Gaming News: Google App Store, Zynga ties the knot with Facebook, Aion server mergers, Blizzcon, DS to overtake PS2 in sales

Google shows off some longer term plans

At the I/O developer conference in San Francisco this week, Google announced their plans to launch an online web app store (for Chrome and Chrome OS). Undoubtedly games will feature heavily on the list, and Plants v Zombies and Lego Star Wars (are there any platforms on which those don’t run?) have already been announced.

Possibly of even more interest, Unity Technologies also announced that their 3D engine will run natively in Chrome – that is to say, with no  plugin. At any rate, marketing speak aside, that means that unity based games will run smoothly and quickly in Chrome. It’s certainly good news for Unity developers, and that’s good news for gamers also.

Is Chrome shaping up to be the gamer’s browser of choice? Google certainly hope so.

And in another big announcement, Google introduced an open source royalty free video format, WebM. It will be included as part of HTML5 and, of course, will be supported by YouTube. Adobe plan to build support for the codec into Flash as well.

Farmville Devs sign a 5 year deal with Facebook

A week can be such a long time in gaming politics. Last week everyone was speculating that Zynga planned to dump Facebook and go it alone (as if!) and this week brings the announcement that actually the two companies have signed some sort of cooperation deal for the next 5 years.

Facebook’s plans to force all app developers to use their new facebook credit currency for RMT, so that Facebook can take a cut,  is hardly going to be welcomed by the developers. But we can only speculate about whether Zynga was forced to the table (because they need Facebook more than vice versa), or whether they held the platform owner to a hard bargained deal.

In any case, all is smiles and flowers in the Farmville world. And expect to see facebook credits making a very real bid to become the global internet RMT transaction currency of choice. Scared yet? Well, you can always install a Farmville gamebar on your browser and let Zynga keep tabs on everything that you ever do online …

Playdom buy Acclaim, Perfectworld buys a stake in Runic

There are a couple of company related announcements. Playdom, the social gaming publisher, has acquired Acclaim. Acclaim have developed and run several F2P MMOs so it will be interesting to see what Playdom plans to do with them. I remember liking Chronicles of Spellbourne when I tried it, so let’s hope this leads to good things.

In other news, Runic Games announced that Torchlight had sold 500k copies worldwide since it’s release. Which is excellent for any game. And Perfect World Entertainment (a Chinese MMO Publisher) has acquired a majority stake in the company. We know that Runic had mentioned a MMO version of Torchlight, could Perfect World be the partner to help bring it to market?

Aion Announced Server Mergers

Aion producer released a community letter, with lots of information about forthcoming plans. They’re offering character customisation and transfer options, there are new patches coming soon and information about what’s going on with the Korean patches also even further out.

But it is the server merges that will attract most of the attention. Usually associated with a drop in population, merging servers is a way to bolster existing servers. However, it’s never really been a good sign for the health of a game.

In the same week, Everquest also announced server mergers … but they’ve been running for 10 years, as opposed to less than one.

Blizzcon Tickets to go on Sale on June 2nd and 5th

Put your lucky socks on if you want to snag a ticket to Blizzcon, even at the eye-popping price of $150 they’re bound to sell out immediately. The convention itself will take place on Oct 22/23 in Anaheim and the smart money says that Blizzard will announce their next gen MMO there. The unsmart money (ie. me) is hoping they’ll at least announce a date for Diablo 3.

In other Blizzard related news, they’re trialling a new premium service for WoW in which subscribers who pay an extra $3 per month can access the auction house remotely either from the web or from iDevices. They’re also disabling a naughty addon which made hard raid encounters much easier by allowing you to draw on other people’s screens. I never used it myself, but it does show that the lines between which addon is considered ok and which is forcibly disabled can be very unclear.

