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Age of Conan - Q&A With Jorgen Tharaldsen

Recently, MMORPG.com Managing Editor Jon Wood had the opportunity to send eight questions over to Jorgen Tharaldsen at Funcom. In those questions, Tharaldsen addresses instances, CS and more.

MMORPG.com:

Some members are complaining that dealing with customer support has been frustrating, and help comes late and sometimes not at all. Can you speak to this?

Jorgen Tharaldsen

We have been known to give some of the best customer services in the MMO industry for years, and while we are striving to meet the same standards for Age of Conan as soon as possible we are not there yet. The reason for this is naturally the sheer amount of people who is playing the game right now, and while we staffed up significantly for the Conan launch it wasn't enough for what we are now facing. We are actively staffing up as fast as we can in order to reduce the waiting times, and get back to our standard of being among the best, which is always our goal.

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MMORPG.com:

There has been some issue recently with players not being able to log into the game's official forums. Can you comment on this?

Jorgen Tharaldsen

What has happened is that months before launch we made scenarios on what kind of hardware we needed to stand against the launch frenzy. We ordered numerous extra high performance forum servers, and I know for sure that this was along the lines of «if the game should potentially go down at launch, at least let us make sure we have all lines of communication open». In that, we thought mistakenly we would have enough forum servers to cope, by far! The truth is that even this wasn't enough. With more than 2 million unique visitors to our site in the launch days we saw a doubling of even our most hairy traffic goals. As many of those tried to go to the forums they broke down. That people pressed F5 to refresh at the same time definitively didn't help the load. So as a fallback we had to choose this option. In all of this, we thought we made plans which were watertight, with a fallback on the fallback on the fallback, but it wasn't enough.

We have now opened again btw, and even more servers are coming in, but if the traffic continues to spike we will need to revert until we have all the hardware we need. Which is a lot!

MMORPG.com:

Funcom recently announced that they had taken action against a number of cheaters in-game. Since that time, we have heard from players who claim that members of their guild with characters who were holding cash and items for others due to the malfunctioning bank system were banned as well. Can you speak to this?

Jorgen Tharaldsen

In general we have a zero tolerance policy towards exploiters. They cheat and break our balance, and should be banned as most are knowlingly aware of the fact that they use bugs to gain benefits. While this is always our stance, we have registered that some guilds have reported that we mistakenly banned leaders who are victims (since the tax system is not turned on yet, leaders got gold from all member to buy guild stuff, and this amount of gold automatically trigger our warning systems). It's many exploits in those streams of money, and we have reacted accordingly. If we have done mistakes we have listened, and even in a very few cases reopened accounts. In all of this there is never a wish to harm, but we need to take action. Just think if guilds who cheat gets honors like «first to build a battlekeep». That is not an achievement, that is just fake status.

MMORPG.com:

Performance of the game is still quite poor for some players who exceed even the recommended specifications. What are you currently doing to resolve these issues? Do you have a timeframe?

Jorgen Tharaldsen

We had this talk during Open beta, where the issues were much larger, but we have taken tremendous strides since then. I said something like «if anything, people will be surprised about how well the game performs», and this has definitively come true. Many have mumbled about «coding magic» in regards to how our launch client performed compared to beta. Some systems still have issues, but we are actively working on it. We keep the entire team on for the times to come, and it will remain a priority to optimize. So the timeframe is «now, yesterday, next week, next year and beyond». It never stops, and we are doing our best to ensure that everyone has fun.

MMORPG.com:

There seems to be some confusion regarding the way that zones are instanced in Age of Conan. Can you explain how this system works and can you please provide a concrete number limit on the number of players who can play in the same zone instance?

Jorgen Tharaldsen

Instancing is when we duplicate playfields and areas when they fill up according to set parameters. These parameters differ from zone to zone, and it's something we are continuing to experiment with. The key is performance and design choices, and this means that we are allowing larger amount of people in some places, less in others.

As we in our launch window, and still uncertain on how our customer numbers will become, we are actively adding more hardware to each server to facilitate more players (much like EVE, without taking it all the way). As opposed to adding servers (which we also do!), we estimate that load will go somewhat down in the future. This means you are seeing more instancing now than you are likely to see in the future. The reason for this is to create healthy populations on each and every server. Call us paranoid or thinking too long into the future, but we think that the worst thing that can happen to a MMO is server merging as that destroys the social bonds. We hope that people will understand our choice, and see that it’s the best for everyone in the long run.

We do see that we could be better at some of this, like how we display and inform, and we are improving this, but seeing we have been live for days we are still shaping the world.

MMORPG.com:

Some players have been complaining that some of the server downtimes have been during peak hours. Can you speak to this?

Jorgen Tharaldsen

It is never our intention to take away the enjoyment of the players on their peak time, but during launch we have chosen the lesser of two evils (if a severe issues comes up, do we fix it, or let it pass to let people play?) Not an easy choice, but sometime you have to do what is right for most people. This will naturally change. We always aim to patch during low-peak, and this goal stays firm.

MMORPG.com:

Can you give us an overview of some of the performance issues that have been resolved in the last few patches?

Jorgen Tharaldsen

I am not sure how relevant it is to speak about the water under the bridge? We have one of the best coder teams in the MMO world, and they are working as hard as they can to optimize further. We want solid framerates and performance as much as anybody. In some cases it's things we see ourselves, in other cases due to player reports, but for those remaining issues we are improving things rapidly.

MMORPG.com:

Petition lines have been extraordinarily long since launch. Are there any plans to increase the number of GMs for Age of Conan

Jorgen Tharaldsen

Yes! I can say nothing else than asking you to put yourself in our shoes. If you think you get 400 people to your party, and they all invite friends without ever letting you know, how do you cope?

We are adding more as fast as we can, and we hope people will be patient right now. We have not had a bad launch, we have had perhaps the best launch in MMO history. Because we are so immensely popular right now we have challenges, but we are working around the clock to improve.

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