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Taking Ardwulf to task

Usually, I like to keep to myself when it comes to disagreeing with other bloggers. I don’t like conflict and I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion. Yet, if we think back to Eurogamer’s initial review of Darkfall, was that just? People were upset because a reviewer on a big name site was trying to drive people away from a game that he hadn’t even given a fair shot.

Well, Ardwulf is the new Ed Zitron. After playing Aion for only 45 minutes, he’s now filled with “rage” towards a game that really has no impact on him. Like I said, usually I’d keep quiet and maybe leave a brief comment. Ardwulf has a decent readerbase though, so I’d like to clear up a few facts he featured in his venomous attack.

Let me be clear about one thing before I begin. I like Ardwulf. I usually enjoy what he writes and more often than not agree with him. There was just too much in this last post for me to not vent a little of my own hot air.

“The controls are imprecise and clumsy and the interface is awkward. You can move with the mouse… forward. You can’t steer with the mouse alone, nor could I figure out how to get mouse movement to work in a sensible way without enabling Asian-style click-to-move – which I despise, and this isn’t any better. It’s all very clumsy. WoW, EQ2, Champions Online, LotRO and Vanguard all have better “touch” for lack of a better term.”

The controls are different in some ways, yes, but they’re not different enough to label them clumsy by any means. Not to mention, if the interface is awkward then we’d better condemn WoW too because not only are they nearly identical in functionality and design. Maybe it’s a matter of being too used to addons making or breaking the UI. If being able to move by holding both mouse buttons is a game breaking issue for you, you came in ready to hate it, which leads me to wonder why’d you bother downloading it in the first place?

“The localization is bad enough that race descriptions – the very first pieces of text you see when coming into the game – are broken English of the “all your base are belong to us” variety.”

Again, I don’t know where you’re getting this from.

“Questing is totally undistinguished. All the enhancements that a game like Warhammer laid on top of the standard model are missing.”

Probably because they game was nearly finished when WAR came out. PlayNC/NCSoft has been great with releasing patches that put in many thing a lot of other MMOs *cough* WAR *cough* are missing.  Keep the empty PQs, I’ll take functional end-game and quality leveling any day of the week.

“Quests send you to find somebody, with no description of where the guy is, and no map pointers unless you go through a popup box to put one on screen – for some quests – and all the old ones stay as well unless you remove them.”

The vast majority of quests give you a detailed description of where to go to complete quests. On top of that, in many cases, you can click on locations and NPC names to get more information on where to go and what to do. Yes, some are little more abstract but I was of the belief that we didn’t want to be spoon-fed everything in the game. We want more challenge, not less, no? There’s no Questhelper, Lightheaded, or big red circle to tell you where to go.

“The symbols over questgivers’ heads are hard to spot and harder to distinguish at a glance.”

They’re not big yellow question marks. I didn’t realize big blue diamonds were that much worse.

“Character customization is good, but in a bad way. What I mean is that there are lots of sliders that let you modify your appearance, to the point that you can create freaks that are two feet tall with two-foot diameter heads. This falls into the “bug, not feature” category…”

What would most players care to have, five or six stock templates or the ability to really choose who their character will be? Perhaps they’ll scale back how much you can customize but, honestly, I doubt it. And let’s remember, most people are not going to want to look at a freak of a character through the whole of their character’s life. You’ll see more silly stuff in the beginning sure, just like you see it in the beginning of any game. If Champions is better, tell me, is it exempt from silliness too?

“…in a game like this, as far as I’m concerned; one bobblehead doll of a character ruins the immersion of everyone around them.”

A subjective opinion and you’re entitled to it; however, most people will simply move on and not worry about getting hung up on the ten year old. Again, this stuff will happen in any game.

“The landscape graphics are extremely weak, with none of the sprawling vistas we’d see in a Vanguard, or even a WoW. Zones are bordered by plain impassable cliffs. Clipping errors are rampant, even in the character creator.”

