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Aion: Five Things I Learned from Aion’s Lore

StraddenStradden Managing EditorHalifax, NSPosts: 6,696Member

NCsoft Content Writer David Noonan has put together this developer journal about what he learned through the process of localizing Aion's two million words for the Western market.

When I started working on Aion, we were staring at about two-million words…and a looming deadline. The two-million words were coherently translated into English, but they still needed significant help if they were to resonate with a Western audience. From the very first story meeting—heck, from the car ride to the very first meeting—we realized that we were doing something that hadn’t been done before. We were taking a full-fledged MMO, stripping it down to its narrative essence, then rebuilding it so that Aion’s story showed as much polish as its art and gameplay.

As I write this, those two-million words are done—“done” being a euphemism for “mostly done but still subject to tweaks, bug fixes, and all the last-minute changes you expect right up to launch.” Here are some things that what we jokingly called the “Aion Westernization Army” learned along the way.

Read Five Things I Learned from Aion’s Lore

Cheers,
Jon Wood
Managing Editor
MMORPG.com

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Comments

  • KavaskousKavaskous Jacksonville, FLPosts: 72Member

    It's good to see how they're trying to take adding quests and content very serious, and are trying to see the story and gameplay from a player's perspective. It's kinda good to see that, at least this guy, gets the best feeling from his job knowing there's someone enjoying the story and it's presentation, and that his work is not going unappreciated. I myself don't care too much for what a lowly NPC feels or needs to me to, I simply so it as a duty. I'm always more concerned however, with the main story line. I can't say that's it's perfect, but I enjoy it. I myself love the work they've done for this story. The one thing I always thought was funny is the possibility that they were having issues deciding how to separate the two races literally by a world apart, and happen to be looking at half an apple. 

    I suppose I'm just ranting now, but yea. So long as the writers and developers put their soul into the work (Like the artisans of old used to to make an honest day's pay) and try their hardest, I'm sure they'll do fine.

     

    I wonder though...if I write an entire piece of Lore or a quest, I wonder of they'd consider making it /hmm

    Leader/Founder of Deritus Free Company - Chocobo Knights of Apocalypse Linkshell

  • MyskMysk Pittsburg, KSPosts: 982Member

    "Guest Writer".  Now that's a shame.  Taken with the fact that I haven't seen any names mentioned by NCSoft I take it that they can't reveal who they are at this time.  A real shame.  I'd like to see some of their other work.

    I've read fantasy novels of several hundred pages since at least the 3rd grade, I've had a writing hobby for many years, and I've had a creative writing minor at my university.  That said, the quality of the writing in Aion genuinely surprised me.  I'm not saying that the stories were Earth-shattering, but the quality of the writing has been top-notch.

    It's a bit embarrassing to say that I did begin skipping some dialogue ("kill 10 whoozits" is "kill 10 whoozits"), but I don't think it fair to penalize the writers for a design constraint.  I don't expect The Legend of Huma or The Time of The Twins or Druids (Morgan Llywelyn) .   I'd like to see what these writers do outside of the current MMO design limitations.

    Also, I laughed out loud at the "Cthulhu" XML file.

    image
    I probably don't follow the threads that I post in. If you want me to see a response then feel free to PM me.

  • StraddenStradden Managing Editor Halifax, NSPosts: 6,696Member
    Originally posted by Mysk


    "Guest Writer".  Now that's a shame.  Taken with the fact that I haven't seen any names mentioned by NCSoft I take it that they can't reveal who they are at this time.  A real shame.  I'd like to see some of their other work.

    "NCsoft Content Writer David Noonan"

     

    Cheers,
    Jon Wood
    Managing Editor
    MMORPG.com

  • MyskMysk Pittsburg, KSPosts: 982Member
    Originally posted by Stradden

    Originally posted by Mysk


    "Guest Writer".  Now that's a shame.  Taken with the fact that I haven't seen any names mentioned by NCSoft I take it that they can't reveal who they are at this time.  A real shame.  I'd like to see some of their other work.

    "NCsoft Content Writer David Noonan"

     

     

    Hah!    Thanks for pointing that out to me.  I skip over grayed out text without realizing that it's there.  I think that it's a part of ad blindness.

    image
    I probably don't follow the threads that I post in. If you want me to see a response then feel free to PM me.

  • HaradeasHaradeas TongerenPosts: 213Member Uncommon

    Was a pleasure to read and cant wait ( as CE pre order customer ) to experience the immense world and lore myself in sep ^^

  • MithrandolirMithrandolir The Deep Woods, NJPosts: 1,698Member Uncommon

    That was a vary nice read! Thank you for posting it!

  • TheStarheartTheStarheart Farmingville, NYPosts: 368Member

    I was impressed with this article. It stands out amongst the rest of the interviews, articles, and commentaries given out by the NCsoft employees. These are the people that really make a game worth playing!

  • KyligraphyKyligraphy Vancouver, BCPosts: 12Member

    it's nice and all to have to read the stories of a couple thousand npc's quarrels and millions of opinions about it.

    but to be honest, I still can't care... I'm too impatient...

