Release of Aion 4.0 “Dark Betrayal” patch in NA region is fast approaching and it’s scheduled for release on 26th June 2013. Meanwhile, NCSoft West Team find a time to talk a little bit with Korean Aion Developer Mr. Seunguk Baek about both current game state as well as its future!

Q: What do you see as the defining difference between Aion 4.0 and previous versions of the game?

Baek: We’ve enhanced PvP a great deal, improving various aspects of it from one-on-one duels to full-scale fortress sieges.

Q: What part of 4.0 makes you most proud?

Baek: Definitely, the creation and introduction of the Gunslinger and Songweaver is the best feature. For the first time in 4 years, we’re adding two new classes! These two classes will lead us to content that is uniquely fun to Aion.

Q: Many players have expressed that they feel that they are “rushed” to end-game more and more with each new patch. Is the primary focus to get players to end-game as quickly as possible or are there plans to revitalize mid-level content?

Baek: The mid-range levels are opportunities for the player to learn the mechanics of the game and prep for end game content. It isn’t good to go through it too quickly, and it’s a bad experience if it drags on too long. The goal is to find the right balance, and we pay close attention to the leveling process.

Q: Will we see safe zones similar to those during vulnerabilities in Tiamaranta/Sarpan in Katalam? They have a tendency to encourage a very frustrating standard of PvP that was not previously possible in Aion. (Clerics/Chanters standing in safe zones spam healing other people out in the vulnerable area with impunity gets rather silly.)

Baek: The Neutral Zone system was first introduced in Tiamaranta and Sarpan. However, free movement was completely obstructed. This time, in Katalam, we tried to guarantee unrestricted movement but this created a problem at the boundary. In the new version, we have made adjustments so players in the Neutral Zone will not be able to use major support skills and so on to aid players on the battlefield.

Q: AP has become increasingly easy to get with each update. Have you considered revamping the way AP ranking work, or introducing more ranks?

Baek: The current method for acquiring Abyss Points has changed greatly from what was originally intended in PVP and originally was. Rather than continuing to develop based on its current state, we want to look into reincorporating its original concept.

Q: Currently, there are several areas that have Neutral zones that border right on highly active PvP zones. This makes for several players using hit and run tactics where they attack and run into PvE zones. Are there any plans to make it so that people locked in combat must finish combat before going neutral?

Baek: The Neutral Zone is meant as a safe area for players who are weak at PvP. Another goal of the area is to protect those players who are truly running away to save their lives. The problem is being able to differentiate between the real weak players and those who are just taking advantage of the Zone. To prevent abuse, we have added a system that blocks players in the Neutral Zone from using attacks and friendly skills on people on the Battlefield. We will continue to monitor and make further adjustments as needed.

Q: Racial Abilities have been cited several times for controversy in the past. After two major updates, these abilities have not been addressed or changed. For instance, the Elyos Templar Racials consist of an extra shield counter and a 2 second Stun, while the Asmodian Templar Skills are a Bleed and 50% Life steal attack. This makes one race inherently weaker for that class. Are there plans to normalize Racial abilities or buff weaker Racial abilities?

Baek: Racial abilities were designed to give special characteristics and flavor to the races. However, it quickly became a problem, and we adjusted it over the course of many version updates, starting with the ones that had the biggest disparity based on player feedback. We continue to monitor these and will adjust as necessary.

Q: The Rookie server and limited rifts greatly restrict lower-level PvP. Are there plans to revitalize lower-level PvP?

Baek: During the Korean launch, we encountered the issue of low-level players being ganked by higher level players so we put our efforts into making a safe haven for low-level players. We later realized that by taking this approach, there were fewer opportunities to enjoy PVP in the game. Now we are refocusing on bringing the fun of PVP to all levels.

Q: Rifting saw a major overhaul in the past year. Will there be any further changes to this system?

Baek: This is in the early stages of development, but we are working on a Rift that connects to another dimension. This Rift will be unlike anything players have seen before, and will contain end-level content.

Q: Many players feel that crafting is not profitable based on what they are able to produce and they time it takes to get the needed materials. Are there plans to make any changes to the crafting system or the recipes?

Baek: We’ve spent a lot of time improving crafting in 4.0. There are now craftable—and tradeable–items that are comparable to items available in dungeons and or the Abyss. We took into consideration the difficulty of acquiring materials and crafting costs, and decided to make the craftable items tradable. We will adjust this as necessary to ensure there is no loss of value.

Q: Many players have expressed frustration when receiving items that are untradeable that their class cannot use. Some instances drop boxes that contain class-specific weapons. Will older instances such as Dragon Lord Refuge be revamped to have class-specific boxes? Will new instances have class-specific boxes?

Baek: We are considering various looting methods. Our goal is to make the looting mechanism a special characteristic of instance dungeons. For example, while a player who is satisfied with an item with average stats can select the right item for their character, the option to receive a random item of higher quality offers a potential advantage to undertaking relatively big instances earlier.

Q: The last motion cards were added in 2.5. Will there be any additional motions beyond Ninja/Levitate?

Baek: The next update is currently in the planning stages, so I can’t say much about it. We hope to add more motions and costumes for North American players to enjoy. Please look forward to it.

Source: 4.0 Interview with Developer Seunguk Baek on Aion NA Official homepage.