The Soapbox: NCsoft’s bizarre silence on Aion’s server merges says everything you need to know
For example, as much as the ArcheAge server evolution affected me negatively, it was still is a shining beacon of doing more right — and that’s saying something! That merge left me feeling as if I could return to regular play sometime. The way the whole thing played out for Aion has chased an eager paying player away as well as a long time vet from the game, and who knows how many others who will be affected.
If nothing else, another black eye does not bode well for goodwill and trust, things NCsoft was pretty short on anyway.
To understand the escalated frustration for this whole ordeal, you have to know the situation that led up to it. My son was eager to start playing Aion again. Between a two-year mission and school, he’s been gone from the game for quite a while. But he was super eager to dive in because he remembered how much he liked the mechanics and now that he had time and funds, he wanted Aion to be his game. Then he tried to log in.
We’re not going to pin the repeated launcher and website fiascos squarely on NCsoft — maybe there was some WiFi problem at his school or whatever. So we won’t lay all the blame there even if it deserves it. No, the frustration started to mount when my son was unable to use his account (or find out the problem thanks to launcher and website issues). After we both tried, I went in on my account to collect all the names of his characters from my friends and legion list to send in a ticket and see what happened. The legion list is where I learned that while I had all the name-change notifications from the first merge we lived through, none of his characters were in the legion any more. They didn’t leave; they just didn’t seem to exist anymore. About the time we get the customer server answer that his account was indeed deleted, I came across the 2015 post warning about migration and deletion. This all happened at the end of my son’s aforementioned two-year mission where he had no access to computers for doing any such migration. I feel bad that he missed that, and a tad guilty I didn’t get his accounts taken care of while he was gone.
So there is setback number one: He lost everything he ever had in-game. Everything he worked for, everything he collected, just gone. He tried to shrug it off and decided he wants to make a new character and start over (without all the buffs and bonuses he used to have access to). Then we hit snag number two: He can’t access my servers. Say what? So to help out I check his account and yes, he has access to only two servers. Ones I don’t remember. That makes me log into my game (which, remember I was just in two days prior), and discover that there were only two servers now, and all my characters were named 2s97743A, 5s1200BD, and such. I felt blindsided.
Yes, it turned out that Aion merged servers, and even though I was playing less than two weeks prior, I had no idea about it. No idea. Admittedly, I don’t play Aion daily, or right now even really monthly. But I did just play. And I do still follow the game, if not for personal playing time then for work. So the whole fact that the announcement of server merges was completely missed shocked me. Surely such a world-changing endeavor would be discussed at length. We’re talking announcements, tweets, Facebook posts, in-game notifications, and more. Do you know what I found? One news post on the official site. And that was after digging back! No tweets. No on-server notifications. No Facebook posts. I went back and checked my recordings, looking for any pop up, any line in chat. I found nothing. I scrolled back through the social medias many, many months and found nothing. No mention at all. How in Hades can something this big, affecting every Aion player, be kept so quiet?
In an industry where communication is pretty easy to come by, from social media to streams to press releases, I’m telling you I was shocked at the lack of it here. I’ve been a part of many server mergers, and lack of communication is an egregious error on a studio’s part. Few players will likely be happy about a merge, but merges without warning or with few details will create negative emotions out the wazoo. So a studio should do as much as it can in its power to make sure the message gets out there. You need to post more than once. You need to utilize your social media. You send a mass email to all your account holders if you need to. Sure, the news won’t make people all cheery and full of warm fuzzies, but it’s more than a mite better than the feelings when you blindside them.
I get that the company did inform players, once, technically. But it didn’t do remotely enough. My nagging concern is that the situation was purposeful. Not sharing this info better makes it seem like the studio seriously wanted to hide it. How can you hide a merge from people? It’s not like they won’t notice logging in after the fact. And the feeling of surprise does not inspire happy thoughts for the company.
