While I was at PAX 2010 this year, I also had a chance to talk to Conor Sheehy from NCsoft about Aion. As usual, we start off with a brief overview of what Aion is.
-----Answer: Aion has two player factions and a third NPZ faction, the original game was based in the inside of a hollowed out world, one player faction was in the lower half and the other was up top. Now with this update, Aion: Assault on Balaurea, you actually go to the outside of the planet and fight the Balaur. The surface of the globe is their homeland.So you’re a content writer.Question: I am. What does that look like in terms of your hands on role in game development?Answer: Well it’s a Korean game, so we don’t actually create any of the content from scratch. We do however, get a very lose leash to adapt and translate the content from it’s Korean roots to something that is marketable in the west.Question: So you’re doing localization?Answer: Yeah we localize, we make it relevant, we take Korean folk tales and stuff, which we don’t understand because we don’t have any frame of reference for them and we adapt them and insert references into them. For example, there’s a group of Shugo, they’re a group of ferret like creatures, and in the original they were given names based on Korean pop groups. In the update we make a reference to Charlie’s Angles by calling them Charlie’s demons, so things like that.Question: What’s it like at the office during crunch time, have you slept at work yet?Answer: Actually it’s not been too bad, we brought in a load of contract writers, I’m one of two permanent writers for the team, and we brought in six contractors. Yeah, we were done two weeks before our deadline.Question: Isn’t that unheard of in the industry? You must have been doing something wrong.Answer: I know we’ve missed a whole level or something. It actually turned out really well, we did a load of work much faster than we anticipated and we were able to go through the game and iron out all the bugs. We are really pleased with the end product; it is really clean and streamlined. Question: What’s the most crazy Korean folk tale that didn’t translate?Answer: Oh man... There’s one I can’t really mention because it actually that bad.Question: Don’t worry it’s only going on the Internet.Answer: Oh man, I literally can’t tell you that. But um, there have been others. Shit, there are two good ones I can’t tell you about. This is awful, I can’t give you other examples cause these are the only two I can think about now... This is terrible. Let’s just say that some of the stuff that they consider PC, we don’t and vice versa I suppose. I guess you could say that bridging those gaps are some of the larger challenges of the job.Question: So what sets this apart from other MMORPGs?Answer: Well there’s a bunch of things. Originally we had flight, which was a big deal for Aion. You can’t actually fly everywhere but, you can glide. This adds a whole new dynamic to the landscape. Since a lot of the world is based around gliding, much of it was created more vertically then other games. A lot of the places are like canyons and ravines, there are ways to catch up drafts to gain altitude. In the update we have these things called wind-streams which are big tunnels of air that act as fast travel throughout the world. They’re like flight paths but they’re more adaptable because you can jump in and out of them where ever you want. Also in the update, we’ve got pets. In other online games pets are mostly there for vanity, they don’t serve much purpose but, in Aion we have four different types of pets, we have pack pets which increase your targeting and help you carry more stuff. We have signal pets, now in most games you have like stealth classes right, you’ll be playing and suddenly you’ll get stabbed in the back by some invisible dude and you’re half dead and then you are dead. Signal pets are really cool because they can see invisible characters. They see them and they start freaking out, so you’ve got a few seconds to figure out where this guy’s coming from and you can buff yourself, get yourself ready, you can run away if you need to. We have fortune pets as well, these guys, you feed them junk items, just crap you would see to a vendor and your pet “recycles” these items, when they turn up they’re useful items to you, they’re enchantment stones or other things you can use to augment your gear. Question: What have you done in this game to develop a story line?Answer: One of the things we have done, that is new to us, come to think of it I’ve never seen it anywhere else in a MMORPG either, is include something called solo instances. This happens twice in the game when you reach certain levels. You actually go and play as another character in the game to discover more about the world. In one of these you go and play as Kromi, you become her you use her skills and abilities. She’s basically a big baddy in the game but, as you play her you learn more about who she is and that her motivation is not so black and white. Up until that point you encounter her a lot in the game and come to know her in a certain way but, when you eventually play as her you discover that she’s actually not a baddy, that she’s been set up. So this is one of the ways that we try to add depth to the story.
Thanks Conor for talking with us about Aion: Assault on Balaurea. For more information on this free expansion (in the US) which is already out, check out na.aiononline.com.
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