New Work

22 01 2011

theladasreview.wordpress.com

I’m reviewing anime now with my blogging time. I’ve been off of Aion for over a year now, so this little blog seems outdated at best. Sorry to all those looking for more information: I don’t know anything about the game anymore.

While I do play WoW at present, I can’t bring myself to blog about the material there too much – it’s all changing too quickly, and I don’t have the interest in maintaining that kind of long-standing game material anymore. Just look for my comments on other WoW bloggers if you want to know how I feel about the game ^_^

Best of luck to those of you tackling the challenges in Aion. And, if you have any interest in anime, feel free to come join me at The Theladas Review!





Where’d You Go?

17 12 2009

Well, that’s a lot of crickets.

I guess I’m better at disappearing than I ever planned to be. I’m still alive and well, but I haven’t launched the Aion client in about a month now. Honestly, I just haven’t felt drawn to spend what little free time I get with Aion instead of with friends. Friends are far more understanding of time commitments than Aion seems to be. Friends don’t have horribly low frame-rates… usually; Aion still gives me crap at the low-end of the graphics settings. And, at the end of the day, I just don’t know how to go about playing a game of monster killing for hours on end by myself – it gets far too boring far too quickly, and the rewards for it are so far away.

So, for the time being, I’m staying away from Aion. If they fix the graphics to not fail on mid-range machines, I might go back. If they change the gameplay to be more quest-oriented than grind oriented, I might go back. If the social structure of Aion becomes less of a battle to avoid bots and assholes, and more of a cooperative, reinforcing environment, I might go back. But with all three of these grievances hanging over the game simultaneously, I really can’t bring myself to play a character past level 20 or so, and I’m not motivated to play those 20-odd levels over again when the plot and pathing are identical every time.

As for insights and guides and such, I don’t want to make any promises, but I will still try to put more of them up here. Chances are that I’ll repurpose this blog in the near future and step away from the Aion-centric angle I set out with, though; guides that are up-and-coming will likely have a very different focus. I understand and appreciate the benefits of blogs centered about a single game, but I don’t know that I can do the community justice at the moment; I’m not enthralled with Aion, and there’s no other single game that really catches my eye at the moment. Rather, I think I’d have more to offer if I were to take a freelance, generic gaming blog approach. The question is: is there an audience that’s as curious about all sorts of games on the market as I am?





The Results are in…

29 10 2009

… and the verdict is:

Build a Crafting Guide!

That’s what the majority of votes asked for. Turns out that no one cares about how to balance stats against one another to build a character, so hey – I’ll drop the topic. Less work for me; hurrah. I’ll indeed likely have to come back to work on the Chanter-specific guide, and I’ll talk more about them as soon as I get farther in the game and can thus have a better grasp of the class’s full dynamics.

There were also a handful of votes for “something else.” I’m not sure what these mean, as there’s no comments or E-mail that I’ve got to explain them. So, for cuiosity’s sake, I’ll make some guesses:

Combat Mechanics: There’s a fair set of nuances here, some of which I’ve covered with my statistics guide. There is more to talk about here, though, such as the order-of-operations (and thus knowing what has priority), the simultaneity confound, its effects and potential benefits, and other intricate elements of the combat engine. It’s a fun topic for experimentation and evaluation, but then I don’t know if I can codify a substantive guide out of it.

Grinding Optimization: This has been done. Given the level and ranking of enemies you can handle and your level, you can simply look up the set of enemy types that you can handle at aionwh.com – simply go to the tools section, and go to the Grind Optimizer (no direct links because the site runs on ajax – yay for simple directions!). So, if you’re wondering if you’re actually fighting the right type of stuff, you can use this little tool as a sanity check for your efficiency.

Gathering Guide: The question of “What stuff is where?” is already solved by aionarmory.com’s Gatherables section – every resource type that’s been encountered has its possible locations tagged on the appropriate maps. The mechanics governing these gathering attempts are synonymous with the mechanics governing crafting, so they’ll be covered in my crafting guide. Is there something I’m missing here, some other solution needed for understanding how to go about gathering materials? If so, let me know.

