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Aion (Aion)
NCSoft | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 09/22/09)  | Pub:NCSoft
PVP:Yes | Distribution:Download | Retail Price:n/a | Pay Type:Free | Monthly Fee:n/a
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Assault on Balaurea: Interview

By Garrett Fuller on September 08, 2010 | Interviews | Comments

Assault on Balaurea:  Interview

The pet system is changing drastically with Assault on Balaurea, what was the biggest challenge in enhancing the system as developers?


The biggest challenge every design team has is creating something familiar to players, but with a unique spin on it. Pets usually serve one of two purposes in most games: combat or vanity. Combat pets are an extension of the characters ability to fight and a weapon in their own right. Vanity pets serve no purpose other than making their owners look special. We needed to find functional uses that the players would actually need, without breaking the immersion of the game. They needed to look very different, and provide “services” to players that would make exploring more fun than normal. I think we took the time and did it right and the crowds around the Pet Minder in game seem to agree.


What part of the new pet system are you most excited about as a player of Aion, not just a developer?


In essence, I just love the idea of usable non-combat pets. But in particular, I’m really looking forward to using the “Signal” Pets, which will alert you when an enemy player is lurking about. There’s few things more defeating than getting ganked while you’re trying to level your Essencetapping skills on some plants. It’s also awesome that we get to switch out pets on the fly, so there’s no having to go through some long process of weighing out which pet is best for a particular situation. Just summon the guy you think you need, and change them out as necessary!

Having flying in an MMO is always a challenge, yet Aion has tackled it perfectly. When you decided to add in new mechanics where did you start?


Flight needs three components to work in a game. It needs to be a form of travel and movement around the game, allowing access to areas you can’t do on an X/Y plane (and making areas like the Abyss possible). It also has to be tactically relevant to the gameplay and combat, allowing for advantages and disadvantages for those willing to use it. But there’s one more intangible element that is essential. Simply put, it needs to be awe-inspiring. When you hop into a Windstream in game, we want you sit back and enjoy the ride. If you need to get up a cliff that would take precious time to run around and find a path to climb, we want you to feel like the master of the terrain by using the geysers to launch you closer to your target. To paraphrase one of my favorite movies, “You’ll believe a man can fly.”

What part of the new flight enhancements was the biggest challenge for the team?


When working in such an immersive world, game developers need to think about things like game lore (how will we explain the existence of the new feature?), new maps (how will the terrain play into this feature?), and content (how will players use this while completing quests/exploring?). With something like Windstreams, we were able to enhance not just movement and the game lore, but also provide exclusive content accessible only via these Windstreams.

How has Assault on Balaurea re-branded Aion? This expansion seems much more sinister than the initial game launch.


You bet your winged-sandals it’s more sinister! Assault on Balaurea is essentially the Aion version of the Invasion of Normandy. As far as the Aion brand is concerned, Assault on Balaurea feels more intense in its theme, because the content is much more intense in how it plays.

When Aion launched, it was clear from the first few levels that there was an ongoing conflict between the three races of Atreia. Players found themselves in the middle of a war, but the motives for this war were unclear.

Now, nearly a year later, both player factions both have a common enemy: the Balaur. Assault on Balaurea is the beginning of a new chapter for all Daevas, and that chapter is all about a counter-attack again the Balaur.

Is there a particular challenge you really enjoyed throwing at the players in this expansion? Whether it was a PvE boss fight or some kind of raiding feature, something along those lines.


One of the common pieces of feedback that we saw among our players that enjoyed PvE content was that most of our raid encounters were too simplistic, and in many cases, predictable. In Assault on Balaurea, many of the encounters are unique and far less straightforward. Whether its contested raid content, or bosses in a group instance, or our multi-group instance “Abyssal Splinter” players are going to find that the content is much more engaging.

In designing the game mechanics of a Legion Raid how did you determine the balance between the players and the large scale challenges you were creating?


Again, it’s all about creating engaging content that is fun. Rather than just scaling up health, defense and other stats, we want Legion Raid challenges where the abilities are more dynamic and require quick thinking and collaboration. We’ve accomplished that with encounter mechanics that include vertical elements, bosses that split into multiple opponents and more that players will have to discover.

What is your personal favorite part of the expansion and why?


I’m a huge fan of the solo instances because of the variety that it brings to the game, especially to our lower level players who are new to the game. We’re really excited about bringing even more solo instances to the game down the road, so we’re definitely interested to hear what our players think.


I find the small quality of life changes in game to be the best. All quest markers showing up on the map is incredibly helpful in figuring out where you should be questing. Additional Trade Broker slots for those of us that LOVE playing the economy have already come in handy. Of course, having my little pet friends around to help out is always a good thing.

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