With momentum gathering for Aion’s imminent European release, IncGamers’ Bill Vaughan caught up with Lani Blazier, the associate producer on the title, to find out how this game is gearing up for its release, what makes it different to other MMOs and what features it’ll, well, feature.

Keeping our eyes peeled for the next update, Blazier also tells us how the latest version of the game is doing in Korea, currently, the strongest market for the game.

Bill has also been following the game in the closed beta, and you can read all of her diary entries, starting with the first one, right here.

Aion’s been out for eight months in South Korea now, and we hear it’s doing extremely well. Do you expect the same reception in the West?

We’re excited about the momentum we’re seeing for Aion as we approach the launch in North America and Europe. As we recently announced, the Aion Limited Collector’s Edition has sold out, and Aion is among the top pre-ordered games today from retailers. We’ve had incredible response from our closed beta tests-the players have logged literally millions of hours playing in the betas. All of this inspires us as a team to work even harder to make the best possible MMO experience. It’s on us to make sure Aion delivers the best MMO experience possible for Western gamers. To make that happen, we’re fully localising the game with a team of published fantasy writers and shipping Aion with the most up-to-date version of the game.

Aion is PvPvE. Can you explain that to us? How does it differ from PvP?

PvPvE isn’t different than PvP, it includes PvP. PvPvE stands for “player vs. player vs. environment.” What we’ve done in Aion is taken both styles of gameplay, PvP and PvE, and blended them together. Player can change their game style from PvP to PvE at any time, and there are game challenges and rewards for each game style. The Baluar, the fearsome NPC antagonist faction of both the Asmodians and Elyos in Aion, can also interject themselves to add a PvE twist to the PvP when the game server interprets particular real-time events.

All Aion characters are human. Are there any plans to introduce other races?

Currently, the two playable factions-the Asmodians and the Elyos-are indeed human. Aion does have a nonhuman race, our advanced AI faction, the Balaur. We have no plans to introduce a new race at this time, but we never say never, and we are always adding new content to the game.

There are four primary classes-the Mage, Priest, Scout, and Warrior-each with two subclasses. What if I picked a Warrior, and at level 10, chose to make him a tank and went with the Templar. Could I later change him to a Gladiator, a damage-dealing Warrior, if I wanted a change from tanking or to level quicker?

At level 10, your character completes an ascension quest, and you decide on a subclass that suits you best for that character. If you select the Templar as your subclass, you are committing to all Templar-specific spells/skills/Stigma stones, and so on. The two subclasses of Warrior do have some crossover-they both come from the Warrior class. However, a Templar doesn’t have the ability to switch over to the other subclass.

How often will we see new content, such as expansions, for Aion?

We are always adding new content to the game. To give you an example of how dedicated the team is to keeping things new and exciting, Aion has only been out (in Korea) for eight months, and we’ve already seen three major updates.

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Will updates for Aion be released simultaneously worldwide?

Although we all strive to release updates as close as Korea as possible, each territory has its own update schedule. In the West, we are launching with version 1.5 of Aion, which synchronises us with Korea’s updates. After launch our goal is to release updates at least least 2-3 months within Korea’s updates.

A big feature of Aion is that characters can fly from level 10, which enables them to get around, but also opens up aerial combat. As you know, Champions Online launches around the same time as Aion. It also features flying from early on in the game. What does Aion have to offer that other MMOs don’t?

Aion offers extreme customisation. Players can customise everything from the angle of their nose to the way they play the game. Not only can players create a truly unique character using our character creator, they can also tweak the stats of their armour, weapons, and class with items like manastones, godstones, enchantments, and the Stigma system. This gives players ultimate control of what they go into battle with.

Aion offers player vs. player vs. environment play. This system gives players a different kind of gameplay customisation option that really makes us stand out from the rest of the MMORPGs on the market. Players can choose to focus on PvE style (such as trading, gathering, crafting, questing and instances), or they can enter the Abyss and take part in PvPvE.

Aion offers tactical flight. When designing the game, we wanted flight to be more about a new way to battle and less about just flying around the world for travel or to hop around from one gathering node to another. It’s a strategic part of combat and will give players and Legions a new element to implement to incorporate and master.

Why did you decide to go for the subscription-based model for Aion here in the West, when you have other successful games, like Guild Wars and Dragonica, which are free to play?

NCsoft specialises in MMOGs, and we realise that there isn’t just one type of MMO player out there. Different players play different types of MMO experiences and as such, we offer a variety of ways to experience our games.

Will there be any added extras we can pay for with microtransactions, such as additional customisations, in-game pets, and so on?

We haven’t announced anything regarding microtransactions, but stay tuned. We are going to focus on paid services at launch.

Which is more popular with players during tests so far here in the West: the Elyos or Asmodians? Does this differ from players in the East?

We have quite a few systems in place that balance the races while the servers are being populated, so you won’t see an Elyos-heavy server or vice versa. Generally, we’re seeing a pretty fair split between players wanting to play both factions. They can also create an Asmodian on one server and an Elyos on another, giving them the chance to experience both factions.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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