PvP Guidelines: I don’t think I’ll ever be as good at explaining good PvP guidelines compared to other players. I’m proficient in duels, and I have a fair grasp of scaled PvP combat by and large, but I’m no stellar player. I’m afraid that if you’re looking for more information on how to take down human-controlled adversaries, you’ll need to keep searching for a good, comprehensive approach. Be careful about the approach you execute, though: you will lose some fights, and if you go out into the world expecting to win everything you will be disappointed. I guarantee it.

However, I should note that it’s okay to lose. After all, your loss is someone else’s win, which at least makes that person feel better. If you don’t get depressed and angry about losing the fight, then there’s only gain to be had. Otherwise, it’s a zero-sum game: one side goes up, and the other side goes down equally. If it’s a zero-sum game, then on average you don’t gain anything. If there’s no gain, then why are you spending your time on it? I encourage you to take advantage of your losses as well as your wins, so that there’s always a positive takeaway.

Also, win or lose, don’t be an asshole. The last thing this game needs is more assholes.

Other: I’m really not sure if there’s other stuff out there that’s substantial enough to warrant a full guide. Other classes, perhaps, but I’m no expert on anything outside of what I’ve played (Gladiator and Chanter). Other than that, I’m a little lost. But, just because I’m lost doesn’t mean I can’t help, per se. If there’s something I’m missing, do feel free to tack it on here – I’ll find a way to make it fit, independent of my severe lack of free time lately.

So, there are some other possibilites. For now, however, I’ll be conserving my focus to building a comprehensive crafting guide. Some topics I know I’ll cover:

  1. Basics of crafting: What crafts are there, what do they provide, and how a player can acquire and improve any craft.
  2. Crafting algorithm architecture: How do the two bars work, and how can a player minimize his chance of failure.
  3. High-Quality production: What is a high-quality product, what factors influence creating them, and what to do to turn a profit with high-quality materials.
  4. Powerleveling approaches: Is the process of leveling crafting best done in tandem with leveling, or afterwards, and what arguments support either side.
  5. Meta-crafting: How a player can make the most of the craft-leveling process, and how to handle the unavoidable downtime.
  6. Advanced topics: To be extended for high-level crafting quests; Expert Craft requisites, limitations, and benefits; Other problems/questions posed.

The Advanced section will be empty in the first pass of this guide, as I can’t really speak to Expert crafting just yet, but I’ll add to it as soon as I can in the near future. If there’s something you think is missing, let me know now – I’ll work it in as best I can before actually posting the guide.

Gunsmith of Williamsburg: a comprehensive documentary of gunsmithing, if my guide takes too long.

So, there ya have it. The results say that people want to learn about crafting, and so I shall deliver. Yay for a free, long weekend ahead! Games, storytelling, and guide-writing are all on the horizon – such a welcome break from network graph transformations and sleep plasticity experiments.

In the Meanwhile: Check out The Gunsmith of Williamsburg for a comprehensive look at just what hand-tooling your own equipment can require. Sure, the movie’s about crafting a rifle, rather than a plate hauberk or wooden stave, but I think there’s a lot of overlap. It’s a shame how little we appreciate the enormous acceleration of crafting in current video games. That said, the actual process behind making this stuff is super cool, in my opinion – check it out!





What (Guides) do You Want to See?

19 10 2009

Note: There’s a poll at the bottom – be sure to vote before you navigate away!

I don’t know how I still manage to have any free time these days. It’s getting absurd just how much work I have on my plate, yet I still somewhow find the time and energy to take one friend out for brunch, spend an hour plotting how to break into a locked room with another friend (to write a paper about the room for class, no less), and meet my parents for dinner. It’s busy as all hell, and I still manage to play a bit of Aion when my computer isn’t trying to fry itself.

Perhaps the strangest thing is that I’m not feeling stressed by everything. Indeed, I’m not here to whine or anything – I’m loving the work, and all the free time feels that much better because of the work I have to do to earn it. Rather, I’m looking for more direction in what I should be doing with this little corner of the Internet.

I set up a few stubs for guides on this website. If people are interested in learning more about any one of those topics, please let me know. I’m going to start by working on the “Character Design Guide,” which will aim to provide insight on which manastones you should use to enhance a certain element of your character’s performance. It’s not going to be a min/maxing guide, nor a guide on what a class needs to socket for. Instead, it’ll examine some more general character goals (more survivability, damage output, group viability, etc.), and discuss how to handle these goals for any class. After all, you can sculpt your character to be whatever you want – that’s the magic of manastones (and stigmas, coming soon).

