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Age of Conan: Guild Interview Part Two, Europe

MMORPG.com Age of Conan Correspondent Ben Avery recently spoke with members of two Age of Conan Guilds, one 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 Two, Ben talks to Mental Block, from the European guild Awakening.

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 European Server we have the guild Awakening with answers from Mordeep:

Introduction to Awakening:

Awakening is a good sized guild with regular players of all ages and many nationalities. We are committed to supporting each other and enjoying the game. All we ask is that you bring your sense of enjoyment and willingness to be part of a great community exploring the world of Conan.

Mordeep Profile

Name: Mordeep
Position: Guild Leader
Guild Name: Awakening
Server: Dagon
Rough Guild size: 200 members including alts

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?

Awakening:

I can speak for my entire guild when I say that what initially attracted us to AOC was its graphics, combat system and the fact it was something new.

Many players had become bored of a certain other game and thought Conan was the next logical place to go. Initially as many have already said the game meets and exceeds your expectations it is only when you reach the higher levels that some of the gaps in content become obvious. Many players raced through the game at launch, reaching max level in days. Through a combination of hard work and exploits, thank fully now absent from the game. It was these players that became most vocal about the games short comings and these players that have now moved on.

No game could have lived up to the initial expectations people had for this game. Has it fallen short of my expectations?, I would say no but some would not agree. Many know that Funcom have been working very hard to develop the game and recent patches have made a huge difference to how it's played. Some of the up coming content is incredibly exciting and when in game I am sure will deliver what many people had hoped for at launch.

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Ben Avery:

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

Awakening:

Any game that is as complex as Conan will require an awful lot of adjusting. Many of the changes that came through the patch system in the first four months have improved the game and have been necessary. But others seem to be very poorly thought through and have had a massive impact on how players play the game. It has only been in the last few weeks, that things have turned around

Communication has gone from being dire to actually very good. Patches seem to be more targeted and the occasional silly idea withdrawn.

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?

Awakening:

Sieging as it stands now appears to be fine, there is the odd grumble about windows of opportunity. But nothing that would spoil the fun, the only problem is finding guilds that can siege. Player numbers in many guilds completely prevent them from attacking or holding a battle keep. It is a shame but on many servers you can now find battle keeps with no active guild defending them.

Ben Avery:

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

Awakening:

I think tactics vary immensely by what level your players are and if the attacking force already has a battle keep. The PvP bonuses given by battle keep buildings to the guild players are immense. Not only in sieges but in small group PvP, very few guilds without one have any chance of winning unless they substantially out number the opposition.

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?

Awakening:

Although we could muster 48 very few others can, there is little attraction in trying to form a group of 4/5 guilds to attack you battle keep. With the server mergers coming up I expect this to change.

Ben Avery:

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

Awakening:

Server populations are at an all time low. The initial rush at the start has given way to three distinct drops in players. The 1st one was at the start of July when the free month wore off, the second was a month ago when the three month subscriptions ended and recently with the launch of Warhammer. But it is not all doom and gloom. We are starting to see players come back. Word of mouth is a powerful thing; this game is good and getting better. I firmly believe this is as low as it will get and in the future AOC will grow.

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?

Awakening:

Although I know a lot of the other guild leaders on the server (Dagon) and often talk about how things are going. There are very few activities are planned out side of guilds. I personally believe that the enjoyment you get out of the game is directly linked to how much fun you have in your guild and how active they are. Even if its silly things like Friday night drunken raiding or naked races can really boost morale. It makes asking for money or resource to build the city that much easier. 

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?

Awakening:

As a fan of raiding I would have to say Kylikkis Crypt is probably my favourite place to go. It's got some great bad guys and there is always the chance of some decent items. As for the entire guild we do everything, from epic Keshatta to struggling on the beach in Tortage. I think if you could ask 100 different players you would get 100 different answers. What's important is that as a guild you offer support and enjoyment to every level and class in our guild.

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?

Awakening:

 

I personally play a Conqueror and due to the combat res ability I find getting a group easier than some. Classes in Conan seemed to be a bit more blurred than other games with many styles of play possible. Depending on the group or raid you can really mix it up once you have the tanks and healers sorted out. Every class can bring something to a group. It just takes a bit more imagination to see what skills some of the least loved classes like Assassin or HOX (Herald of Xotli) can add.  

 

Ben Avery:

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

Awakening:

As I play on a PVE server the PvP does have less impact on me than a PvP one and of course the notoriority system has no real impact at all. But from comments in game the PvP patch coming before the notoriority system is in place has turned PVP servers into some sort of huge ganking arena. Leaving a lot of players disillusioned with PVP. That should change and the system does look a lot of fun, just not for me.

