Why I am enjoying Aion!

After my last post I started to think about why I was enjoying Aion. It is everything that I should dislike about MMOs, but I was still enjoying it. I have narrowed it down to a few key elements that have mixed to create the “Aion Perfect Storm”.

I believe the main reason is my real life job is currently really stressful with a project that is quickly spinning out of my control and stressing me out. On top of work being stressful I am just finishing building a house. When work/life is really stressful I feel and extra need to get lost in a game.

Aion’s main mode of game play is grinding. This is mindless and totally not stressful so I am drawn to this type of game play. There is really nothing better than getting a go kill 20 of these and return to me for your reward type of quests. I think it is a throwback to some old school camping that I enjoyed in DAoC and EQ and it just pulls my nostalgia strings.

Aion also offers me a completely new and beautiful world for me to explore. Exploration is a huge motivator for me in games. I love visiting new worlds and discovering cool new things. Exploration is why I was first attracted to MMOs, at that time there was no other game that had an open world to explore.

I think all of this coming together at this point in my life is making me like Aion. I do not pretend that this game is anything other than an grind fest. But right now that is what I want in a game. I feel that there are a lot of other people who feel the same way, considering the sales numbers for the game. I know that eventually I will grow tired of this grind and move on to different game. I doubt it will take that long. But until then I will enjoy Aion.

Anti Virus Software

I happen to be a network administrator in real life.  I have never ran any sort of virus protection on my computer.  I did not like the performance hit or the constant pop ups.  I have gone years with out getting any infections.  I just used smart computing; not downloading files from places I did not trust, using FireFox, and just general common sense.

Thursday morning I read some news about the conflicker worm and decided to make sure I had updated windows. So I click on the little windows update button and what do you know, windows update can not be found. Strange! So I try to go to avg to download the software and run a quick scan, Avg.com can not be found. Now this is starting to worry me. I grabbed my trusty computer fixing flash drive. Install avg grab the patches from my laptop and run it.  It finds nothing.

I then head to google to find out what the heck is happening. Well after hours I find out that this is a conflicker type worm. I download the cleaner on my laptop and transfer it over to my desktop.  Double click on it. Nothing happens. I have dealt with this before I change the name of the file and it runs. Finds nothing.  Now I am getting frustrated. I throw several different scanners and cleaners at. Nothing is found. I try to boot to safe mode and what do you know it crashes and will not let me get into safe mode.  I take the hard drive out plug it into my now protected laptop and scan it. Nothing! Try a different program scan again nothing.

I work on this for a day and finally find Dr. Webbs cure it. Run it. It finds it and finds it on my trusty thumb drive, cleans it and then my computer is fine. I think that I got it from a friends computer I was trying to fix with my trusty thumbdrive.

Now I want to find a good virus program that would not hamper my gaming in any way at all.  I know Norton and Mcafee are complete crap. I also know that while I use avg a lot it is not some thing that I want running all the time.  I did some research and came up with BitDefender Gamesafe.  It has a free trial so I am trying it out and so far I have not noticed ANY performance hit. I am still not sure I want to spend $24 on virus software, by the time the month is up I will have forgotten how bad the experience was and uninstall it.

Mission Based Questing

I am on a questing kick in my last few posts.  I believe that questing and how it is done is what is breaking the MMO experience for me.  If a company were to mix all of these elements together in some way, I believe that it would be the perfect MMO. Or I am just getting sick of the whole genre and I should go buy a Wii and play a bunch of shitty casual games.

Mission based questing is a quest system that uses personal or group instances a lot.  City of Heroes uses this in most of its quests as does Dungeons and Dragons online. Anarchy Online was the first to to do it and it was a big selling point for them and it would of worked had you been able to play AO in the first 3 months. The idea is simple go to a NPC and they give you this quest/mission to go here and find some thing or do some thing.  You then go somewhere on the map and zone into your own private questing area and complete the task.  The areas are usually full of mobs and a few bosses. When you are done you get a reward.

The benefits of this type of system is the ability to control the encounter. You can have scripted events and mobs that act a little smarter because they are in a controlled environment.  You can tell better stories and the experience is not hampered by other players.  You also do not run back and forth much for the quest, you get there and you spend 20 -30 minutes completing your task.  This is very good for casual players, it allows you to log on do a quest that you actually make some progress on your character on and log off.

