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Age of Conan: Guild Interview Part One, North America

MMORPG.com Age of Conan Correspondent Ben Avery recently spoke with members of two Age of Conan Guilds, on in North America and one in Europe, to get their opinions on a number of issues relevant to the game as it is now and since launch.

In Part One, Ben talks to Mental Block, from the North American guild Primal Instinct.

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Age of Conan is fast approaching the 5 months old mark. It released amidst a huge wave of hype. Is the game currently living up to the hype from the minds of its current player base? Did that wave of hype crash down and drown everyone? Is the game the same as it was at release? Has it gotten worse or better?

These are some of the questions that I hope to bring answers to in today’s Age of Conan state of the game Guild Q&A. One of the main reasons for doing this is to get some perspective from the current player base that has been in since launch. I thought ‘what better way to do this than to ask directly’! It’s also important to ask the right questions to get a clearer perspective for those interested. I have chosen two guilds to start – one from the European servers and one from the North American continent servers. These guilds are active in game, are known on their servers and have some good insight. I hope this comes across as adequate and unbiased enough for the critics and a decent enough read for the casual browser. As the questions asked are to the leaders and guild members alike, it should portray a good representation of where we are up to today with Age of Conan. We have one large guild and one average sized, both from a PvP and PvE perspective. As time goes on I might be doing more of these to getter a better feel of the truer state of the game.

For our North American Server we have the guild Primal Instinct with answers from Mental Block:

Introduction to Primal Instinct

We are a PvP guild, majority of the guild is made of players who played Anarchy Online (Funcom’s other MMO) for years, the members were on the same (and even opposite sides) of the war in AO, it was not a problem as "faction" differences were never really taken seriously by any of us (we are not role players), friendship with people on opposite sides was normal, you could kill him in PvP and still talk, raid, have fun etc.

PvP and PvE were separated and it was pretty common to have people of opposite factions interact on daily basis (outside of PvP) be it buffing/talking/raiding or whatever. When we heard that Age of Conan is ready for launch (end of 2006) we picked up the people who played/stopped playing AO and organized them.

The game was delayed and most of us either went back to AO (at that time another expansion was launched and Silirrion became the Game Director after some time) or to other MMO’s.

Mental Block Profile

Name: Mental Block
Position: Guild Officer/General
Guild Name: Primal Instinct
Server: Tyranny, US.
Rough Guild size: About 12-15 active players currently, we, like many other guilds lost a lot of members during the gem problems. We were a medium sized guild before with roughly 40-50 active people.
Website / Forums: http://www.pigsnet.com

Ben Avery:

So you guys have been playing for a while now, in what ways did AoC meet your expectations and where did it fall short?

Primal Instinct:

It met my expectations as far as PvP goes, it is fun, fluid and fast (sometimes slow), the balancing is good, a lot of skill is involved (and knowledge of other classes), numbers do not always guarantee a win and I like that, it is also not impossible to win vs. a higher level player (something I loved in AO) which makes things interesting. (Huge differences like 80 vs. 20 is impossible of course)/

The bottom line is: every class has an advantage (or disadvantage) over another class; however you can overcome it if you are a good player which I find simply amazing. I like the way gear only gives you an edge over someone else as opposed to making you godlike to a player who has inferior equipment compared to yourself.

However I have read that FC intends to change this so that gear makes some 45-50% of your character (as opposed to 25% that it does now), I do not like the change and many of the players I know will be disappointed as well. This is catering to people who refuse to learn the weaknesses of other classes and want to rely on gear to win. This is not what AoC is about (or what it was advertised).

Hopefully the changes will not be so major and let’s hope I'm not right.

PvP should be about skill, timing, using the tools at your disposal, knowing your enemy and exploiting his weaknesses and not about gear. People who want to spend time raiding, should, as the bonuses simply give you an edge, if they expected WoWlike differences in equipment, this is not for them. I fear that it may very well turn into that…

As for falling short:

The crafting system, mind you, I am not a person who will go nuts about crafting, I simply find it not interesting and honestly it is useless as it stands now. The idea itself is great, the implementation is horrid, there are suggestions on the forums to make crafting interesting and useful, it will require reworking of the system completely however.

As I wrote this, one of FC employees posted a reworking the crafting system completely and that should prove interesting to say the least.

Also a few "minor" things that unbalance PvP:

Pulsing/secular guard/mana/stamina regeneration gems, these currently make PvP simply too simple, the pulsing gems if stacked correctly (different tiers) can heal for a lot, the mana/stamina ones allow you to never run out of stamina and mana (infinite sprint/combos) which is simply unbalancing and I doubt FC ever intended guards to be used as a source of healing/extra invulnerabilities.(pulsing gems/secular guard).

Another very annoying is the placement of guards around Keshatta, where most of the PvP happens.