Additionally, I have plenty to say about the playstyle, pros, and cons of Chanter play. It keeps creeping up between posts from my experience, which is fine, but I’m sure some viewers would love to have a single, consolidated file of all the goodness in a guide. Again, don’t expect me to explain a min/max strategy for Chanters: I really don’t believe in that playstyle, so I’ll be focusing instead on realistic, rounded performance improvement. Also, there are some quirks to keep in mind whenever playing a Chanter (positioning, balancing healing with offense, reactionary skills, etc.) – those will be covered in depth.

I even have some things to mention about the world of crafting. I don’t have full recipe lists, but I’m sure that Aion’s Powerwiki has a full compilation of those lists as it is. But understanding the inner-workings of crafting, especially those success-failure races? Yeah, there’s more than simply chance at play there. Rer of (Insert Awesome Aion Name) had some commentary on this topic a while back, and I wanted to expand upon it in a more thorough, comprehensive guide for permanent reference.

The question for you, then, is which of these topics would be most helpful for you? Generic Classes, Chanter-Specifics, Crafting Assistance, or something completely different? I’m open to suggestions – if there’s something you don’t understand, I’d be happy to investigate and provide whatever explanation I can. So, please, give me some feedback – vote in the poll for the field you want to hear about most! Also, if you fall in the “Other” category, please elaborate in a comment or E-mail (if you prefer privacy).

Thanks in advance for the input. I’ll be back in a bit with some storytelling fun; I’m aiming to keep posts distinct, so it’s time for a double. In the meantime, let me know what you want to see!





The Snail’s Report: Weaving Works!

12 10 2009

Busy times sure do cut down on the ability to play the game. Unfortunately, this workload isn’t likely to let up anytime soon. That said, I have a bit of time now to check in with the snail’s progress report.

Theladas is slow. I find myself far too distracted by crafting and gathering to keep up with the grind-whoring masters. As such, I’ve only recently broken level 21 on my way to the top. To be honest, I’m really not too concerned about being behind. I won’t be the first of my class to get top-end gear, but there’s no way my schedule could support the necessary raiding times to get that stuff anyways. I’ll be more vulnerable in PvP to high-level enemies, but there’s not much I can do about that – only the first through the Abyss get to be on top, and they’ve easily had five times the gametime that I’ve had.

Theladas also has bad luck. When crafting a series of Handicrafting Jewelry pieces, I ended up with only one HQ proc out of the twelve attempts that I made. It’s demoralizing, really, when I had such good luck with these things in the Closed Betas. I suppose I wasted all of my luck back then – how foolish of me.

True to my word, I haven’t worked on Jerricah or the others yet. I’ve reserved the names and made initial cuts at their avatars (I may make a second pass some other time), but they’re all still stuck at level one. I really do want to see the middle and end-game content that wasn’t available in the Closed Beta, it’s just gonna take me a while longer to clamber through the leveling ladder.

Allison may not be a Daeva, but she sure has an awesome set of wings.

Allison may not be a Daeva, but she sure has an awesome set of wings.

In the free time I’m not spending in-game, I’ve been watching Allison & Lillia. It’s a curious show that has a lot of Steampunk themes running through it. I find it very endearing, though the obliviousness of the characters is occasionally frustrating. The mysteries and adventures aren’t quite as engaging as the adventures of Ghost Hunt, but I like the setting: the technology, the times, and the conflicts are more believable (perhaps because they aren’t hinged on phantoms…). Anyways, it’s worth a look for anime enthusiasts.

On the questions front: More Weaving!

Theladas is a Chanter, which means his melee skills are sub-par compared to Gladiators and Assassins. His ability to push out numbers is still vital, however; I don’t ever want to be carried in a group, and killing enemies faster leads to less downtime in the solo venue. So I did a lot of experimenting on what approach to skill use was most productive.

