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The time has come to talk of many things: WAR

Posted by grace-monday Wednesday August 20 2008 at 3:19PM
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Yeah, yeah, WAR is upon us. The juggernaut of EAMythic has been stirring for how long and soon we'll see if the hype was warranted. With North American closed beta NDA lifted (read: take the following with a grain of salt as the game is still changing), one can now scream from the highest mountain tops the following:

  • Crafting in WAR, while initially full of win and delicious cake (I was excited, at least), has been nothing but a let down in-game. While not as completely useless, full of nonsense or broken like Age of Conan, crafting in WAR does absolutely nothing to bolster your game experience.

Now, what's the point of crafting? Time tested tradition dictates that crafting is a great way to make money at end game, while proving to be sometimes a money sink while leveling. For crafting to actually make you money, you need to be able to make things that people need. Sometimes games go crazy and have a bazillion gathering professions and only a few creation professions, making them dependent on one another. This causes a complicated web of crafting economy that can either fail completely on small servers or win on large ones. The thing about WAR's crafting is that it is not important nor does the economy rely on it.

After watching the developers' podcast, one couldn't help but get stoked at the idea of passive renown gain by helping aid the war-effort via crafting. I saw none of this in closed beta. A lot of people were just taking up crafting to sell stuff to the vendor for their mount. The majority found that at level 20, they were making potions for level 35. I was making level 20 potions when I was still level 10ish. Healing potions are underpowered and almost everything is completely useless. I found some use in the area-slow potions, but it was too much effort to use them during PvP or I'd forget most of the time.

What can improve crafting in WAR? We don't need some sort of complicated system like mentioned above, but simply an improvement in items, an intelligent placement of the mats needed, and actual RvR quests that ask for certain items in lieu of renown like we were first told. Another thing that needs to change is make Cultivation its own major profession (currently only Apothecary is, with Butchering, Salvaging, and Cultivation as singular lower professions) and either get rid of entirely Butchering or buff it because currently everyone is rocking Salvaging as firstly, you can skin PvP players (awesome, amirite?) and there's a higher percentage of humanoid mobs in WAR than nonhumanoid. People who take up Cultivation currently cannot get the materials needed to level as they already filled their single gathering profession. A lot of the mats they need are gathered through Butchering/Salvaging. Essentially this is one big mess but it's still early in the game so this problem can be solved through patching and further testing.


  • RvR in WAR, the big attraction and rightly so. If you've hit end-game in WoW, tired of raiding, and all you do is play Arena, head over to WAR. RvR and Scenarios are so interesting in themselves, that self-imposed EXP halts are the norm between Tiers.

The first time I finished a scenario, it was like a light bulb went off. I seldom PvP in other games because I have issues with balance and credit. I usually don't like the rep/honor/reward systems because either they're confusing, poorly conceived, or completely broken. By the time I had reached the highest level for Tier 1, I was raking in high healing credits and receiving great renown for it. Yes healers, you receive full credit for healing! This adds something different to Warhammer, as now full teams can better attempt PvP without the fear of no heals. How many times have you, maybe as a melee class, rushed past a crowd of friendly ranged to pick off a running enemy only to get killed by the runner themselves? That's less of an issue in WAR because people actually heal you (given they're paying attention.)

If no one is holding back because they have no fear, PvP experiences become better, last longer, and are more fulfilling. This is how RvR and Scenarios feel like in WAR. Everyone does their job, battlefield objectives get taken, and keeps go down. Forming warbands with complete strangers isn't as horrible as it sounds as the curse-of-the-PUG becomes a slight non-issue.

Mythic has continuously strived to balance classes through closed beta and are doing a great job so far. Naturally one-on-one will always follow the same logical rules, but warbands are dynamic. Comparing all the other healing classes in Warbands, you get a good feel that each class is really unique.


  • Classes in WAR, conceived safe but also it's the little differences that make a huge impression. While you might have a rogue-like class on both faction sides, they aren't completely the same so you have no idea what to expect.