Ironically, if it were just the unexpected merge, then I wouldn’t have been as frustrated as I was — and I was pretty peeved. That’s because of what happened after the merge. You see, when I logged in I was greeted with a message that informed me that because of the merge, I had both Elyos and Asmodian characters on the same server since Israphel and Tiamat merged together. This message informed me that I would not be able to make any new Aion characters (remember the goal was to begin playing with my son as mentioned in the beginning). Why, you ask, couldn’t I even with available character slots? There’s the rub.
I couldn’t make any new characters until I paid to move all of one race to the other server. No, I was not being instructed that these characters just needed to move but that I had to pay for that process. I’m not even going to go into the fact that these paid transfers have requirements like being level 25 that prevents a couple of my favorite ones from even being eligible, or that the maximum kinah requirement could prevent me from giving one character all my goods and money so I only have to pay for one instead of all five. The fact that I have to pay to move each and every character — or delete them — in order to just make a character infuriated me. And adding insult to injury, you couldn’t even log into a single character to start the process or even play until you typed OK to acknowledge you understood this fact. All of this without warning.
Now people may mention that free servers moves were available before the merge. Well, if they didn’t get notice out about the merge, how would they get notification about these free transfers? As I saw, this information was only available as a link on the one post, so if you missed the post, you missed that.
Now, this unadvertised merger FAQ I’m talking about does indeed mention another free server transfer starting October 25th. This actually made me madder because if you don’t know about that FAQ, you only know that you are expected to pay for transfers, which isn’t the case. The intro message I was forced to sign to play made no mention whatsoever of any upcoming free transfers. So first I am upset that I will be forced to pay, and then I am even more upset that NCsoft is outright hiding the free option from players. Without that free information out there, who will know? And since it won’t even start for nearly two weeks after the merge happened, how many folks will be tricked into paying for a number of transfers before then? This feels so purposefully deceptive to me that it infuriates and disgusts me. Not cool. You don’t treat people this way.
Now, there’s also the fact that Elyos and Asmodians from the same person are playing on the same server. The whole point of the faction warfare is preventing players from doing this so that there isn’t an easy prevalence of fixing the war using insider knowledge, sabotaging, kill trading, and other such things. Yeah, people made alt accounts and did that, but how much easier is it to do that on a single account? And the fact that I can actually continue to play as both races makes me sure that there will be people who will do exactly that. In my mind, that completely ruins the entire PvP part of Aion. After some digging, I found NCsoft has a plan or this (emphasis mine):
“After the merges, players will faction conflicts will be able to continue playing their characters with the conflicts for server weeks. We will shortly resume free character transfers for faction conflicts for a limited time. These transfers will retain the unlimited Kinah, however the GP restriction will be lowered back down to the 7k. Once this transfer period has ended, the remaining active accounts with faction conflict will be force-transferred and the standard character transfer limitations will be implemented. If your characters are force-transferred, we will not be able to honor requests to transfer them, so please make sure you take advantage of the free transfer queues while they are available.”
So, if you miss out on this — and people likely will since no mention is being made of any of this! — you will be SOL. You might have the wrong race forced out, tearing you away from your legion and your friends. And you won’t even be able to pay to fix it!
Here’s just a smattering of the other lovely changes that greeted Daevas post-merge. You lose the ability to wear rank-restricted Abyss armor when you lose that rank thanks to the move. Housing, which is hard to get at times and expensive, is lost (you do get compensation, but you have to do the whole housing bid wars to get it again).
Answer me this: Who would want to come back and play after all that? It seems pretty unlikely. I am betting that the loss of players from this treatment isn’t going to do much to help stem the loss that resulted in the need for merging in the first place! Maybe, just maybe you could forgive NCsoft and go back. Maybe I could. I do have lots of history with the game — a few relationships built from it, characters I still love
Oh, but wait. Salt was just rubbed in the wound. This pretty much drives that last nail into the coffin; NCsoft knew very well how important this knowledge was to players, and yet they still didn’t make the effort to ensure players would get it. From the FAQ: “Server merges are a big deal and will result in potentially significant changes that may directly and indirectly affect you.” Low blow. This isn’t the way to treat people. Thanks NCsoft. Thanks a lot, to you and the horse you rode in on.