Investigating Hyboria

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Since I’ll be giving Age of Conan a serious chance now, I spent the day learning more about the game and the details I consider most important. Up until this point I have really only looked into the combat system leaving the rest of Hyboria a complete mystery to me. Thanks to a few friends and a long afternoon I think I am finally feeling comfortable with what Age of Conan is all about.

Age of Conan warriorI had originally thought that Age of Conan was entirely guild vs. guild and the thought of that didn’t appeal to me. My luck with guilds is hit and miss over the past few years. The thought of having to rely on a guild to truly experience the game is enough to make me think twice. Luckily I sought clarification and read through some faqs to find that the game has a few other forms of PvP. There are arenas/bgs, Border Kingdoms (similar to DAOC frontiers), and on the PvP server there is ffa pvp. The details on the PvP server are still sketchy and I’m unclear on whether or not it’s a complete FFA server or if it’s just a “no safe areas” type. Is that info public yet?

Since I am currently guildless, and will probably remain so until the game comes out and I’ve had time to test the water, I was very pleased to learn about players being capable of joining city sieges as mercenaries. City sieges are a big part of the end-game PvP. If I can participate as a lone mercenary or even with my friends as mercenaries to earn “blood money” then that could be quite entertaining.

The size of the game world is apparently 185sq miles making it more than twice the size of most mmorpgs. The content of the game is a mix of PvP and PvE which I suppose I’m okay with as long as the PvE is more than a treadmill and the PvP is worth the time invested. In an interview with developers they talk about how they expect it to take 240 hours to get max level. I’ve always been above the average with my leveling speeds, but that still leaves a lot of potential content.

I haven’t decided on a class yet but I think I’m going for a melee DPS class class like the Barbarian or Conqueror…but the Demonologist and Ranger do look really neat… Okay so I’m completely confused on the classes and will probably be an altaholic in the open beta (if there is one?) as I figure out what I want to play.

There are still several questions that I wish I could find answers to:

  1. What does the game look like on Windows XP? The game looks beautiful in screenshots but it’s undoubtedly Vista.
  2. Will the game run well or should I expect another vanguard?
  3. When is open beta? Is there even an open beta? Stress test?
  4. Is the Collectors Edition worth it?
  5. How do stats work? Do I distribute them or are they class based and controlled by gear?
  6. Is the PvP server completely free-for-all? Anyone can attack anyone? Or what?

I think of a new question every time another is answered. If anyone can answer the above without breaking the NDA by all means please do.

Hopefully Conan will turn out to be an extremely fun game. I could use a pleasant surprise.

  • I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, Keen. From what I’ve been able to gather in my weeks at TTH AoC will surprise people with its depth and gameplay. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  • This used to be high on my excitement list, then drifted off into near-nothingness for the past half year. If it’s a sleeper hit (at least to me), that will be tremendous, and I’ll definitely join you in game for this summer. Of course, I always get worried about getting TOO addicted to any games now that I’ve pre-ordered WAR.

    I think the CE gets you a 3-day head start in the game and some items, but… eh. My big worry is that it’ll either be too dumbed down in terms of gameplay to make it XBoxish, or that it’s main selling point is in the nudity/gore instead of the solid fun.

  • Pre-ordering gets you a free mammoth mount and a 3 day head start. The Collectors edition gives a ring with exp/stamina bonus, a cape for free drinks, and some artbooks/sound track.

    I think I’m going to pre-order but not get the CE. I can’t afford to drop another $80.

    Hopefully it’s a lot of fun and worth the hype. Lately it’s been getting more hype than WAR and even topped the sales charts.

    I’m in the unique position of not being hyped for a mmorpg, which could be good for me. I’m not going to be extremely bummed if it sucks. I’ll be slightly sad that I won’t have a MMO, but not crushed that I got hyped or nothing — if that makes sense.

  • 1)
    Screens and videos are for marketing use = better than reality.
    I’m pretty sure AoC is made for primarily directX 9.0c (shader 3) with only a handful of functions supported on the directX 10 side. Differences in visual quality between XP and Vista will probably be negligible.
    On a side note: You will see far better ‘performance’ (e.g. frames pr. second) with XP.

    Stats are class and gear controlled.
    But you will be able to distribute skill points to general abilities like hiding, climbing, perception.

  • I’ve seen this and War as the two biggies on the way, but personally have been more interested in AoC of the two (sadly however, my beta application hasn’t struck gold on either, and I usually manage to get into mmorpg tests!). You do wonder if Warhammers slippage plays in to Funcoms hands nicely. Might they see a much bigger audience on release (assuming the still hit their dates)?

    My over-riding problem with the genre is that the game is never good to go from day one. A few have been technically smooth in recent times but they still lack the content that floods in over the coming period. For that reason I now have mixed feelings with mmorpgs. I subscribed to Tabula Rasa following an enjoyable beta but the issues are well documented on that one. Jumped into PotBS (Keen gave it such good hype) but found it ran out of steam very quickly. I’m in LoTR now, it is a bit ‘old school grind’ but is beautiful and polished at least.

    So AoC, can you turn me round? Shall I jump on the shiny bandwagon from the off for yet another time, or should I wait a while for all to settle down?

