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A Former AOC Player Speaks

I'm a former AOC player played for 5 full months, Guild Master, formed a guild after launch, had over 650 characters (450 active members) in my guild at the peak. Why I quit and what the real story with AOC is.

Author: LordBonezy

AOC In Bad Shape

Posted by LordBonezy Sunday October 19 2008 at 4:40PM
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My Background

I am the real Lord Bonezy of Excelsior. There is another poster on here with the CobraSolidus name, that is not me. I began a guild on the Haunman server and it rose to just under 700 players. When I cancelled this week we had about 175 members. Over the course of playing AOC for 5 months, I invited over 2400 players of the game to my guild and also had to kick nearly all of them as they let their character or subscription go unplayed for 30 days. That kind of turnover is what led to my decison to move on.

I purchased and played AOC at launch. I'm not a very big MMO player in fact this is my first MMO in years. I played Starwars Galaxies for about 2 weeks and thats all for me for MMOs. I am huge into computer games though I purchase about 5-8 of them each year. During this time I devoted my play exclusively to AOC though.

Why am I sharing?

I write today to share my exprience with AOC, in the hope things will be improved and that you will have a firm understanding of what AOC is, the strengths and weaknesses of the game.

AOC History

AOC had a huge following before launch with online guilds formed months even a year before launch on forums in anticipation of the product. They were well posistioned to become the clear #2 in the MMO market. For a time I'm sure they were. A very brief time.The reasons they are not today, are many. Mainly though there is no one thing that they failed on, they promised, promoted, but ultimately failed to deliver on more than what they did.

At launch, their servers were crowded. They bungled early access, buddy keys, and lots of little things they charged extra for. This was annoying but overlookable. What wasn't overlookable was the lack of DX10, the lack of a PVP system which prevented ganking/griefing, numerous performance issues which prevented extended play on any type of system, Vista or XP, and it was clear to players who left tortage that the game changed significantly and content was both sparse and thin, lame as well as incomplete.

People excuse MMOs way to easily

The going line I heard a lot on the forums, in game, and in conversations was that this was acceptable state for a game to be in at release and post release. Even today 5 months after release, players are still paying, and obvioulsy willing to give Funcom a pass on this level of delivery. Well as a consumer of a product, a gamer of other types, a gamer of MMOs, my opinion is releasing a program which won't work well on the vast majority of systems, (Windows XP) is a recipe for failure. Especially when it is clear you can't or have no intention of patching it into a state which will allow it to work well, inside of a reasonable time frame. (Reasonable = 1 month when you are charging monthly)

What could have happened...

What could have happened, Age of Conan either could have been ready for release somehow some way. Had that happened, the vast majority of their 800,000 subscribers would still be playing. Not only that but every retailer who bought an initial shipment of the game would have re-bought and instead of there being 800,000 players, we'd be playing with well over 1 million, and maybe even 2 million players. After all. You can't play any other MMO in DX10, you can't have Sieges with 48 vs 48 in any other MMO, you can't have the awesome fatalties in other MMO's like AOC's fatalaties, you can't have an awesome combat system in which you actually have to actively think while fighting, maximizing your use of combos and minimizing your exposure to attack, you can't get points for killing other players while also being protected by a well thought out consquence system, designed to allow a player to kill you over and over, but then become targeted by the entire world themselves for their actions.


PVP System



Combat System

What did happen...

PVP System: Non-Existent at launch. Oh sure you could kill players, and they could kill you. But there was no incentive for killing the right players. So Level 80s could come and camp a spot and kill level 20's as soon as they got out of the noob areas. Fact: This Game Mechanic drove about 250,000 to quit the first month, and another 150,000 to quit the second month. It has just recently been patched to give players incentive for kiling those in their neighboring level xp points, but there is no disincentive to not grief the same player, of any level, over and over and over and over and over again. Granted, most players who were bothered by that, i.e. most players in general, have quit the game. Also granted most players who got off on that, got a job, got a girlfriend, or got a new hobby, because that behaviour just doesn't consistently satisfy anybody. Not even a deviant. Do you dare read on beyond this? :) (F-)

