Brian Knox has been with NCsoft since 2003, where he began in Quality Assurance (QA) for NCsoft’s flagship franchise, Lineage II. Over the years, Brian took on lead roles in the QA department and eventually moved to over to production. As producer, Brian is responsible for working closely with the Aion development team in Seoul and publishing teams at NCsoft West to bring Aion to the western market.
We spoke to the Aion crew during this year's GDC, and Producer Brian Knox gives us a quick update on the status of Aion
Ten Ton Hammer: That players will the first playable "vertical slice" of the game this side of
the Pacific of the game at GDC is great news. Though the game is slated
for a Fall 2009 release as per a recent communication from Liv, would
you please give us an update on how the game is shaping up for release
in North America and Europe?
Brian Knox, Producer: We've recently opened Aion to all NCsoft West employees and will be
allowing limited external access to close family member and distribution
partners. We're working on some basic/boring server infrastructure,
patching, and auth integration. We're also aggressively working on the
localization rewrite, with some very talented writers joining us over
the past few weeks. Additionally, we're working on the specifics of all the
non-game elements of the product, such as our web presence and customer
service and operations tools. We've got a lot of work ahead, but we're
in good shape and we're meeting our internal dates.
Flight in Aion. Click here for more Aion screens from GDC '09.
Ten Ton Hammer: Aion has been called a "spiritual successor" to the Lineage series,
and NCsoft games originally developed for a Korean audience tend to have
a strong bias towards gamers who love PvP. We hear a lot about PvPvE,
but will there be plenty to do for gamers who prefer cooperative play
exclusively at all levels? Is this part of the localization process as
Brian Knox: It's obvious when I play the game that the designers at NCsoft are aware
of the evolution of the MMO genre and player expectations. The original
Lineage launched in 1998 had very few quests, I think it had one per
class in the traditional sense. That's just not where they placed the
emphasis on the game, but that's changed in that product over the years. In Aion, it's
quickly apparent the designers understand good solid quests, either as
quick stand-alone quests or arching, interconnected mission quests that
unlock other quests while telling a story and revealing the deeper
twists and fiction of the world you're in. At higher levels, there is
ample opportunity for player conflict as you compete to control castles
and capture points in the Abyss, but there is also raid type bosses
available at upper levels as well. This game has balanced player desires for PvE
and PvP very well.
Ten Ton Hammer: In what other ways will NCsoft West players benefit from the year and
more the game has been live in Korea? Do you believe that Aion has the
potential to be the most PvP balanced and stable MMO we've seen at
release in the West?
Brian Knox: Aion launched in November 2008 in Korea. When we launch Aion in our market, we’ll do so with all the recent updates and balances
previously released in Korea. We have the benefit of releasing a product
that's seen a quarter million people playing simultaneously, providing
tremendous insight to the game balance and client/server stability.
Every launch has its share of difficulties, but the release schedule
should absolutely benefit from the Live experience gained in other
More Aion Screenshots and Concept Images. Aion GDC gallery >>
Ten Ton Hammer: We've seen other MMOs "go vertical" in terms of zone layout - the
"Recluse's Victory" area in another NCsoft title (City of Heroes / City
of Villains) is a great example. Now we see Aion bringing this paradigm
shifting feature into a fantasy MMO. How important is flight and flying
combat to the Aion experience, and how early in the game will players
"earn their wings"?
Brian Knox: All players are provided an "Ascension" quest at level 10, which is
achievable within a day or two for a new user. As the player progresses,
flight becomes more useful and, eventually, a requirement in the Abyss
levels. Almost immediately, the flight mechanic can become useful in
escaping ambushes or retreating from combat. You may also use it for a
convenience mode of travel--say, flying over the back wall of a city
rather than running half way 'round to the front gate. Or imagine a
healer, hovering out of harm's way as a gladiator wages melee combat
below under their protection.
Ten Ton Hammer: Obviously there's a huge community of gamers itching to play Aion. In
what ways can players contribute and be a part of the game in the months
leading up to the preview event and launch, aside from learning Korean?
Brian Knox: It's obvious we have a fan base just waiting to play Aion. We're ramping
up our community effort and have recently hired Lani "Liv" Blazier in
the Community Manager role. We're also in the process of relocating some
of our staff from the EU office to the Seattle office for effective
NCsoft West support across all our supported territories--so we'll be
sharing more information and community initiatives (as well as
contests!) to allow players to be involved as we prepare for launch.
Now, the real question you're asking is "when can we get our hands on
the product in early access? We'll be making announcements on dates when gamers can get in and try the game soon--very soon. In the meantime, be sure
to visit www.aiononline.com for the latest news!
Thanks to Brian Knox for taking time for us during this busy GDC week, and thanks also to
Jeane Wong and Jennie Sue of OnePR for setting things up!
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Aion Game Page.