They are nothing more than an annoyance, however in PvP, they can be the deciding factor (having 5 guards doing 150-200/hit) by giving your opponent (or you) the advantage and extra damage and with gems they can be exploited for healing (each hit allows them to proc multiple gems which makes a person with 5-6 guards on him un-killable with anything short of an ICBM)

Another, but crucial thing: Lack of communication with the community and classes itself, what would work (and would be great as far as publicity points go) is to just copy over the system from AO(Professionals program) where 2 representatives of each class would be chosen(1 from US/EU server in my opinion) by Funcom and would talk directly to them about the (class) communities concerns and problems.

It would require nothing more than setting up a part of the forum with them and picking people who have contributed to the classes and have enough knowledge of the game mechanics/class(es) to be as unbiased as possible. As I was writing this, they have made a new update to test live servers [now live] where immunities are activated RIGHT after landing some form of crowd control, as opposed to activating AFTER the CC ends.

This will improve the status of PvP by a lot, as it prevents people stun/fear/snare/root locking another person. Great move.

 

Ben Avery:

What’s your opinion on how Funcom has handled patching / updates since release?

Primal Instinct:

Patches in AO used to come every 6-8 weeks (sometimes longer before Silirrion), I think that during launch (and the month following it) FC was fixing problems fast and effectively, downtimes weren't annoying as they were usually short. They were doing very good, I do think they should speed it up a little or just hot-fix things like the gems(remove them completely and rebalanced them on test), testing is required as well and the test server player base is ok, the Raid guild idea(to test raids on Test live) is also a good move.

I have no problem if the patches take longer, as long as they do not introduce game breaking bugs.

 

Ben Avery:

Does your guild actively participate in Sieging, if so how would you describe the overall experience, what is one thing you really enjoy in this area, and one thing that is not so good?

Primal Instinct:

I have only participated in the Testlive Siege event (and made a video about it, it was smooth, lag free and (almost) bug free), but others from my guild have over the months participated.

What I found fun was how much tactics would matter in the case of guild vs. guild wars (since we were mostly random people grouped up) in that scenario.

What I found annoying was the fact the pets would turn green (invulnerable while still attacking) as well as guards sometimes being green (invulnerable) and sometimes red (killable).

Ben Avery:

Are there definite tactics involved in a siege or does Zerg win out right?

Primal Instinct:

I think tactics are involved, I can only assume however, since I only participated in just 1 siege.

Zerg doesn't always win in group vs. zerg scenarios, so I assume the same goes for sieges.

Ben Avery:

Do you have population issues when it comes to Siege's, with 48x48 it can be hard to muster that many people at a time, and do you rely on alliances?

Primal Instinct:

Currently there was only one siege since the PvP patch on my server, it was Addiction (35 people if I am not mistaken) vs. 40 Ebonlore plus few randoms.

Currently it IS hard to get that many people, but they are slowly returning, we had 5 people come back since the PvP patch and more should be back soon.

What would be nice if FC introduced smaller Battlekeeps for smaller guilds, of course the buffs would have to scale, say 12 people BK only gets 25% of the buffs from a 48 keep, 24 only get 50% and so on…

Of course this would be consuming, time and resource wise, but it would be a step in the good direction in my opinion.

Ben Avery:

Since you have been in from the start, how would you best describe the population on your servers to present day?

Primal Instinct:

At start, it was booming, it was grisly and it was fun. We fought for each grinding spot (Eiglophian Mountains were some of the best fights) while the big (zerg) guilds mostly zerged each other in Keshatta and (ab)used the broken apprentice system.

Presently, in Keshatta there are usually 10 different people, even in low hours, yesterday (Sunday) I was playing during my afternoon (US morning) and there were 29 people in Keshatta. That’s not half bad, considering most people will play in (their) afternoon and evening.

Ben Avery:

How do you find the community on your server? Are there events, or is it more close guild relations? What’s your favourite guild event?

Primal Instinct:

I am disappointed by it, probably because I loved the AO community, it is unique, I was hoping AoC would make something similar, on a much larger scale, but it failed.

The community is filled with clueless people that refuse to learn the basics about other classes and basic game mechanics, Funcom should not cater to these people.

So far, the well thought out, backed up by arguments, numbers, facts and experience type of posts have gotten a positive reply/been implemented which I feel is the correct way of approaching thing.

As for my server’s community, it is ok, the general flaming between orgs (a little tension is needed on a PvP server hehe) is ok, currently Primal Instinct is trying to organize a PvP tournament, we mailed FC about getting a GM to oversee the whole thing and (maybe) hand out some prizes to the winners. We are at least trying to do something about it.

And the favorite guild event is PvP in any form.

Ben Avery:

Where is your personal favourite place to be in Hyboria? What does your guild spend most of their time doing in game and where would you say their favourite place is overall / why?

