A Dungeon Revisited (#2): Age of Conan

Welcome to issue #2 of my on-going playthroughs of the latest and greatest MMORPGs. Most of which are trying to make a name for themselves, and haven't quite landed the market for potential players. You will find out how the difficulties of creating a unique and enjoyable MMO experience translates to modern gamers. What does it take to reach success in the universe of MMOs? Keep reading to get a glimpse of the struggles one game had, Age of Conan, during its post launch endurement.

Check out issue #1 here (Dungeons and Dragons Online). I'm a little urked to find out that some writer at Gamespot named their blog similar to mine. Anyways mine has a cooler name, and my series started earlier this morning! Anyways on with the information.

A little over a year ago, Age of Conan promised gamers with the ultimate MMO package. The world of Robert E. Howard's, beautiful and savage world at their fingertips. So did gamers receive that promise? Well not exactly, for a number of very legitimate reasons; which was later acknowledged by the game's creators.

You look almost too good to smash.
You look almost too good to smash.
The world of Hyboria was there. The brutality was definitely there, the combat never felt more fresh and dynamic. Afterall, this is a Mature rated game, what would it be without gruesome fatalities. The class archetypes were fleshed out, soldiers, mages, rogues, and priests. The game's visuals looked stunning; if you had a top of the line video card at that time. Story-telling and cinematics were some of the main attractors for sure, it felt as if you were playing a single player game when you talked to each of the quest givers. So what was missing?

It was the fine print. That fact that Funcom released the game out there without telling customers what to expect months of play later, or in some cases, much much sooner. Gamers basically were tricked into thinking that everything could be solved with a few patches. Unfortunately, Age of Conan's problems ran deeper than that.

First things first, never promise a feature that is guaranteed on a retail box, and then when a customer goes to install and run the game, that feature does not exist. The highly touted DX10, which was in fact printed on the boxes when it first came out last May, was never included as a setting in the actual game. Funcom's argument to this was that they did find some memory leaks with several DX10 features in beta, but apparently it was too late to modify the boxes being made to ship. Most gamers could look past this, but even releasing the DX9 versions of the game contained technical issues with many gamers, causing crashes and such.

Moving on to gameplay proved to be a little more difficult to critique. Still, a large number of outside MMO players moved over to Age of Conan as they grew tired of other popular MMOs at the time (or of all-time for that matter), such as World of Warcraft. Players were not to be fooled, full price plus subscription costs, and you are looking for your money in every dungeon you go through. The game was simply missing that refinement and polish MMO players take for granted.

I can kill with a purpose again.
I can kill with a purpose again.
PvP, especially in a M-rated game, with complex guild sieges and the intricate fighting system that was offered, was never fully thought out or implemented. The outside layer was there, but the inner workings was never fully realized. The developers slept to the player communities' cries for what seemed like forever. Not until well afer the damage was done, could you enjoy the PvP for what it should of been, a major feature included. 

One of the main developers commented upon the release of the new PvP system, saying that he did not feel it was an integral part of the game at that time. Sorry to say, but not releasing a PvP system for a game of this nature is asking to get yelled out by players everywhere.

The Criminal and PvP leveling based system is in the game now, and is backed up by the release of update 1.05, which adds many interesting statistical information for all of the game's weapons and items. There is instant data for players interested in looking to outfit a certain way, to prevent damage form a certain type, or increase damage proficiencies of their own.

Guild issues at the start suffered similar problems. Although many level requirements still remain the same for high-end content, there is a greater sense of direction and focus for guilds to look at when siege planning, and looking to start that next big raid. Along with the 1.05 update came the Tarantia commons zone. A constant struggle of NPC guards and rebels in which you can take part in. You can earn plenty of new items and weapons there as you take on either side of the battle. This is a level 75+ area, so you're going to need your guild or some brave adventures to help, but the rewards should be more than worth it. The next big update is going to be largely guild related too, so good news there.

There are plans for more mid-range content too. Some of the major complaints about the game was the fact that once you left the immersive story-telling experience of the island of Tortage, players were left feeling that the rich voice acting experience had faded away. They were often left wondering what to do next as well. However it is an open world setting, so it could be due to more subjective tastes, and once you leave the tutorial beginnings, you can now have the freedom to adventure how you like. Some plans are being made to rekindle that story-telling experience though, to make things feel more cinematic.

Future details and plans of a retail expansion pack comes next month, as they begin to showcase their major zone addition, House of Crom. Funcom is also inviting any previous subscribers of the game to reactivate their account, which includes a reevalutation period. This phase being offered lasts 14 days of free play, so if you were interested in the game in the past, but canceled because of whatever reason, now's your chance to take a look back inside the world of Hyboria.

Personally, I played the game back at launch. I loved it until I hated it,  like many others. Recently I've invested some time back in the game, and I'm impressed with the work they've done, and the feedback they responded to with various updates. It shows you that if you're a MMO in trouble, and you have the man power to keep pounding away at new content and fixes, people will take notice. I just hope things keep going in the right direction.