So bust out the spiced mela cider, grab a plate of gingerbread shugos, and join me as I make a list and check it twice to see how NCsoft has been naughty and nice.
First is worst
Hmm, when taking into account a naughty list, perhaps "assessing the damage" isn't really so far-fetched after all. There are certainly a few forehead-smacking moves in Aion over the past 12 months.
1. Truly Free is not for you!
Topping the naughty list is the fact that Europeans got shafted with a terribad free-to-play model heavy on restrictions and exorbitant instance cool-down timers. Maybe it wouldn't seem as terrible (with the exception of instance cool-down timers) if it weren't for the fact that North Americans enjoy the best restriction-free payment model on the market (see below on the nice list).
On the EU servers, players checking out the game without paying the monthly fee are limited to two character slots on the entire account, can't buy or sell, and have limited abilities to harvest resources. And then there are the unreasonable cool-down timers for instances; even veterans are saddled with a 118-hour wait for Esoterrace compared to the 22 hours subscribers enjoy. Is it any wonder folks brave the high ping to move to the NA servers?
2. Uncanned spam
Since the move to F2P, kinah sellers have gotten much worse, at least on my servers. Perhaps this is the one area where the EU payment model beats the NA one: Across the pond, starter accounts cannot use open world chat without subscribing. My guess is that the kinah sellers won't waste their money subscribing to the game just to advertise their wares on an account likely to be banned, making for a quieter LFG channel (with the exception of trolls, of course). In NA, however, there is no chat restriction, so I have to spend the first five minutes of every gaming session blocking the deluge of spam.
As much as I am looking forward to 4.0 and all the wondrous goodies it will bring, NCsoft has been a real tease with the little rivulets of information. Sometimes the anticipation is too much and I want to play those new classes and invade those new lands now! Perhaps the wait would be easier if I just had a date to work with, a time when I knew my torture would end. But noooooooo.
4. Vet rewards
Although I am sure the Atreian Atlas is cool (I just don't really use it much), I happen to still lament the loss of the veteran reward system. Personally, I think anyone who earned those rewards up until the conversion should still have access to those awards, even on new characters created since F2P. Why should I be deprived of those loyalty rewards just because I want to make one of the new classes coming in 4.0? It's not as if I had the chance to make them and grab the rewards before they disappeared. Not to mention, all of my alts' mailboxes are still full thanks to being forced to claim all the rewards or lose them!
Last is best
2012 certainly brought some nice additions to our favorite Daeva-filled world. Ironically, some of the items on the naughty list coincide with items on the nice list.
1. Home of the Truly Free
Unlike the EU folks, North American Daevas enjoy possibly the best free-to-play model in existence. When NCsoft says Truly Free, it means it! There are no restrictions in class, level, cool-downs, inventory... nothing. Players log in and play exactly as they did before the conversion, with the exception of not using any cash to either buy the game or pay a sub.
2. Block, block, baby
Although kinah sellers are inundating the server chat with boasts of their illicit sales, NCsoft has implemented a new features to the block list that allows you to silence them. Although the list isn't expanded, the studio now deletes all banned accounts from Daevas' block lists on a weekly basis, freeing up plenty of room to add the newest annoyances.
3. Way to go, 4.0
OK, so even though the anticipation is painful at times, props to NCsoft for keeping players' attention with little nuggets of 4.0 goodness. I still love learning about the new goodies coming to Daevas in the next expansion; I just want a date (see naughty list above). New classes? Awesome! Exciting new zones and sieges? Sign me up!
4. Oh, give me a home
Certainly no list of thank-yous would be complete without a nod to housing. Not only did Aion residents get a place to physically reside in, they got full, spacious zones complete with mobs and NPCs. Instead of just an instanced single home, there are neighborhoods filled with amenities on top of things to do.
5. Daevas of a feather
Another bonus slipped to us was the ability to reskin wings. With people putting so much effort into skinning just the right look on their armor, it was annoying to have no control over a major component of character appearance.
6. Pack-rats rejoice!
Finally! One of the things I have been requesting from the beginning is more cube space. And last year, I added the need for arena tickets to be stackable. This year, NCsoft listened! It was glorious to log in and find the brand-new coin and quest item cube. Arena tickets may not be stackable, but with 120 slots, there is plenty of room for them. No longer do I have to avoid quests that require me to carry around items.
7. The zone's the limit
The removal of rifting limits was a nice little addition, albeit a bit of a surprise. Although I am not a die-hard rifter, the fact that I can now pop over to any enemy lands and do the spy quests or just go sightseeing (we all know I don't bother the local youngins). Content is no longer locked away from me just because I happened to out-level it too quickly? Right on!
Of course, I can't let the year go by without a roundup of my favorite columns as well. So besides the housing and rifting ones already mentioned and linked above, here are some of the highlights of the past 12 months. And be sure to watch for Wing Over Atreia as it flits over to Saturdays starting in 2013.
|Twelve activities for Daevas under max level|
|Happy Newb Year|
|When egos attack|
|Daevas of Our Lives casting call|
|Three signs you've crossed that line|
|Creating classes for Aion 4.0|
|My grown-up Solorius list|
Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down biweekly 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.