Aion: Blurring the Gender Boundaries

Posted by on February 2, 2010 - No Comments »

Plenty of games on the market are geared towards females, but it’s no secret that not every female wants to play Cake Mania and Imagine: Fashion Designer. Women who aren’t just into fashion, makeup, and cooking are left with few games that speak to them personally. Until recently, women and gaming have hardly been mentioned in the same sentence, let alone acknowledged. Although women obviously have a base in the gaming community, they are generally recognized as casual players, but the recently released MMO Aion has surprisingly captured the attention of many female gamers, and I count myself among them.

An MMORPG by NCsoft, Aion combines Player vs Player and Player vs Environment gameplay, expanding a fantasy environment broken into three different worlds. I’ve been playing Aion since its release in September and since then, I have discovered that I’m not the only woman playing the game. In fact, women make up a large majority of Aion’s players, but the reason for what is special about Aion that attracts such a strong female base is a little more difficult to nail down.

I’ll admit the reason I first picked up the title is purely based on aesthetics, like many other female gamers. Alynis, an in-game friend, claims that she too was “initially drawn in by Aion’s stunning visual imagery and in-depth customization.” Even Game Master Parallax admits the “intense customization aspect” attracted her but beauty can only go so far, so… what keeps us coming back? Associate Producer Lani Blazier believes Aion appeals so strongly to female gamers due to a “well thought-out and implemented game design.” Furthermore, she feels as though Aion tends to all the needs of both casual and veteran gamers. “If you love a deep, rich story, Aion has that. If you prefer PvP over PvE or you want a nice mix of both, Aion has that.

GM Parallax is the first to attest that she plays Aion for reasons other than graphics. “I love the lore, the gameplay, and the diversity in the amount of things you can do such as questing, crafting, hunting, chatting, and running to the opposite faction’s zone for a little bit of sport.” Narrowing down one single element that sets Aion apart from its competitors, Lani Blazier believes that its “flight and all of its game implications and features” are what puts it over the top. Like most games, escapism also plays a large roll in why people play what they do. A fellow gamer, Aere, feels as though “Aion is a place to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.”  I think that most people have their own getaway, whether it be exercise, watching TV, or video games. Aion works for me because it provides a challenges, friends to chat with, goals, and things to look forward to as I level up. Drawing from personal experience, I too find it as a nice vacation from the real world. Where else can you slice and dice people and have it be socially accepted?

Based on first-hand accounts we now know why women play Aion, but what defines their transition from casual to hardcore? Lani thinks the answer lies in the idea that it’s “more accessible to a casual gamer than many previous MMOs, while staying true to what veteran hardcore players love most.” Alynis is a perfect example of Lani’s theory. “Aion is actually the first MMO I’ve ever played and loved it from the first minute. The gameplay is challenging but intuitive, requiring some skill to adapt to while not alienating an MMO amateur like myself.” To further the theory, Parallax believes “it’s fair to say that we’re a bit on the hardcore side compared to a lot of MMOs. And not in the ‘you have to devote 80 hours a week to the game’ kind of way, but more in the ‘we expect you to have a basic grasp of gameplay mechanics and netiquette.” Drawing from first-hand experience, learning all the mechanics in order to be a successful MMO gamer takes a certain level of commitment. That commitment and growing drive to play as you level and meet people only attaches us more, slowly transforming the once casual gamer into a hardcore player.

All theories aside Parallax points out the fact that “the general public is coming to terms with the fact that games aren’t just for kids, and they aren’t just for boys.” As a female gamer it’s nice to see the rise in women finally blurring the boundary between casual and hardcore. Whether it be escaping from everyday life, broadening social networks, or killing monsters, everyone plays games for similar reason regardless of gender. “Most of the time, though, me being a woman online doesn’t mean anything different to the people I play with. Male or female, we’re all out to kill the boss, loot the epics, and beat the bad guys.” -Aere

Dragonica Unveils the Temple of Water

Posted by on February 2, 2010 - No Comments »

Dragonica

Calling all low level Dragonica players, the launch of a new dungeon, The Temple of Water, will soon be here. The latest dungeon will be unveiled to European players between the levels of 26-30 on February 4, 2010. In addition to the Temple of Water, Drakos Dungeon reopens to all players level 58- 65. The reopening of Drakos Dungeon could possibly correlate to the Temple of Water inhabitants fury, but the only way of knowing is playing . Existing players are told to log in to investigate matters further:  Dragonica: The Official Website. If you haven’t touched this free MMO, this manga-style action game may be worth your while. Download the game here.