DX10: Failed to be launchable until after release. Performance issues were too great and needed to be worked on, why? There was no way to play the game in a fun way with 2 gigs of ram at launch, and for months aftward. Everytime you went from one zone to another, the memory leak, would force you to reboot or play a chop fest. Remember most people world wide have Windows XP. Most will continue to have XP, and XP will be the developing standard until companies either develope 64 and 32 bit versions or another year or too passses and the majority makes the shift towards Vista or Windows 9. (F)

Siege: According to the surveying I did with my guild and the number of posts in regards to it on guild forums and main forums, Siege was supposed to be a hallmark of the game, and a really neat feature. My survey data consistently showed it to be more popular than even Raids.  85-90% of players wanted to participate in siege. Let me tell you why only about 15-25% of players are able to participate in it due to the game design mechanics. In order to participate in siege you must be in a guild which had a T3 keep. This means you must harvest, harvest, harvest, all the way from a T1 city, to a T2 city, up to the T3 keep, the first building of a T3 city. To complete a T1 city you need about 20 hours of harvesting. For the T2 City, you need about 400 hours of harvesting, and for the complete T3 city you need about 4000 hours of harvesting. Now you dont' have to do all of those on your own, but your guild has to. What it boils down to is becomming a harvesting drone for a few hours a day, by each member of your guild, and harvesting for literally months. If you can stay at it, and your guild survives, and your server doesn't die, in 2.5-4.5 months you shold have a T3 keep harvested and paid for. Great huh? Well Siege also includes lots of bugs like, you build these walls which are fairly expensive, about 1 gold per section and maybe 20 gold per actual wall to complete, but the kicker is the can be walked through. Yeah thats right, you can walk through them even today 5 months from launch. Great huh? (D-)

Fatalties: They delivered, every charcter class has their own. They look great they are awesome. They would be even more awesome if mixed with real physics, and more uncovered boobs in the game to keep it that M rating. They basically caved into a PG-13 rating after a few months. Fatalties. (A+)

Combat System: Revolutionary, you have to hit buttons to execute combos, but a few catches. If you are a caster you dont' have to this at all, you just click and your target dies. Major micromanagement advantage/disadvantage for melee means it is inconsistent in application. Also some Melee combos are 4 fucking buttons long. This is being changed but still is too much. You also can't execute these keys too fast or too slow, or the combo doesn't work. Basically its a works like a password protection system on a 486DX2. Fun for the first 10,000 kills but if you dont like this part of the game you probably will quit the first month because this is the major feature of AOC. (B+)

What happened because of their decisions

They started off with about 800,000 subscribers. I believe that was a pretty accurate number. Every are of the game was crowded, you couldn't go anywhere without encountering other people in the world. It was also instanced so if you were being harassed you could just go to another instance. I was never really a fan of the instance system in fact I think its totally useless and stupid but hey thats part of their design. After about a month or two from launch after about a dozen patches, none of which touched critical game issues or serious design flaws. People started quitting en mass right away that first month, but it was difficult to tell because new people were joining in all the time.

My membership in Shai Hulud and creation of Excelsior

I was invited into a guild called Shai-Hulud. They never got a website, they never achieved even a Tier 2 city but they invited me and less than a week later when telling someone they should read the manual to learn about potions I was booted. I started my own guild. This was to be the strongest, biggest, and best guild on Haunman, I titled the guild Excelsior. Indeed within 3 weeks Excelsior was the most numerous, growing the fastest, and appeared to be the most organized guild on the server. The exodus of the first guild to achieve a T3 city and start raiding, Prophecy, left a power vacuum that was filled by us. They quit because there was no foreseeable competition between guilds and, no real PVP on PVE server.

