NCsoft's Knox Talks Globalizing Aion Through Story

NCsoft's Brian Knox, producer of MMO Aion, tells Gamasutra about the team's special attention to the gameworld's story -- and says it was essential for ensuring the title will appeal to Western audiences.
NCsoft has always intended Aion to be a global game, as opposed to strictly a localization of a Korean title. Although the developers maintained the distinctive Eastern art style to differentiate its MMO from other traditional high-fantasy worlds, producer Brian Knox says that extra attention to fleshing out the game's story was a key point of ensuring the game could find a market in the West. With 400,000 preorders, Aion's launch looks set to make a bigger splash than many major MMO launches in recent years, and in a new Gamasutra feature, we talk to Knox about the journey, the ramp-up and the specific and manifold style and story concerns to which the team had to attend. Knox says the Korean audience is "very much about trends, so if one person's doing something, everybody tends to do it." So adding more individuality and customization options for Aion in the West was important -- but story is another key factor. "From the very beginning, we sat with them and hammered out the different story details, how things were written here that were incorporated into the game, ideas that were changed and kind of polished and tweaked along the way," he says. "But keeping that central focus on the story I think was a little bit more of a Western idea comparatively to previous MMOs released in Asia." "I think it was more developing the histories of the world," he adds. "We had this core concept of how we wanted to have these three factions. All that was fairly set just based on our design of the game and the story." But whereas the Korean audience might be satisfied with a basic premise, Knox knows Western players, accustomed to elaborate universes, are more likely to search for historical inconsistencies and plot holes, so having a thorough and believable background for the world, its characters and factions was a special consideration. One of the biggest difficulty, then, was the exchange of text and translations between the Korean and European offices. "It wasn't without hardship," says Knox. "It's not an easy thing when you speak different languages and sometimes three different languages -- French or German. There were some difficulties." "There were times where we'd go back and forth and then finally realize we were talking about the same thing, and it was just coming out a little differently." But such hurdles are part of being a global company, says Knox. "If we all love Aion, we want the best for it. I think there is a difference, and we always try to figure out, 'Is this a communication issue? Or is this an actual difference of opinion?'" "I think that's one thing you've always got to look at right away when you're dealing with someone who speaks a different language than yourself." You can now read the full Gamasutra feature interview, discussing all things Aion with NCsoft's Knox (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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