During closed beta, I played three Destruction healing classes, focusing mainly on Disciple of Khaine. The idea of being a melee-based healer stroked my epeen so I was looking forward to it. While I felt I couldn't adequately heal MTs far away from the chaos of RvR (therefore forcing me to get into the battle), I had great survivability so more than half the time, I had nothing to worry about running into a large group of enemies (unless someone noticed me and I got focus fired, ocourse.) Other Destruction healing classes were ranged healers with their own unique class mechanics. Greenskin shamans need to balance their offensive and healing spells to incur buffs to either. So for every offensive spell you cast, you get one credit buff for healing (and vice versa), and as you continue to throw offensive spells, your credit gets higher. It's a see-saw battle but done right, you get incredible healing and dps results.

A lot of people moaned when they cut a few classes from the release but really, it was the best idea possible. With the current classes in a mixed atmosphere, everyone has something to contribute and everyone has their weaknesses. Surely after the game's release and solid numbers are put on the table, class imbalances might come to light but Mythic has shown a great dedication to balance (I mean, it's a game built on PvP) so tweaking will be always.


  • Public Quests in WAR, take out the pressure of having to advertise for an instance/dungeon group. You're running down the road and see a bunch of people attempting a multi-stage public quest, jump right in. Depending on your contribution, you may even get loot.

The purpose of PQs in WAR is to gather reputation with that PQ's associated chapter (camps/towns in WAR are numbered chapters), at which that rep can be handed in at certain levels for set rewards. You can also win an end roll at the PQs themselves and receive a loot bag of a certain quality. Remember skipping certain quests in games because the loot was nothing you could use? All the reward tables in WAR are dynamic to your class, so there's always something you can use.

There has never been a time during PQs where the people already there have spurred me away or generally been unhelpful. Tanks will kindly tank, healers will heal, and everyone gets along. This could be possibly because the stress of PUG'ing is gone, or maybe the CB testers are nice or something. But everyone does their share in a PQ because they all want the rep. And just like in RvR/Scenarios, healers get credit for healing in PQs.

PQs consist of normally three stages (though I've come across some with even more stages), each stage progressing in difficulty. While you could probably solo a first stage yourself, you would probably need help on stage two, and a decent number of people for stage three which prevents the uneven solo farming of PQs. The developers were smart enough to insert quests that overlap with the area of the PQ, so while you're there doing your quest, you'll be more likely to be sucked into helping the PQ if there are already people there.

PQs are quick and fun, and definitely repeatable. And because they're in open space, you can walk away at any time and go do something else. Try to do that on a dungeon run or a regular grouped quest and people will yell at you and maybe blacklist you from the server, heh.


  • Other things in WAR, yes there are closed dungeons, gear customization, capital city RvR, siege weapons, guilds, and mounts.

Siege weapons can be used at special pads littered around keeps and inside them to aid in taking the objective. Defensive teams can use oil to protect their keep door, offensive teams can use battering rams and catapults to take down the door and enemies. Siege weapons are working as intended currently and I haven't ran into any issues with them.

Mounts are attainable at level 20. As of this writing, the price was steep but not impossible. I had my mount at 21 even though I was spending money on dying my gear and etc. The speed increase is noticeable but not as much as you would probably like considering how large RvR lakes sometimes are. After you purchase your mount, basically all your income thereafter is free to be used however you like.

Gear customization is not yet totally awesome in WAR but it's getting there. You can dye your gear at any non-warcamp merchant and usually each piece of gear has two dyable sections so you can mix and match colours. Also a part of WAR is the trophies. Trophies are little doo-dads you get from various quests, Tome unlocks, and other such things that can be placed on your person with placement options built right in. There are a few other things in the works, but I don't know enough details about them to share.