First, some information to scope the Weaving problem for Chanters:

Chanters operate on an 8-second rotation with a 2-second swing timer. I have four skills that I use in the current rotation. All of my blackout periods seem to align at lasting for only 1 second, though the animations often bleed over (The animations are irrelevant for game mechanics, of course). Auto Attacks hit for 60-120 damage, while Special Attacks hit for 160-260. Given these parameters, I tried a few approaches to weaving:

  • Skill Spam: I burn out my skillset in 4 seconds, give or take. Two swings go out, one at 5 seconds and one at 7 seconds. I can wait one second for a third attack to land at 9 seconds, or cut it off and return to the skillspam rotation.
  • Tight Weave: With a bit of prediction, I can land a special ability just as the animation for the auto attack triggers. The result is essentially a boosted special attack, with the auto-attack damage and the special skill damage landing at virtually the same time. With proper timing, four boosted attacks will land in just over 8 seconds.
  • Tight Weave Adaptations: On an 8-second rotation with 4 auto-attacks, there’s no break for throwing on a self-hot or using any more special abilities. But the solution is pretty simple, in principle: when faced with a new special ability, it will be concatenated into one of the two existing chains. I then adapt that half of the rotation to be three skill-spammed abilities, effectively cutting out one of the auto attacks in favor of a special attack. For off-chain abilities, such as an instant HoT, I slip the ability in between the two chains. Again, a single auto attack is sacrificed for the ability if proper timing is maintained.

So, what does this mean? Well, simply put I deal 120-240 additional damage every 8 seconds by using weaving over skillspam. At level 21. By planning ahead, I can prep a heal in between skill chains at the cost of only one auto-attack. When I finally acquire more attacks for the rotation, I can again drop a single auto attack to provide space for the special skill. Once I have 8 special attacks to use on every 8-second rotation, I will no longer be weaving; until that time, weaving provides better returns than skillspam.

Extensions to Gladiators, Rangers, and Assassins? You guys will have to test it out yourselves. I suspect that weaving will always have some benefit, if only to help you queue your abilities up consistently in PvE.

Bottom Line: Don’t be a carry, Chanters; unless assigned to main-heal a random farming group, there should be a cleric in charge of healing the team. Your mantras do part of your job, but only consistent and well-timed weaves will bring your DPS element up to par with the rest of the team.

Okay, back to work with me. It’s time to prep a robotic forklift for simulation.

Busy times sure do cut down on the ability to play the game. Unfortunately, this workload isn’t likely to let up anytime soon. That said, I have a bit of time now to check in with the snail’s progress report.

Theladas is slow. I find myself far too distracted by crafting and gathering to keep up with the grind-whoring masters. As such, I’ve only recently broken level 21 on my way to the top. To be honest, I’m really not too concerned about being behind. I won’t be the first of my class to get top-end gear, but there’s no way my schedule could support the necessary raiding times to get that stuff anyways. I’ll be more vulnerable in PvP to high-level enemies, but there’s not much I can do about that – only the first through the Abyss get to be on top, and they’ve easily had five times the gametime that I’ve had.

Theladas also has bad luck. When crafting a series of Handicrafting Jewelry pieces, I ended up with only one HQ proc out of the twelve attempts that I made. It’s demoralizing, really, when I had such good luck with these things in the Closed Betas. I suppose I wasted all of my luck back then – how foolish of me.

True to my word, I haven’t worked on Jerricah or the others yet. I’ve reserved the names and made initial cuts at their avatars (I may make a second pass some other time), but they’re all still stuck at level one. I really do want to see the middle and end-game content that wasn’t available in the Closed Beta, it’s just gonna take me a while longer to clamber through the leveling ladder.

In the free time I’m not spending in-game, I’ve been watching Allison & Lillia. It’s a curious show that has a lot of steampunk themes running through it. I find it very endearing, though the obliviousness of the characters is occasionally frustrating. The mysteries and adventures aren’t quite as engaging as the adventures of Ghost Hunt, but I like the setting: the technology, the times, and the conflicts are more believable (perhaps because they aren’t hinged on phantoms…). Anyways, it’s worth a look for anime enthusiasts.

On the questions front: More Weaving!

Theladas is a Chanter, which means his melee skills are sub-par compared to Gladiators and Assassins. His ability to push out numbers is still vital, however; I don’t ever want to be carried in a group, and killing enemies faster leads to less downtime in the solo venue. So I did a lot of experimenting on what approach to skill use was most productive.

First, Chanters operate on an 8-second rotation with a 2-second swing timer. I have four skills that I use in the current rotation. All of my blackout periods seem to align at lasting for only 1 second, though the animations often bleed over. Auto Attacks hit for 60-120 damage, while Special Attacks hit for 160-260. Given these parameters, I tried a few approaches to weaving:

Skill Spam: I burn out my skillset in 4 seconds, give or take. Two swings go out, one at 5 seconds and one at 7 seconds. I can wait one second for a third attack to land at 9 seconds, or cut it off and return to the skillspam rotation.

