Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Anvil of Crom: What's going on

The Anvil of Crom: What's going onby Jef Reahard Sep 19th 2010 at 12:00PM

Filed under: Fantasy, Age of Conan, Expansions, Opinion, The Anvil of Crom

Funcom's Age of Conan is a title that's changed quite a bit over the two-plus years it's been on the MMORPG market. Whether you're talking about the recent Rise of the Godslayer expansion, the game-changing 1.05 update, or the hundreds of smaller tweaks, balances, class revamps, and content additions that Hyboria has seen since 2008, there's never been a shortage of things to discuss.

Through it all, AoC die-hards have debated, pleaded, flamed, and in some cases, constructively discussed the merits of the title in one primary place: the official forums. Owing to its existence as a niche title with a smallish population, AoC doesn't feature huge third-party fansites like EQ2Flames, AionSource, or any of the legions of communities that have sprung up around World of Warcraft.

No, all the Hyborian meta-gaming action is centralized in one spot, and in this week's Anvil of Crom, we're going to highlight and discuss some of the more noteworthy threads that you may have missed over the last couple of weeks (including a definitive answer from Craig Morrison as to the size of the game's development team).

Flip past the cut for more.
Priest of Mitra and an assassin
Poor, poor, pitiful PoMs

It's not unusual for players of a certain MMO class to complain about being underpowered. What is unusual is the game developers' posting hard data that at least partially support their argument. PriestessLara, player advocate for the Priest of Mitra class, started an interesting thread that highlighted some numbers from Funcom's recent summer survey. Among other things, the survey found that PoMs are almost universally regarded as AoC's gimpiest class, and the thread (which clocked in at 15 pages as of press time) features some interesting discussion from both sides of the fence.

The PoM is one of the few classes I've not played much beyond Tortage, so while I can't chime in with personal experience from a player's point of view, I can tell you that PoMs are rare in Wiccana minis (though I have run with a couple of really good ones in Khitai 6-man PUGs).

Movie tie-in?

We've had MMOs based on movies, and MMOs based on books that were also made into movies, and even MMOs that might get made into movies. Now, it seems, we might have an MMO based on short stories that gets advertised with a movie inspired by those same short stories. Whew, kind of confusing isn't it? Well, not to worry, as Yarankash's thread isn't nearly so hard to grok. Basically, he's saying that the forthcoming Conan film reboot would appear to be a prime time for Funcom to spend some advertising dollars, perhaps in the form of a trailer or other ad attached to theatrical screenings of the film.

While I'm all for AoC increasing its player base, I'm not entirely sure that what looks like a B-movie (at best) is the place to hawk what most people agree is an AAA MMORPG. Hopefully I'm wrong and the remake turns out to be a stellar flick, but the fact that it's spent years in development hell, features an untested leading man, and has been passed around to more development studios than a bottle of cheap whiskey at an Aquilonian brothel doesn't exactly bode well. Prevailing sentiment in the seven-page thread favors keeping the game separate from the new movie, but you never know what Funcom is thinking. It says here that most people likely to play Age of Conan are already aware of the game, as the license and its source material are not terribly well-known or respected outside of hardcore fandom.

There's no app for that?

M4nk checks in with a thread highlighting the creation of a new iPhone app that lets you chat with your in-game buddies while you're stuck in traffic, at work, or with a list of honey-dos. Unfortunately, the app is developed by a third party (and therefore unsupported by Funcom), though community manager Glen "Famine" Swan does check in during the course of the thread to give it an unofficial endorsement.

There's also some interesting back and forth between Famine and Boomthunder, who opines that Funcom needs to allocate development resources to community-building tools such as mobile apps, databases, and character look-ups. I'd have to agree with that sentiment, as AoC is woefully lacking when it comes to out-of-game tools in comparison to other MMORPGs. While I'm holding out for a working Droid version of this newest bit of fluff, any attempt at translating AoC's in-game material to the web and portable devices is a welcome one.

Working as intended

Lots of AoC players love to gripe on the boards about Funcom's perceived slow update pace. Jokes about the number of developers are frequent, and the snark factor relating to their skill sets is quite high as well. Loaf-of-Evil started a thread asking about the planned time frame for the next big content update (2.1), and it quickly degenerated into a bit of flaming from the anti- and pro-Funcom forum camps. Normally we wouldn't call attention to such a thread (especially since it's been locked and is no longer active), but within it AoC game director Craig "Silirrion" Morrison made his presence felt with a post that should put to rest any and all questions regarding Funcom's commitment to the game going forward.

"The Conan team is currently around fifty people directly on production alone (that's artists, designers, animators, programmers, scripters, writers and leads), with double that involved all told when you factor in the people working in tech, infrastructure and QA, etc.," he wrote.

There's your look at what's been going down in the Age of Conan community of late. While it's certainly not everything, it hits a few noteworthy highlights that you may have missed and hopefully provided you with some hope, some good information, or both. Until next week, I leave you with an image from forum moderator training school.

Jef Reahard is an Age of Conan beta and launch day veteran, as well as the creator of Massively's weekly Anvil of Crom column, which chronicles one man's journey through Funcom's Hyboria while examining PvE, PvP, roleplay, and beyond. Feel free to suggest a column topic, propose a guide, or perform a verbal fatality via Tags: age-of-conan, aoc, conan-film, conan-movie, craig-morrison, droid, famine, featured, funcom, glen-famine-swan, iphone, mobile-apps, opinion, priest-of-mitra, rise-of-the-godslayer, silirrion, the-anvil-of-crom, underpowered

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