Fun times in Excelsior, lack of taxes, ways to grow a guild

In the absence of real incentives to be in a guild we created a bunch of little events we did on the weekends in order to expand the guild, make it attractive and fun to be in for members and new players. One of the fun things we did, was host a Friday night event, where we would march from the level 20 area though the level 40 area, and to the city, we'd bring everybody along. One of the things that sucks in AOC is grouping. There are few groups which actually work for players. Most of the time a group on a PVE server yields 1 XP for players, and just offers no benefit other than sharing cash. Unless you are pounding though an area fast, you aren't going to make the same benefit as you would just going solo. We had some guild events, races, and building constructions. In the absence of taxes, we offered bounties, which were set amounts of cash which could be used on anything you wante of course, in exchange for resources. At first we tried to tax, which didn't work because it was impossible to see who was paying what. There was a tax system in the beta but it was cut for launch. Towards the end, we were paying players to lead groups, and giving out free bags, along with creating abunch of membership bonuses. I also created dozens of in game info bulletins which alerted players to what we were doing and tried to get everybody on the same page. Doing that with a guild of 50-100 would have been difficult, trying to do it with 450 was impossible given the way AOC  helps guild master to run guilds. We also had a website but it was very difficult to get players to check it out.

Measuring populations, identifying the trends that led to the decline of AOC

-Inconsistent patches

-Improper patches

-Lack of implementing features or fixes based on player feeback

-Server population implosions

-Slow response by development team to communicate and acknolwdge issues

June and July saw about 5 patches implemented each month, in August we saw 3. in September when it was apparent there were serious issues still in the game, no time table for fixing them, a new game director named, and a multi-month history of broken promises from Funcom, the game decline began to acclerate. "Players leaving the game" type posts began in June, and in July but began to be a very serious topic of discusison in September.

I began to measure server population on Haunman in July. My measurements took into account the fact that only 50 players would show up in any query but it was very simple to get around that by searching level ranges with fewer than 50 players, you could get a very accurate number by doing that. Generally I saw a disturbing trend. For the week, population of players online at the time would drop about 2-5% for the week and about 15-25% for the month. This is consistent with what was reported by AOC's own numbers of subscriptions, and the raw response data from the 3 community surveys.

I also began to measure on other PVE servers but not with the same degree of fidelity, however noticing the same trend accross the board, I also measured a few PVP servers notably Tyranny which had a largely stable and moderate to high population level compared to Haunman for most of the day and most of the time I was researching servers. Tyranny was a bit more of a success because it became the flocking ground of all the players interested in waiting the storm of fixes out and a new beginning.

Ganking, gankers, griefers, and Funcom's Wild West mess

One of the primary reasons AOC failed in the first 5 months is the lack of things for high level players to do, and the lack of enforcement of their own policies. You simply cannot allow players to conduct themselves without rules, incentives or disincentives for actions which give other players grief. It was the most tragic decline of the game and probably is repsonsible for more cancellations than any other thing save declining server populations. A problem that was compounded by the griefing.

The whole premise of the game was that players would be rewarded for killing, and indeed they now are, however on a diminishing return system, and to this day, 5 months after release, there is no deterrent for players to go beyond those diminishing returns and kill kill kill the same player over and over. It was advertised before release, a jail system, and it was eagerly anticipated, it was also told to us that it was days or weeks away from launch when it was not in it.

To this day is remains not in the game. So 100,000 or 200,000 or 300,000 players quit the game.

Performance Issues

For the first 3-4 months performance on 2 gigs was dismal, buggy, laggy, choppy, and crashy. With XP it sucked donkey ballz. With Vista and 2 gigs, good luck. With Vista and 4 gigs everybody was like what the hell are you all talking about because it ran fine. Only problem for the AOC dev team is most players played on XP. Most still do, however at times it will be half and half. Today the performance on 2 gigs and on XP has been shored up largely but it never should have been released in the condiditon it was. No ifs ands or butts. Funcom also made no mention of performance issues for the first month, ignoring it and proclaiming about their spectacular launch. Well the 1986 Challenger had a spectacular launch too until an O-ring broke and upon launch the shuttle disintergrated.

