Atomic: How would you describe Aion to, say, a World of Warcraft fan, and how would you try to convince the fan that this is an MMO worth playing?
Lani Blazer: I would describe it as a new adventure, a new world to conquer, and a new story to discover. Part of designing for a global audience was researching what players love in an MMO. We wanted to give them more of what they enjoy and are familiar with, while introducing new features and playstyle. We're launching with a polished game, lots of content, and since the launch in Korea, we've implemented even more Westernized styles of combat and gameplay. Combine all of these elements with Aion's art, storylore arc, and features like tactical flight, PvPvE, and deep customization and I think you we have an experience that most MMO players wont want to miss trying out.
A: Aion's very big in the Asian markets, but the Asian view of the MMO is very different from a Western take. Have you had to make many changes to the game to make it more approachable or relevant to Western audiences?
LB: We haven't had to change very much in terms of gameplay. Our focus from the drawing board was to design a game that was fun, intuitive, unique, beautiful, and appealed to a global audience. The biggest changes have been in the localization process. We've actually been calling it the "culturalization" process because we're doing much more than just changing a Korean word to an English, French or German word. Once we had the first-pass translation in, we sent it to our writing team who began reworking quest text, NPC dialog, and the overall story; culture references, fables, and slang all had to be revised to make them familiar and meaningful to the Western audience. It was important to us that our players be able to relate to the content that we were presenting.
A: Flight plays a big part in the game's PVE and PVP mechanics. How has that affected the game from a design perspective?
LB: From a design perspective, flight certainly presented us with new challenges. We wanted the ability to fly to be much more than just getting the player from point A to point B. We wanted it to have meaning in the game and it was important to us that the players use this ability strategically. The expression "watch your back" doesn't really apply in flight-combat because you've also got to watch above and below. Knowing this the designers realized that positioning was going to be a key part of flight, so they designed quests, environments and instances around the idea that players needed to be aware of their surroundings in all directions, while at the same time managing their flight stats (speed and duration) with different types of buffs, consumables and armor enhancements.
A: How important is endgame raiding content to the overall longevity of Aion?
LB: Aion is about choice from character creation to endgame content. Players will be able to participate in PvPvE in a persistent zone called the Abyss or in instances that set all three races against each other inside the Balaur ship, called the Dregion. Players will also be able to run PvE instances for quests and rewards, as well as quest in PvE-only world zones. The game will have endgame quest armor for players to collect, Stigma stones to discover, titles to achieve, story to unravel, Abyss rankings to traverse, items to craft-and the list goes on. The breadth and flexibility of focus of Aion's endgame is one of its strengths.
A: Has the angelic nature of the game's setting caused any issues with the game's presentation and marketing? Ever had anyone complain about it?
LB: I've heard people refer to the games as an "angels-and-demons" type game, but once players learn more about the story and the factions, it becomes apparent that things aren't so black and white. We aren't dealing with a "good" and an "evil" playable faction. What is good and what is evil to each faction is completely dependent on which side you're fighting for. Deciding which side is justified in its hatred (or if either is) is complicated. It's all relative.
Aion will released next month, and you find out more about it here.