Guilds! Guilds are awesome! WAR, being RvR based, really isn't the game to be guildless in (power in numbers, you know.) But being in a guild has so many perks that even if you hate your guildmates, you won't care because the guild standards, guild lounge, and other things are so crazy helpful that it doesn't matter. Guild standards can be used even outside of your guild in regular PUG Warbands, so later on when guilds make alliances (which they can in WAR), everyone can arrange their standards in advance to achieve maximum effect. Having a guild lounge is like having a hearthstone/recall spell that's never on cooldown. From the guild lounge, there's a merchant that sells all the things you'd need for crafting or whatnot and a flight path that can take you where you need to be. The guild pit recall scrolls are cheap enough that you can stock up on them and never get stuck in the middle of nowhere. They also provide a quick route to wherever the RvR action is occurring.

What to gather from all of this?

Warhammer is on its way to launch soon (Sept. 18). My overwhelming feeling is that the RvR and PQ experiences will temporarily make up for the short-comings of the crafting system which hopefully get fixed as soon as possible. There's nothing incredibly wrong with the crafting system (it works at least), but there's no incentive. Classes are looking good currently, scenarios are being balanced and the RvR lakes are perfect as is. There are no gaping holes in the PvE experience, the code for WAR has been improving greatly over closed beta and a lot of the technical things that were going on (getting stuck on things, floating NPCs, client crashing to desktop, etc) have been solved at least on my end.

One cannot help but compare this upcoming release to Age of Conan and gloat. We won't know until head start and then the official release how stable things are, how people react to game mechanics, and if people feel like this is a decently completed game that has successfully finished beta. If you put a hundred monkeys in a room, surely something is bound to break so a few thousand players all at once is unpredictable. Mythic has been stress testing the servers for a while now and are generally concerned about lag, especially in large scale RvR.


If Funcom is that insensitive boyfriend who never listens and hangs out late with his friends without calling, Mythic is your emotional tampon feeding you bonbons, absorbing as many suggestions and input as humanly possible. We will see.


Further reading taken from the MMORPG forums:

Player speaks of boring classes and bland graphics. (FYI: Graphics have been toned down for closed beta testers, final client's graphics will be hard to predict though reasonable graphics quality is incredibly important when you have more than 40 players on one screen imo.)

Elder tester provides more information on tiers and chapters.

Great complilation of commonly asked questions.

Long list of WAR game mechanics covered.

Calls for queued abilities like in DAoC, which is currently not enabled in WAR. Thread brings to question the issue of lag and UI response.


Severity of Truth - Funcom Press Release

Posted by grace-monday Sunday June 8 2008 at 9:05PM
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Funcom is proud to announce that Age of Conan will pass the astounding “One Million Copies Shipped” milestone in less than three weeks after the launch of the game. Due to overwhelming demand Funcom’s retail partner is now re-supplying retail boxes rapidly while also including new markets to the mix. As a result of the tremendous interest from gamers, Age of Conan has for the past few weeks been claiming number one spots on sales charts across the Western world – including the US, Germany, France and the UK – while receiving glowing review scores from gaming media.

“Sales data shows that Age of Conan is the biggest MMO launch since World of Warcraft,” said Funcom Vice President of Sales and Marketing Morten Larssen. “The numbers are very promising, and we are very proud to be one of the fastest selling PC games ever in a launch month and the biggest simultaneous Europe/US MMO launch in history.”


Morbid curiosity, great game, or standard propaganda? No matter how you feel, numbers don't lie. (People do.) The juggernaut of fantastic/horrible (depending on your opinion) keeps staggering on, like my pre-order siege mount rhino. While apples to oranges, one cannot help but fathom what sort of hit Funcom will take in slowed sales during the fall/winter season when Warhammer Online (October) and WoW's expansion (November/December) come out. What matters now is that Funcom is making back their initial investment (assumption) and once quarterly figures come out at the end of the month, we'll see the full picture of profits and hopefully Funcom's real emotional investment in Age of Conan in the form of efficient patches, amped up customer service and promised improvements coming to fruition.

Business as usual. Read the rest of the press release here.