Blizzard also resolved their legal issues in Korea by agreeing to everything the Korean Govt asked for, and censoring blood, swearing and cigarettes from Star Craft 2. I imagine there will still be plenty of good, wholesome, old-fashioned genocide though. And apparently the corruption scandal in Korea’s professional Star Craft scene is looking worse the more it gets investigated.

DS to Become Biggest Selling Console of All Time

I love my DS, and it was my faithful companion on many long train journeys to and from my father’s flat when he was ill last year. So I find it heart warming to report that DS sales are likely to overtake those of the PS2 later this year.

It’s just a great little console, and the games have been pitched absolutely perfectly at a puzzle loving, brain training older audience, as well as the usual crop of pokemon (of which I still need to buy the latest sometime) and other kid pleasers. This little console has done a lot to open up the gaming market, and in my opinion, Nintendo deseves all the sales that it gets.

Links, Reviews, Roundups

Last week was a first for me with the blog. First time I’ve written a whole week of blog posts in advance and pre-scheduled them, because I was off visiting Arb (not that I didn’t have net access, we are civilised folks after all).

I’m not sure how other bloggers organise their writing but I usually note down ideas when I have them and write one up either the evening before or early in the morning. So that was my brief flirtation with being organised, I promise it won’t happen again :) And if I was a bit slower with replies then that’s why.

So Champions Online and Aion have been out for about a month now. How are people finding them?

Melf has a great Aion review up at Word of Shadow. I prefer reviews where people list both good and bad things about the game, especially when the reviewer basically liked the game, because that means they probably ‘got’ whatever it is supposed to be about and can hopefully explain it to readers. Evizaer also had a look at Aion and gave it a straight no.

Girl Unplugged posts a Champions Online review, again this is a review from someone who likes the game and can explain why.  And Syp has a solid point by point comparison between CO and City of Heroes. I do find it interesting that people who have bought a lifetime subscription are much more likely to take a longterm view of a game – ie. Oh it’s a bit rough now but it’ll be great in a year’s time. If I’d paid $200 up front, I don’t think I’d be too thrilled about having to wait a year for greatness.

And still on the superhero theme, I have a basic disagreement with Muckbeast in the comments on his post about attracting women gamers, about whether the superhero genre is more popular with women than fantasy or sci-fi. (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight … I’m just sayin’.)

Other Stuff to Read: Twelve of the Best

  1. Make Your Own Zombie Game – the zombie game experience gives you a chance to throw in $10 and participate in some game design. I’ll be curious to see what they come up with.
  2. Wolfshead explains why scaling content should be our future! Why do we have to stick to group and raid sizes that are predetermined? Couldn’t the content just scale, like it does in CoH or Diablo?
  3. tor.com is a blog that deserves a spot on any geek’s newsreader. This month is Steampunk month and they post a Steampunk 101 guide with an incredible shot at the bottom of a steampunked up laptop that has instantly become my object of desire.
  4. Jaye at Journeys with Jaye explains why his exercise bike is an MMO and the scary thing is … he isn’t entirely kidding. Edited to add: Mea Culpa and sorry Jaye for getting the gender wrong, that should read SHE.
  5. Jormundgard tries to psychoanalyse Garrosh Hellscream and explains why he’s disappointed with how that character has been developed.
  6. Andrew Doull finds Puzzlequest quite traumatic and a lot of his reactions could apply equally to any quest based game. What does it mean if we’ll go commit (virtual) genocide just because an NPC in a position of authority told us to do it?
  7. And although this may possibly be the least subtle link between links ever, I thought it was absolutely fascinating that The Anne Frank House were able to post up an actual video of Anne Frank on youtube this week. This is (obviously) from before the family went into hiding.
  8. Keen writes a sharp, well observed post asking whether MMOs are being designed for too many players these days. And what do you lose when you decide to go for the mainstream?
  9. And two thematically related posts: Tobold wonders how people like their games to be paced – if it’s all excitement all of the time then there’s never any downtime in which to socialise after all. And Andrew@Of Tooth and Claw asks how people feel about difficulty in games, and particularly about ‘cheating’ to sidestep the difficulty if it is getting in the way.
  10. Hudson splits the CO community into two parts, conceptualists who try to stay true to a character concept and minmaxers who design their character concept around whichever powers work best at the time. Which are you?
  11. Larisa wonders if it’s OK to apply to another guild while you are still guilded. After all, it’s OK to apply for new jobs while you’re still employed (at least until your employer finds out).
  12. And another tor.com link, this time to a fantastic report on a reading and Q&A session with Michael Chabon (another of my favourite ever living authors) who is a dyed in the wool geek and proud of it. I’ll end with a quote from him:

