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Archive for the ‘Aion’ Category

Aion olive branch

Earlier this week I posted about the demise of  Aion. Syp over at Bio break made me quickly realize that I was anything but being objective. I took a bazooka and started firing madly at Aion. Well, I’m going to let you in on a secret. I tend to speak my mind directly, no more no less. Personal friends of mine knows that when I say something it’s what I really believe. This personality trait has gotten me in trouble more often than not but it has the merit of being honest at least. That said I don’t believe Aion is the worst thing to ever happen to humankind so here’s what I think Aion does better than a lot of MMOs.

Graphics

It’s an easy one but it’s worth mentioning again. The graphics in Aion incredible and really set a new standard for me. Call me superficial but graphics are important for me in a game. It’s what keeping me from trying Fallen Earth right now since I find the graphics incredibly ugly.

 Cohesive universe

 This might sound weird but for me I need to feel like I’m part of a living and breathing world. Players can talk about Chuck Norris all they want but when I play I want the NPCs to tell a believable story and the world has to support that. Aion does this wonderfully by being consistent and not breaking the 4th wall more than it has to.

Involved combat

I can’t speak for all the classes but for those I tried combat was involved and did not revolve about pushing the same 3 buttons all the time. Also, classes played and fought differently.

 Challenge

The game is not easy, at least not when compared to games like Champions and WoW. When you want something you have to invest time and effort to get it and I’m not just talking about the grind. I don’t want the game handed to me on a silver platter, I want to have to fight tooth and nail to stay alive.

What about the rest? PvP and  endgame? Well PvP is set-up to be player dependant, so whether or not it will succeed and what form it will take will rely largely on the player base. As for PvE the reports don’t look good but who knows? Maybe they will add some PvE endgame elements that will fix the problem.

For my part I still have a week to wait before making a decision. I was thinking about going back to Aion but I have to admit I’m thinking more and more about trying Fallen Earth. I’ll see how things move in the next week.

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Aion crash and burn?

Disclaimer! Since putting obvious and multiple warnings that this post numbers are based on personal observations and that they are not hard numbers, and since people obviously don’t know how to read anymore, I have taken the liberty of exagerating every number in this post. Also, I will refer you to the About page for my policy concerning spelling. Thank you for your time and understanding.

Do I dare go there? Expose myself to the flames of the fanboi, the undiluted pure evil of the haters? Do I dare play the doomsinger? Singing about the end of all things as the signs and portents are revealing themselves.

You bet I do.

My prediction for Aion is that it’s bound for one of two fates. Either it will become a niche game with a dedicated core of gamers keeping it alive, like WaR, AoC or others before them, bound for greatness but ending below expectations, Or, it will crash and burn in a spectacular fashion leaving NCsoft to wonder how exactly another of their game failed (see Auto Assault).

Signs and portents

I want to say right now that Aion is eerily following same the path of WaR. But let’s not get  ahead of ourselves and look at the signs. Before going further I want to also say my numbers are  based on observations I made looking at different stats sites and just people I know. These are by no mean hard numbers.

1st sign – Cannot retain players

Around 1428% percent of the player base is  unsuscribing after the first month marker. If you read blogs,forums and look at Aion server stats you get around that number. Just looking at my Aion guild I’d say the turnover rate is very high as is to be expected for a new game but most of the turnover is people unsuscribing and not coming back. There’s a lot of gripes and comment but a  few keep coming back:

-PvP is bad: Even those staying are saying the same. By all accounts Aion PvP is not the great contest of arms and wits it was advertised to be. Gross class imbalance, abilities not working in pvp( spirit master pets for example are not working right with flight involved), imbalance of numbers, levels, etc… A lot of players will say it’s normal for that kind of pvp, or that it’s because people are not max level or any other reason you can think of. The point here is not who’s right or wrong. Almost everyone is finding  something wrong with pvp and when pvp is your selling point then the majority of your players need to find it awesome. Wich is not happening right now.

 -Too grindy: I’m less inclined to call this a game killer since it’s part of what will keep some people in the game. However a significant portion of the player base is having trouble with it so it might be that the game is really too grindy

-Crafting is worthless, broken: I completely agree with that one. Any game wich motivates me to go watch TV for an hour while I craft is doing something wrong.

-Finally there’s the infamous crysystem.dll bug driving people away as they cannot participate in mass pvp or group activities. Based on my very unscientific sampling of real life friends, blogers, guilmates I’d estimate to 38799% the percentage of players encountering the bug, meaning 1 in 3 player. I mean this blogs gets a lot of hits from people looking for answers for that bug and Google directing them to my post on the bug.

-If we combine everything, there’s about 9999% of the starting player base who will not play more than  two months. It is enormous! I know some people will say it’s impossible but WaR did go from 700k subscriber to 300k in the space of a month and a half when it released, a 58% drop. Will Aion be worse or better there’s no sure way to know but you can already see and feel the drop in the game.

2nd sign – The web, forums and blogosphere

Look around the web, the forums and the blogs. There’s very few people right now saying Aion is  “The Game”. Most are either closing down, switching games, blasting the game or otherwise being negative. Every game has its detractors and fans but it’s the balance of the two that’s more  indicative of a game health. Right now there’s more bad than good out there being said.