Primal Instinct:

Personal favorite place is probably the Vanir camp near the lodge (level 59-60 vanirs) in Eiglophian Mountains, a lot of fun and a LOT of bloody battles there while I was levelling, so it holds a special place in my character’s biography...

Currently I only spend time in Keshatta as that’s where most of the PvP is happening.

And if people are on in my guild we are PvP’ing, alternatively I might level my alt with a friend who is levelling his Tempest of Set (and again we are looking for PvP while levelling)

Overall my favorite places are Fields of the Dead and Eiglophian mountains, simply because I had the most fun PvP’ing there with a group and solo while levelling, nothing like combining PvE and PvP

Ben Avery:

What main class do you play, and how does it generally work in mixed group play? Is grouping different in some ways to other mmorpg's or do you find a set formula works best like in other games? Do you find different class skills work well with other classes in group play?

Primal Instinct:

I mainly play my Bear Shaman; it is a versatile class with many different abilities, a true hybrid class.

It works well in solo situations and in groups it works ok as long as you can survive the focused fire (the woes of a healer, a melee one at that), overall the class is fun and versatile, it requires A LOT of micro management (which I enjoy), however there is a currently problem that the devs didn't take into consideration.

The stacking of damage multipliers, I have made a topic on the Bear Shaman class forums on Test Live with arguments/numbers and it will hopefully be fixed.

Apart from that, I consider it the most complete and most balanced class in game.

The grouping is interesting, there is no "I WIN" team, and there are teams that will be stronger for some and worse for some other tasks, overall the team PvP is balanced in my opinion, some classes work better with some and worse with some others.

The only unbalancing team is probably 5 necromancers (with pets) and a ToS ( Tempest of Set), pets currently receive a buff that does lightning damage, on a single player it is not a problem, however on 8 pets (or 16/24/32/40 in this case) a person simply dies before he even gets a chance to react. This needs to be looked at.

Ben Avery:

How is your guild finding the recent PvP patch? After reading up on the Notoriority System, what are your thoughts there?

Primal Instinct:

The PvP patch is great, it made PvP enjoyable again, and the only things that need ironing out now, are the gems that weren’t touched by the “nerf” (Pulsing/secular/mana/stamina).

The criminal system isn't really bad, but I see that they have taken it a step further (in test live) [now live] as now you have shady towns, "murderer" resurrection points and similar things that promote both being a criminal and a "good boy".

The old system was unneeded in an FFA PvP server; however this system if implemented correctly will make it all the more interesting.

Ben Avery:

Do you guys raid at all? What’s your favourite encounter and why?

Primal Instinct:

We don't raid on regular occasions; we don't have the numbers to support raiding on a regular basis currently.

And even if/when we did, I doubt we would go for a raid when there’s PvP to be done! I raided a few times (with other guilds) and so did others, I enjoyed Kylikki’s Crypt and it was a rather fun encounter.

I would like to try T2 raids as people said they are fun, I dislike raiding in general, but it is different in AoC.

Ben Avery:

Let's be honest here, the game has had its fair share of bugs, it’s an ever increasing battle for the player to go through sometimes. What’s the most annoying / worst bug you have experienced? Has it been fixed? Is there anything else you find annoying in game, and what would be the way to fix it in your opinion?

Primal Instinct:

The most annoying "bug" (game mechanic) was the "damage refund", where if you stopped someone while the combo animation was done, your Health would go back to where it was, while the other person would have their stamina wasted, their combo on cool down and being fairly annoyed. It has been fixed however.

Also the visual part about health bugging out, it is VERY annoying in PvP, as I have died (and killed) people from 60% (well "60%") with a white hit doing 120-130 damage, the person I asked about said he thought he had 60% hp (and I did too). It’s very annoying and yet to be fixed. Also gems I spoke of above.

Ben Avery:

If your guild was to replace the developers at Funcom and be in charge, what would you do to entice people back to Age of Conan or to encourage new people to the game?

Primal Instinct:

Probably iron out the bugs in PvP that still persist, remaking the crafting system and generally listen to the community suggestions that are nicely thought out, backed up by arguments and ideas to sway over the developers on how and why we should implement that.

That and lots of advertising, however, more than anything, "advertisement by mouth" (or “word by mouth" is the expression I am looking for) is needed, that is not happening with these unbalancing things (in PvP) being there. Maybe add a few new raid dungeons (T1/2 dungeons) for the PvE people...

Ben Avery:

Does the game need server merges? Are you and your guild in support of this?

Primal Instinct:

I don't know what’s the population on other servers, but I am against server merges, give it time people, a LOT of people left because of the gems (and Warhammer), some will come back and some won't... And no one (that I know of) supports this in my guild.

An alternative thing would be giving people the option of moving toons to other servers, FC can even charge for this, so they make a nice profit while keeping the people happy.

I know I would play to move my toon or toons (for 5-10-20$?) to a server that has enough players as opposed to levelling another toon.

 

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