Tight Weave: With a bit of prediction, I can land a special ability just as the animation for the auto attack triggers. The result is essentially a boosted special attack, with the auto-attack damage and the special skill damage landing at virtually the same time. With proper timing, four boosted attacks will land in just over 8 seconds.

Tight Weave Adaptations: On an 8-second rotation with 4 auto-attacks, there’s no break for throwing on a self-hot or using any more special abilities. But the solution is pretty simple, in principle: when faced with a new special ability, it will be concatenated into one of the two existing chains. I then adapt that half of the rotation to be three skill-spammed abilities, effectively cutting out one of the auto attacks in favor of a special attack. For off-chain abilities, such as an instant HoT, I slip the ability in between the two chains. Again, a single auto attack is sacrificed for the ability if proper timing is maintained.

So, what does this mean? Well, simply put I get off 120-240 additional damage every 8 seconds by using weaving over skillspam. By planning ahead, I can prep a heal in between skill chains at the cost of only one auto-attack. When I finally acquire more attacks for the rotation, I can again drop a single auto attack to provide space for the special skill. Once I have 8 special attacks to use on every 8-second rotation, I will no longer be weaving; until that time, weaving provides better returns than skillspam.

Extensions to Gladiators, Rangers, and Assassins? You guys will have to test it out yourselves. I suspect that weaving will always have some benefit, if only to help you queue your abilities up consistently in PvE.

Bottom Line: Don’t be a carry, Chanters; unless assigned to main-heal a random farming group, there should be a cleric in charge of healing the team. Your mantras do part of your job, but only consistent and well-timed weaves will bring your DPS element up to par with the rest of the team.

Okay, back to work with me. It’s time to prep a robotic forklift for simulation.





The Social Threat to Aion’s Survival

2 10 2009

Anikka over at Sin Healing posted about the dangers in Aion’s community recently. I had been meaning to write on this topic, so I figure now’s as good a time as any.

I’m a big fan of positive communication
. I spend a lot of time giving presentations, so I’m always working to get information across to others in effective, concise ways. The majority of my research is on HRI (Human-Robot Interaction), and a big part of that is promoting various avenues of communication. This same effort for clear communication carries over into working here on my blog, and in Aion itself. I try to always be courteous, and I hope that nothing I present here ever comes across as condescending. I make assumptions, and I make estimations; I try to find answers to questions, and solutions to problems. I don’t want to attack people, and I certainly don’t want to present myself as some overbearing know-it-all: I don’t know it all. There’s a lot I don’t know, and that’s why I have so many questions. But right now, my mind’s fixated on one question in particular:

Why is it that Aion has such a high APR (Assholes to Players Ratio)? It seems like everywhere I go, there’s more assholes.

Sadly, I wouldnt be surprised if this guy was somewhere on my campus.

Sadly, I wouldn't be surprised if this guy was somewhere on my campus.

I’m consistently disappointed by reading any player-generated dialogue from just about anywhere in the game. Half of my own legion’s discussions and comments are either rude or offensive to various cultures. Reading anything in the region chat is like asking to jab burning pokers into my eyes. Maybe all the sensible people (like myself) just refrain from typing anything at all. That doesn’t really fix the problem, though: the apparent APR is what will hurt the game, even if it’s not an accurate representation.

And I’m referring only to legitimate players, here. Bots and goldspammers are obnoxious, but they’re easily ignorable. Bots will have to pass tests come patch 1.6 if they spam-gather. Goldspammers don’t really harass any one person: they just spread around a single obnoxious message to every player they can find and then wait for a while. People who find them to be the problem with the social scene in Aion should take a second look. Autonomous players may not help much, but they don’t do nearly so much damage as malicious players.

What is wrong, then? In a nutshell, it’s the overwhelming ignorance and cruelty with which all of the current gamers treat one another. Everyone’s already an expert in this game, and everyone already knows everything there is to know about this game (or so they think). So many players I’ve met already seem to think they know everything, and actually judge other players based on these facts they’ve accumulated so far; they know how to play the game best, and no one in their right ming would ever play any other way.