3rd sign – Aion shallow endgame.

I’ve searched high and low for information about Aion endgame. Besides a few bosses and a raid nothing was popping up. I mean that the only end game to be seen was Abyss, bosses and a raid that wasn’t exactly one. Pvp seems to be out the question as a steady activity due to the problems cited earlier so we have to look at PvE. The info I got at first was far from encouraging, tank and spank and nothing else. So I guess that killed pve too.

But then I told myself, this game been out in Korea for a year, let’s see what they have to say.

Well since I don’t read Korean it was hard to find info but it’s there if you look hard enough. What  did I find? Exactly what I said earlier. By all accounts I found, Aion PvE endgame is at best a side activity, nothing there. So it’s pvp only. Most Koreans at endgame are either farming the abyss for ranks or ganking people through rifting. So if you’re looking for more than rank grinding or ganking your pretty much screwed.

The end?

Is Aion destined to the fiery pits of failed MMOs? It all depends on what NCsoft considers to be enough profit. How much players do they need to keep the servers going will be the main factor. I don’t think that everyone will stop playing it but rather it will probably have a subscriber base along the lines of WaR or AoC.

Despite all I just said Aion is still a great game. At least until you grow tired of it. It’s polished, got nice storytelling and more than enough “this is awesome” moments to keep you playing a few months. Will it last as long as WoW did for many gamers myself included? Probably not. One of WoW strength is diversity, something that Aion seems to be lacking.

I’d say, play it, enjoy it but don’t expect it to last forever. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a good  movie and then leaving with a good feeling  so it’s not wrong either to the same with an MMO. If like me your done with WoW and looking for something while you wait for your next big MMO Aion will fill the space nicely.

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Will Aion and me make peace?

A quick update on my recent computer adventures.

First of all for those wondering it seems the “Aion destroy graphic cards” problem is mostly associated with the first generation of directX 10 compatible cards, some of wich are notorious for having problems. So yeah Aion didn’t help but probably so did my card.

Second, I do not plan on stopping blogging, thanks for your concerns but this monkey has  a lot more to say.

Finaly, I would like very much to come back to Aion once I get my new card. However, it will wait until Ncsoft fixes the crysystem.dll bug. This is my condition if they want my money.

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Well, it’s my graphic card in fact. You see, yesterday I was playing Aion and suddenly my screen pixellated, screen went black and poof, computer shuted down. To say I was concerned is putting it mildly. So I rebooted in hope it was just a once in a lifetime thing but no, right at startup my screen was showing all sorts of weird colors and lines and I know this to be a sure sign of a dead or damaged graphic card.

If it had happened out of the blue like that I would have screamed, said ugly words and cried inside at the fact my graphic card just died. But I was calm, scary calm. Why? because I half expected this to  happen. While researching the CrySystem.dll bug I came across a few posts with people reporting that Aion had destroyed their graphic cards. Just type “Aion destroyed graphic card” or “aion crashed graphic” and you will have a few results right up there. The other hint  was a real life friend of mine  had to replace his graphic card after it died while he was playing Aion too. The funny part is that both his computer and mine are near identical as we bought them at the same time. I believe in coincidences but not like this and not with multiple people. I searched for my particular graphic card and aion and found a few people whose card died too while playing Aion. Right now it looks like Aion + Nvidia gtx8800 + vista = dead card.

But before blaming it all on Aion, Nvidia recently released new drivers (october 3rd) wich includes  SLI support for Aion. So it’s either Aion fault or Nvidia. My understanding of it all is that every time the Crysystem.dll bug was happening it  was making my graphic card work like crazy wich damaged it in the end. Seriously, if you are getting the Crysystem.dll error consider stopping Aion until they fix it, you could be damaging your card.

So here I am, currently computer less (posting from the job) looking at close to 10 days without it. Since my computer is still on warranty I have to bring it to the shop for my card to be replaced and real life prevents me from going earlier than saturday and I expect a week before getting a new one.

As far as Aion is concerned this will probably means the end of my adventures in that game. It’s tearing me up because I really loved the game and the more I played the more I enjoyed it. I’ve also met a more than awesome guild and I really don’t want to leave them. On the other side, a game wich managed to destroy my graphic card is a big no-way for me, no matter how much I love it.

So what’s next?

Fallen Earth : Syp over at Biobreak really seems to love the game. However the graphics and theme doesn’t appeal much to me. I mean I need my raid bosses and my instances and Fallen Earth just doesn’t seems to be that kind of game.

WoW: Like someone said before me “I learned long ago that Azeroth is never out of the question”. I don’t feel like reactivating my WoW account to be honest. The whole achievement system (LFG pst achievement mantra), the time guilds require you to put in was getting to me. I don’t want to spend 3/4 nights a week stuck in a raid. Or might it have been my old guild who killed the fun for me? I mean I would need to find an awesome no pressure casual guild who understands I can’t always be on. Something like the guild Pike(aspect of the hare)  found.

Another game?: That’s the problem. I have more of less tried most recent MMOs and didn’t stay in any of them. So my options are becoming rather limited.

