What precipitated my inspiration? The first thing was a comment from another player that really stuck with me; he lamented that Aion really comes into its own at the endgame. I say "lamented" here because this player was saddened that his friends couldn't make it through to the highest levels in order to experience what he considered the best aspects of the game with him. The second catalyst was Kahrun's 1v1 PvP tournament held yesterday, an event I was privileged to witness from a special vantage point. While watching the matches play out between various max-level toons, I realized exactly how Aion could capture that PvP experience and offer a taste of it to any player.
As a casual PvPer who prefers the journey to the destination, I know there is plenty of great stuff to do in Aion before the highest levels. But in terms of the PvP of the game, that player's statement isn't inaccurate. If you want to delve into the factional warfare that entire lore is based upon, the game does not really come alive until the end.
Sure, there are some places to get your PvP on before level 46, but those will almost inevitably end in your being ROFL-stomped by higher levels -- if you find any PvP, that is. Rifting? Without level limits, the chances of coming across a semi-fair fight is pretty slim. The Abyss? Have you traveled there as a lower level lately? Again, there is no level limit, so you find level 25s mixing with level 65s, the result of which is usually your being one-shotted right out of the sky. Either that, or the Abyss feels eerily dead because all the PvPers are at the endgame stuff in Balaurea.
Those eager to experience what Aion's PvP is really about lose interest before they even get the chance to participate, and so they leave. Why would anyone put in all the work for a max-level toon if he is unaware the work would be worth it? Players need to get a taste for the PvP possibilities in a way that will entice them to stay and work toward the goal of endgame. This is just an observation, but repeated instant-defeat and slaughter isn't it! So let's give folks a taste of the PvP that awaits if they do put in the time.
My first suggestion is to offer a new spectating mode at the Coliseums in both capital cities. As mentioned previously, during yesterday's PvP tournament I watched the fights unfold from the view of the participants. With a special GM account that made me invisible (so as to not interfere with the contest or the view of the spectators), I was right in the thick of things and got to weave in and out of the fight. Seeing the battle play out up close was infinitely more exciting than the last tournament I attended, where from the sidelines players were just little figures at a distance.
With that in mind, I think NCsoft would be wise to add that kind of functionality into the established PvP arenas. If you want to build your excitement for the PvP action of the game, you really need to watch a contest between folks in this way. Just getting an up-close and personal look at the various skills and how they can be used can be real motivation for reaching the point at which you can use them yourself. If it can entice a casual PvPer like yours truly, just think what that feature could do for those looking forward to getting in on the fight!
NCsoft has the ability right now to make characters who cannot interact with or affect the outside world using this special hide mode, so I think making this mode available in the coliseums only should be doable. Obviously this should not be possible anywhere else in Atreia! If making a free-range invisible spectator is deemed impossible, what about having a mode where players can watch from the eyes of anyone down in the Coliseum or from a fixed vantage point that follows players (like the one you get when you die in The Secret World instances that allows you to watch your group continue the boss fight)?
Coupled with the spectator mode, there is one other idea that I think will further spark players' interest in getting to endgame and the PvP there (and net NCsoft some profit as well). What's better than seeing the PvP up close? How about experiencing it first-hand! For this, NCsoft should offer special max-level, geared Coliseum champions for purchase or rent.
Now hear me out before you pass out from screaming "OMG pay-to-win!" at the screen. I am not intimating that players should be able to buy their way into their toon. This has nothing to do with the rest of the game; these special Coliseum avatars would be available only in the Coliseums. Wouldn't it be interesting to test out the skills and abilities of a class and get a feel for the endgame PvP? Once players have an idea of what they have to look forward to, I think they'd be much more likely to stick with the game and level up in order to participate in said endgame activities.
I think this feature could go even a step further and add another special instance where players could use these avatars to test out a class in a PvE setting. How many players leave Atreia after they spend the time leveling up a certain class only to find that they really hate that class at higher levels? Giving players a chance to test-run a class could help them avoid the frustrations of wasting time on something they won't really enjoy.
The ability to use these avatars need not be a cash-shop item only. One of Aion's best features is that there are no pay walls to content and anyone can access everything in-game. So here's how to do it: As with arena tickets, NCsoft could put in a quest that players can complete weekly for tokens that will allow the limited-time use of an avatar. The Black Cloud Marketplace can then also sell additional tokens that players can buy.
Coliseum avatars would be a win-win situation for everyone; players and NCsoft would both benefit. Players get more gameplay options (think of the contests that could be held!), the ability to test-drive classes, and the chance to get a taste of endgame PvP. NCsoft gets players who become more excited for and invested in the game, which equates to better retention and potentially more profit. Is there a downside?
So who won?!
With all this talk about Kahrun's PvP tournament, I think it would be cruel to not give you the scoop on the winner, and since we aren't on the battlefield, I won't be cruel. It was interesting that although spectators started off saying that the new Gunner class was too OP and would win, it wasn't the Gunner who took home the title. That honor went to a Spiritmaster. Congratulations Expensive!
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.