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Age of Conan: Unchained Dev Journals: Exclusive Internal Update 5 Q&A

By Guest Writer on June 22, 2009

Question:

Why did the team want to change the items and statistics system?

Jarle Snertingdalen:

While there were several reasons for changing the items and the statistics system, the most important one was that we wanted to increase the contribution to character power from items. One of the goals pre-launch was for Conan to not be an item-centric game, but we quickly discovered that we had taken that vision too far.

Items are the most important source for rewards in the game, and it is obviously not exciting to get rewards that don't really mean much to your character. As such we decided to do something about it. Update five will get the item centricity to the level where we want it to be, meaning the game is still far from being item-centric, but items will now play a much more important part. If you, for example, receive a new sword that is a good upgrade to your previous one, you will feel that difference.

Another problem we faced was the general size of statistics, and that the collection of statistics we had didn't feel interesting enough. If you are tired of seeing items with several different invulnerabilities of +0,02% each, you will most certainly be happy to see the new and revamped items in update five. Fractional numbers are gone, and more interesting statistics are replacing the old. In addition, we rebuilt the item statistic budgets and distribution from the ground up, so update five has given the game a foundation where we are able to not only make more meaningful loot, but we can also make loot with more variety.

It is important to us give players several choices. This is something we will continue to focus on as we move forward with itemization of new content.

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Question:

What were the biggest challenges the team faced when making these changes?

Jarle Snertingdalen:

The biggest challenge by far has been to do all these fundamental changes to a game that is already a live product. As players already have characters they have invested time and resources into, there is a limit to what you can do. There are for example a lot of class changes in update 5, but we have had to tread carefully as players are used to play their class and too many and deep changes at once will disrupt how players are playing the game. You don't want to feel like a novice after a patch, you want to experience to new content and have a good time.

Another challenge has been to preserve the identity and purpose of existing items with the complete revamp of item statistics. If you have a mighty sword and it is useful to you on live servers, the last thing you want to see is that your sword changed personality in the update and is now a sword that better suits another class.

The last of the big challenges we have faced that I want to bring up is balancing the game again. Fundamental changes to statistics, RPG systems and formulas affect everything, be it PvP, solo gameplay, dungeons or raids. Getting the difficulty-level back to what it is on live for all these aspects with a revamped RPG system is not trivial.

Update 5 is the patch that has stayed on test servers for the longest amount of time since we launched last year. Collecting player feedback, running tests and iterating on balance has probably been the biggest reason for this.

Question:

How will the items and statistics changes make a difference for the average player?

Jarle Snertingdalen:

First of all I truly believe that players will be a lot more excited about getting new items and building their character with a combination of items and feats. The new set of statistics is more interesting to follow and improve on.

The items and the characteristics GUI will make more sense to the average player than they do on live at the moment. We have invested a lot of time to make the statistics and the systems more transparent and easier to understand for the user. There is a lot more information available to the player in update 5, and all the information is well explained.

Question:

How are the changes to the gem system going to affect gameplay?

Jarle Snertingdalen:

The gem system changes are highly anticipated by players, and a very important update to crafting in Conan. It will affect gameplay in several ways, really. Some gems were too powerful at launch and had to have their effects reduced. Currently on live though, like items, most of the gems are fairly weak. With update they have been given a significant part of the item budgets, and the statistics on the gems now follow the same rules as the new statistics on the items. The gems thus follow a solid budget and will feel useful to the player without being overpowered.

Secondly the sheer number of uncut gems has been reduced to almost a third, and the number of cut gems has been reduced from almost 1400 to less than 100. This will clear up a lot of precious inventory space.

Third, the random element when cutting a gem is completely removed. You will now get the gem you want to craft, there's no gambling involved anymore.

The gem system revamp has been designed with the update 5 system changes in mind, so the new design is a very good foundation for us to expand on.

Question:

Will the team do any more system changes, can you let us in on the plans?

Jarle Snertingdalen:

We already have plans that will take us quite far into the future. Aside from the ongoing work we do to balance, the biggest systems currently under development are the new guild systems for update 6. It will be a nice addition to the game, and it is fun for us to focus more on new development now that we have spent so many months improving on existing systems.

We are also working on various other smaller tasks, including the itemization of the new content that will be released not too long after update 5 like the Iron Tower, looking into the loot distribution in raids, as well as the rewards for PvP levels 6 to 10.

Of course, we also have some things cooking internally that I cannot yet reveal!

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