NCsoft’s Aion development team arrived in Taiwan recently, with the main purpose of gathering feedback for Aion Taiwan’s upcoming mega patch, version 2.5. The team also confirmed that the patch is scheduled for April 2011, with the Taiwanese server getting 4 exclusive pets as well. In an indepth interview with the development team, much more info was revealed. Do note that only selected parts were translated.
While version 2.0 declared the arrival of the Balaur race, 2.5 will be focused on getting the players “trained and ready” for the major assault which will happen in version 3.0. Hence, version 2.5 will feature the new instance, translated as God’s Arena, to encourage players to challenge it and upgrade their characters.
Asked on why wasn’t the level cap increased in version 2.5, the developers pointed out that increasing the level cap and developing new content for the higher levels is much harder than players think. For example, new maps were only added when version 1.0 finally upgraded to version 2.0. Hence, players will have to wait for such features to be implemented.
God’s Arena will be the update’s main focus, consisting of 10 stages which gets harder and harder. Getting through the instance will also require team effort to reap the rewards if they manage to complete. Various rare equipments will be dropped, which is the same for the other new instance, roughly translated as Alaka. Are you up for the challenge?
The developers were then asked if they are afraid there will not be enough new content for version 2.5. They replied that similar to version 1.5 and 1.9, 2.5 is to update, revamp and streamline features which were missing or inadequate from the previous big expansion. If version 2.0 is the skeletal structure, version 2.5 will be the muscles. For example, the new helper system was implemented at the request of many players.
With the graphics update, the minimum system requirements have also changed, with a Nvidia 9800GT as the lowest required graphics card and Windows Vista or 7 as the recommended operating system. The developers claim that at the Taiwanese launch of version 2.5, the graphics might look better than the Korean server’s!
As for the much improved wardrobe featured in 2.5, the developers acknowledged that they had little idea on how to expand the choices given their limited knowledge. However, they read the Aion forums frequently, getting ideas and suggestions from board members and implemented them, including the much improved character customization system. The motivation came from the players too, as the Aion team observed that there are many types of players in the game, some obsessed with PvP, some hunting for rare drops while most of the female players spend most of the time trying to doll up their characters.
The developers also gave some explanation about the new “action cards”. In a recent event, players in the Korean server were each given an Assassin action card. When equipped, players will move like an assassin, taking silent and cautious steps. This effect also affects players when in a stationary position, giving them a different pose compared to without the card. These cards can be removed anytime by the players. So far, there are action cards which affects walking, running, jumping and when in a stationary position. There is none available for flying yet.
Next, the developers talked about the improved pet system. Introduced in version 2.0, that was just the first part of implementing the full system. In version 2.5, players will get to have more interactions with their pets, including training, playing, caring and more. There are still some improvements being developed for the future. Why the big change in the pet system? After 2.0 hit, the Aion team got major heat from feedback, saying that pets are feeling more like robots instead. With further feedback, they will customize the pet system accordingly to each region’s needs, for example 4 Taiwan-server only pets. These pets will be revealed at a later stage by the Taiwanese team.
However, the pets will still not be able to help players attack or buff them in the 2.5 patch. When pressed on this, the developers stated that pets are there only to help loot items, of re-buff players using pots after setting commands prior to battles. However, he said that more functions for pets are being developed at the moment.
Also, the events held in various region’s servers will also be fully customized to meet their different needs. The Aion team is actively collecting feedback from the overseas team, and they will develop and create any new events if possible to keep the different player crowds happy.
Next, a tough question was asked – The growing restriction of the flying ability in various maps and the timed-flying system. The developers explained that they went through several internal discussions about the flying ability, and came to a conclusion that if there is no limit on the ability in some maps, players will get “numb”, with players eventually not getting excited about the flying system. And in some situations when fighting mobs, players need to time properly when to use the flying ability to get out of trouble. If flying is unlimited, the element of fun and excitement will be gone.
Another problem players are facing is the lack of inventory spaces. The developers said that they over-developed the number of costumes and equipments unknowingly, and with the increased drop rate in 2.1, the situation got worse. There are a few options in the pipeline, including opening up pets’ backpack, but these will not be implemented soon.
Questioned about the in-game cash shop, the developers stressed that the items sold will remain only at supportive and cosmetic items. Similar to their usual practice, the team will gather feedback and look at analysis from the various regions’ servers and customize the cash shop appropriately.
Next comes the problem of player population. Is there anything being done to help solve one race having too many players, hence causing an imbalance in population and affecting gameplay? The development team replied that they are looking into several methods to solve this problem, including limiting character creation on the overpopulated race. They noted that this problem has been long running since the early days, but currently the team still does not have a definitive plan on solving this. But they will continuously look at methods to resolve this issue.
A rather tricky question was brought up – will there be server VS server PvP? The Aion team stated that they discussed this probability before, but implementing the system will require major resources. However, this idea is not dead and currently in the list of “features to be implemented in the long-term”.
About the future of Aion, the developers assured players that version 3.0 is currently being prepared, and they will try not to delay the release schedule as that will cause a loss of players. Before 3.0 hits, there will still be various smaller patches to get the game ready. As for the game’s PvE and PvP direction, there will be no preference as features will be implemented for both in the course of the game’s life. Version 3.0 will introduce some social aspects of the game, including the player housing system.
Ok, that’s all of the interview and press meeting with the Taiwanese media. It is over 4am here now, and I have work in a few hours. Good night all 😀