     

    when I think about it, you can't really make me care about some dude who lost a ring he was going to use to marry his girlfriend or long lost wife when I'm about to get some wings that make me fly.

  • aurickaurick Dillon, MTPosts: 317Member

     Very nice read, and I enjoyed seeing the results of your efforts during beta.

    That being said, you made one big mistake during the pre-ascension quests:  There are many times when the NPC's call you a Daeva.  They're not supposed to know that yet.  Heck, even YOU aren't supposed to know it.  (Or at least, your character's not.)  Any places that make that kind of reference damage the great work you've put into immersion.  Hopefully you can find and edit those out soon!  (Of course, this also negates the "I can die, but you can't" excuse that any NPC's might give for asking you to do something during those first 10 levels.)

    Just a minor observation.  :)  Great work, overall!

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  • PunisherPunisher Chicago, ILPosts: 23Member
    Originally posted by Stradden

    Originally posted by Mysk


    "Guest Writer".  Now that's a shame.  Taken with the fact that I haven't seen any names mentioned by NCSoft I take it that they can't reveal who they are at this time.  A real shame.  I'd like to see some of their other work.

    "NCsoft Content Writer David Noonan"

     



     

    Hmmm thats an extremely familiar name? Why am I thinking D&D stuff? At work no google anyone got anything he has worked on?

  • CymTyrCymTyr Vancouver, WAPosts: 166Member

    Good read, thanks for sharing with us David!

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  • LorelLorel BlonduosPosts: 45Member

    I enjoyed that article. :D

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  • LeodiousLeodious Abingdon, VAPosts: 773Member

    This was very, very good. And these are all great points for all game developers. Jon, could you send this as a memo to all the companies whose ear you might have?

    Aion isn't really my cup of tea, I realized after playing, but some of the core design principles are amazing. The quest text for example. Often, you have multiple options when talking to an NPC for a quest; it is a conversation, so you need to pay attention to what you are doing. You can't hit Accept and follow the arrow on your minimap.

    And more than ever that (though, as someone with a passion for stories and language itself, that is a big deal for me), I like the fact that NPCs are aware of your dying. They treat you like a hero, like an angel, because that is what you are. You are not just some guy (well, after the very beginning), you are a Daeva, and you are kind of a big deal. That fact alone adds so much to the experience for me.

    As a roleplayer, that's a big deal for me. I like to have all the game mechanics make sense with regards to the fictional world in which I exist. For example, in WoW (or, The Leviathan), you are a hero, and people respect you, but you are not more powerful than the guards in town (in fact, you are often less so), but you are asked to go kill things. When that NPC soldier dies, he's dead. Yes, as a priest, I can resurrect him, but that is only VERY rarely indicated in the game. If my friend PC dies, I just stand still for ten seconds and he's back on his feet smiling. If that NPC we are walking around with dies, he a goner. And there is no explanation for why this difference exists.

    Aion really does have some innovative ideas I would love to see in other games. Thanks again for posting this.

    "There are two great powers, and they've been fighting since time began. Every advance in human life, every scrap of knowledge and wisdom and decency we have has been torn by one side from the teeth of the other. Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit."

    — John Parry, to his son Will; "The Subtle Knife," by Phillip Pullman

  • shavashava Somerville, MAPosts: 282Member Uncommon

    I've been playing CB on Aion -- started as a lark and a vacation from LOTRO, but I think I'm jumping.  Cooling my heels in Champions Online OB until Aion OB, and I've pre-ordered the CE.

    I'm sort of a 2yr grrl with my MMO and I think this is the next phase of my addiction! :)  I'm a professional writer/storyteller (both in the arts and in business) with a background in cultural anthropology, and I've been impressed with the localization of the words and concepts from Korea to US English.

    If I had one gripe it would be both the Daeva-before-ascension voice-overs and also the grumpy NPCs who say thank you in text and then the voice-over says, "You're wasting my time!" or some such.

    For those who like rough edges and boot camp, play Asmodean.  For those who prefer civil conversation, stay on the Elyos side -- it's definitely a kinder and gentler flavor of kick-ass-take-no-prisoners.

     

    Yrs,

    Shava

  • kurok1456kurok1456 BLACKWOOD, NJPosts: 2Member

    Very enjoyed reading this. and im wondering what you meant by the massive XML file named Cthulhu. that sounds exciting :D

    cheese

  • stayontargetstayontarget Tacoma, WAPosts: 6,068Member Uncommon

    Quote from wiki

    David Noonan: is an author of several products and articles for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game from Wizards of the Coast.

    I thought I heard or read that last name from somewhere, I think I have read a few of his books / articles.

    Velika: City of Wheels: Among the mortal races, the humans were the only one that never built cities or great empires; a curse laid upon them by their creator, Gidd, forced them to wander as nomads for twenty centuries...