… he goes on to describe the way fandom binds people together:

“For in playing, or writing, or drawing, or simply talking oneself deep into the world of a popular artwork that invites the regard of the amateur, the fan, one is seeking above all to connect, not only with the world of the show, comic book, or film, but with the encircling, embracing metaworld of all those who love it as much as you do.”

Saturday Links: Interesting Reading

  1. There’s no drama like RP drama. So when players decided to select one Aion server as their unofficial RP home it was guaranteed to become a dramafest, right? Of course right. Aionic Thoughts is at ground zero to report.
  2. Dickie@Rainbow MMO wonders if the lifetime subscription scheme is viable in the long run. Is it possible that LOTRO just has too many lifetime subs, meaning they’re going to have to find more ways to add extra charges?
  3. Is Champions Online actually a step backwards from City of Heroes? Trembling Hand thinks so, at least when it comes to teaming up.
  4. Hawley (yay, he’s back!) writes about his experience with leaving his raid community and joining another one. But the invite came before the quit, and suddenly his ‘casual’ raid group were acting as though he was “ worse than Hitler” for abandoning ship.
  5. wow.com is one of many sites that reports on a study showing that playing in a guild actually lowers your stress. I’d rephrase that as ‘playing with friends’ lowers your stress, or ‘interacting with a friendly  and supportive community’ which might rule some guilds out from the start.
  6. Green Armadillo notices how little shelf space in games shops is given over to PC games these days (I’ve noticed that here also), and asks if this is the end of retail PC gaming and what that might mean.
  7. Tamarind tells a heartwarming story of a guy in a sissy robe and the little pet that found its way home. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. Even I was in tears by the end.
  8. Brian Crecente at Kotaku writes a thoughtful piece using Beatles Rock Band as a starting point to wonder about the use of reality in games, and whether designers have a responsibility to represent reality wisely.
  9. Klepsacovic wonders how you can reward exploration in games without punishing non exploration. He also reminisces about some of WoW’s less obviously located quests. (For me, that water elemental guy who gave the MC quests just took the biscuit.)
  10. Oakstout was chatting in CO about his favourite abilities and found himself inundated with theorycraft and advice about what he should take instead. Does theorycrafting make us happier? Can we have too much information?

A Warhammer Special

Warhammer Online reached its first anniversary this week.

Jeff Hickman spoke at GDC about what he thought were Warhammer’s three biggest mistakes. He puts a lot of it down to PvE being too easy, which wouldn’t even have made my top ten, to be honest. But I do think it shows that without any ‘community’ specialists on the team, they really don’t know why their community didn’t gel. I guess blaming PvE is as good a way to go as any.

Syncaine notes pithily that you can’t blame PvE for the failure of a game that was all about RvR.

Syp chimes in with his comments and suggestions for three major mistakes, which seems nearer the mark to me. He also lists his 10 great successes for Warhammer. Dude, by the time you include “Um, Snafzg is playing it”, you are really reaching :) Also, he missed out the red blobs of awesome, the friendly/unfriendly targets that were beloved of all healers, being able to pour boiling oil onto people’s heads, and scenarios. Apart from that, it’s a good read!

In any case, it’s a game with which I had a lot of fun and my personal view is that their biggest mistake was not trying to go for a single virtual server (a la champions online). I don’t think they realised how many players they’d need active to keep all their PvP zones, PQs, and PvE instances busy.