I’m not sure why people have to be so biased. I mean, doing what you enjoy is good, but it should never actively conflict with someone else enjoying his own thing. You could argue some semantics about PvP being a win-lose situation, but no person in their right mind plays PvP (or any competitive sport) with the delusion that they’ll win every match. There’s no fun in winning every match, after all – there’s no challenge, no struggle. People have an innate proclivity to seek out challenges. So PvP has give and take; it’s the challenge and risk that makes that kind of gameplay fun. But harassing other players in PvE settings, really? Or even worse, harassing other players for doing other things outside the game? Where does anyone get off thinking that’s okay?

The Internet Paradox

The Internet is a wonderful tool, allowing for direct communication betweent thousands of locations simultaneously. Talking with other people, independent of the physical distance between you and them, has never been so easy, openly accessible, and open source. And yet, the farther we move in the direction of using the Internet for communication, the worse our actual communication skills become. Mind you, I’m not talking about 1337 or “r u 4 reel?” stuff – those are degradations of language; I’m talking about communication skills.

This is best summed up by XKCD‘s “Internet Argument.” There’s no better way to state the problem: it’s far easier to be an asshole to a computer screen than to another human being. I think this is particularly relevant to the MMO scene: it’s so easy to get angry and frustrated when things don’t go exactly as you want, and the other people nearby (be they in your group or on similar solo quests) are easy targets. You can vent your frustrations out on them and no one will care; it’s just a game, after all.

Why do computer screens make us lose sight of what it is we’re actually doing? Whispering, “You’re a fucking retard. Why the hell are you using a Greatsword as a Gladiator? Get a fucking polearm!” to another player kinda disturbs me. It’s as if I were stopping a woman in the street and swearing at her for wearing a wide-brimmed hat on a cloudy day: “What the hell, lady? the sun’s not going to burn you, so take your fucking hat off.” Yet it happens in the game.

Whispering, “Fuck you, jackass, that was my Iron node,” is even more common. The act of stealing someone else’s gathering node is also common, and really underhanded. It’s the same as cutting in line at Starbucks; getting your coffee three minutes faster really is that crucial, is it? I’m glad your caffeine addiction takes precedence over your courtesy to other human beings.

Then there’s the personal attacks. “Why are you so slow? Grind more, bitch!” comments are pretty ubiquitous. “What kind of idiot does anything else with his free time? the game’s where it’s at, dude. Level now or just give up.

Everyone seems to hold the standard that if you aren’t playing for endgame Right Now, you aren’t playing at all. I don’t understand that. I don’t have the time to commit to the game for that kind of grind right now, and I’m really enjoying my pace as it is. And I’m obviously not spending all of my free time in-game: I am writing this, after all. I enjoy the variety. I enjoy having some changes in pace: group grinding on elites today, jogging around gathering the next, and writing up reflections on the next. Why on Earth would I force myself to get to the end of Aion, when there’s so much to be seen along the way? If I wanted to sit in the end-game lull, I’d still be playing WoW. I came to Aion for the full experience; Aion delivers an enriching game from the very first quests. I see no reason to skip all the content of the game simply to be “done with it already.” It’s not like I view the game as a chore – sheesh!

So there’s countless asinine comments flying across every communication thread I join. There are some decent conversations, too, to be fair. Some of my legion-mates are great, competent people with cool ideas to chat about. The problem is that now, so unlike my CB and OB experiences, the vast majority of players are no longer helpful, upbeat people. They’ve sunk into silence or frothing elitism.

Elitism

WoWs Elitist Jerks icon. I thought I left them with WoW.

WoW's Elitist Jerks icon. I thought I left the elitist jerks with WoW.

This is really a big thing ever since online communication forums were set up for multiplayer games. With the advent of theorycrafting, players who don’t have the time or interest to study their character class and stats can read the outcomes that someone else found. Whether these outcomes are accurate, or even within reason, is completely arbitrary unless cited with in-game screenshots. The theorycrafting is cool: I do a fair bit of it myself, obviously. I am thoroughly offended by anyone who takes this sort of information and uses it to hurt others, however.

