Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Aion: Economic Prospecting

I've been playing Aion recently, so I thought I'd take an in-depth look at the way Aion's economy works, draw some comparisons to WoW's own economy, and look at a few ideas Blizzard might try and pinch from Aion.

Aion's currency is called Kinah, and unlike the gold, silver, and copper we have in Azeroth, Kinah only has the one denomination. Kinah is acquired very rapidly, and it's not uncommon to have hundreds of thousands of Kinah by the time you reach level 20. This is a good thing too, because you'll need every last Kinah.

Aion is full of money sinks. Pretty much everything from character advancement to death recovery to transportation costs a seemingly obscene amount of Kinah. The two upgrades to your wings are roughly 1 million and 12 million Kinah respectively. You can, at early levels, expect to be dishing out 20% of your Kinah to recover from death. Professions are costly to level, as are your skills.

You'll have a lot of Kinah coming in, but also a lot flowing out, and obviously the trick is to have your income be greater than your expenditure, and one way of doing this is trading with other players. There are two main ways of doing this in Aion - the Trade Brokers (Auction House) and Private Stores.

Trade Brokers:
These are the equivalent of WoW's auctioneers, however, they work in a slightly different way to the Auction Houses and are slightly more restrictive. Most notably, you can only have 10 active auctions at any given time, so no mass posting for you! Like WoW, you pay a deposit fee proportional to the value of the item when posting your auction, however you do not get this back when your item successfully sells. This is made up for by the fact that there is no Auction House cut.

Private Store:
Players have the option of setting up a private store, where you set down a stall, much like an NPC. You are able to put items from your inventory into the store and you can set the price for these. Other players will have the option of interacting with you to inspect your store where they can browse and purchase your wares. The amount of items you can have in a private store is slightly more than the 10 you can place up for auction.

I personally think the private store is a great idea. It brings back the player interaction that you don't have with the auction house, and makes you feel like you're actually buying from a player, not just an NPC. I wouldn't be too surprised if Blizzard implements something like this.

Professions play a big part in Aion's economy and like in WoW, are an important part of a character's development and advancement. Unlike in WoW, the inhabitants of Atreia can choose to learn all of the 6 available professions, however they may only become masters in two of these. This is roughly the same as being able to only advance past 300 skill points in WoW professions. The professions on offer are sewing, weaponsmithing, armorsmithing, handicrafting, cooking and alchemy. These are mainly levelled by completing work orders (a type of quest), in which you are given materials and are asked to craft a certain item, often requiring a vendor bought item. I love this system, definitely feels less grindy and more epic than WoW's system. Just be warned that the vendor bought items for the work orders, and the cost of upgrading your professions to the next level (each level is 100 skill points, compared to WoW's 75) is very expensive!

Gathering isn't forgotten about in Aion, however instead of having multiple professions like WoW, they have all been merged into one single profession: extraction. This encompasses herbalism, mining and fishing. I haven't found an Aion equivalent of skinning, but please comment or e-mail me if it exists. The extracting profession is levelled like the crafting professions, however it does not contribute to the maximum of 2 that you can master. Score! While you'd expect this to flood the economy with gathering materials, this isn't the case, as extraction is rather time-consuming to level up, certainly moreso than any of the crafting professions, and not many people are levelling it, as far as I have been able to tell.

I really like Aion's profession system, and I certianly prefer it to WoW's. How big of a part professions play in the end-game is yet to be seen, but it's definitely worth levelling up at least one, as there's not only quite a bit of Kinah to be had from them, but they can also be a great asset while levelling, especially alchemy.

Influence Ratio:
Aion introduces a brand new way players can shape the game's economy. The Influence Ratio is determined by the territory held by your faction (Elyos or Asmodian) in the PvPvE zone, the Abyss. The amount of territory held (as a %) has a direct effect on the prices paid throughout the entire world. This is absolutely brilliant, it makes your actions have a direct effect on the world and makes you feel like you're impacting on the wider world, something WoW's world PvP has failed to do. Again, this is the sort of thing you think Blizzard might implement, a world PvP zone like Wintergrasp with one of the rewards for controlling it being reduced prices worldwide.

If you still haven't given Aion a try, I recommend you do so. It's a good game and will keep you entertained for a while. It won't kill WoW, but it's good enough that it should be able to keep its subscriber numbers up for a decent period of time.


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