Ferrari or Vespa? Both are Italian and have a certain sense of style and will usually get you where are you going but in very different ways. The Ferrari is speed and handling and all about the lowest time to get to the finish line. The Vespa requires more finesse, a strong image and maybe even some crafting on the roadside to get to the finish line. When you jump into a new game, are you a Ferrari or a Vespa, or some hybrid of the two?
Immediate return on your investment.
Aion is different than most MMOGs that have launched in the last few years. Most MMOGs now launch with the ability for characters to pick their endgame class from the outset. Aion delays this decision by ten levels and thus provides a good incentive to get to level ten and Ascend not only into the final class selection but also get wings and flight. Level ten is only a few hours into the playtime so it’s not oppressive and provides a nice perk to getting there. The next milestone is a bit farther out though. Levels 11 to 24 are rife with new content to explore and various mods to meet and destroy. At level 25 though everything switches from PvE to PvP as the bulk of the new work reside in the Abyss. After level 25, there are less pathways to the endgame, but the idea of PvEvP offers up many ways to gain gear and experience.
With all of these game changing events relatively early on in the game, players feel a sense of accomplishment and excitement as they near those levels. Level 24 is certainly a joyous level as you gain access to one of the developer’s crown jewel, the Abyss.
More than one way to craft that cat.
Questing and leveling the old fashioned way is primary method for people leveling up, but there is another way. In another change off of the norm, Aion grants experience points for gathering and crafting. Gathering materials won’t net you large sums of experience points (XP), but it is a nice little bonus. Crafting on the other hand can grant some real XP. We won’t delve into the pros and cons of the overall crafting system here except to say that a character can rack up some good progress in levels.
Many paths, which one to chose?
I hear what you’re saying or what that little voice in your head is saying (you may want to have that checked by the way), “Medeor, why would I dilly or dally and not sprint for the finish line?” And from the way that people on my friend and legion lists are rolling, there is definitely a bias towards gaining max level as quickly as possible. That is to be expected, MMOG players are reward and goal driven and nothing says Finish Line like saying “ding, and that’s 50.” I have to say though that trying out so many MMOGs over the last 6 years has taught me that the early bird doesn’t typically catch the worm, usually they just catch the bugs. Not once have I thought, “if only I’d been max level sooner I could have [fill in something of consequence here].” That leads me to believe that all paths lead to the promised land.
Anyone looking at the path less travelled?
For the first round of main characters I would not expect to see someone leveling through crafting. Players may achieve a level or two, but not the bulk of the levels. Now for the second round aka Alts, I would guess a lot of people will take advantage of having a high level gatherer that can subsidize a new crafting alt. This will really be interesting to review the progression of main characters versus alts.
One knock against Aion is the apparent grind that occurs later in levels that may drive some of the faint of heart away. One way we will be able to determine that is by watching where alts tend to dry dock. If we see a huge bubble of alts in the mid to late twenties, then we’ll know that the grind gets too nasty right around there. And if it does, will you continue to work towards the ultimate goal of endgame fun?
There are so many things to explore in this game, it would seem a shame to just put your head down and sprint to some arbitrary finish line. Then again, I need to know my audience (and myself) and realize that there be gold in “them thar hills” and we want it. The game is over a year old in Asia, but it is still fresh in the western markets. How many people are truly evaluating every avenue they have for leveling up and filling out their character sheets? Is the only measure of progress the XP bar? What are you doing to progress your character toward max level and the endgame?