Okay, so putting shield defense manastones in your leather armor is a bad idea: I hope that’s clear to every Scout class in the game. But if I mix HP and Attack and Accuracy on my Scout’s gear because Crit stones don’t drop and costs too much on the trading house, do you really feel good in calling me out on it? Optimal or no, it’s not a life-changing decision at level 18 – the gear will be replaced soon enough, anyways. I might as well get a little benefit from the stones I find while I can, right? Or, even if I go exclusively for Parry and dual-wield swords for the additional parry, is that really a decision that you have to insult me for?

Even looking at game mechanics: the Weaving debate. Do you realize just how opinionated some players are on the concept? I’ve heard even my own legion-mates say “Fuck weaving – just mash the buttons, noob.” Now, I’ll grant that weaving is open to debate: I don’t assert that it’s better in all conditions. It also takes more work. But, seeing as I can verify that I get an additional Auto-Attack (along with all of my special attacks) every 8 seconds on my Chanter if I weave my specials rather than spamming, I’m convinced that spamming is not the correct answer in all cases. Either way, it shouldn’t be a big deal: I don’t mind people who button mash, nor do I mind slow weaves that don’t actually gain anything. I do mind people who judge others on the decision, though; intolerance for anything that isn’t deemed “optimal” is a dangerous, destructive approach to gaming interactions. No one’s perfect at this stuff, and even minute details (like latency) can make a stellar weave fall apart. Thus, presuming to have omniscence on the weaving topic is just another way of being an asshole.

The PvP Inflammation

At its core, Aion is a competitive game. There’s tons of competition between Elyos and Asmodians, as well as between players on the same side. Named mobs, quest-dependant mobs, limited resource nodes, and so forth all contribute to the competition. This naturally contributes to the arguments and frustration: not everyone can win, yet everyone wants a chance to be on top.

Naturally, this increase in frustration is a primary fuel for all of the ill behavior in-game. If everything in the game went smoothly, showing off how every player has a good talent in some respect, then there’d be less anger and disappointment seething within some players. But now that everything’s in a competitive arena, there’s so many more moments of failure that players have to deal with. How do most players deal? At present, it seems that yelling at somebody else is the easiest solution.

  • Blaming teammates for not being competent enough to keep up.
  • Blaming game designers for letting one class have an advantage over another.
  • Telling off a new player for doing something slightly sub-optimal as an indirect vent.

There’s several outlets for blame, and a lot of that tends to stream over regional or legion chat. But then, all that anger leaves one player and offends the people on the receiving end. How do those players deal, now that they’re doubly stressed by their own game as well as the anger of some other player?

You can see a vicious cycle ensuing here. This is how divisions between people are made; this is what breaks couples up, starts fights, starts wars, and benefits no one. Even the original person doesn’t feel all that great: someone else is likely bitching at him about something else. It’s dangerous, horrible, and will rend Aion’s social structure apart if it persists.

A Solution

This isn’t a hard problem to fix, so long as people recognize that it needs to be fixed. The secondary killer of social atmospheres is apathy. Once players stop really caring about the garbage spewing through open chat channels, that avenue of communication is as good as dead. So, hopefully I’ve expressed the problem sufficiently above.

What’s the fix, then? There’s multiple solutions, to be sure, but I’ll focus on just one for now: Sportsmanship.

Aion is a competitive game, as I’ve said before. There’s all sorts of conflict and struggle and there can’t be as many winners as there are winners at any one time. This Shouldn’t Be News to Anyone. If you queued up for Aion, expect to have competition. Expect to even have unfair competition sometimes. If you aren’t comfortable with this, then I whole-heartedly recommend that you look for another game to play. There’s nothing wrong with not liking the competitive atmosphere here – it is harsh, even in the best of circumstances, and there will always be struggle and anger and disappointment to cope with. But Aion is a game, not a chore; it should be something that you enjoy doing. If you aren’t enjoying it, then don’t feel ashamed – just look for something else. It’s your free time, after all – you should spend it in a way that feels relaxing, fun, or entertaining (How can someone enjoy competition, you may ask? Well, weirder things have happened – I enjoy working with math, after all…).

Now, for those of you who do enjoy some, most, or even all of Aion’s game content, be prepared for the disappointment that is inherent in any competitive environment. The easiest way I find to do this: go in with an attitude of building others up. When you’re playing Aion, have the goal of supporting all other players you encounter, rather than pushing them down. This is the true essence of Sportsmanship: promoting the other players on your team, and even on the opposing team, rather than using scathing remarks or foul play to reach your goal.