Age of Conan 2 Week Review (read at your own risk)

Posted by grace-monday Wednesday June 4 2008 at 11:03PM
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Disclaimer: While I try to be as impartial as humanly possible, I may come off as completely bashing Age of Conan. Please realize that your experience with two-week old AoC (there will be bugs, glitches, and half-finished things) might be completely different than anything listed below. You may absolutely love or hate this game. I am no mind reader, I do not know you and hope that anything I've written here does not prevent you from trying out the game if you do indeed want to play it. Read the following summation at your own risk. You have been warned!!



Colourful Reason - Pre-release and Street Talk
Age of Conan was released a little more than two weeks ago to the market. When preordering the game, you had two options: 1) the 90$ Collector's Edition (CE) and 2) $50 standard preorder. Standard preorders, depending on where you preordered, you would receive a bag and a mount that was only later clarified as a "siege mount." A siege mount allows you, theoretically, to destroy player made structures (that have not been enabled ingame yet). Therefore, it is not faster (nor more practical) than running from point A to point B on foot. You also constantly get stuck on people, ground, rocks, yourself, causing you to have to dismount and walk around on foot just to clear the obstruction. Many people did not make the commitment to buying the CE version because they felt getting a free mount was better, only to be let down later on once they were high enough level to ride said free mount. Collector's Edition came with a 2%+ XP ring and a "drinking cape" which currently does not work as there is no drinking (of supposedly alcoholic beverages) enabled in the game. Many people got the CE version for the cape, as drinking in MMOs is a fond pasttime. As not to feel completely duped, a large chunk of the CE buyer community have tried to focus instead on the fact that they're all apart of a "club" of people who are prime supporters of Age of Conan, and try to ignore the fact that they were lied to.

Another hiccup, pre-release was the sold out availability of Early Access to the game. If you preordered and wanted to get into the game a week early, you were out of luck as Funcom's servers couldn't handle the weight of everyone downloading the 14GB client. This problem is supplemented by the fact that Funcom has no technical support (via telephone or dedicated email) and their forums are severely understaffed to handle these things. The best option for them was to close the EA by using a clause in their small print that denoted "limited availability." This left quite a few people very disappointed early on.

D-day came and went. Claimed by many to be the "smoothest MMO launch ever", AoC's release was not hindered by servers crashing. However, the severe amount of in-game bugs and again, understaffed GMs caused people much suffering. After the first week, a lot of people on the forums (read: paying customers) felt the game was still stuck in closed beta. Rage spread as the commentators fought against the "fanboys" on the forums. Quests broke, NPCs broke, items broke, and an early exploitation of the bank/auction house/mail system caused Funcom to take down those features in addition to the "Feat Fixer" (NPC who resets your class options/specifications, similar to WoW's talent points) in the starting area.

Other "fires" Funcom had to deal with over the two weeks after launch included the masses complaining about censorship (in an M rated game), the "PVP Question", issues with short and uninformative patch notes, nonexistent support both in-game and offline, and the biggest problem with customers not even able to run the game or get past the loader.

Step One: "Item Get!", Running AoC on your PC
Contrary to popular belief (read: the retail box), Age of Conan does NOT run DX10. Yes, all MMORPG players running Vista are still wasting their lives away, dealing with admin query boxes trying to run their old games (EQ2, WoW, etc). Developers have stated repeatedly that DX10 will be implemented in later patches of Age of Conan, but that still doesn't quell the overwhelming disappointment from the Vista camp.

Before we get to frame rates and quality, it's important to note that a percentage of those who've bought Age of Conan cannot get past the patcher/loader, or even TO the loader itself. And even if you get to and past the loader, numerous technical issues abound. Some clients will pretend like they're loading the game, then crash. Some clients will play for a second then claim "Out of Memory" on brand new rigs. Those who never had latency issues in the past are reporting jumps to 10,000ms. While your mileage may vary, these are important issues to keep in mind before plopping your money on the table. These issues do not discriminate and can be found on even the most "Crysis and beyond"-ready rigs.

