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E3 2006 Preview

Jon Wood Posted:
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AION has the graphics, but it is more than a pretty facade?

Heading into E3, NCSoft had announced that they would be demoing a new game. All we knew heading in was that the game’s title was “Aion”. Other than that, we had no real details until Laura Genender and I had a chance to run through the gauntlet of NCSoft presentations.

Aion is a game being developed for the Korean market and localized at the same time for the North American market. Joey MacArthur, the Localization Manager for the game who gave us a hands-on demo later in the day, told us that they are hoping for a simultaneous launch.

My first impression of the game during the presentation for this particular title was that it was visually impressive. The environments were particularly interesting, especially when you added in their weather effects, which, as it turns out, not only look appealing, but also serve a function in the game, affecting some player skills. Fire magic, for example, doesn’t work as well in the rain, and heat waves reflecting off the desert sands might impair your character’s abilities.

The story is a classic good vs. evil setup. Literally angelics vs. demonics, with both sides playable as they battle for control. They’re calling this game a PvPvE game because of the wildcard faction in the struggle, the Dragons. The Dragons serve as a common enemy for both sides, as well as a balancing factor for battles.

Further in terms of story, while they were unable to disclose any specific details, MacArthur did tell us that they want to get players “emotionally involved, to feel for the characters, to feel as though they can actually contribute to this world.” He goes on to tell us that there is a mechanism in place that will help to do that. The players have the ability to influence the world. Through the player’s actions, the story will play out differently.

MacArthur also told us about the game’s plans to allow players to determine the kind of server that would be played. They will not designate a RP server, but rather will allow players, again through their actions, to determine each server’s attributes.

One of the more exciting features of this game is that players, as characters, will be given the opportunity to fly. Currently, in this build of the game, players are limited to a specific flight track, but we are told that there is a possibility that this would change, giving players a free-flight experience. On a side-note, the visuals that go along with flight were particularly impressive. The flight appeared as realistic, for example, the body arching along with the wings in a tight turn, or the tips of your wings dipping into the water, which reacts in a realistic way.

In terms of combat, they have included an interesting combo feature. When you use a skill, it has a chance to start a combo skill chain. On the skill bar, one of your skills will flash, indicating that it is a path that you can take to further the damage against your opponent. For example, you could use a stun skill, which might give you the opportunity to knock your opponent down, once it is on the ground, it’s prone to a number of different attacks. Players will also have the option of using a skill called “Divine Wrath”. They can use this once they built up a number of “divine points” through successful combat.

At this stage in development, there is still very little that developers can tell us, and even less that they can tell us at 100%. What we did learn from the presentation and through talking with Joey, was that there are plans to do something innovative with this title, both in the Korean and North American markets.

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Jon Wood