Monday, October 12, 2009

Getting Attuned in MMOs, Love it or Hate it?

Over the weekend in Aion, Fuu and I got attuned to the Abyss. (Before the WoW folks run away screaming, bear with me, this is not necessarily an Aion centric post.) In NCSoft's game, when you hit 25, you open up a quest line that gets you into the major PvP zone. The quest chain is pretty long, probably spanning at least a few hours of work, but once completed, you can zone into the Abyss at will.

The chain includes various "tests". These tests are based on lore knowledge, combat, and flight skill. In my opinion, it's very well done, really focusing you on different facets of the game in an entertaining manner. First, you have to visit the library and take three multiple choice quizzes that test your knowledge of some of the very basic lore. Then, you choose one of three combat quests (we did the arena one right there in town) that see if you can blow stuff up (it was pretty easy). Finally, you have to fly through a grouping of rings in order in a certain amount of time as a flight skills test. After completing all of these, you are admitted to the Abyss where your orientation continues in the form of video cut scenes explaining some of the fortress aspects of the game. All in all, it's a very epic quest chain.

Both Fuu and I really enjoyed getting attuned. The quests lent an air of excitement to the process, and we took it pretty seriously. While it would be easy to just breeze through stuff like this, if you enjoy the ride I think you get more out of it. Which got me to thinking: wait, didn't WoW have stuff like this at one time?

Being TBC babies, we were coming into the game as Blizz was taking the need to get attuned to things out. Keys were a big part of "vanilla" WoW that we missed. From what I understand, these quests lent the same epic sense to some of what you were doing. It was really an achievement to get attuned, and people often looked to these as benchmarks for your progress in the game. Not the kind you get points for either. An achievement for achievement's sake.

The main reason it was a benchmark, obviously, is because you couldn't get into the important places without having the key. This usually held you back as far as content went, and you usually missed out if you didn't complete the quest chains. In a way, it was a big step for a player. Even today in WoW, it lends you a certain amount of street cred to talk about how you were keyed for such and such back in the day. It certainly doesn't mean what it used to, but I think we recognize it was something special. Something extra.

So why take them away? At first, I didn't care because, hey, being a late-comer, it would have been really hard to go back and catch up to the crap that people had already spent two years on. How was I ever going to catch up and contribute to my guild? Yet now, after realizing what I missed out on, I can't help but feeling I was a little bit gypped. I mean, getting attuned in Aion was epic. It was special, and I'm sure WoW was the same way... but I'll never get to know. Nor will any of the Wrath kids. Heck, if you look at it, they have even less to "get access to", since things like the druid flight quest or the warlock mount quest were taken away. Those were epic too, and very similar to getting attuned in their own rights. Yet they were all given the axe. Why?

I suppose it has to do with making the game accessible to a large number of new people. A loft goal, but at what cost? Are we removing the epic-ness of the game in favor of accessibility? By arguing against the process of keying, are we, in effect blanding down the game for everyone? I guess it depends on if you enjoy the long, involved quest chains that it took to get "caught up". It may also have something to do with the quality of help available to you to get up to speed.

For me, having loved both the warlock mount chains in WoW and now the Abyss key chain in Aion, I have to say that I've experienced a renewed sadness at the loss of those quest chains in WoW. I understand the "why", but I don't really like it. I'm not even sure there is a good answer for keeping epic keying quest chains while keeping the game accessible over the course of years. I don't think Aion will need to remove theirs, as it operates more as a tutorial than a keying, and the learning I think is necessary. However, if Aion enjoys a lifespan like WoWs, then I could see them adding a "skip" function or something to appease the masses when they get sick of having to go through it again and again with alts. It may be a necessary evil, but it may also serve to send the wrong message to the MMO industry in general.

I mean, don't we want "epic"? Isn't part of why we play RPG's to feel that sense of special, which is so, so difficult to attain in an MMO? I know it is for me, and so part of me mourns this directive of the player base. It's not the first such thing we've clamored for that is probably counterproductive to the genre, and it won't be the last. If you're at all a fan of the larger picture (and not just someone who enjoys the small parts of the greater sum), I hope you celebrate the keying quests for what the bring/brought to the game, and next time some asshat QQ's about having to "go through this again", tell them to bugger off because that's the game YOU want to play. Don't let the squeaky wheels keep ruining it for the rest of us. If not just for you, then for all the future players that will miss out as well.


  1. I can completely understand removing old "attunement quests" from the game because of, exactly what you said about coming into the game so late... in the game?

    I do feel that they wanted to remove it so that people will acutally/ have the opportunity to go back and see Karazan or Molten Core again; even if you are a lvl 80.

    What I feel is a great way of keeping that Epic Feel in the game with attunements are to get rid of the old ones & insert new ones.

    Wow is actually doing this in their own different ways; we know them as phasing. They unlock flight points, epic lore, and a complete overhaul of the landscape. I've also heard that they are doing "attunement" type achievements for Ice Crown. An individual must complete the 5-man instances before they are allowed to go on to the raiding part.

    WoW hasn't gotten rid of attunements, they've just "tweeked" their appearance to "fool" the casuals in to thinking they aren't being forced to do something they don't like.

