Everyone deeply immersed in Atreia knows that two of the most frequent topics of discussion this past week (ignoring all troll comments, of course) have been Star Wars: The Old Republic with its impending effect on Aion and the reduction in arena tickets that went into effect after last Wednesday's maintenance. While Wings Over Atreia took a look at the forthcoming release of TOR last week, I might have altered my predictions a bit had the announcement about the arena tickets happened sooner than right before publishing.
Could one event really affect the balance? Check out past the cut to examine the NCsoft's action, the community's reaction, and the possible repercussions.
One is the loneliest number (of tickets)
Way back when, in the olden days (i.e., last month), the patch notes for 2.7 were published in Aion's game guide. Oh, happy day, right? Daevas from each hemisphere of Atreia could get a good glimpse at what to expect once 2.7 went live on October 19th. Embedded in this wall of text was the fact that through the introduction quest, Daevas would be granted two arena tickets to test the new PvP arenas. After that, the daily quest would grant only one ticket. However, what was written was not what happened: For four weeks Elyos and Asmodians alike were treated to double arena tickets. Players were excited about the new arenas and flocked to them, filling up the waiting area with a crowd that had only recently been seen during AFK events. Participation was robust, and there was much rejoicing in the lands! *cue Monty Python* Yay. In fact, when I gave my impressions about the future of Aion, I did so with the amount of activity and enjoyment seen in these matches in mind.
Then came the let down.
Last Monday, the community team let the bomb drop that in just two day's time, the bug that allowed players to receive two arena tickets would be fixed and only one ticket would be rewarded from that time forward. Players from both factions were upset because they felt like something was being taken away from them without any real notice or cause, and I can't blame them. NCsoft let the issue go too long without addressing it. Previously, I have stated how impressed I was with Aion's customer service. However, this community relations blunder is a stain on NCsoft's reputation. And it's one that I think could have been easily avoided.
True, the patch notes indicated that the correct reward was only one ticket. But let's be realistic: Although almost every legion has at least one person who rabidly follows every word that comes out about the game, I bet only a small percentage of folks actually read the patch notes with a fine-toothed comb. Many just rely on pertinent information being passed on by aforementioned legion-mates or by friends. In fact, I readily admit that I never used to follow patch notes at all and always relied on my friends ('cept now I haz to, ya know, for the whole work thing).
So there it is, in writing, that the double ticket is a mistake. Or, wait... is that comment in the patch notes a mistake? Because come the second, third, 10th, 20th days, and beyond, Daevas were still receiving two tickets without a peep from the development team. No one was thinking "OMG awesome bug lemme exploit it NAO!"; players just thought that was the way things were. After all, mum was the word from anyone who could possibly correct those thoughts. Personally, even I thought NCsoft just decided to change it or let it go since it obviously wasn't an issue. (If such a statement was made in the beginning, please point it out to me and I will apologize and retract the comment.)
As it stands, now many players are feeling jilted by a bait-and-switch tactic. Not only that, but attendance in game was already declining outside of arena attendance. Removing a large reason for people to log in is just bad. This had an immediate negative impact on the population.
What should have been
I have to admit, I don't think this was handled as well as it could have been. Although the information was in the patch notes, the mere fact that it continued led me (and I am sure many others) to believe that maybe something had changed. It wasn't too far-fetched to extrapolate that after seeing the popularity of the arenas, NCsoft decided to allow the double tickets to continue. After all, nothing was said to the contrary, right? That brings us to my main point: Something should have been said immediately. Yes, people were getting more tickets than they were supposed to, but how hard would it have been to come out in the beginning and say, "Sorry folks, there seems to be a bug allowing double tickets; go ahead and enjoy them while you can, but note that the issue will be fixed in the near future." Just acknowledge it upfront and inform your playerbase. Two days before the change after a month of letting it go does not count.
Sure, people would have still been upset or sad about losing the second ticket no matter what (simply because the arenas are the most fun many have had in game in a long while), but at least they wouldn't have had a leg to stand on in regards to the complaints and accusations of baiting-and-switching. Aion representatives could just point back to their original note when people whined and feel secure that they kept the community informed.
If you are going to point out the original plan of only one ticket awarded per day was in writing as per the patch notes, then conversely you have to acquiesce that having any other changes or explanations in writing are important. And the sooner the better. The error and impending change should have been acknowledged, in writing, at the very beginning. Don't lead people to believe one thing and then switch it up. That really irritates people, and those people find somewhere else to go. And unfortunately, there is a plethora of someplaces else to go right now.
Trying to make nice
Although I like platinum medals and major ancient crowns as much as the next level 55, giving people an extra survey for their troubles doesn't really smooth over the feelings from this latest mishap. In the same post announcing the change to the originally intended single ticket reward, players were also assured that "Upcoming events that allow you to earn additional arena tickets as rewards are planned." Luckily for NCsoft (now would not be the time to fall through on things), it is delivering on that promise fairly quickly: The Shugo Event Showcase is offering (among other things) extra tickets for being logged into game over the next three weeks. There is even a pretty awesome commercial advertising the event. Not that the commercial makes up for anything, but hey, I still liked it!
I have to hand it to NCsoft: Adding the new event where spending more time in game will grant additional tickets was a bit ingenious. The company manages to look like it is making amends while simultaneously confronting the problem of sagging player numbers and waning interest at times other than the arenas. It helps give characters the tickets they are clamoring for as well as encourages people to remain logged in longer than just for the arena matches.
Ideally, this would mean more players are online and available for running other content. However, we all know that only the first part of this will prove correct; as in every other promotion based on time spent online (remember the summer heat and Ascension energy?), people are going to log in and go AFK. It is a sad state to see a game reduced to soulless avatars standing/jumping/dummy fighting/sitting in merchandise-less personal stores while the players are off living life and even playing other games!
While I don't think that this will make up for it, I am not going to turn down extra arena tickets. Want to take advantage of the event as well and get a few extra tickets while you can? From November 16th through the 23rd, every character that remains logged in for a total of two hours will earn one -- and only one -- extra ticket per day. For all those who have multiple toons, that means two hours each toon, although the time is cumulative and need not be consecutive. The next week, each character can earn a manastone box after three hours, and the final week brings the reward of an enchantment stone box after four hours online. Personally, I think just increasing the number of arena tickets gained would have been a better draw than either manastones or enchantment stones; the tickets are valuable to many Daevas, but the others really are not (since they will blow out anyway thanks to the RNG).
Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down weekly to bring you Wings Over Atreia. Featuring tips, guides, and general snippets of life in Aion, the column is better than Tutty-on-a-stick, ackackackackackack! Have a suggestion to share? No need to bribe a Shugo -- just send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.