Actually, this very matter (the patch, not the dancing!) leads us right into the topic that was scheduled. It's been bouncing around my mind for a while, and the release of the patch really drove it home: the fact that free-to-play is not code-speak for shoving a title to the back of some top shelf and ignoring it. Simply stated, free-to-play does not equal forgotten. And I think few games show this as clearly as Aion.
Contrary to what detractors would have you believe (remember the cries of doom and gloom when the EU and NA announcements were made?), going F2P is far from a death knoll, especially for Aion. Content is coming faster than ever now; 3.5 launched only three months after the official Korean release! And content for 4.0 is already being shared, albeit too slowly for my eager Daeva heart. From fast patches to 4.0 teases, there is much on the way for this F2P fantasy game and still much to look forward to.
Even though NCsoft told us that the patch would launch in October, my suspicion was that it would be squeaking in at the end of the month. You know -- still October technically, but just barely. It was startling enough that it was going to beat Halloween, so imagine my surprise when it came so early in the month! Heck, the change came too quickly for me to even start pining away for it. There certainly wasn't the opportunity to really experience the anticipation like back with 2.6; now that one really stretched out! Of course, I am not complaining. On the contrary, I really could get used to this.
One downside to the speed of this patch, however, is that I didn't have the opportunity to really dive in and partake of the new goodies available in time to report them to you. No, life already had things scheduled for me, so I can't give my first impressions of the patch... yet. I will, however, be poking around tonight (Monday) at 6:00 p.m. EDT live on Massively TV, so if you want to to hear some of my first thoughts, join in then!
One thing I did get to see was the change in neighborhoods. Apparently it didn't take long for some neighborhoods to rally together and complete quests in order to upgrade their communities. Just popping out of my little condo, I was surprised by some beautiful statuary flanking the cobblestone bridge. Then I noticed the new vendors and the landscaped square. Before long, a giant, glowing flower made sure I didn't miss the final stage of improvements. Lots of folks have also taken advantage of the more fantasy-looking house skins instead of the initial Victorian ones.
Sadly, the new neighborhood merchants will not sell to anyone outside of the 'hood. Dang! I am not yet a homeowner, so I can't even see the new furniture and stuff offered to residents. At least by not seeing them, I am not yearning for them, right? I did get one thing from the new neighborhoods, though -- a song stuck in my head! *starts signing* It's a beautiful way for a neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor...
Way back when I was calling for smaller, more frequent updates, little did I know I was actually stumping for free-to-play. Trust me, that surprises you and me both! As the lifeblood of that genre, frequent content updates are what keep folks invested in a game, both time-wise and monetarily. Why stick around if it's the same old, same old? Well, all those who ordered frequent content updates are going to be happy customers because that's exactly what Aion is serving. Not only was 3.5 delivered promptly, but devs say that other patches will be just as speedy. Top that off with frequent additions of smaller additions like new outfits and folks will hardly have time between courses.
Despite my initial dislike for F2P, I am seeing a definite upside to this payment model. Devs are definitely putting time and resources into the game, ensuring that folks have reason to log in. Add the update frequency to the increased number of players and the fact that there are no restrictions regardless of how much I pay or don't pay (hallelujah, Truly Free business model!), and I really don't see a downside to F2P in Aion.
So the next big news coming up is the big 4.0 update. I say big because every whole number so far has been a major expansion for the game, not just a mere update. Just look at Assault on Balaurea and Ascension -- I mean, those were name-worthy! I made my 4.0 predictions (pipe-dreams?), but regardless of that outcome, there will be tons of goodies as well as new lands to explore. There are always new lands in the whole numbers! And this next one gets something no other update or expansion dreamed of: new classes. We may not know a lot about these upcoming classes yet, but we have a few bits of info to chew on.
NCsoft may not have taken my suggestion about an Indiana Jones-type class, but it came up with an impressive-looking Gunslinger nonetheless, complete with billowing duster and a six-shooter in a hip holster. OK, maybe it isn't a six shooter, but it looks close enough to me, and is definitely better than any arm cannon! The female version has more of a biker chick flavor, but they both look really nice. How awesome would I judge the outfits? I have a close friend who, after glancing at the new renderings for the upcoming Gunslinger class, cried out, "Curse you Aion for pulling me back!" Heck, this class actually make ME want to make an alt!
"I have a close friend who, after glancing at the new renderings for the upcoming gunslinger class, cried out, 'Curse you Aion for pulling me back!'"
I had one friend who wanted to play all the classes so much that he'd literally make and level characters up to their 40s, then delete them and start over because he didn't have room to make them all! No way I am cowing to that kind of crazy talk, but I also don't want to make some new account just to try these new classes. Please, NCsoft, think of giving us access to more character slots. Add it to account services; I know people would pay for it. You may think that everyone would rather just make a new free account, but that's not the case! Some of us don't like to manage multiple accounts. And then there is the inability to share in the account warehouse with a separate account. I promise, for just a little upfront work, you can sit back and just get the profit from selling these slots. I would even buy one to three (and you know that's saying something). Perhaps new slots are slated for 4.0
There is so much more to be said but no time left to say it. And while we are on the subject of lack of time, check back next week for some tips on how to get the most out of and enjoy Aion even when you have very little gaming time.
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.