A few recent games have dabbled in this and have had some success. Age of Conan does it pretty well in the first 20 levels after that it is back to the old fashioned run here and do this and run back type of questing.  DDO relies extensively on this and as a result does not have a very large world to explore.  LOTRO does this for its epic story line and a select few quest most of them are group based. WAR does not do this at all and it would be a very welcome addition.

I want this type of questing to be an option that you can do any time and do not need a quest to do.  I want to be able to grind these if I want. The questing zones must be very well done not random like a lot of the previous games have done. There needs to be mini missions inside that grant you extra experience or gear,  like killing all of the mobs, finding the rare chest, or finding the secret room.  The quest giver needs to be stationary so all quest to this particular mission area are given by one person. You could create story arcs.  Just the act of zoning in could start the quest.  They must be repeatable.

All of this must be mixed with other types of advancement to give the player the option to level how they want to.  This is all about choice, we play these games to have fun and we should be able to choose how we would like to play, and one person should not be penelized for doing something different.

Three things that are wrong with current MMOs

1.  Quest Based Advancement

All current major MMOs advancement is based on completing quest. This started with WoW and that trend has continued. In the beginning of MMOs this was not the case. UO did not have any real quests and while Everquest had that in its name questing was not the main way to earn experience. Everquest relied on the camping mechanic, stay in one spot and kill lots of things for hours. The quests were a way to get loot not advance your character. Every game after that point used this mechanic in some way. They all tried to stop the camping problem but none of them were very successful.

Then the “Next Generation” of MMOs were released, these were World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 both of these games brought quest based advancement as the main way to level. There was still some camping involved but most experience was gained through completing quests. Now every game that comes out tries to take this to the next level and does it wrong. The problem with quest based advancement is that you spend to much time getting to and from the quest objectives. They are really just running exercises. They are all the same, go here and kill this, go here and talk to him. Camping has pretty much disappeared entirely.

A middle ground should be reached where camping is still an option. Camping was a good way to build community because you get to talk to your group mates instead of running around trying to find the last sick bear. I think they should mix up camping and make more instanced dungeons for groups. Maybe make them random with a token system so that you can pick what you want. This way they could make some generic story lines and make some really cool instances. DDO does this very well. You could also combine the questing and grinding by giving out xp rewards for killing 1000 spotted owls. They would need to bring back static spawn points to make this work. Players need a wide variety of play options and each one needs to be about equal to keep a play type from dominating the other.

2.  WoW

The Juggernaut World of Warcraft is going to destroy MMOs. Every game since WoW has followed them. Just like EQ before, it sets the bar and is the game that every new game is judged against. The problem with this is it is not a very good game. It is not revolutionary. It looks like crap. The classes are all generic. It is really a casual EQ. But it has become so big that any game that does not manage to get 1 million subscribers is considered a failure. Before WoW EQ was king with 400,000ish players. This is what every one strives to be and if you got half of what eq had you were considered a success. No one can ever dream of getting half of what WoW has. They would need 4 million players to reach half the numbers that WoW has, and I am not sure that it would even be considered a success then. WoW was a fluke and will not be duplicated for some time to come.

The industry is striving to reach an unreachable goal. They are coping WoW to try to reach that goal. Any new game that comes out should hope to get over 100k and budget every thing for that many people. Expecting to much really hurt WAR and forced it to do server merges not even 6 months after release. It did the same for Age of Conan.  A subscriber base of 100k will bring in $1.5 million a month. If you can’t claim success with that kind of revenue you are aiming too high. When publishers start aiming lower they will start to see more chances being taken and with those chances we will get the real innovations that are needed to take this genre to the next level.

3.  Casual Players

I happen to be a casual player I play maybe 10 hours a week. Casual players are what made WoW so successful. But what makes WoW push the boundaries of game design are the hardcore players. They are the ones that eat through the content and demand more. They are the ones that find the bugs and exploit them. They make the guides, websites, and plugins that really make the game. Because of them we get interesting instances and new content. They are the ones that complain on the message boards and test the new changes. They are the raid, guild, and group leaders that make a lot of instances and raids possible for most players.

They play to be the most uber player on the server. With out them the game would go stale and die. I do not think that you should have to be a hardcore player to get the items that you want. But the games MUST be made for these people. The raids must exist the new content must be put into the game to keep it fresh and growing.