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MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 05/20/08)  | Pub:Eidos Interactive
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Age of Conan: Unchained Interviews: PvP Interview

By Garrett Perkins on October 09, 2009

MMORPG.com:

First off, Tim, tell us a little about yourself. How did you end up being the dev behind the player versus player aspect of Age of Conan, and how long have you held the position? Also what are some contributions to the game you have made so far that players would be familiar with?

Tim Donks:

I am from the Netherlands and have been working for Funcom, here in Norway, for about a year and a half now. My main responsibility is the PvP in Age of Conan, and I do this as part of the live team. During the last 12 years, I have played all sorts of MMO titles. It started with Ultima Online, followed by EverQuest for quite some years - some slight detours to Anarchy Online, PlanetSide, and Dark Age of Camelot. Eventually, I ended up in World of Warcraft and Age of Conan. I actually enjoy PvP in quite a few different games; this can be in MMO games, but also in First Person Shooters, such as the Battlefield series.

I was actually following the development of Age of Conan as a fan, before I was hired by Funcom as an AI designer. When I started here at Funcom, I was put on the dynamics team. The primary responsibilities of this team involved resource gathering, tradeskills, player cities, and Massive PvP. Slowly, during the months after launch, my responsibilities shifted to a point where I was in charge of the minigames and eventually the rest of the PvP systems. Because of my previous responsibilities, most of the changes that the players are familiar with affected the sieges. An example of this is the introduction of the PvP resources. Other things that I contributed to was the reintroduction of resurrection point selection for PvP deaths, various changes done to the guards so that they are less disruptive, and the changes done to the PvP minigames. I ended up in the position late last year and hope to keep it for quite some time, as PvP is definitely one of the most interesting systems in Age of Conan!

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MMORPG.com:

To some, PvP is the highest selling point in Age of Conan, while to others the ganking and griefing that its open PvP system allows is a major turn off. In response, Funcom released the murder points system into open world PvP along with PvP levels that unlock special rewards for players who actively seek out "fair" fights that offer more PvP exp. This system has been given mixed reviews by the PvP community. What are your thoughts on it and do you think this system was/is successful, simply a step in the right direction or will it need to undergo changes the likes of the PvE changes seen in patch 1.05?

Tim Donks:

I would love to say that the PvP in Age of Conan is perfect, but honestly, no game is perfect. PvP has come a long way in our game since the launch, but there still is room for improvement. There were some issues during the introduction of the consequence system; there are still are some issues left with it to this day, but it is much better than it used it be during the introduction. It should be harder to accidentally gain murder points than it was when the system was introduced. The system does what it is supposed to do: discourage unwanted behavior, but not totally prevent it. Some players enjoy the thrills of getting hunted down, even if it is being done by higher players. We will keep observing how this system works and make tweaks based on player feedback.

The PvP advancement system, on the other hand, still has some issues; while it gave players some much needed advancement options, it also encouraged antisocial behavior. It is currently much more beneficial to jump and kill someone that is low on health than it is to help this person. There are also quite a few threads from players complaining about the effort required to get to PvP level 5. This, combined with the fact that it was easier to level at lower levels than it is at higher levels, leaves room for improvement. We might be able to improve the system and make it more fun for everyone. Having a system that allowed players to progress in PvP, on the other hand, was a big step in the right direction, and we should improve and build on top of this. Ideally, I would like to change this system, so that it is harder for players to stage arranged fights and level up quickly that way. This might be something that we should focus on in the future: make the progression come from the PvP minigames and PvP-related quests and objectives.

MMORPG.com:

PvP mini games are some of the most fun you can have in Age of Conan, but stacked to the sky pre-made teams, limited selection of maps, and a sometimes small pool of players can end the experience before it begins. Anything in the works to help smooth this over, such as a non-pre-made mode, more maps, or cross-server games?

Tim Donks:

We are continuously making improvements to the minigames. The latest additions are adjusting the level brackets for the improvements made to the Totem Torrent minigame, adding a PvP XP reward for participating in the minigames, and lately it has been tweaks to Capture the Skull to make the game more team oriented. We have also indentified an issue with classes not properly getting distributed between the teams in the queue. This fix will be part of one of the upcoming 1.05.x patches and should prevent problems like one of the teams having three healers while the other team has none. In the future, we will keep making changes to the minigames so they will be more fun and accessible to everyone. Players enjoy them, and they have a lot of potential to be even better.

MMORPG.com:

There have been a lot of suggestions on the forums that would help add variety to everyday PvP - a few of my favorites are: Arenas that allow you to duel guild members or an actual dueling system where the player is not killed at the end of the fight along with open zones with PvP objectives and daily PvP objectives. Your thoughts on these suggestions and any plans to implement something similar too them?

Tim Donks:

I greatly enjoy reading player feedback on this subject. We have a very dedicated fanbase that hopes their feedback will make a difference. I do read a lot of these threads, and some of them do provide inspiration for coming up with new game systems and mechanics. I highly encourage the players to keep providing us with this valuable feedback, even though at times they might feel their feedback gets ignored, because there is no official Funcom reply to the thread; it simply takes far less time to read posts than it takes to go over all of them and write a reply. I am guilty of this myself, although it is not always due to time constraints, but simply getting totally caught up implementing new content.

One of the interesting things that I have witnessed while playing on the live servers was players using the Caravanserai in Khopshef Province as an area to do player-organized tournaments. When I observed players announcing these tournaments in the chat channels, I went to Khopshef take a look for myself. It was actually a lot of fun to see the fights, and there were quite a few spectators. Unfortunately, every once in a while, one of the players would get killed by the guards. This made me decide we needed to adjust the guard patrols in the area. A few days after this tournament, I spend a few minutes after work adjusting the patrols of these guards to make sure they will not disrupt these tournaments in the future. The funny thing about this was when it was mentioned in the patch notes, some players were complaining about Funcom wasting time on useless changes like this, instead of fixing the big issues. This was just a quick and easy change to make some players happy. I think we should encourage this behavior, as it results in positive interaction between players.

As with any idea, it ultimately boils down to prioritizing what we like to add to the game first, and it does mean prioritizing that over other stuff. Currently, our focus is on improving the minigames and adding new, meaningful content to the Border Kingdoms. Hopefully, in the future, we can implement some of the ideas mentioned, as well as providing more ways for players to run their own events, as both of these appeal to different types of players. It is up to us to cater to as many different types of players as possible.

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