Ben Avery:

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

Awakening:

We are currently raiding three times a week mainly in T1 dungeons. By using a rotation system most high level players get a chance to raid at least one a week, some times more. Our favourite I would have to say is Kylikki's Crypt, it's a well thought our dungeon with plenty of opportunity for loot. If done quickly we normally find ourselves racing over to complete the Yakhmar raid as well on the same evening. It's a lot of fun. Going forward, as more players gain access to T2 raiding we will probably extend our raid nights to 4 or 5 nights a week. 

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?

Awakening:

Most of the game breaking bugs that people experienced I never encountered as a result of using Vista 64. I'm glad to say though that nearly all of the "grey map", lag spikes and other various bugs that other players had, seemed to have been patched out. It's a much smoother game now that it was in the 1st couple of months. There are still the odd issue that crops up but I think people who played the game and left in June/July would be surprised on how good the game is now.

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?

Awakening:

Well first I wouldn't replace the development team I think they are doing a great job. It's slower than many would like but after recent changes at Funcom. You can't argue that they don't listen or inform the community anymore. As for how to entice people back, the most obvious would be a free one week tryout for all old players. So they could see what the game has become. But to be honest I wouldn't worry too much about old players, I am sure many will come back in time anyway. My focus would be on getting new players. It's obvious that many people have been put off trying Conan by reviews and comments about the game as it was in June; it's a different and much more polished game now. To those players I would offer the entire game as a free download with a one week trial thrown in. After that point if they liked it they could subscribe.  I believe once you have tried it Conan is a game that you will want to keep playing.

Ben Avery:

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

Awakening:

: I think it has now become very clear that when Funcom initially set up there servers they made too many. This has brought us to where we are now. Groups of players scattered across to many servers, some of which are clearly dead or dying. The relief that was felt in the game community when it was announced there would be server mergers was clear to see. Many of the games best activities like raiding or Sieging require large groups of players, you can't get that in small guilds or in servers that have small populations. It can't happen soon enough for me.

Well this concludes the Guild Q&A session. I would like to thank Mental Block and Mordeep for taking time out and answering the questions presented. It's really appreciated guys, thank you. I wish you both well in your guild endeavours.

What's my take? Well you will typically find a 50/50 balance in agreement / disagreement on the Age of Conan boards here, which can at times get a bit heated! Some of the answers above show that there are differences of opinion on a few topics; this translates to similarities in lots of feedback about the game we have seen posted at mmorpg.com. I think that this goes hand in hand with similar percentages of people who still remain in game compared to those that left, from all that are vocal in our community here.

What's certain is that Funcom has come forward with a decent "roadmap" in my opinion for the short term future with regards to Age of Conan. Although they haven't committed to any dates (learning from past mistakes) they do seem more committed than ever to right the wrongs from release. How this all comes to fruition is key in this competitive market. These questions were posed just after Patch 2.0 and before the release of Patch 3.0 in all its glory on the test server. It seems Funcom is acknowledging and listening to Age of Conan's player base more so than before, implementing and improving on original ideas.

There is still plenty of fun to be had in game, although I will admit to content being a bit thin on the ground at end game. In terms of content it seems Funcom are addressing and focusing on criteria to improve mid game content with more things to do at level 80 coming further down the road. Recent polls show a split in people not at level 80 as opposed to those that are and the gap is closing every day.

Is this a good time to try the game out or revisit it? Honestly, that is a very hard question to answer. Personal preference plays a huge part in deciding. Potential customers for the first time should ask themselves what kind of player are they? Are you likely to rush through content as fast as possible? Or are you a more casual player? Content is slightly thin on the ground compared to other games in the genre once you have reached maxed level. During the push to level 80, and since launch Funcom have added in several dozen new quests to fill gaps, have constantly been tweaking balancing between the classes plus have extra zones and more fleshed out PvE content on its way. Polish wise, there has been vast improvements made. Some may say it should have been like this at launch, and to that I agree wholeheartedly. Issues such as lag spikes are still there, however, no where near as in the first few months. This is just one change for the better experienced by quite a few people.

The fact remains that a lot of people got burned on various issues with the game, Funcom can't go back in time, its how they handle it and deal with those issues will ultimately make or break the game completely. Addressing past mistakes is a start. I feel they are nearly there in this area, a lot of focus is now on the future of the game in terms of additions, and these are starting to flow onto the live server more frequently to an appreciative community. There is an enjoyable experience to be had, that length of experience is governed by the type of player people are.

Introducing 'winback' incentives to past players is important when the time is right and this goes with getting things acceptable for new players. From what I have experienced they are on the right road now, heading in the right direction. There are still some crucial decisions to be made, such as the handling of sever merges or character transfer options. Making the best decision for the community is what counts, with a new game director, renewed vigour and apparently Funcom listening more so, things are on the up again!

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