Once you are in the game, if you really care about FPS, you can wrestle with the settings. Some people have no issues, others notice incredibly low FPS for no reason. When comparing two new prefab rigs, early in the game's release I was experiencing >40 FPS up until a certain patch with a quad core and 8800GT nvidia video card overclocked. Many have relied on turning off the shadows (in Age of Conan, EVERYTHING casts a shadow) to up their FPS to 70-100+. Either way, the game is playable down to 25FPS with ultra high settings. If you are a bloom-effect whore (hay LOTRO/EQ2 players!), you will not enjoy Age of Conan as their bloom effect is broken. As far as I know, there was never a point in time their bloom effect WASN'T broken. Attempting to play the game with the bloom effect on will cause portions of your screen to become overexposed while the rest of the screen remains the same. Simply displeasing to the eye.

Step Two: ???, Playing Age of Conan
The other day I was reading my newly purchased Brady guide to Age of Conan. I know, buying a strategy guide for an MMORPG is a bit silly but I was desperate for information on game mechanics and stats. Regardless, I turned the guide over and spotted on the back in great big letters, "A FRESH START". I giggled a bit and showed my boyfriend and we had a good laugh. To understand why I found that phrase reasonably humorous, one must first dive head first into Age of Conan's gameplay.

Age of Conan functions like any MMORPG, except much more shallow. Their selling points, initially, were their gimmicky dial combo combat system (remember playing Mortal Kombat and writing down all those fatality combos?), "prestige classes" (supplemental abilities granted at level 20 that better serve the greater good of guild/siege participation) and player built cities. At launch, the only thing that was promised and delivered was the combat system, which becomes quickly underwhelming as the longer you play, the more its novelty wears off. Prestige classes were nixed from the list and player built cities have been heavily hampered in development due partly to Funcom's own poor implementation skills.

So if all that glitters is dead, then what does Age of Conan bring to your already full MMORPG table?

Mule in a dress: looks good, but still slow and stubborn
Age of Conan is one of the most attractive MMOs on the market currently. Once you get the game up and running, character models are incredibly detailed and building facades shine in the sun. There are very few points in the game where you feel like you're looking at an "old" game. Sometimes the trees and shrubberies are poorly done and even with x8AA, appear jagged and plain. Spell effects are nothing to write home about (standard WoW quality sparklies), on-fire effects look substandard, and some camera angles during quest giver conversations are not properly done. But mostly, this game is very nice to look at.

The problem thereafter is the actual environment interaction. You will find running and jumping even on the flatest of terrain, will cause you to become stuck. Trying to rock climb in this game is a heavy liability as you are apt to get permanently stuck, needing GM intervention or worse, using your recall spell. The roads in areas are "cleverly" windy, forcing you to scale the hillside ON the road itself, as opposed to maybe finding a short-cut to make a straight line. Indeed, a straight line IS the shortest distance between two points. If you're use to finding short-cuts in all your old MMORPGs, you will find yourself getting caught on hillsides that will result in fatal falls (yes, you can die falling five feet, even at level 40.)

Geographically, Age of Conan functions with three major cities. However, these three cities are on a string and therefore you cannot simply go from Conarch Village (Cimmerian city) to Khemi (Stygian city). You must first go to Old Tarantia (Aquilonian city), THEN run halfway across the city to the dock and take a boat to Khemi. This causes much pain and waste of time once you start picking up quests that cause you to go through at least six zones before your final destination. Old Tarantia being the middle man in travel is therefore the most elaborate of the three cities (featuring its own instanced dungeons), Khemi being the smallest and most barren.

Alien to most MMO players is the severe amount of "instancing" Age of Conan has. Almost every zone will have at least four or five different instance versions to keep populations low and compensate for the slow respawn timers on important quest mobs. This causes issues with people who want to group as if you get to your location and none of your cronies are there, you'll have to re-instance and end up at a graveyard that is literally ten minutes away from where you were. There is an ability to summon members to your instance, but it rarely works. Because of these grouping issues, many people play solo causing an even bigger headache in regards to the slow respawn named quest mobs.

