Aion beta’s nerdrage evoking policy

I resisted posting this whine, and it is a whine, but I just can’t get it out of my head.

I got into the Aion beta via a paid-subscription to Fileplanet (and getting into betas is my main reason for being a paid member there). By the end of the July 4th beta weekend, I was pretty burned out on Aion and had decided not to pre-order.

In the weeks since, I’ve been feeling the urge to play it again. Specifically to experience the combat system again. I’m not even sure why; I wanted to play more to identify what it was that was calling me back, or if this urge was even based on reality or just faulty memory.

So I was excited about this weekend’s beta event. I eagerly updated my client, logged in and got the message that my account wasn’t eligible for this beta event. A bit of research confirmed it: the Fileplanet keys (and many, many other keys) were for that 1 single weekend in July.

Nerdrage ensued. I could try to justify it (it was a pretty big download just for a couple days of play; I would’ve tried more classes had I know I just had 3 days, etc) but the real truth of the matter is, it just felt like a bait and switch. Jump through the hoops to get in, we’ll give you a taste, but now we’re going to cut you off. It felt like artificial scarcity designed to try to increase demand. It felt sleazy, like a tactic that crystal meth dealer who hangs out down on the corner would use.

My assumption is that their plan is something like this:

Give a bunch of people a very short beta access, then cut them off. Wait a few weeks for the satisfaction levels to settle, then open beta again, but deny most of the people access, unless they pre-order.

A marketing-driven scheme to psychologically manipulate the audience into pre-ordering. It has nothing to do with beta-testing. But to be honest, over that July weekend I was just playing for free, not really testing. So on some level we’re even.

But I come out of the situation pretty angry at NCSoft and Aion, feeling the urge to say something childish like “I hope the company goes bankrupt!” but of course that isn’t really true — it isn’t the worker bees coding the AI and creating the art that made this decision, and I wouldn’t want to see such a tragic outcome for them. But whatever marketing person came up with this plan…his or her head on a pike? That I’d like to see (metaphorically speaking). Sometimes psychological marketing tactics backfire, I guess. And I bet a lot of people did turn around and pre-order so as to get into this beta event.

The Bling Gnome

So we got a couple of copies of the retail version of Dungeon Runners today. One of the perks of the retail version (you can download and play the game for free if you wish) is that you get 6 months of “Premium” gameplay, and a Bling Gnome. Price is $20, and Premium access is generally $5/month, so its a good deal.

I’d played Dungeon Runners before and liked it well enough. It’s a semi-MMO. Towns are communal but dungeons hold only your party. It’s very hack and slashy, with tons of loot, each bit of which is rife with prefixes and suffixes. The whole tone is extremely tongue-in-cheek. Since I last played, the humor has gotten even more sophomoric, with fart jokes all over the place.

As to the Bling Gnome… well, he’s this nasty little creature that follows you around and picks up all the piles of gold coins that drop from creatures, which is pretty convenient and streamlines gameplay a good bit. He also has an ‘active skill’ that will cause him to pick up trash loot, eat it, and excrete gold coins, which he’ll then pick up for you. Every time he does this, there’s a chance he’ll excrete a nice loot item. The game play mechanic here is great, but honestly his little animation, complete with clouds of noxious green vapor, gets old pretty quickly. Since you target mobs by clicking on them, the gnome can get in the way, too.

I wouldn’t say the Bling Gnome is worth running out and buying the game for, but if you download the free client and like it, it’s very much worth the $20 for full access to the game (so called “Rainbow” items…the best loot, is only usable by paid accounts) for six months, and the Gnome is a decent convenience feature once you learn to ignore his antics.