Exclusive: Global Agenda Developer Interview + Gameplay

Posted by on February 2, 2010 - No Comments »

Today’s the official launch of Global Agenda, and what better way to get in the mood for some commonwealth destruction than an in-depth Global Agenda interview with the developers.  The two part interview covers lore, how players can be written into the game, game mechanics – including the lack of a headshot bonus, class decisions, and subscription options.

Edit: Videos have been fixed for sound and simplicity.

Risk and Uncertainty

Posted by on February 2, 2010 - No Comments »

orca_5I am currently working on a post that talks about ways to create risk in MMOs and how designers might make that risk palatable to an otherwise risk-averse themepark gaming population. In the meantime, Callan S. made a comment I felt was interesting enough to discuss. In response to the idea that Eve Online is a game that incorporates risk correctly, he says:

As far as I’m aware, in terms of risk Eve suffers or fails in that in more dangerous space you have no idea of the risk (you have some idea in poker, for example) since people who will kill you aren’t regulated in any way. Is it thrilling when there was a zero change of being ganked, cause all the local gankers were on bio break?

I think there are a couple of points in this small quote. First, I think core to the idea of risk is that of uncertainty, the idea that you are not sure of what is going to happen beforehand. If you are certain that you will easily defeat any enemies you might meet, or that you will reach your destination without meeting any enemies, then there is no risk. Likewise, if you know you are going to die when you leave your base, there is no risk. The concept of risk implies that you are betting on an unsure outcome.

On the other hand, if you take your character on a spin through your favorite MMO world and are suddenly struck down and then told your character has been perma-killed, that isn’t risk either because it is arbitrary. For our purposes, risk also implies that you know you are betting and you know what you are betting.

Given that explanation, I think Eve works because as you move from highsec space to lowsec space, you know there is an increasing chance that someone will ambush you. When I take my ship out in Eve and make a trade run through lowsec space, I am betting my ship, cargo, implants and skill gain that I can make it through without incident. It does not matter if, on a particular run, “all the local gankers were on bio break” because the point of risk is NOT to ensure that I face challenge, but to present the possibility of danger and then force me to bet accordingly.

Well I guess that raises the question that if you don’t know you couldn’t die, but you felt as if you could and that was exciting, whether it the truth of the situation or the feeling of the situation that matters. Personally I’d go with the truth.

If there is a chance I could be presented with failure and lose something, regardless of whether that situation occurs or not, I would say yes, that is the essence of risk in an MMO. Say you are playing poker and your opponent makes a $1000 bet. You have a good hand, but not an unbeatable one, and this is a sudden, large bet. Is it a risk to call? Sure it is. Once you call and find out that your opponent was bluffing, was it less of a risk? No, because when you made the bet, the outcome of the hand was uncertain.

I think what Callan is talking about here goes back to the difference between risk and challenge. I am deliberately separating the two because I think there is value in doing so. When Callan says, “Personally, I’d go with the truth” he is saying that he wants there to be a real chance of death or failure and that is how we defined challenge. Risk on the other hand, is what you lose because of that failure — your bet. My trip through lowsec space wasn’t challenging at all, but it was still risky…

Alright, enough of this; I didn’t mean to beat the dead horse further into the ground, but that comment made me think and I figured it was worth discussing. Next post, let’s talk about systems that will put some of the risk back into the themepark.

Mortal Online Beta Opens

Posted by on February 1, 2010 - No Comments »

If you weren’t able to get into the Mortal Online closed beta, now is your chance as the open beta for Mortal Online starts today.  To go along with the open beta, a new trailer was also released which you can view below.

For those of you unaware, Mortal Online is a first person fantasy MMORPGs and is geared more towards the hardcore crowd as PvP will be the main focus of the game. You can go here to signup for the open beta, however be aware the server is located in Stockholm, Sweden, so there might be lag issues for some.  There is also a limit to the amount of players that will be able to join the beta on a first come first serve basis, so hurry up and signup if you’re interested.

TERA Developers Condemned for Plagiarizing Lineage 3

Posted by on January 29, 2010 - 8 Comments »

TERA_Screenshot_01

Bluehole Studios, the newly formed developers of TERA are to compensate NCSoft for the sum of 2 billion Wons(approximately 1,721,836.820 USD)  for plagiarizing Lineage 3′s source code. This decision was made by the Seoul Central District Court after they found the former development director of Lineage 3 guilty. According to Bluehole, they are not satisfied with the judgement, and will lodge an appeal immediately.

It is still unknown whether this will affect the development of TERA, or the existence of Bluehole, and NCSoft have yet to make an official statement on the case.

The reason behind the case is the fact that Mr. Kang and Mr. Yo, former developers for Lineage 3, used some of the technologies copyrighted by NCSoft after the project’s cancellation, in their latest game – TERA.