I know Funcom is a business and AOC is a product, but Erling Ellingson promoted the product and launch as a problemless and spectacular success. Indeed their fooling of the marketplace, and the reviewers was a spectacular success. Howver AOC won't survive on that hype.

What is missing....


-2nd half of PVP, incentive to not kill someone repeatedly without suffering consequences

-Guild Management Rights

-Larger Bank Size

-Unbreakable crafting systems

-Siege for All

-Groups that actually give benefits


Where the fuck is DX10?

I'll touch on a bit of these each. Players have made excuses for DX10 not being in the game for months. None of those are acceptable. If your game doesn't have DX10, take it off the box, if you upgade it later great. The game looks great in DX9, in fact I challenge anyone to find a better looking game in DX9 in the setting that Conan is. Can't be done. However graphics do not gameplay make. Crysis had DX10 at launch, and it looks great. DX10 has been on the market for nearly 2 years. DX11 is coming in a few weeks. Funcom shold have been able to get their act together and either include it or not. Not including it is fine, but they should take responsibility for their failure to deliver.

PVP Sucks, it also is lame, and the grief has driven hundreds of thousands away from AOC, FIX IT!

PVP, Player versus player, the whole game was built around players killing each other, and killing NPC characters, mobs and individual bogeys. The game has classes, some of which can't kill, others which can only kill being cheap, and still others which cannot defend themselves. All of this required players to cooperate in order to succeed. In Siege, in Raids, in groups. The bad news is, players have no incentive to group in PVE, the XP is worse grouping in 9/10 groups, the loot sharing is acceptable but you make less cash grouped than you do solo and pounding, depending on what type of character you have. In PVP you almost have to group, but since XP sucks you end up leveling slower in PVP than you do in PVE. It is a real shame that groups don't provide you more XP than solo, or even double. For a lot of the time in the first 2 months, you couldnt' see your group mates on the mini-map if they were more than 10 paces away, wow good move Funcom, you also couldn't get Apprenticeship to work, and even when you do now, you still don't get a real advantage to it. Basically grouping sucks. Raids, are another story in order to get to Siege, you should raid so you have good gear and can compete on the best level. Only problem is all Raids are broken at one time or another, and to this day about half of them work the others dont. There is also no coverage of how this is supposed to work in the manual. Siege, great concept but terrible excecution. Only Tier 3 keep owning guilds can compete, it failed early on because they were broken, and still are in some respects, walls walkable through, siege only allowed to occur for a few hours each week, only 9 guilds able to have a battlekeep, unable to have more than 2 guilds participating, its just weak all around.

Fixing Groups

Groups should have XP doubled. Groups should also be able to include up to 12 players.

Fixing Raids

Raids shold be explained, some raids shold only need 12 players, instead of 24, some raids should also be done at level 40,50,60,70 so that you know what the hell you are doing at level 80. You also need to unbug timers and the way the NPCs act. If they are supposed to do scripted stuff and be defeatable you need to make it possible to win.

Fixing Siege

Siege should be opened up to Tier 2 keep owning guilds, allowing them to challenge other stronger larger guilds, giving the larger guilds some competition and reason to own a Battlekeep. It would also open up the siege component of the game to another 50-75% of the game. Only about 15-25% of players play in a T3 guild but nearly eveyrbody can get the resources together to get a T2 Keep done. That is part of the reason that the game is failing. Nobody to compete with drives players into bordeom and away from the game.

Fixing Crafting

Architect crafting is broken as fuck. Players are suppsed to make a series of plans, none of which are individually detailed, just 4 in a lot, then you raise the gold for this, which is about 1 gold per plan, and you go craft them, then you turn them in, get credit for the plans, then you go put up the buidling. But if you put up the building you have to make new plans, which are useless cause you only ever put up 1 building once. Who the fuck came up with that? It SUCKS! The game shold check and give you credit instantly whenver you make a plan, and just consider it made wether you show it or not. The GM's can't give you a free plan that works, you end up having to make them again, and they can't give you the gold so you have to either buy it, harvest it, earn it, or use the guilds gold. LAME LAME LAME!

