Paying Your Gravity Bill

Oh, sweet Aion. How you wooed me with your gorgeous graphics and flawless interface. How you seduced me with limitless character customization and the promise of avatar flight.

How you dropped me like a lead zeppelin with your confounding game play limitations and your plethora of money sinks.

Initially, Aion had everything this MMO addict could ask for: a UI so flawless I could eat bytes off of it, localization that defied my attempts to find a typo or grammatical error, and a gorgeous game environment that elicited ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ at every turn.

But at level 10 my character ‘ascended’ – she acquired the ability to fly and progressed out of the starter area. And that’s when things started to go, well… south.

The first hint that something was amiss occurred when I arrived at the central hub city and discovered that despite my newly acquired wings, I couldn’t actually fly anywhere. Uh, ok? Maybe these new wings have training wheels, or something? Sadly, no. I later learned that although you can deploy your wings and ‘glide’ down any slope, you can’t actually fly in the main city. Ever.

The second hint came after I spent all my money on training, weapons and armor, only to pick up my first quest and realize that I couldn’t actually get to the quest location because I was broke. No problem, I thought. I’ll just walk to the quest destination. I’m a low level character. No shame in that. Uh, no – that’ ain’t happening. The game world is constructed in such a way that getting from your race’s central city to ANY location on the map requires that you teleport or fly. And there is no free public transportation in this game.

Actually, there is no free ANYTHING in this game.

Absolutely everything in this game costs money. Want to get a new class skill? Cough up the gold. Want to travel across town? Gotta pay for it. Want to work on your crafting? Yup, gotta pay for it. Just died? Yeah, that costs too.

I realize that almost every MMO has some type of in-game economy. That’s expected. But Aion makes it virtually impossible to play without having money, which turns the game into a giant grindfest. It also encourages gold farming, which became painfully obvious within the first few days of the game’s launch, when the chat channels were overrun with spammers.

Oh yeah, and the flying? That comes with a timer. That beeps loudly and expires in 45 seconds.

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7 Responses to “Paying Your Gravity Bill”

  1. Aufero says:

    It’s true – the economy is one big grind, with HUGE money sinks at every turn. (Which makes me wonder why they didn’t anticipate the gold farmers and spammers. They’re inevitable in this sort of game, and NCsoft must have had plenty of experience with them after the Korean launch of Aion.)

    Still, I’m having fun with Aion so far. It reminds me a bit of the original EQ, only with much better graphics and an actual working PvP system.

    That said, congratulations on the new blog! As a serial MMO addict myself, (And someone who first played Zork on an Apple II in 1981) I suspect I’ll enjoy it.

  2. Joshua says:

    If flying…with wings yet…is limited to 45 seconds at a time, that pretty much ends any chance I’ll ever try the game. I’ll stick to Champions Online where you can soar like a bird, until some AA battery shoots you down.

  3. Will says:

    Thanks for blogging, especially with a section on Game Economy

    I am not a huge MMO gamer (most of my limited free time gets sucked up reading blogs about it, ironically, thanks to Shamus and now you), but I recall playing and running MUDs (graphic-less text-based MMOs, for those born after The Simpsons). I became annoyed by how broken the loot and item acquisition process was, and interested in trying to figure out how to create a realistic economic system. I eventually got distracted (blogs again, although we called them BBS’s back then) and never found time to look into it again.

    I now look with interest at how different game systems address these problems, and at how exploiters attempt to overcome them. The basic structure seems to be “create stuff for people to spend the gold on”, but this inevitably leads to hoarding and actually encourages the exploiters. And often, as you demonstrate here, the “stuff to buy” passes the point of “decorative add-on” to interfere directly with the game play.

    I suppose the system I’d like to see is one in which gold (or dinarii or chips or meat) acquisition becomes exponentially harder the more of it that you have. This, in turn, would require some kind of limitation on the use of multiple “bank” characters, however, and then you’d have to do something about … ooh, look, another blog to read!

  4. acronix says:

    It sounds like Lineage 2. It had lots of grinding, quite good looking female characters, and also everything (sometimes even your character´s underwear…literally!) had a price. Ussually totally ridicolous prices. Need a new weapon? You must spend half a millon gold on it. Want an armor? It costs another half! A pony? Three millons and a quest! Dying? You lose xp equivalent to three hours of grinding, and you also get a debuf that makes you need other three! You died while on the pony? Your pony is dead and needs to be resurrected before three minutes mark. You died at four minutes from your respawn point? You have to buy another one for other three millon and repeat the quest…! and so on.

    I never managed to get anything I liked in it until really REALLY far into them. And at that point, at was sick of the game itself.

  5. toms says:

    @Joshua
    There are numerous ways to upgrade flight time in the game..

    @Leslee
    I love your blog keep it up!

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