Restoring the Balance on Aion Servers – Can NCSoft Do It?
Due to low player population, several North American Aion Online servers have been merged so that the game would so that Aion would have "fewer, fuller servers with characters (and players) that are balanced better in population across all levels and classes." Following these merges, NCSoft offered Free Character Transfers to allow players on the newly-merged servers to transfer to a different server if they wished. Unfortunately for NCSoft, these actions resulted in servers being more imbalanced than ever. NCSoft has been bombarded with various complaints on their official forums, mostly complaints about being unable to level up or farm for Aion kinah properly because they are being harassed by the opposing faction, or complaints about not being able to sway the Influence ratio on their servers because the dominant faction has the advantage of overwhelming numbers.
NCSoft has recently suspended the character transfers for the time being to "re-evaluate their strategy for server balance". This move has been met with mostly negative feedback from the community, with players no longer believing in NCSoft’s claim that "race balance is something that [they] take extremely seriously". Some have pointed out that if that were the case, then the imbalances would not have happened at all.
Is there really anything that can be done for these imbalanced servers? With four out of five servers with a being dominated by large numbers of Elyos and only one Asmodian-dominated server, NCSoft will definitely have problems sorting everything out.
One solution often suggested by players themselves is enabling race changes. In massively multi-player roleplaying games like World of Warcraft, players are often given the option to switch races and/or factions after paying the necessary fees. This would seem like a sensible way to solve the imbalance issues: enable race changes, and then give players an incentive (maybe some exclusive in-game items, or maybe a fairly decent amount of Aion kinah) to actually switch to the race with significantly lower numbers on their servers. These transfers would have to be limited, of course, with GMs monitoring server populations and puttng character transfers to a halt once the races have balanced out.
Unfortunately, NCSoft has shot down this option, with North American Community Manager Tamat saying "There are several reasons why we cannot offer race transfers currently. Not least of which is that we don't have any technical methods of doing so. This may be different in the future, but it's not an option currently." To say that the community was greatly displeased by this comment from Tamat would be a severe understatement. Players have gone so far as to accuse NCSoft (specifically NCWest) of not having enough programmers working on the game – if they have any programmers at all.
Another solution discussed would be to provide perks that will encourage people to play as Asmodians. Some of the community’s suggestions include having a system that will allow Asmodians to level up faster, or earn more Aion kinah, or be able to acquire better gear sooner. The problem with this would be that the loyal Elyos players might complain about the bonuses provided to the Asmodians, and promoting just one race instead of both might be detrimental to Aion’s overall publicity.
These are only two of the suggestions that have been offered up by the Aion community to restore balance to the Aion servers. NCSoft has assured the community that they are listening to the suggestions, and will be working hard on a solution to the problem. Their having the initiative to put a halt to the character transfers (and canceling the ones queued for this week) is a good sign that they’re aware of the imbalance issues – the only question is if they can actually resolve the problem before all their players decide to migrate over to a different MMORPG, like Lord of the Rings Online or Star Wars: The Old Republic.