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Age of Conan: Unchained Interviews: Hybrid F2P Q&A with Craig Morrison

By Garrett Fuller on May 25, 2011

MMORPG.com:

Age of Conan moving to a hybrid Free to Play model is a big move, what made you decide on the new path for the game?

Craig Morrison:

This is something that we have been constantly assessing for several years now. As a company we have always been willing to consider different models. We were really the first western company to adopt this model with Anarchy Online way back in 2005, so this isn’t new ground for us. We have always felt that it is a natural progression for an MMO title at a certain stage in it’s life cycle. The time is right for Age of Conan now as we recognize the opportunity presented by the increased profile of the license, with the new Conan movie coming out this fall. So we realized that the time had come to make the switch to make sure we were in the best position possible to market the game again, and draw in even more users to this wonderful world that we have brought to life.

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MMORPG.com:

How will veteran players be rewarded for their loyalty within the new model?

Craig Morrison:

The veteran reward system remains in place and provides all the same bonuses that it did before. In fact many of those rewards could even be considered inherently more valuable as buying them with veteran points means that premium veterans can get those items through that system rather than having to pay for them as a free players might. We will also continue to add new items to the veterans vendor as we have done recently with the faction items.

As with Anarchy Online (and the host of other titles that followed us into free to play like DDO, LOTRO and Champions Online) this is really a hybrid free to play model, or ‘freemium’ as some like to call it. So there is still a whole host of really good reasons to be a premium player. Going to the Free to Play model is really about having that terrific opportunity to have more and more players come and check the game out without the need for an upfront investment.

MMORPG.com:

What would you like to say to players who will be trying the game for the first time on a free to play basis?

Craig Morrison:

Mainly that they should come and enjoy the game! The game has come amazingly far from where it started three years ago, so you really have nothing to lose by checking it out for free!

The game is really one of the most unique settings out there for an MMO, with a mature focus for our storytelling, and a really brutal and bloody combat system, that is much more visceral than most of the other games in this genre. Hyboria is an unforgiving place, not in the sense that you will be griefed over and over (although it does make sense to have friends on a PVP server) but in the sense that with over three years of content additions we now have a great selection of content, that tells a compelling, and very adult story. With the vicious mix of adventure, betrayal, corruption and combat that so identifies the world created by Robert E Howard all those decades ago.

MMORPG.com:

What options will be available to players that allow both game modes to work together?

Craig Morrison:

The only differences between free and premium players in that respect will be the content they have access to, for all content that someone has available to them, free players and premium players will be able to play together without any gameplay barriers in that sense. Players won’t be separated at all in that respect.

This is a really important part of the offering for us. Free players will become an important part of the community, as they have done with AO. We don’t want to alienate or discourage those players, so everything is designed to allow them to really feel that they are getting fantastic enjoyment value from their time in the game, and will ultimately recognize that by becoming a premium subscriber or supporting their character through items or upgrades….but at a fundamental level, a player really can play through levels 1 to 80 completely for free. There won’t be any arbitrary roadblock there; the path to maximum level really is open to them.

We have found with AO that the longer a player plays for free, the more loyal they become when they do switch to premium or start making purchases, so it is in our best interests to allow players the freedom to play the leveling content like that for free.

MMORPG.com:

If I am a free to play gamer and want to convert over into the other model how hard will it be?

Craig Morrison:

It will be a simple and intuitive process on our billing pages. All you will have to do is upgrade to a premium account on your account pages.

MMORPG.com:

Will there be a player shop to buy various items that allow you to advance in the game?

Craig Morrison:

Yes, we have already been selling those types of convenience and progression benefits for some time through the game’s account pages, so this just places those kinds of items into a store setting similar to that you would find in other free to play games. This is already something we have integrated in the Korean version of the game, and our backend for that type of service is already well established and tested as it currently runs the store in Anarchy Online.

MMORPG.com:

Age of Conan’s first twenty levels play as a storyline, how will this be incorporated into the new model?

Craig Morrison:

It will be there in its entirety and won’t be changed, or compromised, due to the change in business model. You will be able to play through Tortage just as you could in the past. In fact, while the previous trials were always restricted to within Tortage, the cool thing about the new model is that it also allows you to play beyond Tortage for free!

MMORPG.com:

What can we expect from Age of Conan in the coming months in terms of content for the new model?

Craig Morrison:

The content additions won’t stop or change due to the business model, all of the new content we have already announced, and the just announced movie tie-in adventure pack – The Savage Coast of Turan – will all come over the rest of the year, so there will be lots of new content for all our players, newcomers and veterans alike.

Over the next few updates you will see the likes of the two new dynamic solo instances, The Breach and The Forgotten City, as well as more revamps and improvements to the existing instances (both in Khitai and the original lands) as well as the adventure pack taking us to Turan for a really interesting experience.

So it’s going to be a busy year for all things Conan!

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