One-way street: no turns ever
When creating a character, you have your choice between three races that essentially look the same. The only difference between them is that only certain races can be certain classes. Other than that, there is no racial stats, no difference in starting stats, and no difference in starting zone. Everyone will get funneled into the same starting zone of Tortage. This may cause some headaches for alt-holics, who might be turned off by the lack of variety. It is somewhat worth mentioning that you will find yourself stuck on this island until level 15-20 depending on when you receive the option to leave without finishing your "Destiny Quest."

Classes in Age of Conan follow standard convention. During development there were more options for classes, but lacking meat, Funcom condensed a lot of their proposed classes. Classes fall under one of four flags: soldiers, rogues, mages, and priests. Under each of these flags, there are three classes you can choose from. Your experience with each class might vary and since the game is in its infancy (dare I say, "open beta"), you may have a hard time even outside of PVP due to half of your feats/abilities being incredibly vague and a lot of your spells or buffs being questionably helpful. Funcom has been very hush about what game mechanics do in the long run or how useful abilities are. And given how anemic the economy is, most people cannot afford to respec their feats to find out what's most useful to them.

Quests are nothing to write home about. Early promo material for Age of Conan bragged that this game would end the monotonous grind featured in other games, but with quests that require you to kill 50 of X, that is apparently a lie. You can level quickly, but the grind is not only still there, but it seeps out of every game crevice. You must grind your quests, you must grind your crafting, you must grind your dungeons. Nothing is safe from the monotonous grind. This is definitely not your "fresh start."

Crafting in this game is scant and almost added as an afterthought. You may learn all gathering skills, but your trainer will take the first twenty pieces in lieu of teaching you. To progress and have the ability to gather higher level items, you will have to first finish gathering 20 pieces of whatever your skill is at currently. Gathering nodes like cotton and ash trees function with what appears to be a health bar. This bar will decrease as you farm that node, eventually reaching depletion and causing you to wait a very long time for it to increase to be farmable again. Actual crafting skills seem almost useless and it's quite hard to find someone who will buy your goods since money is tight among players.

I will gladly pay you Tuesday..
It's ridiculous to assume a new game will have a steady economy right off the bat. But Funcom is its own undoing as they poorly scaled quest rewards and trash drops, causing a bottleneck in the economy up to level 50ish. Equipment can be funneled back into the economy as there is no such thing as bind-on-equip preventing you from reselling that blue or green item you got from a dungeon. This forces prices low as demand is low and supply is high. The only items that are non-tradeable are items you receive from quests. Another blow to your virtual pocketbook is the fact that itemization is vague and poorly done. No one is quite sure what stats are best for them and green drops can end up being worse than standard trash drops.

Usually what will get an economy going is crafting materials and armor that sets players out from the crowd. With armor looking the same up until level 80, there is no incentive to look at the marketplace. And crafting materials are not in large demand because there is no real need to make anything currently since the system feels half-done.

Your fresh start!
The idea of MMORPGs, I thought, was that you as a player had options. You picked your profession, you picked your class, you customized yourself with armor and doodads, and leveled to attain this and also new abilities, cooler looking armor, and the convenience of a mount. Being level 39 in any game that gives you your first mount at 40 is exciting as you cannot wait to ride off like a medium-speed lightning bolt to your next quest destination. While you might have to sell the kids and the house to afford your mount, you can expect to see one before you're level 45 hopefully. And hitting the level cap should always be a treat with cool weapons, armor, and abilities. Not to mention a whole slew of end game places for you to experience. While crafting might always be a grind, it's even better when you get to use your ability to help people get what they want and make some money with it too.

All of the above sounds good, right? It's what we've come to expect in MMORPGs. Anything less is a travesty and should be sent over to Asia where they can change the business model, make the game free, and just supplement with items that can be bought with real money.

Well, your travesty is now. And it's here, in the States. And people are paying 50$ and 15$ a month to play it. It's called Age of Conan, if you haven't heard.