It is just another example of game mechanics missing a few screws nuts and bolts from design. It really strikes you as amateur, and it is. Professional software design, accounts for users making mistakes, and doesn't allow for failures in processing to occur, this is an example of a correctable issue as well that probably won't be fixed until 2009 or 2010 because of the pace of their patching and the hundreds of issues they need to fix before the rework this.

If it sounds like I'm sensitive to this, it is because I am. One of the things our guild did was put up buildings in the T1 era, 2 per week. So I had to raise the gold and resources with the guilds help then we had to waste 10 gold making new plans, gold which could have gone for horses, bags, potions, whatever. I was told it would be corrected and by Tier 2 I was told to just ask a GM for new plans, all of them, and that they would just come look at our city and know we built it. Well we wasted another 10 gold making new plans for T2 as well. Shame on you Funcom Fail Fail Fail.

Large Bank Size

Has been asked for since Late May Early June. 5 Months later it hasn't been touched. It is ridiclious trying to manage a guilds assets with only 50 slots of storage when you ahve 450 members. Even trying to do that with 100 members would be impossible. Everything was handeled in my mail box because of that. Indeed it began to be such a storage problem for Funcom servers and data managers they started to see data corruption and had to program in a 30 day limit to stored stuff. I know they saw data corruption because they lost about 250-300 items, stacks of gems, rares, and harvested raw materials. At first I was told they could see them just couldn't access them, then after about half a dozen emails, a dozen petitons, they finally said there was no record of the stuff being there. BS. They lost it or didn't want to retrieve it whatever reason one guy tells you he sees it and 3 weeks later another one tells you there is no record of it ever being there I'm calling that Bullshit. In the end I figure Funcom lost about 75-100 gold in virtual products and in the end they gave us a settlement option. 200 Granite, which was worth about 1 gold and harvestable in just under 1 hour. We were given 1 minute to decide, and I allowed the online guild members to vote on it 1 for yes 2 for no. Everybody voted 2. 

The bottom line is Funcom could have avoided this whole issue, the mail issue, the issues with guilds unable to manage their inventory but reducing the variety of ingame resources, who the hell needs 5 different kinds of bark, or 500 types of gems. There is also no way to control what is allowed in the bank. useless Cotton, or precious Gold, it is treated the same.

Guild Management Rights + Taxes

Taxes which could be adjusted by the guild master are a necessity for the type of harvesting that is necessary in this game. There is literally months of harvesting necessary to acheive a T3 city. It is impossible to do for most guilds, and even large ones need to invest considerable time being a drone like the citizen in Age of Empires, hacking aways at the gold mine, the silver mine, or tree in the black forest. What the fuck is that Funcom? Lame lame lame lame lame mother fucking lame is what I think it is.

Really though I didn't mind harvesting I probably leveled about 20 levels doing that and chatting while I was doing it. The part of the game which is inexcuably broken is the inability for Guild Master to set rights for each rank and to create the number of ranks in the guild. There shold be possibiliites for having 3 ranks or 13, whatever. It should also be possible for a rank to have the privilidge to do things, and not do things. In order to access the bank you had to also give a player the ability to kick other members. Well when I started a guild on Tyranny to do just that, allow players access to the bank. It only lasted about 2 weeks because one of those players, decided to kick everbody from the guild. In the spate of seconds the guild went from 100 members to 0. Last to leave was someone called icecreambar, the GM's wouldn't ban or dismiss the player, so no enforcement of terms of use, or incentive for me to keep playing.


Until they make some very big changes to critical, serious, and major issues with the game I'm not coming back and neither are the hundereds of thousands of players who tried the game and gave up on it a lot sooner than I did. Funcom also should expect to pay a heavy price in the future if they ever release or float a product or service like Age of Conan again. I dare say I'll never buy anything from them again. Even if I had the opportunity to steal Age of Coan I would have thrown it back in the water a lot faster than I did, because I was financially invested in the game and hoping for success. Success with hasn't come yet, and probably never will to Age of Conan.