I was under the impression from the masses of other reports that the graphics were pretty good. Now, I’ll agree with you on one point here. I don’t really like the painted backdrops in the Asmodian starting zone, nor the linearity of the 1-10ish experience. It’s a common complaint. Whereas WoW has it’s directed newbie experience, Aion does too except they do it on a large scale for a longer period of time. Is it ideal? No. Do I care for it? No. Does it last very long? No.

And if we’re nitpicking about the clipping of armor and other such trivialities, have a look at your cloak next time you ride a horse on WoW or you weapon in LotRO. Hell, have a look at the character creator in Vanguard where you can zoom, literally, behind the eyeballs and into the leg of your avatar. Let’s not place too much weight on something that by and large goes unnoticed.

“Which leads me to another point of outrage; this is going to be the next big MMO? Aion is like World of Warcraft in its level of polish? You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s okay to offer nothing notably new, but to offer an amateurish and unpolished experience on top of that?”

If you think AoC, Vanguard, WAR, or even WoW launched with the level of polish they all show today than you’re delusional. Aion is ahead of all of the above, and is ahead of WAR in it’s current state. But you didn’t play enough to see that and it’s really your loss. I have and I can attest to what I’ve seen and experienced.

“It felt like a punishment to play. I stopped midway though my half hour, and had to force myself to continue. Another fifteen minutes was enough to get me logged out and working on cleansing my hard drive of this blight I’d unwittingly afflicted on it.”

So, let me get this straight, you come out and try to drive people away from a game that you only played for forty-five minutes? What exactly makes you think you know enough to drive others away when you experienced only the slightest iota of what the game has to offer. I get it. It’s not WoW. It’s not LotRO or WAR or Vanguard.

Yet, someone who claims to feel “rage” at a game after playing it for less than an hour is somehow expected to believe…

“And you know, something I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here is that I’ve written a lot of reviews of movies and games; some professionally. I’ve studied the work of critics as they break down and analyze a work.I think I can detach myself enough to tell the difference between something I dislike and something that’s actually bad.”

Here’s the thing Ardy, those reviewers tend to watch more than the first scene of a movie before telling other people not to go to the theater. You just did exactly that.

To end this little diatribe, I’ll reiterate. Ardwulf can have whatever opinion he wants and I personally don’t consider this anything more than him venting. That’s fine. I’m also fully aware that he was asked to explain why he didn’t like it.

The problem that caused me to respond thus was simply that the article was presented with blanket statements and with an air of supported fact. A lot of it was subjective and based on his personal taste. Maybe if someone comes across his article in a Google search, they’ll come across this one too and not throw out their chance at enjoying a game.

I’ve never understood how people can feel rage towards a game. It’s a game and is meant to be fun. If you don’t like it, go back to another one you do. But the chances are, someone else will come along and have a good time with it even still. Why anyone would want to break away from that and push other people away from a game that they could enjoy is beyond me. I know we’re supposed to be all about opinion here but there’s something to be said for having a level head at the same time.

You know, I say this every time, but I’m not expecting Aion to be the end-all be-all of MMOs. I’m not expecting it to have revolutionary systems or the most engaging questing. The fact remains, I do believe that it has a lot to offer players from all walks of life and I do believe that it’s bringing more to the table than any of the other recent MMO releases we’ve had in terms of quality and polish. I don’t think Aion is better than WoW in many ways, nor than WAR in others. But the fact that we’re running on lack of quality AAA releases makes this game the next best thing right now and it has the lasting power to do fairly well in the long-term. That’s all.

Now, I’m off to class.

13 comments

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  1. Ben

    The most damning part of Aion isn’t technical glitches, graphics, polish, etc.

    It’s the simple fact that Aion is derivative and “more of the same”. RvR has been done. Classes have been done. Raids have been done. Aion doesn’t offer anything new to the gamer that they can’t find somewhere else. And arguably, I’d say that it doesn’t offer the best, most polished package of features on the market.

    In the final analysis, it’s a mediocre game with standard fare that you can get anywhere else. I don’t get excited playing it.

