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Visiting FunCom At The E3 Expo

Previews By Reed Hubbard on May 20, 2005

AO Director Morten Byom discusses mechs in Lost Eden
Gaute Godager, Director of Age of Conan, demonstrated active combat
This picture does not do justice to the landscape quality of Age of Conan
Live from E3 – Thursday, May 19

FunCom is taking the opportunity at E3 both to update a familiar favorite game and to introduce an exciting new game to the MMO world. The appointment-only demos in their booth took place in a room hidden behind the barbarian throne. Many attendees thought the action was out front, where inflatable swords were being handed out by the carload. However, it was in the small demo room where people got to see the really thrilling stuff.

First was the next expansion for Anarchy Online. Entitled Anarchy Online: Lost Eden, it represents a move toward more SciFi content, per user requests. To meet that request, FunCom is introducing some exciting things for AO players. Player controlled mechs will make their debut in the new expansion. Shades of Mechwarrior flashed across the screen as game director Morten Byom controlled his formidable robot through a cityscape. Players will also be able to control artillery, call in air strikes, and mine the battlefield as they participate in the escalating conflict between Omni-Tek and the Clans. To assist their side, players may donate experience to their factions.

There are new monsters, new dungeons, and new R&D for all the additional items being introduced. Many of those in the demo were dedicated AO players and they all seemed very pleased with the additions Byom described, as well as with his promise that the story will continue beyond the original five-year timeframe. The expansion is a way for players to experience a level of PvP and will be suitable for all levels. It is due out in winter of this year.

Another highly anticipated title from FunCom was up next as director Gaute Godager took over the console. Age of Conan – Hyborian Adventures is his game and for being in an admitted pre-alpha state it looks very nice. Age of Conan starts as a solo game, with players following a static storyline until level 20. At that point, the world opens up and the player is part of a huge persistent world based on the Conan universe. The first 20 levels serve multiple purposes, from setting the story line to getting the player into the game system. It’s an unorthodox approach and is sure to provide an interesting entree to the world.

Combat is another area of note. Conan will employ three types of combat: action combat for melee battles, tactical combat for larger fights, and siege combat for keep takes and large scale assaults. All that was available to demonstrate was the action combat and it’s very intriguing. A player selects his opponent by “looking” at him. There’s no need to click or select him. It’s more of an arcade style of attack, with six zones of contact. A red selection circle on the character shows the different locations one may choose to strike. Depending on the opponent, a low side attack may be a better choice than an overhead blow. Players can chain attacks to create a super attack that causes a massive amount of damage. This is no click, attack, drink a cup of coffee style of combat. This is visceral, real-time battle and it appears to be a perfect for the barbarous world of Conan.

The NPCs in the world will not just stand around. They will eat, drink, and sleep. A nighttime view of the town of Tortage revealed a lady standing by a window in a provocative pose, selling her “wares.” Godager admits this is a mature game. It won’t be lewd or explicit, but it will tend to be less urbane than many MMORPGs on the market. The town showed an extraordinary amount of detail with dynamic shadows that move with the sun. Godager mentioned that the same tools used to build Tortage will be available to players.

Not much else was ready for prime time, but the game is already looking to be fantastic. A movie showing a character climbing the back of his opponent and severing his head gave a tease as to the freedom the player will have within the game.

For more information about either game, visit the FunCom site at http://www.funcom.com.

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