Step Three: Make $$$$
What you have come to expect from MMORPGs, coming from WoW, EQ2, and the like, is completely trampled upon in Age of Conan. The lore is fantastic. Conan is quite the interesting fellow. And it was ballsy to have complete female topless nudity in a game, though not hard to implement. The game is shallow and unfinished, warranting the question, "what were they doing during beta and early access?" While it is fine to have bugs for quests, NPCs, spawns and environment during the lifetime of an MMO, certain things baffle the mind as you wonder how crucial things slipped through gapping cracks in the beta system. This game was postponed more and more, supposedly in development for four to five years. Features that were promised were left out, which is common, but a lot of incentive was lost as well.

The gameplay is paper thin in Age of Conan, even without the bugs and technical issues. Customer support is at a nil. And information provided by Funcom about how the game works doesn't exist. Your abilities, no matter what the class, will always be vague and being able to spot a completely useless ability is constantly trial and error. Funcom keeps customers in the dark about almost everything, only jumping into action whenever a large outcry on the forum occurs.

You can't please everyone: should you play Age of Conan?
The answer is yes and no. The developers have stated numerous times that they did not set out to create a "WoW-killer." At the same time, the conveniences and depth you have come to expect in other games is completely vacant in Age of Conan. Whether this will improve with time is yet to be seen. You can be optimistic and hope, then buy the game when it's a year old, or AoC will quietly fade into the background like other failed MMOs.

If you want to grind a character to level 80, all the while struggling economically and having difficulties with questing (long respawn timers, broken NPCs, etc) and crafting, then yes. This may be your cup of tea. But I can name at least three free MMOs that will provide the same comforts and won't put you back 65$. Then with that 65$, you can go buy yourself a console game instead that will probably provide you with more stress-free fun. I hear GTA4 is really good.

If you're a PVPer, I suggest reading the PVP Question and pondering whether you want to PK in a game where there is no reward or incentive for all your frustration.

Playing any MMO so soon after launch is bound to make a poor impression on anyone. I suggest you take what you've read so far with a grain of salt. There's two sides to every coin and a lot of people actually like Age of Conan. They see promise in tomorrow and are willing to invest the time playing it today to see if their efforts are well met.

I will continue to level my Bear Shaman to 80 or until my free month of play time is over, whichever comes first. As time progresses, I will supplement this writing with my new observations. I'm currently "half-way" through the game in my mid-40's, and I imagine there's a lot more to see.

The PVP Question : Age of Conan and the fight

Posted by grace-monday Thursday May 29 2008 at 10:55AM
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Years after I had stopped playing Ultima Online, every now and again I would run into someone who would remember the "Blood & Glory" days. Getting ganked in Ultima Online was a harrowing experience where the stakes were higher as your bags could be looted entirely. In later games, I tried to explain this to people who hadn't played UO. They could barely wrap their heads around the idea of being killed and robbed. The fact that they couldn't fathom this heralded a new age in MMORPGs and in PVP.

Like a former mugging victim leaving their house, a certain level of paranoia became the norm in Ultima Online. You made sure never to leave a town with a full bag of anything important. Traveling alone was a liability. Looking like you had a lot of money was a liability. A lot of people got tired of being constantly paranoid. A lot of people enjoyed it. It was a different time back then.

There is this new on-going battle between the PVP server people in Age of Conan. The question is, "If you kill someone who is of much lower level than you, should you be penalized?" A hot topic as many have been temporarily banned for "harassing" people on PVP servers.

We have two camps on this debate, each whose beliefs I will present.

Free For All PVP - Felucca
By creating a character on a PVP server, you accept the following terms:
1. You will die. You will die a lot.
2. You will be killed by anyone and everyone, regardless of level or reason.
3. The GMs shouldn't/won't help you. Which reads simply: lawless PVP.
4. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen and reroll on a PVE server.

Law and Order - Elder Scrolls
By creating a character on a PVP server, you accept the following terms:
1. It is unlawful to kill someone who is gray to you.
2. Ganking, corpse camping, and border camping should be prevented by GMs.
3. Even the most delicate of mindset shall be avenged through reporting "harassment" to the GMs.
4. To make complaints easier on the GMs, a passive jail and murderer system will be enacted.

