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The Casual Gamer

Helping put a perspective on the MMO genre from someone who doesn't have time to hit the maximum level inside two weeks.

Author: grimmbot

Instancing: Age of Conan vs. Guild Wars

Posted by grimmbot Sunday May 25 2008 at 3:21PM
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Instancing is the single biggest point of contention when it comes to Age of Conan, with many people being dissatisfied over what they call "linear instancing". Most of them have gone further to say that it's instanced, "like Guild Wars" -- which has been repeated so often that people are starting to believe it.

"Linear Instancing" is a two-headed beast -- "linear" and "instance" are really totally separate. I will only focus on instancing here.

Others are now confused out of their minds about the definition of "instance", and it's because of people trying to push this "Just Like Guild Wars" argument down their throats. So let's just set it straight:

1) Is Age of Conan Instanced or Zoned? And What Does "Instance" mean here anyway?

First of all, to clear this up: Zones are instances. Instances are copies of zones. There's no such debate as "Zone or Instance"; they're the same thing.

Yes, it is instanced. But No, not like Guild Wars. If you're reading for the comparison, skip to #2, below.

"Instancing" is the act of creating multiple copies of one zone in an effort to control the number of players in one area. This is done for several reasons, usually having to do with game performance, the size of the zone, and/or the way quests are setup. For example, having fewer people in a zone means less competition to defeat boss monsters (and gather resources) and less lag with fewer people at a time running around.

The drawback to instancing is the loss of complete immersion: The idea of having five "copies" of Conall's Valley and having to get to "the right instance" sort of breaks the feeling of a large world. Imagine raiding a guild city and knowing they're in "The Swamp", but not which instance -- not too easy to roleplay that!

People have gone far enough to say that the outdoor zones feel more like huge dungeons because of this. And, considering you can choose to zone into an "epic" version of Conall's Valley, it's hard to refute that.

But this isn't about whether instancing is good or bad, as that's all subjective.


2) So This is Just Like Guild Wars, Then?

No. There's a very important difference between Guild Wars and Age of Conan.

Guild Wars Instancing:
 -- Towns are "public", but have population caps that create instances
 -- All outdoor areas, dungeons... pretty much anything outside of a town is instanced exclusively for you and your group.
 -- To play with a group, you need to join one before leaving town in order to adventure together.

Age of Conan Instancing:
All zones, towns, outdoor and dungeon, are "public", but have population caps that create instances.
 -- To play with a group, you all need to be in the same instance (although you can invite someone who's in a different instance and they're free to switch), but you can join on-the-fly like any other MMORPG.

So while Age of Conan is instanced, there's a BIG difference in how the two games approach it, and how it affects your freedom of gameplay. The instancing in Age of Conan doesn't restrict your freedom nearly to the degree that Guild Wars does. There's still plenty of PvP danger in each AoC instance.

Again, this doesn't make the instancing good, or bad. Whether or not it is, is entirely up to you.

Yet, those who are saying it's "just like Guild Wars" are doing the game a huge disservice. There are enough valid things to complain about without having to make untrue comparisons. Really. I don't even have official forum access due to the bug in their system from the EA accounts.

Ticker: My Age of Conan Experience

Posted by grimmbot Saturday May 24 2008 at 12:32PM
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No, this is not a review. Just a few comments:

1) I'm part of the horde without official forum access due to the fact that when EA accounts were disabled, and the accounts upgraded, they were never turned back on. This is annoying, but I can think of worse that I've gone through. In most MMO launches I can't even play for half of the first week!

2) PvP server ruleset is too unrestricted. Spawn camping abound. Players aren't to blame -- they're only doing what they're allowed to. Funcom is, finally, planning to give resurrection immunity.

3) Combat is intense, engaging and -- dare I say it -- fun!

4) A game company finally figured out that chopping up 3 easier-to-beat mobs is much more fun than taking on one really difficult mob. Hurray!

5) Lack of NPC voice acting after leaving Tortage? ... bummer, man.

6) Group mechanic is too empty. I can't even find my groupmates on the mini map.

7) Resource gathering is restricted to their own zones. ... mmmkay. There are good and bad parts to this, but I want to wait to judge.

8) Death penalty is surprisingly small

9) As a result of #8, long-distance travel is now not as long as you may think: Just die.

10) Trader NPCs NEED to be in. Quickly.

11) Crafting starts at 40. Hmm. Well, if armor continues to scale up as it has been, then it's no big deal anyway because you wouldn't make anything truly worthwhile.

12) Crafting's long-term effectiveness worries me, because items don't suffer from durability loss. I will reserve judgment until I see just how wide open the crafting is.

I started at 8am on Tuesday (Launch Day). Right now I'm only Level 20, but that's after two days of not playing at all due to a real life. I'm actually quite satisfied with how things have been so far, but from what I've seen, my skill and spell gains will slow down tremendously as I level from here on out.

It's entirely possible that I'll feel differently at 40 than I do at 20. I'll let you know.

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