  • 1. It’ll look fine, the only difference between XP and Vista versions is the lack of DirectX 10, which is a considerable boost to aesthetics, but by no means will an XP version look bad at all. There is also supposedly be a 64bit version which will give enhanced performance also, which you would need XP64 or Vista64 for.

    2. AoC is a very high spec game, and I don’t share their opinion that it is equivalent to Oblivion (trying hard not to break nda…). I think that the game will definitely be more optimised than Vanguard, but they’re heavily relying on the ability to scale down a lot (which makes it look terrible btw) to allow bad PC’s to play, so you will need a beast to play on higher specs, especially in things like BK when there’s hundreds of characters onscreen.

    3. There was some confusion on this, someone said in an interview there would never be an Open Beta, that was then officially refuted by Funcom, so right now unless something has changed since I stopped following the game, yes it is planned.

    4. Yes, probably moreso than the majority of MMO CE packs, since you get something that directly boosts your gameplay (A ring that gives you multiplied Exp), which I don’t really like but there it is. The Pre-order also gives you a useful Mount and a few day headstart before retail release.

    5. You don’t pick stats at all, it’s all feat/class/gear modifiers as you’d come to expect these days. 🙁

    6. They still haven’t decided the details, however I’d look to expect FFA on everyone, maybe with your Guild being restricted to hurt each other, with Towns/Cities/Hubs being safezones.

    Hope that helps!

  • Thanks for the write up! That clarified a lot more for me and actually has me semi excited. I’m a lil iffy on the whole guild vs guild concept… i like having clearly defined enemies in a game, but I’ll certainly give it a whirl.

    Just built a new system last night that should be able to handle this very well 🙂

  • funcom’s console port to AOC is one reason AOC will be dumbed down to a gamepad style gameplay. i think their arcade type fight is to appeal to console crowd.

    from what i read , the MMORPG aspect is dumbed down, especially zone design and freedom to explore. i think conan will dissappoint lot of people who are expecting the next big thing. but it will have its niche following. i predict Warhammer is going to be bigger becuase it got better focus and better pvp system.

  • some stuff that i hope funcom address before their launch :

    World Design

    I think Funcom made some very poor choices, very poor. I’m not going to even go into all the “zenes are too linear” argument, but I’m gonna concentrate on less discussed points of world design. For one, I hate their mob placement, throught the game, I outright hate it and it makes absolutely no sense. Also, mob density + respawn rate sucks in a lot of zones. Let me back up a little to mob placement. There are two things at are outright out of place/wrong with the way mobs are placed. 1. AoC devs thought that it would make more sense to place most of the mobs around pathways/roads, instead of placing them deeper inside the zone. It absolutely makes no sense for me to cut straight through the desert/wood and encounter A LOT LESS mobs than I would encounter if I used the main road/path. I’m sorry, but I don’t see how this makes any sense and I hope it gets reworked by launch. 2. Cramped mobs. This is extremely extremely bad in some zones. I think Eiglopean(sp?) Mountains is the worst example of this. At one spot in EM, there is a thorn down structure of sorts. Imagine a rectangle, divided in two. In one half there are humanoid NPCs (Vanir?), and in other half are wild apes. Density of both mobs areas (rooms) is just stupid, they are on top of one another, yet outside of the stricture there are no mobs (keep in mind that this is torn down structures, with tallest wall being shoulder high, and angle high in some places, I don’t see why mobs wouldn’t roam outside of this structure, or why is there so many of them in the rooms. Now, the worst part is, the wall that divides these two rooms is knee-high at most!! You are telling me that a wild ape or human can not jump over a knee-high (sometimes lower) wall? Also, in EM for example, Pcitish camp full of canibal picts is within spitting distance of the main village! That just doesn’t feel realistic and it looks silly.

    2nd problem that AoC has is loading screens. First of all, I’ve only played WoW for about 4 months when it first came out, and that is the only MMO which I’ve played that has real seemless world. Point being that I’m used to zones and non-seemless world. CoH/V is one of my favorite games, and there is small million of instances in that game. So what’s different about AoC? Simple, it takes way too long to load, and each loading screen will potencially decrease your performance dramatically (hopefully this will be fixed by launch). I can load CoH/V zone in 5 – 7 secs (less if I’ve been there before), but it takes 35 – 90 secs (usually around 50 secs) to load AoC zone on the same system. There is also great amount of instances in AoC, some which make no sense. For example, in tortage you get a quest from a drunken pirate to go inside of hi house and do whatever. The house is right there next to him. You enter his house and you are hit with loading screen, wait 30 secs, it loads, you talk to whoever/take whatever in 10 secs, and than you head back, you are hit with another 50 seconds loading screen. And after you get back into Tortage, you get corrupt chess-board looking textures because of the memory leak. That’s just poor design. They could have at least pre-loaded all houses with the zone (like they did with Thirsty Dogg Inn). That’s just one example, and very annoying. Hopefully they will fix some of this by launch, but I’m not gonna hold my breath for it.

    3rd I hate the fact that I can’t go up 45 degreez hill (number might not be correct, but to a naked eye I’m restricted of climbing/walking up the hill which would not present the slightest problem in real life, it just doesn’t feel natureal).