I was going to use the title “Happy Birthday (WAR is over)” which tied in neatly with both Warhammer and The Beatles, but truth is, I hope very much that WAR is not over. I had a lot of fun with it and I hope that Mythic are plotting even now about how to lure people back from Aion (or grab the Aion tourists in a month or two when they’re disillusioned with it.)

Also, Shana Tovah, mateys.

Gambling with pre-order bonuses and beta access

gamblingphoto by waffler@flickr

The current trend in MMOs is to include early access to the game, pre-launch, as part of a pre-order deal. So if you pre-order a game like Aion (no bias intended, I’m just picking it as the next big game to launch), the publishers throw in free access to the closed beta and to any other headstart type early access. You may get other perks also.

So what’s to stop you taking the pre-order to get the beta access and then cancelling? Nothing. In fact, if you aren’t sure that the game is for you  it’s a smart way to check it out. Embrace the pre-order as a way to get a free trial. Be careful of whatever NDAs are in place. When the NDA drops, tell everyone what you thought. If you don’t fancy the game, cancel the pre-order.

This is a very different scheme from actually charging for closed beta access. As a customer, a pre-order is a declaration of intent to buy when the game is released. Usually you’ll supply payment details when you make the pre-order, on the understanding that you don’t actually pay until the release date. That means that you can cancel at any time before that and pay nothing.

When a company chooses to make beta access complicit on a pre-order, they understand that too. The majority of people who bother to pre-order probably won’t cancel, and it’s nice to have some upfront numbers for PR purposes. For example, Aion announced recently that they have over 300k pre-orders. Just bear in mind that those aren’t solid cash until the fat lady sings, the game gets released, and they find out how many of those pre-orders were still valid. Also, the pre-order crowd are likely to be the hardcore gamers, the guys who read official sites and bulletin boards, the guys who are influential in other games’ communities.

So actually, giving beta access to pre-orders is a way of getting some experienced gamers into the beta. Who is to say that’s a worse way to test the game than getting any other random selection? There is really no moral issue with cancelling a pre-order. Especially if you played the beta, spread the word, and helped to stress test or find other bugs too.

So I was talking about gambling in the subject line here. With a pre-order bonus, it is the developer who is taking the gamble. They’re gambling that getting some experienced gamers in will pay off in terms of PR, word of mouth, and making those customers feel special, and feel so attached to the new game that they want to buy it and spend lots of money on it. The customer has no risk, they can try the game and still not pay if they don’t like it. So I would absolutely encourage anyone to take out pre-orders which offer beta access if they want to try a new game out before it is released.

Just … bear in mind that a beta isn’t really the same as a free trial, even if it is being sold that way.

When is a Closed Beta not a Closed Beta?

Selling beta access as part of a pre-order will change how players feel about it. There’s no notion that you had to fill in a form explaining why you’d be a good beta tester to get in (I’m sure no one reads those forms but just the fact that you often have to fill them in for beta makes people think about the whole idea of a beta test). A player might not be told anything about the beta except that characters get deleted before the game goes live.

If the beta client is not very up front about offering obvious ways to report bugs and tell players what functionality is currently being focus tested, then pre-order players will ignore the test side of things.

This may be fine. It may be that the devs want to just let players loose in the beta version and see what happens. Again, grabbing some experienced players to do this is at least as good a test corps as you’d get from random applicants. The fact that these are guys who have shown interest in giving you money at a future date is just a bonus. If however the beta client is still very buggy, some of those pre-orders will be lost. Players may have come in with the mindset that they’ll experience the finished product unless it is made very obvious to them that this is not the case.

Clearly a free to play model won’t need to charge for beta access, either in real cash or via pre-order. So maybe in the future this odd status of the beta test will either resolve into a free trial or a free test.