There is no easy answer to "the Question." As someone who plays on a PVE server, you may be apt to agree with the Law and Order stance. As someone who regularly ganks people on a PVP server, you may be a die-hard supporter of the FFA PVP stance. One may poorly make references to other games as examples of systems that "have worked." What is most important to take into account here, is not what worked for other games, but what will work for Age of Conan.

What you may have come to expect from PVP in another game, won't be universal. WoW PVP is full of griefing, to the point where most people level two characters in tandem as corpse camping is the norm. EQ2 PVP, if someone above or below your level by no more than 8 kills you, you lose money and maybe an item off of your person. In non-PVP areas on normal shards, UO would mark you as a murderer, preventing you from going into towns and sometimes even guaranteeing you a permanent loss in stats.

Why do people kill other people?

To understand the rules of engagement, one must first understand what the reason to kill is. Once you understand why people kill others, you can build a system around that that passively forces people to kill people closer to their level and spend less time griefing others.

1. People kill because they like to kill. They like settling their disputes with fists instead of words. Someone farming your node? Kill them. Someone killing mobs you need for your quest? Kill them. Take what you want from the world and never apologise. (I personally fall under this category.)

2. People kill because they like being assholes. Like children with magnifying glasses burning a marching row of ants, people will create characters on PVP servers to generally make life difficult for people. You may argue that this stems from some deep-seeded mental issue, but who cares. These people exist and there's nothing you can do about it.

3. People kill because there's something in it for them. Be it honor points or a PK score or some sort of title. These people tend to be the most practical out of the lot. If it's easier to get item X by killing player A, then they may set aside their stand-offish playing routine to jump a player.

People who kill because they like to kill, may never change but they tend to be the less likely out of the bunch to grief low level players. They kill when they think someone is in their space. People who kill because there's something in it for them are opprotunists and can be lured away from harassing lower level characters by being given bigger, better rewards like PK/honor scores that only count people near their level that can be redeemed for items/titles.

But you will never, under any circumstance, be able to control or get rid of the people who kill because they're assholes. You may be quick to write these people off as a waste to the PVP community but anyone who has actually leveled on a PVP server understands that these people are the most necessary out of anyone on the list. They give you, the person on the PVP server, a reason to level up. You're so angry they keep on harassing you so all you dream of is revenge, or the ability to be high level and repay your anger by harassing other low level people. These "assholes" actually stir the shit of PVP servers, making it interesting and giving people reason far beyond or in lieu of material rewards. And the people who can't take the harassment or win the fight reroll onto PVE servers, keeping the PVP community strong.

Like in real life though, you can't please everyone. And the loudest voice sometimes in an MMO can change the way the game plays. Developers have to weigh these "suggestions" and find out what's best for their game and what's best for their players. If they waste money and resources creating a PVP system that a majority of quiet people dislike, but the loudest minority likes, they're going to have a tough decision. The biggest seller of games is PVP/multiplayer.

Felucca or Oblivion?

After all is said and done, what should be done with Age of Conan's PVP servers? Should they put in a jail/murder system? Should they continue to let people run around lawless? Should they include honorable kill incentives? Because right now, there is no real reason to kill anyone in Age of Conan, which is something the "asshole" PVP camp thrives on, but the other two groups care not much for.

You have to trust your subscribers. Give them the benefit of the doubt before you throw more than half your PVP server in jail. Set guidelines and rewards for killing those who are closer to your level. There will always be griefers, corpse campers, and even the more passive "training." Embrace your PVP community instead of sending it to bed early without supper.

Think about the lower level people too. If they're having a hard time, give them a buff after they're killed by someone who is much higher leveled than them. Put more graveyards in the game to solve the horrid "long run back" problem. Make the starter island impossible for higher level people to come to and kill people.

People will always complain. People will always die. These are two things we hold to be self-evident on a PVP server. What Funcom decides to develop for Age of Conan has yet to be seen. Give PVP a chance.


Good post about EQ2 PVP that applies to almost all PVP.