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MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 05/20/08)  | Pub:Eidos Interactive
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Age of Conan - Press Event Report Part Two

Last week, Managing Editor Jon Wood traveled to Norway to visit the studios of Funcom's Age of Conan. Today, he presents part two of his report with a heavy focus on weather and mounted combat.

Yesterday, in Part One of this report, I told you about some of the things that I learned while visiting the Funcom offices in Oslo, Norway. Today, that article continues on to things like: Mounted Combat, Visuals, and more.

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During our tour of the offices, we stopped by various production areas to talk about specific aspects of the game. The developers that we met all seemed eager to talk about the areas of the game that they have been working on.

They say that art is in the small details, those things that are present in an image, but that we don’t necessarily notice right away. For me, that has always included things like weather, time of day, shadows and the like, so it was interesting to learn a little more about those aspects in Age of Conan.

Visuals

First, we were shown the dynamic day and night cycles that will be present in the game, but the area that I really wanted to talk about is the Age of Conan weather. Weather (and day and night) plays a huge role in letting the players feel like they’re really in the game’s world, and the weather, and especially the lightning, in Age of Conan does a great job of that.

Generally speaking, lightning in an MMO is exactly what you’d expect, a streak of light in the background. Conan though, wouldn’t be Conan if even the lightning weren’t special in some way. Rather than have the lightning simply flash in the background, the Age of Conan lightning actually over-powers other lighting in the area (in much the same way that real lightning does), giving the feeling of a real lightning strike. It isn’t a huge detail, but it is one of those additions that shows a dedication to detail from the Age of Conan team.

Now, with my lightning obsession taken care of, we can talk just a little bit about shadows. While beta players have seen some of the shadowing for Age of Conan, there has been an obvious lack of it in indoor scenes. Fortunately, that won’t be the case for long as indoor lighting sources will soon cast similar shadows to their outdoor counterparts.

Mounted Combat

For those who might not be aware, mounts are currently available to players at level 40. At launch, there are 6-8 different horse variations to choose from and while the developers are looking at the possibility of low level mounts, nothing is currently in the works. Now, on to the combat:

Horses, they’re not just for riding anymore as Age of Conan introduces the ability to actually fight from the back of your mount. I didn’t believe it until I saw it, and it’s a refreshing change from getting knocked off of my horse every time I get attacked by some depraved animal in the wilderness.

To go into a little more detail, characters can fight from the backs of their horses in Conan using whatever weapons that they happen to be carrying. Not only that, but the horse can make attacks all on its own (trust me, it’s pretty funny to watch as enemies try to sneak up behind a rider only to get their faces kicked in by the horse’s hind legs).

Mechanically, the feature is designed to simulate real mounted combat. Players who are mounted are able to attack with their swords on the left and right flank of the horse, while enemies behind and in front are out of reach (with the exception of the kick I mentioned before). Speed too plays a factor in combat, as does maneuverability. These horses don’t turn on a dime, and like real horses, need at least a little bit of space to turn in.

Once a player is mounted, the character and the creature share health (being mounted gives a health boost for just this reason) and currently when the mount dies, so does the character. That isn’t to say that they aren’t looking at the possibility of changing that in the near future. Speaking of the future, there are also post-launch plans to give mounts their own paper dolls and equipment, making them an even greater extension of the character.

I know that there are those of you out there who are saying to yourselves… But Jon, I pre-ordered, I’m not going to ride a smelly horse, I’ve got my Mammoth / Rhino. Don’t worry though, neither I nor the developers have forgotten you:

More impressive than the horse combat, was watching the Mammoth in action. Obviously larger than your typical equine mount, players will not be able to attack with swords or melee weapons from the back of the beast. Still, we are told that ranged weapons will be a possibility.

For those who might be disappointed by the inability to swing a sword from the Mammoth’s back, you haven’t seen the beast in action. The creature’s large tusks can be swung back and forth to cause impressive damage to anyone unfortunate enough to get in the way (also especially useful when attacking cities and the like). There’s one problem with a giant woolly war machine, and that’s the fact that it isn’t very maneuverable. They tend to turn in very wide arcs, and can be rather slow. Still. They pack a punch.

It is important to note here that while the Mammoth and the Rhino are different mounts, they are statistically and mechanically very similar, so the Mammoth examples apply to the Rhino as well.

Miscellaneous

Tomorrow, we will wrap up this series with a report on City Building, Sieges and Raids. Today, I thought we might end like we did yesterday, with a few random facts:

  • There are four tiers of armor in Age of Conan, one every 20 levels.
  • Destiny Quests are instanced quests that pop up from time to time the deal directly with your character’s story.
  • Fatality moves are triggered occasionally when you manage to kill another player with a combo.
  • The gem slots that are available in crafted weapons are only available in crafted items.
  • The collector’s edition box really is as big and cool-looking as you thought it would be.

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