But right now, it’s peculiar. If you have actually paid for goods or services then you’re entitled to certain levels of quality (the phrase ‘fit for purpose’ is used a lot in the law here, for example). If you haven’t, then who knows where consumer laws fit in? If you didn’t get your beta access for technical reasons, then you can hardly claim damages when you hadn’t paid in the first place. This is why beta agreements can be quite arcane – no one sane thinks you can reasonably expect test code to perform like live code. But when it is being sold as a free trial, even when people say that they understand it is a beta test, their expectations say something different.

Like I say, I think it’s perfectly sensible to pre-order if you want the pre-access, and then cancel. Would you do that? Are you planning on doing it with any games in particular and if so, why?

Dust: the shape of things to come?

Oh CCP, how could you break my heart by having a huge announcement yesterday and not mentioning Vampire even once?

*sob*

But the company that has gained a reputation for out of the box thinking about MMOs may be about to score another winner. Dust is going to be a sci-fi themed planetside FPS, set in the EVE universe, running on consoles, and there will be some kind of interface with EVE Online. Battles fought in Dust will affect the geopolitical landscape in EVE. EVE corps will be able to hire squads of mercenaries in Dust to stake corporate claims on planets — in effect they’ll be supporting player driven quests. And still, the FPS console fans will be playing their FPS console game and the world of spreadsheet-craft MMO fans will be playing their MMO. At least that’s the theory.

Now I find this to be a really exciting concept. I’m not interested in FPS but that’s not the point here. The idea of creating a new aspect to an MMO and implementing it as a fully featured new game on a different platform but letting the two games interface is answering questions that I didn’t even knew I had. Most of all, it’s easy to understand the vision. It’s ambitious, but it is easy to see how this expands the game for the MMO players (adding a whole new feature of managing mercs) as well as for the FPS (having battles tie in to a persistent universe and possibly being paid in game for the privilege).

Pete@Dragonchasers has a perfectly formed rant at a comment I made, which was that this kind of vision made games like Aion and Champions Online look like tired retreads. This is not to say that they might not be great games — I played the Aion beta and liked it a lot. I’m not currently in the mindset for that kind of PvP but I certainly enjoyed similar setups in other games I’ve played, and I have no qualms about saying that if you’re looking for a gorgeous WoW-esque game with a PvP focus, give it a shot. CO simply disappoints me because I don’t think that the levelling/ questing game design really suits superheroes and I was hoping to see a bit more vision in the design (I especially think it’s important for superheroes to be tied in deeply to the city where they live) — but there’s no reason for it not to be a perfectly fun game. Although I am puzzled that I haven’t read many beta reports where people were getting more excited about it, there’s usually a bit more buzz than this.

However, I disagree with his point that MMOs are set in stone and that it’s a bad thing to get excited about new innovations and bored by unimaginitive implementations. Questing was not a bedrock of MMOs until WoW came out. Nor was instancing. Stats and Stat-based actions don’t seem to be a huge part of MMOs like CoH and EVE. Auction houses also don’t have a long history in the genre.

So no. The core of an MMO is playing a character in a large persistent world with lots of other players in it. The rest is negotiable and if it changes then it can get better. But is it fair to complain that a game is too like WoW? Or not similar enough? It certainly is, as long as you give your reasoning.

MMOs are large complex beasts. Only the individual player knows exactly which parts of the cocktail really attracted her to the genre. Is it the huge world? The immersion? The instances? One particular character class? Socialising? The lore? The gameplay? Raids? The UI? So she will cheer when new games build on the parts she likes, and exude meh when they focus on parts which may be cool but aren’t so crucial to her particular game.

For me, Aion mimics some parts of WoW very well, but it misses the expansiveness of the game world. In other words, it actually fails to mimic one of the things I really like about the game. And I dispute Pete’s claim that this indicates burnout. I know I’m not burned out on MMOs, because I’m really enjoying EQ2 at the moment. But EQ2 does feature a very large and expansive gameworld and gameplay that is similar to WoW in some ways and different in others.