  • svzurichsvzurich Las Vegas, NVPosts: 21Member

    I was very pleasantly surprised to see that I owned several of his books as well.  :)

  • shavashava Somerville, MAPosts: 282Member Uncommon

    For more on David Noonan's PnP portfolio at WOTC:

    http://www.pen-paper.net/rpgdb.php?op=showcreator&creatorid=3

    Work on D&D 2000-2006, and Magic: the Gathering 2001 (color text), and a slew of articles and such.

    Some cool stuff on evolution of classes on his blog.

    He's been at NCSoft for five apparently very busy months, during which he hasn't blogged. (geez, I know that one)

    Sorry, David!  Don't mean to Google stalk you, just curious on your background, and what else you were doing, because I enjoyed the article -- and the name sounded familiar to me, too (probably from pen and paper contexts).

    Yrs,

    Shava

  • ScotScot UKPosts: 5,762Member Uncommon

    Interesting read, I wish we had more articles from writers on this site.

    “We writers don’t really have “our” stories. The players are the motivating force for the storytelling--the story is theirs.”

    He is the writer, but I beg to differ. It is the writers who create the story that guides us. Unless you are a role player all you will have is the lore background that has been written. Even if you are a roleplayer then it is that story which is the backdrop for your own creative efforts.

    Having to take a MMO and give it flesh, story wise cannot have been easy, lets hope they did a grand job as I may be playing this one. :)

  • shavashava Somerville, MAPosts: 282Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Scot



    “We writers don’t really have “our” stories. The players are the motivating force for the storytelling--the story is theirs.”
    He is the writer, but I beg to differ. It is the writers who create the story tht guides us. Unless you are a role player all you will have is the lore background that has been written. Even if you are a roleplayer then it is that story which is the backdrop for your own creative efforts.
    Having to take a MMO and give it flesh, story wise cannot have been easy, lets hope they did a grand job as I may be playing this one. :)

     

    I think what the author is trying to say is that it's the job of the writer to make the story spring from the needs of the player, not the needs of some omnipotent grognard lore-writer.  Much MMO writing tends to spring from slapping a coat of color text onto a game mechanic ("kill ten rats" becomes "Oh, the rats are eating my lovely, precious, fluffy pillows!  Save them!  They're in the storeroom upstairs.").

    But the story can become more, integrated into the gradual revelation of the richness of the world's setting, and unwinding the Hero's Journey with the player-as-protagonist.  For those of us who actually value the color text and lore of a game, this is gold.  For an MMO writer to understand that perspective, to play to that immersion, is fantastic, and so far Aion has amazed me with this.

    Sanya wrote an article on this site on why immersive quest authoring often doesn't work out, but I'm hoping that the time David's putting into it (and the Korean crew before him) will pencil out, given a great underlying game (in terms of mechanics), not to mention drop dead gorgeous visuals.

    In my generation, Star Wars was a seminal piece of geek art that incorporated the Joseph Campbell's classic hero's journey. or monomyth structure, that seems to echo across cultures.  Games like Morrowind (Elder Scrolls series in general) incorporated something like monomyth to great advantage, as did KOTOR and a few other single player games.  It's hard to incorporate deeply into an MMO because MMOs, despite supposedly making *you* into The Hero, engage thousands of others in killing the same quota of rats.

    LOTRO did a pretty good job of maintaining immersion while drawing the player into a collateral and significant role to the Fellowship in Tolkien's lore setting.  That Aion's story feels more powerful to me already after a couple weekends of closed beta in a lore setting that's new to me makes me salute them!

    I want David's job...:)  Well, maybe on another MMO -- I want to play this one.

    Yrs,

    Shava

  • ScotScot UKPosts: 5,762Member Uncommon

    But what is left out in MMO’s, that you do see in the stories, is that the hero was once young. I would love to see a MMO where you spent levels 1-10 as a teenager killing those rats. Anyone remember the Fable hero being called ‘chicken chaser’ by a woman who knew him from when he was a boy?

    Then once you are in your twenties you have to redesign to make a adult character who is by now doing heroic deeds!

    I really hope they have done a grand job on Aion to, but only time will tell.

  • thablackguythablackguy Columbus, OHPosts: 1Member

    nice post, great read. can't wait for the game.

    Who am I? Thablackguy !!

  • royalewitroyalewit medina, OHPosts: 78Member

    How about:  "Nothing else matters besides the gameplay."  Pile on anything and every little piece of fluff you can, but if the core of the game isn't engaging, believable and fun then nobody is going to be around long enough to appreciate the little things.

    The art could be gorgeous but if the characters don't move in a realistic, fluid manner and allow the player to feel like he's in complete control of their movements then the artwork doesn't matter.  For example, look at WAR online--has incredible graphics but character control and response is so weak that players never feel connected to the world.

    Also, breaking the world up into segments also causes players to lose interest in the world.  It doesn't feel like a living, breathing place but more like glorified chatrooms.  The social aspect of a MMO is one of, if not it's strongest feature and when you break up the players into little pools it's hard to care about the world as a whole. 

  • sionidesionide van, BCPosts: 42Member

    Great and interesting read. It's these little things that really stand out for me. It also shows the care and passion that is put in, and it all adds up in the end. I hope the people at NCSOFT NA continue their great work.

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