You might be wondering how the hell this could possibly make sense, but I promise that it does. The key is to promote others without becoming a doormat yourself. Race for gathering nodes, race for mob kills, and fight as best you can in any PvP encounter. However, when one of those fights lands in someone else’s favor, don’t attack them verbally. Congratulate them on doing so well. Learn from what they do. Similarly, when you win, don’t sling insults on the injury. Try instead to suggest what might have turned the fight in their favor, or perhaps another spawn location for the same type of gatherable material. Sure, it sucks to lose, but you knew you were going to lose some fights when you logged in. If you can’t handle that with a smile, then you aren’t playing the right game. Whispering every single person you meet with some compliment is pretty awkward, to be sure, but sparingly-used encouraging comments are far more productive than any amount of insult.

Okay, so Aions world looks a little different...

Okay, so Aion's world looks a little different...

A good analog to this is the game of Baseball. Aion is a lot like Baseball: there are two distinct teams, each with many players, and each player has a moment to excel on an individual level – at bat. If a teammate strikes out, it sucks; if your near-home-run hit gets caught on the warning strip, it sucks. But MLB players get on the field knowing that not everything will work out perfectly. They don’t deride their teammates when they miss a pitch, and they don’t run to the outfield and punch the guy who caught their hit. They’re disappointed, snap their fingers, and wish they’d done better for sure. However, the truly good players will be impressed by the long-shot catch made on the warning strip, and will coach his fellow, batting-shy friend through the motions to improve his swing. Not every player on a Baseball team can be an all-star at once, but the other players on a team don’t ever let their disappointment at missing that opportunity show; they support their lucky teammate, and they smile.

I won’t lie, saying that good Sportsmanship is easy. It’s a pain in the ass, and it’s genuinely a struggle to be sincere sometimes. But the payoff is worth it. I can just imagine what an amazing community Aion could have, if only more of the players took the time to be supportive, rather than derisive. There’d be more group invitations floating around; there’d be so much less garbage on the regional channels that I could subscribe to them again; there’d be competition and struggle without the bitter aftertaste, regardless of who won the competition. There’d still likely be cheating and frustration, but players would be able to handle those infractions with poise: calmly report abuse of game mechanics to a GM, and carry on.

Naturally, this doesn’t get rid of anger and frustration. Outlets are always needed, to be sure. PvE content is one easy way to beat the living daylights out of something to make yourself relax. Maybe just jogging into town to do some solo crafting will take the edge off after a particularly painful Abyss experience. Ranting and raving on a blog is another way to get your frustrations off your chest. I fully understand that things won’t always be perfect, and that no amount of go-getter cheering and support will fix everything. But that’s not the point here. Rather, if we can just remedy the social interactions of the game, I think there will be marked improvement in the game experience across the board.

The first two letters in the MMORPG acronym stand for “Massively Multiplayer.” Aion is a multiplayer game. If you can’t play well with others, I recommend finding another game to play; there’s nothing wrong with this, I assure you. I just want you to enjoy your free time. If you think you can play well with others, then I challenge you to show this to the other players in Aion – lead by example with good Sportsmanship. The ORPG part of Aion is handled by the Aion devs, and they’re doing well so far. Keeping the MM part of Aion alive and enjoyable is the responsibility of the players. Can you help with that responsibility?





“What do the Numbers Mean?” Guide Released

28 09 2009

UPDATE: The Guide is complete! There’s still a bit of cleaning for me to do in the near future, but by and large everything regarding the actual core stats is available in the guides section. Enjoy!

I love my numbers work, and so I’m going to be moving the project to a more permanent space. I’m also going to convert the information into a more easily-navigable format. If you want to view the information from all of my “What do the Numbers Mean?” explorations, simply click on the “Guides” section of the top toolbar.

Note: this is still a work in progress. I’m in the process of writing up segments for each of the remaining stats, so it’ll be a while before everything is as pristine as I would like. I just figured I should let you all know what’s going on, as this will be an incremental process. I’ll update the Blog once everything’s all happy, though, and be sure to give me feedback on what might make the guide easier to navigate!

Additionally, are there other aspects of the game that you would like to see explained? I know that information about specific classes is pretty prized, So I may start up a Guidelet on what I find to be good in playing a Chanter properly, as well as habits to avoid. What else would you like to see?








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