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Done with Aion China and other ruminations

Buh-bye! See you soon!

Buh-bye! See you soon!

I decided today that I won’t be logging in again to the Chinese version of Aion Online. The game is a lot of fun, taken for what it is, but I’ve still decided to take a step back. The main reason for this is that the American release is looming ever nearer. I have a pre-order set with my local Gamestop and have plans to kick off the launch with Snafzg and the guys from Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog. Coincidentally, is always looking for new members to join the community.

Even though I’ve had fun in the foreign version, I’m stepping back so I don’t spoil myself for the “real” game. The quests are standard Warcraft fare which, for me, means they’re repeatable but will lose their appeal a little more each time I complete them.  When I first decided to try out the game, it was to sample it and see if it was something I’d like. Once I decided it was, I wanted to familiarize myself with the quests, so I could speed up my leveling and keep up with the pack. I don’t know if I’ve done that but I know I like this game and want it to keep that “new” feeling once I’m actually playing the local version.  Plus, playing the Chinese version feels a little like playing a beta. In the end, I know that the character I’m working on will be abandoned, so anything I put in will ultimately amount to nothing.

Still, playing the Chinese version has left me all the more excited for the launch of US live. Aion has a different feeling than any other MMO I’ve played. It has this pleasant little Final Fantasy progression vibe to it and a level of polish that makes it endearing pretty quick. You have to work to progress but that work gets you somewhere. It gets you exp, cash, loot drops, and a better knowledge of the game which, really, should be the most important factor in how well you can do in any title.  In the end, I believe Aion will be a very solid title. It may not be for everyone, and it may bore others to tears, but I think that the people who like it will wind up liking it a lot and stay with it for a very long time.

Apart from that, I’ve discovered that I’m compulsive when it comes to buying new games. If you’ve followed the blog at all, you know that I have an Xbox 360 and a Nintendo DSi I routinely play alongside my current MMO. Looking over my collection of games, I’ve counted up 11 Xbox and 10 DS games, out of which I’ve played one all the way through (mainly out of time—it takes me a while to beat a game). I asked a buddy  recently whether he’d played the new Ghostbusters title. His response was “no, I have enough game to get through right now.” That’s when it hit me. I’m building my collection but I’m also making sure I won’t get too far into any one game without ignoring the rest.

I think the reason I’m so keen to pick up new games is because they represent a particular potential for me. Throughout my life as a gamer, there’s been several “wow” moments that stick out in my memory. I look back at games like Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Jetforce Gemini nostalgically because they created these moments.

When you get a good game, be it an MMO or a console game, they tend to just suck you in and hold you. During those times, you’re most vulnerable. The game grabs you by the wrist and pulls you through experiences and stories that touch you and stay with you long after you put the game down. That’s that potential I see in all of the games I buy. Even if they don’t always deliver, or it takes a while to get to that point, they’re really the reason I play all games. If it wasn’t for those moments in my past, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog right now.

In MMOs, a lot of those experiences hinge on other people, which may be why so few of them click with the main stream.  WoW was able to do it but it also had the advantage of being early out of the gate. Now, there pool is much wider but also a lot more shallow too. There’s lots of games to play but it’s all too common that newbie areas  one or more of three key things: 1) lots of people; 2) lots of talkative and kind people; and, 3) a big wow factor.

It’s  those moments in awe that endear us to the games we love. Where that awe comes from varies from title to title but I think it’s evident that good graphics aren’t enough. Take a game like Everquest. It was hard, brutal by today’s standards. Yet, it was also a first for many of us. It created those experiences based on newness and by reward. Yes, some of the things that made people hate the game are also what made people love it. When you overcome challenge in an equation that is more than time+time=reward, you’re going to take more away. As a gamer.

And that’s more than just a new set of pixels for your avatar.

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