Today Craig Morrison, the Game Director for Funcom’s Age of Conan, released the “Letter from the Game Director” for the month of April. The letter focuses primarily on the upcoming Update 1.05, nade reference to its progress and announced at least one new feature that players can expect to see. MMORPG.com had the opportunity to speak with Morrison about the letter and its contents.
“…there will be a new option for players who already have a character above level fifty,” Morrison said in the original letter. “All players with characters above level fifty will now have a one time option to create a new character that starts life at level fifty. This character can be of any class you want to make so you can jump straight into a different class after the update without having to go through the early leveling stages. This will be available to all players from here on in after they reach the milestone of leveling a character to level fifty.”
Morrison also explained the decision to allow players to skip directly to level 50 on a new character once they’ve got one their themselves. “Mainly it’s acknowledging that the changes we are making with this update are not insignificant and while we really feel that it’s shaping up nicely, some things will of course change, or feel slightly different with the new system. Thus we wanted to give players the opportunity to try another class after the changes have been introduced, if they want to. I think in general it’s also a nice reward for getting to level fifty in the first place and can be a another motivator for players to get to the upper levels.”
Since launch, one of the primary complaints that players have had about the game has revolved around a lack of content at the higher levels. Why then are the developers now encouraging players to spend more time there with an additional character?
“Mainly we have been focusing on adding new things for players to do!” the director responded. “We have added a good deal of content there, a lot even if you enjoy both PVP and PVE. New raid content has been opened up with the additional wing of the Black Ring Citadel, and there is also the Xibaluku dungeon that I think is great fun to play through. You also have Tarantia Commons and its associated dungeon in the works for the next update cycle, all of which is good max level content.
“Then you also have the improved PVP systems. I think the siege and guild based combat has really come on leaps and bounds since launch and is a lot more fun. It is also continuing to be tweaked, improved and updated with each and every update.
“Lastly there is the addition of the new RPG system that will allow for characters to have more meaningful equipment set-ups and incentives to seek out the higher level items and recipes. That in itself will add another layer of options for players to explore at the higher levels. “
Morrison tells the audience at the top of the letter that the developers are working on feedback that they have received from players on the public test server. Developers are constantly telling players that their feedback is being listened to, but tend to do so in a non-specific way. This time around, MMORPG.com asked the director if he could provide some examples with specific relation to the item and statistics systems that are being worked on.
“They come in many forms to be honest,” he began, “some are simple fixes, like players spotting a typo or incorrect icon in the new set-up, through to players noticing where their gear has changed and might not feel right to them. Getting feedback on the ‘feel’ of the game-play and the new items is the most important part.
“This could be where the new item budgets present situations that seem inconsistent to the player. All the stats added to the item have a ‘cost’ in our budgets and not all skills have the same cost (as some are deemed more powerful than others). This means that there can be cases for example where a higher level might have less of a given stat then a lower level item because it also has a more expensive stat in addition, but that can lead to it seeming inconsistent from a user experience point of view. So essentially even though the items are correct and within budget, it might be something we can adjust to use different stats, or make it feel more consistent to the player. That’s the type of thing that the players pick up on a lot faster than we possibly could with QA because there are so many combinations of items in the game. They really help to identify those kinds of inconsistencies. This is important because with a change on this scale, many of the items are auto-converted by a formula from the old system to the new (the important higher tier items are hand crafted though), so it takes a bit of experimenting to find those kinds of issues.
“Likewise player feedback on the relative power of the new feats and abilities is always helpful to the team when they are tweaking and adjusting the values for balancing the new system.”
Finally, when asked why the letter made no mention of the recent free trial recently offered for the game, Morrison responded that “I tend to keep the community letters to the production of the game really. That’s what my area is, and that’s what I communicate about… These letters are primarily for our community to let them know what the current status is, and a little of my own ramblings of course!”
Specifically to the point though, he concluded with, “Since you asked though, the trial is going well and it’s great for the team to see new visitors to the game and see that the trial offering is proving popular. All MMO games rely on having new players coming into the game on a consistent basis so free-trial marketing is an element of that.”
You can check out the original Letter from the game Director, April 2009, here.