The Game Developers Conference event in San Francisco is rolling right along and so is Aion, NCSoft's 2009 massively multiplayer online game. If you recall, Aion is a game that let you play as a winged character belonging to one of two factions that inhabits a shattered world; a "light" faction and a "dark" faction. It also let you participate in competitive player-versus-player battles, as well as demon hunts in the void between the world's halves. While Aion had some interesting ideas, many players found the game to be too severe of a "grind," requiring many hours of slaughtering monsters to gain higher experience levels (which are required to access the game's top-level areas) and the conquering of instanced areas multiple times to get a chance at the game's best items.
In response to player feedback, NCSoft has implemented additional ways of obtaining bonus experience, such as "energy of repose," which, after you log out of the game, then later log back in, grants an experience bonus when you return that is similar to World of Warcraft's "rest experience." The studio has also recently implemented "energy of salvation," which is an active experience point enhancer that gradually gives your character bonus experience for as long as you're logged into the game. In addition, NCSoft has reduced the number of instances required to get to the better loot by increasing the "drop rates" of key items so that players are more likely to find them the first time around.
NCSoft is otherwise optimistic about how Aion has developed since launch, and representatives pointed out that there are still high-level instances that have not yet been conquered by players. This means the player base still has room to grow into the content. In addition, the studio feels that the upcoming 1.9 patch will help "lay a foundation" for a better game experience going forward by implementing such changes as letting two-handed weapon classes, such as the gladiator and templar, merge two two-handed weapons to create a more powerful item (to address a character balance issue), as well as a return of the game's final instance to make it more fast paced and action packed.
The studio has no official launch date pegged for 1.9 but plans to continue dutifully bringing over and localizing content from the game's Asian version as soon as is humanly possible, considering both translation to English, as well as modifying and adding content, to make it more comprehensible and more pleasing to Western audiences.