The Grouchy Gamer

Yeah, I'm cranky. That's kinda the point...

Is the Shiny wearing off Aion already?

It always starts like this.  Hot New Game that everyone wants to play.  Lots of people buy the box.  First month is getting to know the game.  It sure is pretty/authentic/fun.  All your friends are playing it.  You might have broken down and bought it yourself.  It’s a lot like EQ/WOW/Lineage and you wonder if it’s different enough to make you want to play.  You unsubscribe from your All Time Favorite game.  You say some hurtful things about it as you leave.

Now it’s a month or two later and you are starting to notice your Hot New Game has a few warts.  It’s still the Shiny though, and you try to ignore them.

Then it starts.

First, it’s a couple of blog posts or a tweet.  Um, it’s not as cool as we though.  A couple of people defect and go back to their All Time Favorite.  ATF takes them back because it always does, and in a month or three their account goes inactive and they try not to think about it any more.

Then there is a small swelling of people saying that the emperor has no clothes. They are pointing out legitimate concerns with the game.  Some of these people are the ones who should love the game, it’s purported target audience.  Yet they begin to second-guess the game and where it’s going.  This is where Aion is right now.  Some of the people whose opinion I respect that should be the target audience are starting to slough off the game’s subscription roles.

I’m going to go ahead and call it now.  Aion is going to hemorrhage users within the next 6 months, until the point where is is WAR-sized or smaller.

Here are the issues as I see it;

  1. PVP is never going to be a viable core game mechanic in MMO’s.  There isn’t a sufficient number of PVP-oriented players to sustain a subscription model.  PVP is a niche.  People say they want PVP but honestly it’s only proven viable as a distraction.
  2. Korean MMO’s which are developed for the Asian market will never maintain critical mass in the US and EU.  Why?  Because the playstyles of the two markets are too starkly different to reconcile and maintain.
  3. Most PVP fans like Wolf-vs.-sheep PVP, where they are the wolves.  This is a self-defeating mechanism, because sooner or later, the sheep will get tired of being killed and ridiculed by the wolves.  Wolves will push-back against any mechanism that tries to balance the situation decrying the “removal of skill” from the equation.  No matter which way the developers go, their user base will dwindle.
  4. PVP is not an end game mechanism.  If your end-game is PVP, you don’t have any end game.  Why?  Because your end game is then at the whim of the player base.  One of your bigger guilds defects for another game?  Your server is now imbalanced.   One of your sides full of gimp players?  Imbalanced.  Imbalance -> people quitting -> more imbalance -> no endgame.  As long as designers try to substitute PVP for content, this will be an issue.

I’m not a PVP hater.  It’s not my first choice for game play, but I have over 10,000 PVP kills in WoW, so it’s not like I am calling PVP out because it’s not to my personal taste.  I’m just saying that the road is littered with games that try to substitute PVP for actual content.

Is it impossible?  No, I don’t think it is.  I do believe that Aion is another one of the pretenders to the throne that will also fall by the wayside.

Please visit PVP online at http://www.pvponline.com/. (credit for graphic)

15 Comments

  1. The shiny wore off for me right before release :/ – unfortunately I had already pre-ordered the game through NCSoft. I will not be continuing a subscription of it though, after the 30 free days are up thats it.

    When I first started testing Aion I had the urge to log in as often as possible.. now I rarely remember that I have a subscription to it, thats how far out of my mind it is – that isn’t a good thing for a new MMO I would think.

    Oh, and I agree about your your basic tenents you listed, especially the Wolves & Sheep.. that is something that will hurt the game in the long run (for the Western player base at least). Since this game isn’t really a ‘niche’ title (its a standard Fantasy MMO with some different elements [flying] added in) I don’t see that it will go beyond a ‘cult’ following.

  2. Oh he went there.

    This should get interesting.

    /popcorn

    :)

  3. It’s hard to say if PvP is a viable endgame mechanic or not but remember Aion is more “PvPvE” or whatever they class it. Plus it’s already proven a success in Korea (although yes, I concede that they have a very different play style to us Westerners). I guess we need a little bit more time to tell with Aion.

  4. I think more MMO’s need to find their niche and less need to take on WoW. LotRO, Eve, Fallen Earth, Champions-Online, SWtOR – these games have some real legs in them. Another game aiming to take WoW on directly and another heap of servers to be found on ebay

  5. Oh, and did I mention that a lot of people that I respect are also saying that the community sucks. That might well be the missing #5 above.

  6. To each man his own. While I respect your opinion, I disagree. I won’t lie and say Aion doesn’t have problems, but I don’t think it will end up like WAR. The game has some key differences that will be it’s saving grace.

  7. I have a similarly negative opinions about Aion. It’s not even a good enough game to rival WoW. It’s not as fun to a western audience as WoW is. Theme-parks only work if the rides are fun or quick enough for variety to dazzle. Aion’s rides are boring and samey.

    I disagree with you about PvP though. I’m not a hardcore PvPer either, but Darkfall and EVE have proven that PvP-centric games are viable in the marketplace. You just aren’t going to beat WoW with at PvP game, though you’re probably not going to beat WoW anyway.

  8. While I agree with the assessment of Aion, and the shiny new game trend, I disagree with your critique of PvP not being actual content. Just b\c WAR screamed their head off about it, and it proved to be full of fail, let’s not forget that DAoC had very respectable subs under a model that touted RvR as the main goal. WOW-like numbers were unheard of at that point, but relatively speaking PvP as endgame content worked well. Ironically, interest waned slowly from the Trials of Atlantis expansion on… which was PvE focused and people disliked.

