This week we had the chance to talk with Matthew Bennett from the Age of Conan team on the game’s seventh anniversary and their recent update, Shadow of Vanaheim. The game has come a long way over its lifespan and still maintains a loyal audience. Players continue to return for updates and remain active with the achievement system and PvP. With Shadow, the team was able to unlock more areas of the Hyborian world and offer players a unique story to experience.
Matthew explained that when running a game for seven years it really comes down to listening closely to your player base and working directly with them on feedback. They often open up the test servers to work with players on new items and incentives all the time. For Shadow, the goal of the team was to get back to telling stories in the rich world that Robert E. Howard created. Vanaheim was a great location in Conan’s past as they were the natural enemies of the Cimmerians. Therefore the players get to experience some of the older lore aspects in the game and see what the lands would look like in the far north of the world. In working with the players they received six or seven proposals and eventually decided on Vanaheim as the focus of the story.
The update offers players some new instances for smaller groups, between one and three players. It is also available to any players from level twenty onward. Vanaheim spans four instances and unlocks three new areas for players to explore. It takes place in the Blue Mountains which border Vanaheim and Asgard. For hardcore veteran players it offers hard mode versions as well which will bring some competitive end game gear to their table. If you are lower level the area unlocks six dynamic quests which you can use to level up. These quests will be different each day and offer some of the best XP in the game. Sometimes you may be asked to poison a well, or clear out some mammoths. There is plenty of loot for everyone in Vanaheim.
If that was not enough, the Conan team will also offer a bear mount to players. There are a few variations on the mount. The Ice Bear also launches a new quest chain and players who get the Collector’s Edition will get the Platinum Ice Bear.
We asked Matthew what it is like for a new player to enter Age of Conan after seven years. He said that many new players will enjoy the achievement system. The early game is now much more relevant for players to go through. There are a lot of new rewards and the population has been solid ever since they introduced the Festivals of Bloodshed PvP system. Another tool the team has seen a lot of success with are the open world bosses. New and old players alike can band together to battle and gain experience along the way.
Age of Conan will also have double Alternate Advancement points available up until May 27th as part of their promotion and seven year celebration. So while you are exploring new parts of Hyboria you will also be progressing your character quickly. Matthew said that they plan to continue with more updates similar to Shadow of Vanaheim. The team wants to continue working in the rich Hyborian world and now has the ability to build these updates quickly moving forward. It is available to new and old players alike and really scales to what the audience wants. Add in the fact that developers are taking player feedback very seriously and Age of Conan continues to grow very nicely as an MMO. We look forward to more from the team at Funcom and rejoining the Hyborian world again soon.
The Shadow of Vanaheim content pack is $20 for both subscribers and free players, and $40 for the the Collector's Edition. More details can be found on the official site.