorrow, I'll only use up 4 hours I paid for. And the hours are pretty cheap. I hope it stays that way.