  9. Ok, nice post and you have some points however:

    A lot like EQ and Lineage is true. No game should be compared to WoW, this game just represents a summa summarum of popular game mechanics found in other games.

    There are PvP oriented games with endgame pvp also like Lineage1+2, GW, DaoC just to name the more common ones and each one was successfull.

    Korean MMO´s, what difference of playstyle which should not appeal to a western player do you mean?

    No Endgame see above…

    You 10k pk´s in WoW don´t mean anything, WoW´s pvp isn´t worth anything and yes i played it too. Fortunaly not anymore.

    As i said a nice post but be more specific and at last get your facts straight.

    I´m not sure if i will stay with Aion, probably not because after 11 years i´m kinda sick of mmo´s and especialy the people playing nowdays, but it looks and plays like a solid mmo and you facts and theories have already been proven wrong in the past.

    my 2 cent.

  10. 1. PVP is never going to be a viable core game mechanic in MMO’s. There isn’t a sufficient number of PVP-oriented players to sustain a subscription model. PVP is a niche. People say they want PVP but honestly it’s only proven viable as a distraction.

    You’re being subjective. PvP is a niche, yes, but you claim Aion will have less than WAR, also a *less well done* PvP game. Here’s the deal, Aion may hemorrhage subscribers but, for what it does, it does it better than WAR in every possible way.

    2.”Korean MMO’s which are developed for the Asian market”

    Stop right there. The game was developed in Korea and release in the East initially but, as has been repeatedly confirmed, it was developed by a global market. The game play has more in common with western games than east, with a little extra grind at times. Your point also ignores the multitudes of JRPGs that the western market LOVED. Final Fantasy 7, 8, and 9?

    3. Most PVP fans like Wolf-vs.-sheep PVP, where they are the wolves. This is a self-defeating mechanism, because sooner or later, the sheep will get tired of being killed and ridiculed by the wolves. Wolves will push-back against any mechanism that tries to balance the situation decrying the “removal of skill” from the equation. No matter which way the developers go, their user base will dwindle.

    True of every *popular* game that features PvP too. You could make the same point about WoW’s battlegrounds but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still popular.

    4. PVP is not an end game mechanism. If your end-game is PVP, you don’t have any end game. Why? Because your end game is then at the whim of the player base. One of your bigger guilds defects for another game? Your server is now imbalanced. One of your sides full of gimp players? Imbalanced. Imbalance -> people quitting -> more imbalance -> no endgame. As long as designers try to substitute PVP for content, this will be an issue.

    Again, you’re selectively ignoring facts of the game to make your point. First and foremost, the game has a core in PvP but supplements that with PvE options and PvPvE dungeons. The amount of PvE available has been a point of criticism even. Plus, they’ve already announced that they’re implementing something like 11 additional dungeons. You have to remember, Aion is a copycat game just like WoW. They are and will cater to all audiences because their success depends on it.

    Even if it was JUST pvp, which it’s not, cross server endgame addresses your issue. It’s not in the game now because there’s no need. Still, it’s an option to equalize the imbalance concerns you have.

    Now, let me be clear. I also think players will leave the game. There’s more grind to the pve and more kill stealing as a result. It’s frustrating and feels more like work the further you go in. That will push people away — but not most of the people. Even so, they’re immensely increasing the amount of quest XP in the next patch to reduce the grind there now.

    I think you’re doom and glooming a bit early. Players will leave like they do for *every* new game. I seriously doubt that they’ll ever hit the WAR mark if, for nothing else, they already have their 300k subs topped five times over a year post-release in the east. Their honeymoon is over and they’re still loving it. WAR, on the other hand, is a failure even by Mark Jacobs terms.

    Big difference.

  11. Bleh, forgive the typos and grammatical issues. On my way out the door to class and was typing quickly.

  12. Well now, based on that string of comments I myself sound as little grouchy. Sorry Genda! Love the blog, just had to stand up and discuss :-)

  13. Hey Chris,

    Thanks for dropping by. Good stuff there. I’m definitely stating an opinion, and it won’t be borne out for some time, but I’m pretty confident Aion will turn out to have been the FOTM. Maybe through no fault of their own.

    I definitely stand by my feelings on PVP centric games. I just don’t think they are as commercially viable as PVE centric games.

    I noticed that someone on your blog’s comments called me out for only having 10,000 PVP kills. Basically they were discounting my opinion because of that. I stated that number to show that I had at least participated, but that attitude is a great illustration of the kind of attitude that turns off players like me and my family, as well as a lot of friends that play.

    Come back and comment often! Appreciate your perspective.

  14. I agree with you. It probably will turn out to be flavor of the month because that’s been the big thing for just about every big MMO. We’ll have to see what happens in the long term.

    About those comments, I didn’t really see what the 10,000 kills really mattered on this. People just needed something to pick at.

    At the end of the day, I think *any* PvP centric title will be niche and fall below similar quality PvE games. Still, PvP can be a great way to spend time!

    I’ll add you to my blogroll Genda, thanks for responding :-)

  15. I agree PvP should not be an endgame, which is what WAR is. I love MMO PvP, and I think WAR nailed it on the head. However, your list holds true, so no matter how perfect their PvP is, it still failed. Even I quit.

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