  2. I missed out on the attunements too, sadly.

    But, I will point out that the quests for Warlock/Paladin mounts do still exist, they just aren't required any more. Though I guess that still feeds into what you're saying.

    But, I do wish that I could go back and do a lot of those things just to say that I was able to do them.

  3. @Fuu - phasing does not equal getting attuned. Phasing is used in question and is, really, optional. It can be inconvenient for finding people, sure, but it doesn't "lock you out" of a certain part of the game. That's the epic part about keying... everyone has to do it to have any access at all. Phasing is a lot more watered down in most cases. I mean, I guess you could make the case that it locks you out of like the land or the single cut scene or w/e, but it's not the stop gate that keying quests once were. I feel like we've lost some of the epic-ness in WoW.

    I think it's a good idea to possibly add some new ones though... maybe Icecrown will satisfy this.

    @psynister - Yeah, stop twittered me this point as well. It's a good one. I didn't feel like getting into that, but the problem is now that they're optional. Sort of what I was saying above about phasing too. It takes away from the epicness of it, I feel, when it becomes optional.

    Plus, I remember having a lot of fun with a group doing these. It was sort of a team building thing to sacrifice some of your personal time to ask buddies to help you get attuned or w/e. Now, it's like just go buy the mount, forget helping people. At least, I feel that a lot of people no longer have time to help people with this stuff since it's not longer *that* important.

  4. I thought the Wrathgate Event was freakin awesome! You unlocked the major story behind Northrend, Arthas, & the Scourge.

    You had to do this through quests, and various tasks to learn the truth.

    Yeah, it doesn't lock you out of an instance or not allow you to raid but if you, as a player, never finished that quest chain, you would be missing a MAJOR part of the expansion. Same with Ice Crown phasing.

    Your arguement is that it doesn't "feel" epic to you because you don't see what you worked towards. I say being able to see the actual aftermath of what you, as a player, have achieved on the landscape & the storeline is the BEST WAY to see what your impact on the game is. This brings that uniqueness that you say is missing.

    Being attuned to Karazan was only epic once, but flying through zones you yourself unlocked and you yourself can only see (until others have finished it as well) is, to me, more epic.

  5. I'm not saying Wrathgate wasn't awesome or that the phasing wasn't cool... I'm just saying it's a different kind of cool and awesome. From a lore point of view, Wrathgate was a lot of fun, but you CAN progress without doing it. Therein lies the difference.

    I understand why people don't want the road block of keying, but my question here is if that's good for our games. I'm trying to separate that issue from the issue of phasing or using cut scenes... to me those are just tools to make whatever method you're using epic. Throw some phasing and a cut scene pretty much anywhere for any reason and I'll probably like it.

    Keying is a progression "road block" that everyone has to get to. It's a tier. WoW no longer has that kind of thing since you can pretty much do anything you want. I mean, you can raid Ulduar in greens and blues if you'd like. You don't even have to know who Onyxia is to run in with a PuG and kill her.

    I fear that some of the significance of what we do is lost to the accessibility boss. Is it for that best? I don't know, I can see both sides. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about getting attuned until I did it... and I loved it. It made me feel special, even though I'm not. I haven't felt that in WoW for a while now. Even with Wrathgate, I was like a bystander while all this epic stuff happened around me. I would argue that the Keristrasza quest chain in Nexus was more epic in the regard of making me feel "special" since you're the one who like saved her and then lost her again. It was very sad and emotional.

    I'd like to see more of that I think. I'm not sure if road blocks would be a good way to get people to see it though and make it important enough for everyone to do. It seems to be one of those balance things.

  6. One of the things about the old WoW attunements was... it was WAY more than just a quest chain. (At least in BC, I'm not certain about the vanilla attunements).

    It was a quest chain and days...weeks of grinding rep. You would do a quest chain, then have to grind rep high enough to purchase the heroic keys.

    After awhile, they lowered the rep requirement to honored instead of revered (or maybe it was exalted, I can't even remember now).

    And that generally led to another level of the same thing for the next "level" of dungeon (be it 5man or raid).

    The quest chains were fine, even honored rep to purchase keys... but the grind was less than epic. It was a pain in the ass.

  7. Thank you Syrana for your lovely input.

    Ful just needs to understand that not everything WoW did before TBC was all that "Epic"


  8. It's hard to understand what you've never experienced. It's not like you know any better, Fuu dear, you didn't play vanilla wow either.

    Still, it sounds to me like the problem pre-TBC was in the execution of these road blocks and not the fact that they existed. The quests, after all, were good. Maybe it just takes more care and less grind to keep the mechanic.

  9. In some ways, I really loved the attunements. I remember back in the day getting attuned for Onyxia and going through that whole quest chain, which was a lot of fun. Particularly the part in Stormwind. Then when it came down to finally fight her, we were ready to fight her. We knew who we were up against.

    Now you can just go into Uludar completely unprepared and have no idea what you're fighting or why.

    So for that reason I don't see phasing as the same thing as attunements. I'm not saying I don't like phasing, and I loved Wrathgate, but it's not required for raiding like attunemens used to be.