I love the huge smorgasbord element of MMOs. And I love games that really feel massive, and immersive, and social. So the idea of being able to play a pilot and charter groups of mercenaries to dominate planets, and know that actual battles are being fought on the ground somewhere to determine the results of those conflicts … that just hits all my buttons even though I don’t even play EVE. Whereas pretty graphics and a nice questline are just pretty graphics and a nice questline.

I’m sure I’ll jump into Aion sometime (I do need to be in the mood for an open PvP game because I find them more intense) and if my husband and his friends fancy CO I’ll probably try that too. But damn if Dust isn’t the one I’m excited about.

How things are shaping up for Aion

It was back into the world of Atreia last weekend for a second bite at the Aion beta cherry. This time we had the chance to play Asmodeans — the evil faction of winged humanoids — up to level 10. The game now has a release date (September) and it’s looking better than ever.

A few baseline observations first. As an MMO Aion has clearly learned many many lessons from the current generation of games. Questing is smooth and takes you neatly on a tour of the newbie zones. The writing (and localisation) is great, although they still need to translate the help system. Controls are smooth and easy to pick up, using a lot of the standard UI features that players will be used to.

Character classes will be familiar also. There are two heavy armour classes (one tank, one dps), two casters (one nuker, one pet based), two healers (one ranged, one melee), and two non-caster dps (one dual wielding melee, one bow user).

They have also taken some design aspects from Asian MMOs which are less familiar to western players. Casters have to rest to regain mana (i.e. you use the rest command which makes you sit down). There’s no auction house, instead players can populate their own private vendor and set it out for other players to look at. This means that in any populated area, you’ll have to push your way past hordes of players in vendor mode. And if you want to buy, you’ll need to browse all the vendors individually.

(Edited to add: OK, I’m wrong and there is an Auction House in the capital city. Sorry for misinformation. But we were just playing from levels 1-10 in a weekend beta, and all the populated areas were heavy with player vendors so I’m just saying what I saw.)

You can also kill-steal – if two people who aren’t grouped attack the same mob then the xp/loot goes to whoever did the most damage.

It’s beautiful. I’ll keep coming back to this (and so will everyone else who writes about the game) because the game is absolutely stunning. This is partly because they’ve thrown out the ‘green and brown for more realism’ rulebook that EQ2 and LOTRO designers are so attached to and used the whole paintbox. It’s a colourful game. It also runs very well on my mid-range system. No glitches, no crashes, no slomo frame rates, no falling down holes in the map.

It isn’t just the backdrops and character designs either. The animations are fantastic; your character looks around, fidgets, licks her lips, and acts as if she’s a part of the world around her. Animals are brilliantly animated also.

If you like pretty games and want to be blown away, it’ll be worth a month of anyone’s money just to see it in action.

Storytelling Innovations

It’s very easy to sweep Aion away under the category of ‘been there, seen that’, but that would miss some of the innovations. One of them is the neat insertion of cut scenes into quest dialogue. Not every quest or discovery comes with a cut scene but occasionally you’ll get a few seconds of camera work which does give a more cinematic experience.

In particular, we loved the little cut scene that showed you exactly what happened to some poor mage’s beloved pet when we were playing the good angels last time around. It was unexpected, short enough not to be annoying, and very funny.

But the most stunning thing about the initial storylines is the great use they make of flashbacks and flash forwards. All characters start as human, and after level 9 you are able to do a quest to ascend (ie. get your wings, be transformed into an immortal angel being). Your character starts with a bad case of memory loss, but during the first ten levels, you meet people who are able to share visions of yourself in the past.

And what you see is downright amazing. You see your own character, wings and all, in awesome high level armour, in some amazing looking PvP zone. NPCs address you as Lord. You are able to play through some of the flashback sequence. It’s an amazing way to show the player what lies in store for the character if they keep playing. I’d defy anyone not to think ‘Oo, that looks cool. I’d like to do that.’

