NCsoft details Aion's version 1.9 patch today, an update dedicated to making the player experience more joy and less grind. We spoke to lead producer Chris Hager about changing the way subscribers play and perceive the popular MMO.
Aion patch 1.9 is still a long way out, but NCsoft wants to make sure players know it's coming. North American and European players normally have to rely on fan-translations of Korean patch notes for a glimpse at the future of Aion, but that all changes today.
"We want to change the perception of the game," Hager says. "We're going to start releasing information at the same time as Korea, so our fans don't have to go through translations to see the patch notes."
Hager hopes that releasing the information simultaneously across all regions will quell the notion that this is simply a port of the Korean title. This doesn't mean that Korea won't be getting the new content first, but Hager wants players in North America and Europe to know that they are working hard to get the content ready to release in the Western world.
"We want it as fast as we can get it. The main issues is that when we localize content, we're localizing it into three different languages across two different territories. We want to be ahead of the game as much as we can."
As for the changes themselves, the focus seems to be on lessening the grind and providing greater rewards to the player.
Patch 1.9 brings many changes to instances, mainly in terms of item drops. "Getting drops in instances has been painful," Hager admits. The patch will dramatically increase drop rates for useful loot items, giving players "an actual carrot on a stick" to run through instances. "We want to encourage players to run an instance and know they're going to get rewarded for it."
The quest system is also receiving major tweaks, with more experience points awarded and item rewards that are worth questing for, as opposed to current quest rewards, which are often less powerful than items regularly found on wandering creatures.
Patch 1.9 will also introduce new timed items. Participating in daily quests or visiting a new item rental shop will give players temporary equipment, allowing them to participate in more advanced content without having to grind for days to get their equipment up to snuff.
"Again, it's all about lessening the grind and improving the current player experience," says Hager.
Other changes include a weapon merging system for two-handed weapons, often considered the weakest in the game, which will combine two weapons' statistics into one more powerful item; a menu-driven looking for group system; and a drop in the price of money sinks like soul healing and transportation.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg, as far as patch 1.9 goes. Hager says that the patch notes are 26 pages long, so expect many more changes to Aion over the course of the next year.