Dear NCSoft, My Aion Account was Hacked and I Lost Everything. Please Refund My Time.

Posted by on January 29, 2010 - 15 Comments »

I know that it is not possible to travel backwards or even forwards in time. We are not going to have a metaphysical conversation here. What I feel would be good customer service and would heal relationships between NCSoft and its customers is by taking care of the victims of the latest hacking spree going on in Aion Online.

Backstory.

In recent posts I gave a good friends story of how her account was hacked and how badly she was treated by customer service. The first thing I asked her was, “Did you get your gear back?” and the second after she told me no I asked, “How long will it take you to earn it back?” Her answer was “Weeks.”

As an MMORPG gamer and veteran I know how long it takes to get endgame gear in the first place. Now to have to regrind all that back is annoying to say the least and time consuming. She told me that a few of the dungeons are at least 3, 6 to 9 hours to complete! There are no insurance policies for virtual goods.

You are not alone.

Is what I said to comfort her. I simply googled ‘aion accounts hacked’ and got a slew of forum complaints from other victims of their Aion accounts hacked. Here are the links if you want to read some of the other horror stories I found.

Account hacked! What will NCSOFT do?

My wifes account was hacked today.

Account hacked second day in a row.

NCSecurity: Phantom Hacker Steals Aion Account

Account hacked, what do I do?

Husbands account hacked…

Can you see a trend here? It seems that the same cause and effect is happening while the company does nothing to help the customer other than restore their accounts. And in some cases even slow to do that.

A worst case scenario.

Imagine you come home to your house/apartment to find your front lock is changed and your key does not work. After finally breaking the door down you walk it to a ransacked apartment. Your electronics are gone, so are your jewelry and even your old microwave.

It has to be one of the worst feelings in the world to find out you are robbed. You may be lucky to have insurance on your stuff; you call the police, fill out a report and hope for the best. It still doesn’t remove that gross feeling of being invaded and you cannot even begin to calculate how much you lost monetarily.

The bottom line is you could have protected yourself as best as possible, if someone is determined to rob you, they will. And it’s not your fault you were robbed. The best you could do cut your losses and move forward. But what did you really lose?

You lost your time. When it comes down to money, you have to look at the time it took to make the money to buy that DVD player and Xbox you lost. The jewelry might even be heirlooms that are irreplaceable. It will still take a long time to build it all back. I think your first investment would be of course new ways to secure your home so it never happens again. At that point any help is a relief.

My proposal.

I’m willing to fight for you. My dedication to the honest paying game player like myself, is why I write mMO MONEY.

In my opinion I feel NCSoft should give at least 2-3 free months of gametime subscription to anyone who had their account compromised. As well as Aion customers they can also be held accountable for customers of Lineage and Lineage II,City of Heroes/Villians and Guild Wars as well. If their security is bad for Aion, it has to be for their other games too.

I think it’s also very important to improve their security too. They removed their gameguard before going live and maybe it wasn’t a good idea to do so. I also know that it created many technical issues, but I would rather have that than lose weeks or months worth of my efforts because of faulty security.

Here’s my strategy.

There is a website that offers a free online petition service: http://www.petitiononline.com if you, the MMO community would be kind to collaborate with me for this cause, or are a victim of NCSofts’ faulty security and would like some retribution. Then give me some feedback and your support, please. In the meantime I am going to write a thesis on WHY they should be giving their customers the time to replace some of the equipment they were robbed of from these terrible hackers. I think they least they could do are to give 2-3 free months of subscriptions to their customers. Don’t you agree?

I’ll post it and I will start a largescale petition to rally the community to stand up for themselves against NCSofts weak response to this problem. What do you think? Any and all feedback is welcome. This is not the first time an online game account was hacked so this is  going to send a message to NCSoft but hopefully change the way that all MMO distributors will approach their games security and most important how they treat you, loyal customer.

It’s you loyal customer, who pays his $14.99 a month not matter what, and who is the most important person at the end of the day. Don’t you think it’s time these game companies started treating you like one?

I am starting a forum post here for your feedback. Thanks in advance =)

Play safe,

Frank Inktomi

WonderKing Launch Trailer

Posted by on January 28, 2010 - No Comments »

Today, Ndoors official launched their new 2D sidescrolling MMORPG, WonderKing.   With the official launch of the game of course come the official game trailer which also has been just released today, which you can view below.  But be warned, it’s loud, so if your speakers are turned up, turn them down.

For those of you not familiar with WonderKing, it is a free to play sidescrolling MMORPG that features PvP, an item mall and your normal MMO questing.  More info can be found at the official site where you can also download the game for free.