Anyway, I have two weeks to think about this, hopefully I’ll come up with a solution.

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Aion adventures update

A quick update first on my Aion adventures. Right now I’m level 22 and just started the Eltnen zone. I have to admit I’m rather leveling slowly this time around and it’s not just the game. Right now I have a ton of project requiring my attention wich means I can only devote 1 to 2 hours each day to Aion, if I can spare time at all. Still I try to keep the 1 level a week goal my guild has set and so far I have 2 levels done since saturday so it’s not all bad.

 Also, I am spending a lot of time exploring the different elements of the game instead of simply rushing to get levels. Back in day I was the guy who achieved max level before anyone else but not this time. Maybe I will pick up speed later.. who knows? Still, I’ll try to make 25 before saturday to try out some Abyss with the guild.

CrySystem.dll part 2

 Someone challenged the fact that I was mentally sane and that my knowledge of computers amounted to a retarded snail (in way more colorful terms wich I will spare you). Besides the fact that it’s my job to find out bugs, that I have not yet been fired and that a lot of other tech people on numerous forums have found the same thing I guess you’re just going to have to trust me or make your own opinion.

 Much more interesting was someone asking for what NCsoft could do.

 If we are lucky, NCSoft got on hand some people who knows how the engine works and can open the dll and work on it. If we are unlucky then NCsoft bought the engine and just slapped it in the game without real understanding of its workings. Let us pray we are lucky my friends. Also note that its possible that the crash is not the crysystem.dll fault but rather that NCsoft used it wrong. Like making a round end go into a triangle. Time will tell.

Now time for me to stop slacking and make a few levels!

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So yesterday, instead of playing Aion and leveling to level 22 so I could be of use to my Legion at some point I spent the afternoon messing around with the infamous CrySystem.dll crash. It had happened to me before a few times but not frequently so I paid no great attention to it. That was until yesterday. As soon as I would step foot in Eltnen Fortress I was bound for a crash, even with the Shift+F12 function activated. So after a while, I’ve decided to activate my software dev super powers and tackle this issue as if it was a my day job. You see, besides being a developer. So yesterday, I put my skills to work to uncover what is going with the Crysystem bug. Warning, this may get technical.

Quick overview, the Crysystem bug is a memory  adress bug caused by the failure of the Crysystem.dll to access multi-threading processor when operating on systems using more than 32bit (ex: vista x64). It is a bug in the Crysis engine that needs to be resolved by NCsoft.

Followed everything? Good. But just to make sure let’s talk about the details (and also make it simpler for you non-computer people). PS: I know this is a gross generalisation of what is going on but its simpler to understand this way.

Graphic processing

First of all to understand our problem I have to explain how graphics are processed by a computer. There’s three component concerned when processing graphics. Your PC who gives memory to the game graphic engine and graphic card (RAM) so they can process what needs processing. A graphic card who does the heavy computing for the game engine and finally the game graphic engine who sends data to the graphic card and display the results from the graphic card. So for example the “display Mojo Dancing” function would work like this:
1.Game engine sends data to the graphic card asking for what Mojo dancing looks like.
2. Graphic card process the data and send it back
3.Game engine displays Mojo dance based on what the graphic card told it should happen.

During this whole time both the game engine and graphic card ask the computer for memory from the computer (RAM).

Memory usage

The second concept I want to explain is how a computer gives RAM to the different programs running. It’s rather simple in fact. Each program ask the computer for a set amount of memory it thinks it needs. For example Aion could say “I need 1gig RAM to work”. Your computer then check if it has the memory to loan and if so it gives it to Aion. When your computer runs out of memory to give it will delay operations. To continue our example if Aion needs 200 mo more and the computer can’t give them it will delay the 200mo until they become available or until it can swap some other process out. This is what creates “lag” in most games. Your computer is overtaxed and programs have to wait while your computer tries to scrounge the memory to make them work.

The Crysis engine and 64 bits systems

The Crysis engine which Aion uses has been in the works since 2005, just before Vista and 64bits systems started coming out. At the time it was built upon a 32bit system, namely windows XP wich was the standard. Back then Microsoft promised that the transition would be smooth and there would be perfect compatibility between vista and Xp. Of course the reality was that it was mostly compatible but with a few differences.

One of these differences is how memory is allocated in a 64bit systems vs a 32bit system. Without going more technical let’s just say that once your past the 2gig of RAM usage (the 32bit limit), problems start to appears since the memory doesn’t work the same.

Putting it all together

So what’s going on with  Aion? Every time Aion requires more than 2gig of RAM it crashes. Why? Because of miscommunication. Let’s say the Crysis engine is using close to 2gig of RAM. It ask your computer for more and your computer says there’s no problem because you still have another 2gig of RAM free. So your computer sends back the adresses of the memory the Crysis engine can use. The problem is that the Crysis engine doesn’t know how to use those adresses past 2gig so it tries to compute until he finaly crashes.

Solving the problem

At the moment there’s no real solution to speak of since the problem resides in the graphic engine of Aion. However the more you minimize the memory usage of Aion the less often you will crash. It sucks but that’s the way it is until NCsoft patches this problem.

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I could not have said it better

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