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Message From the King

Glen "Famine" Swan from Funcom's Age of Conan answers questions, and discusses the game, life, and the industry. Let us know what you would like to hear about.

Author: FC-Famine

Open Beta. Check it out

Posted by Athelan Wednesday April 23 2008 at 4:00PM
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Check out this email I just got!


Hi, the first OPen beta keys will start dripping out soon. Can you please post the following message to go live ASAP? The keys start to roll in 15 minutes so please be quick!!!!!

Unless the heavens fall and cruel Hyborian gods says otherwise, the first batch of Open Beta keys will go out in a few hours! That is right, your first chance to get the coveted Beta spots are soon here, and at first 5000 lucky winners wil be chosen. As soon as you get a key you will be able to download of the game, but please be aware that the keys are given out in waves. This is done is to secure optimal download speeds for the client. Clocking in at almost 13 Gigs, it's a healthy size for any game! The good folks at Fileplanet knows through experience how to handle such downloads in an optimal way, and this means that the keys and downloads will go out in batches. As soon as the first batch of 5000 calms down, the second wave will be initiated, and so forth and so on, until all the 50.000 keys are out. So, if you want a spot in the beta and are not lucky first time around, please make sure to check your mail and the Conan Fileplanet minisite from time to time.

Should you be able to get hold of a key, please be aware that you SHOULD choose the download location which is the closest to you (if on the west coast of USA choose a west coast location etc.). If you start to download on your "first and best" choice, and get a slower than anticipated speed, you should know that cancelling the download means you will be only bumped back in the queue. So, please make sure to check this thoroughly prior to inititing download.

Oh, in conjunction with Fileplanet and IGN we also have some cool prizes and whatnot for you all. More info to come soon!

We wish all of you the best of luck in getting hold of a key, and we hope to see you in Hyboria very soon.


The Evolution of Combat in Age of Conan Part 2

Posted by Athelan Wednesday April 16 2008 at 2:45PM
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Last time we talked a little bit about my history with the project, the very beginning if you will and the influences we used in designing the combat for Age of Conan.

We had our most basic elements, directional combat, combo’s, no auto attack. But we needed to identify the elements that made up the combat in the games that inspired us. Here are my personal assessments as I remember them.

Dynasty Warriors

  • Seamless combo system, essentially no activating of abilities primarily (except musou of course)
  • Wide variety of characters and weapons
  • Feeling of Heroism in epic proportions
  • Movement in attacks
  • Collision between friend and foe
  •  Cone Targeting

Ninja Gaiden (the Xbox 3d one)

  • Seamless combo system, allowed for a lot of free flowing chains of your own design
  • Movement in attacks to the extreme
  •  Weapon based targeting

Soul Calibur (Good old Dreamcast)

  • The pinnacle example of a weapon based fighting game of anything to aspire to this would be it


  • Fast paced and furious, one of the best examples of taking the action/fighting type game successfully onto the PC.
  • The control aspects here were the key elements we were looking at     

Mount & Blade

  • Fun and tactical feeling combat, especially mounted combat and archery

At E3 2005 we had combo’s and directional attacks in and were demoing in one area called Eiglophian Mountains. We had some Picts riding a Mammoth, and a large NPC vs NPC battle we could start to show off the engine’s ability to handle a lot of enemies. But we were still missing something, so we went back to our inspirations and dissected them like I did before but in even more detail. We looked for common traits and ways we could incorporate them. One of the big things that we noticed was movement in attacks. 90% of all fighting games the feet do not stay planted during attacks as balance must be maintained and often momentum and weight transfer are applied as well.

And so began the first of many major revisions of the Combat in Age of Conan, to add in movement to attacks. This meant more motion capture work, and implementation. It also meant code changes would be necessary to handle things like what happens when you can’t move but still need to attack etc. At first this was solved by having pushback on impacts which created a tug of war type appearance. The issue was that mobs could then be pushed around and cornered, and that interrupting the animations all the time made it hard to have both attacks and impacts happening and look good.

Animation prioritization would be an ongoing challenge in bringing combat to the table at the level we desired. Eventually we lost the pushback on all attacks and instead incorporated the ability to stop the forward movement but maintain the sideways movement allowing the character to slide if impeded, which looked much better than simply allowing the character to slide completely and removing all movement.

Obviously we knew that some things might be technically unobtainable when it came to meeting the standards of our inspirations but that was all part of the challenge and the fun part when it came to the design, and getting to attack such a lofty goal. What we realized through this first major iteration was that combat was going to be a dynamic thing and that for the rest of the project it would be changing and growing and polishing all the way through the development process on our way to launch.

Stay tuned for the next part as we focus on the changes to the combo system and its interface on the road to release.

The Evolution of Combat in Age of Conan Part 1

Posted by Athelan Monday April 14 2008 at 1:03PM
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At E3 2004 I was first face to face interviewed for the chance of becoming a part of the Age of Conan development team. At the time I did not know what the design position was going to be for and was very interested to learn what Funcom was up to after having spent many many hours playing Anarchy Online. The hints I had been given were “next gen combat” and “from a major fantasy license”, wracking my brain I had only come up with licenses that were already in the works or completed from Dungeons and Dragon, to Lord of the Rings etc.

When I was told the license was Conan I was blown away and at the same time very excited. I felt it was a wonderful license that had been lurking under the surface like a shark and waiting for a time to strike and make itself known again; getting to be a part of this re-emergence was something I looked forward too. At this time I had no idea HOW we were going to do action based combat, but I went home to “study” prior to leaving for Norway anyway. I played loads of games, and spent a lot of time in Shadowbane to learn about city building and siege warfare. In addition I bought the Chronicles of Conan and read Robert E. Howard’s works and any other book about Conan I got my hands on.

Arriving in Norway there was still lots to be done for design. We had three things for sure. Multi directional attacks, no auto attack, and no click/tab targeting for melee. We made a list of all the games we loved the combat in and looked at different elements of each which we enjoyed.

I will list them off and let you guys think about the different elements of these games and continue with part 2 on Wednesday.

The primary games we used as influences were.

Dynasty Warriors

Ninja Gaiden (the Xbox 3d one)

Soul Calibur (Good old Dreamcast)


Mount & Blade


Of course there were many others but each of these had elements we were interested in. Stop by and check out the next part of the series hopefully on Wednesday. And don't forget to do your homework :)

New York Comicon and Beta Raids

Posted by Athelan Thursday April 10 2008 at 8:20PM
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Next week is the New York Comicon April 18th-20th. I was asked if I would come out and am really looking forward to it as I have never been to New York. For you fans of the game in the area we will be having an Age of Conan Panel from 2:00 to 3:00 on Sunday. You can also join us for the MMO Round table which will include myself and many other developers from the industry between 4:00 and 5:00.

I do not plan to be overally specific with what we will be talking about as I would like to base the panel heavily off questions those in attendance have. I will be bringing my trusty laptop and hopefully being able to show off some of our latest trailers and maybe some in game stuff also.

Big news on email a couple days ago, as one of my fellow developers put together a video from some of our Beta Players raiding Vistrix. Vistrix is one of the 24 man end game encounters and it was quite heart warming as a designer to see players finally experiencing the challenges we have worked so hard to put together. Raiding whether you like it or not brings together so many elements that it shows off well where the game currently stands on its way to launch.

I have not gotten permission to show it off externally, however I am pushing for getting some similar raw gameplay videos out to you the fans.