    I don’t think other people will, either. SOME will — people craving RvR (the unsatisfied WAR crowd). But most people will try it, maybe play a few months, and then move on. That doesn’t make Aion a bad game. It’s just not great.

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      I think what it comes down to is how much people enjoyed the WoW leveling experience. That will, literally, make or break Aion for a lot of people. Since you spend the first 25 levels slogging through that, if a player doesn’t like it they probably won’t stick with it.

      At the same time, the “standard fare you can get anywhere else” only holds up if you’re intending to play multiple games at once. Aion takes the WoW approach to becoming a melting pot game. There’s a lot there that’s currently dispersed through multiple games. How well their version of it is received will be what makes or breaks it. From what I’ve played, I think it’s all been very well done. It’s not WoW but then again WoW has several years of development and refinement over it. Comparing it to the release states, and current states, of other MMOs apart from WoW is what makes people exclaim about the polish they see. If every other game launched in the current state of Aion, there’d be no reason for people to comment about how polished the experience is.

  2. Ben

    Oh, I wouldn’t argue that it isn’t well done. But … it’s well done in the sense that Chili’s makes a decent burger. Nothing earth-shattering. Just standard fare, and I really think that for an MMO to succeed in today’s market, it needs to stand-out more.

    It’s also a shame that Aion’s PvP doesn’t hit sooner. They need to push people that direction sooner, faster, and harder.

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      I agree with you for the most part, which is why I don’t think Aion will do too much better than to tie LotRO for second place. It doesn’t have what it takes to topple WoW but I think it can make a bid against some of its underlings. 100% on the PvP point too. Thanks for the good comments!

  3. Ardwulf

    One small note: Ed Zitron was paid to review Darkfall, and was thus under a professional obligation to be fair and thorough. I’m under neither, and can speak with the freedom of the pure enthusiast.

    Aside from that, touché.

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      And to that, no one can begrudge :-)

  4. xXJayeDuBXx

    Nice write up. I think your last paragraph hits the nail on the head. I personally was glad that Ardwulf wrote what he thought about Aion even if I didn’t agree with it.

  5. Pai

    They fixed the ‘click to move + steer’ bug in the latest beta patch.

    I find it baffling how people seem to criticize MMORPG genre conventions as somehow being just ‘more of the same’. Seriously guys — look at ANY group of games within a single genre (shooters, let’s say). There are things that will ALWAYS BE THE SAME across those games. That’s not a ‘mistake’, that’s what makes a genre a GENRE. If you consistantly dislike certain MMORPG aspects (being expected to read quests, care about lore, kill quests, group play), that’s probably a hint that MMOs -aren’t for you-. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    It used to be that people who played MMOs did so for the story and immersion first, but now those things are seen as something only ‘RP faggots’ like and are scorned by people who then go on to complain about any design decision that doesn’t make the game faster, simpler, and less requiring of emotional investment in the fantasy world. People like that want a glorified FPS (MMOFPS?) with better character customization, not an ‘MMORPG’.

  6. Pitrelli

    Hmm I wouldnt say you have took him to task.

    What Ardwulf has written was his opinion and thoughts from his experience playing Aion which stand true. They are after all his opinions.

    You obviously see it differently but to belittle his thoughts on the game because he doesnt agree with your own, specifically the Ed Zitron comment is a tad excessive.

    Im sure If you paid ardwulf a sum of money he would have stomached a bit longer in the game….. he doesnt have to do that and his review is based soley on what little time he spent in there, therefore its a fair enough summary imo

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      Just a note, my intention wasn’t to belittle only to point out the issues I saw with the post.

  7. Mojeaux

    I think you did an excellent job of pointing out why you didn’t like his opinion. I don’t think you belittled Ardwulf in any way, unless disagreeing with someone is now considered “belittling”.

    I also wanted to say that I think PAI makes an excellent point in his response as well. To complain that an MMO is just “more of the same” is a little like complaining that the steak you ordered… well, it tastes like steak. Makes no sense.

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