Another tweak that I loved was that the Asmodeans start as part of a gang of raiders. Your character in particular is quite an incompetent/ inexperienced raider at the beginning. And one of the NPCs lectures you when you accept a quest, saying that a true raider shouldn’t say wimpy things like ‘As you will’ when they accept a quest. They should say ‘THE TASK IS MINE’ and storm off to do it. Well, your character evidently takes this to heart because for every quest after that, the phrase you click to accept is ‘the task is mine’. It amused me, anyway.

So far, everything I have seen has also been soloable, but don’t expect that to last. There are definitely higher level quests which you’ll need to group up for. Classes do also vary at which levels they get various useful survivability skills (I struggled on my caster until she picked up a self-shield and knockback, at which point it became very easy.)

How about the PvP?

As far as I can tell, the endgame is all about PvP. There’s an open zone (or several) where you can fight other players and mobs, and capture keeps, Warhammer style. Because of the wings, PvP will have a 3D aspect. I suspect this means that casters will be more effective than melee because it’s much easier to manoeuvre in 3D when you have more range to play with. However, you can’t fly indefinitely. Your wings will get tired and you will need to come down to earth to rest them.

But I haven’t tried the PvP myself yet so I could be talking out of my hat.

When two tribes go to war

Because of the PvP side, I have to wonder how well the two factions will be balanced. They have access to identical classes, but that won’t mean much if players have a strong bias to one or the other.

Based on what I have seen in beta, I suspect most people will pick Asmodean. They seem that bit cooler, that bit more beautiful, that bit more exotic, and that bit better written. They also aren’t eeeeevil in the same way that we’re used to seeing, they’ve just had a rough deal and are more pragmatic in their drive to survive.

I will be amazed if this is not an issue.

How to get the wings

I don’t normally do this but I picked up a search term this week on the blog for ‘How do I get wings in Aion?’. So just for the record (and to prove I did it), the Ascension quest will appear in your quest log when you reach level 9. Just do that quest. You’ll get the wings, and you’ll also get to visit your local gorgeous angelic city of choice.

It’s a small world?

Summing up, it’s a beautiful game. It will blow you away if you let it. The actual gameplay feels very similar to current generation MMOs so it will be very easy to pick up for new players. Wings are great, flying is too. If you’re bored of your current game and want to try something similar (with wings) but a bit different, it’s got to be worth a shot.

I do think I get a bit worn out on the tourguide model of quest based levelling. They do it well in Aion, but a tour is still a tour. The world doesn’t feel large to me yet, and I’m not sure how many things there are to do or see if you choose to run off the rails. Also the Asmodean quests and starting areas have a bit too much in common with the Elyos – they’re good but it doesn’t really feel like a completely different experience. Similar mobs, similar terrain layout, and so on.

I know that for me, there is something missing. A sense of the world around me, perhaps. When everything is on rails there just isn’t any room for things to be there just because it would be a better simulation of a world if they were there. I’m also not thrilled with the player merchants or kill stealing. But if the quality of storytelling remains this good, it’s tempting to at least run through it once, to see how things end.

The next beta weekend phase starts on July 2nd. So scramble around for a beta key before then (or you can get one if you pre-order).

Aion gives you wings!

Not able to say a lot about last weekend’s Aion beta test except that I’m really looking forwards to the next beta test phase  (you’ll be able to test Asmodeans — the bad angel faction — from June 19th-22nd) and I’d advise people to keep an eye out for sites offering beta keys. Bear in mind this is a game that has been live in the far east for a year already, so it would not be out of line to expect a very polished gaming experience.

And yes, there are wings. They are pretty. So is everything else. Here’s a link to the FAQ but the short form is: it’s a (ravishingly beautiful and anime styled) MMO about good angels fighting bad angels, but with no actual real world religion involved. There’s a frontier zone with open PvP and it involves NPCs as well as PCs.