December 23, 2008

Dungeon of Xibaluku Trailer and Concept Art

Just a few days ago Funcom released a new issue of Clan of Conan. It's always late to arrive in my e-mail for some reason, but thankfully you can just read it online. The Age of Conan team wishes us happy barbaric holidays, and I have to say I love this "Christmas version" of Conan! :) (Download the full version of the poster here).


In addition you can get a free holiday item - the Kosalan talisman of clarity - by typing /claim in-game. The stats on it are laughable, but I suppose it looks pretty cool. Besides, it's the thought that counts, right?

The newsletter also talks about the upcoming updates for a bit. You can find out more information about the Update 4 which will be coming next year in IGN's interview with Craig Morrison, and read about the additional PvP enhancements - such as PvP resources -  on the AoC community site.

We will also get two new high-level dungeons sometime next year, namely the Slaugherhouse Cellar (a lvl80 solo dungeon), and the Dungeon of Xibaluku (instanced lvl80 group dungeon located in the Thunder River). Interestingly, you have to finish a special quest in the Slaughterhouse in order to be able to access Xibaluku. Funcom promises "smart" bosses with special skills and the need for player strategy and tactics in order to be able to make the run. Among the loot will be social undead pets - as funny as it sounds, I suppose rotting zombies fit AoC better than some cute creature you'd likely see in other MMOs.

Speaking of Xibaluku, there's also some concept art available for it. I must say I've always been impressed by Funcom's artists, and this is no exception:


In addition to the concept art, there's also a Dungeon of Xibaluku trailer. If I'm not mistaken, you can see some new armor sets there:


The video quality isn't very good, so you can download a high quality version from Age of Conan community site.

December 14, 2008

Interview with Funcom's CEO Trond Arne Aas

We've seen a number of interviews with the game director of Age of Conan as well as other members of the AoC dev team. However this time GamesIndustry.biz have done an exclusive interview with the big man himself: Trond Arne Aas, the CEO of Funcom. Even though they talk about other subjects as well, the main topic is still Age of Conan since it's Funcom's flagship MMORPG. Here are some facts from the interview that I found interesting:

  • Funcom are not doing any major changes to their US division; the recent layoffs were made primarily in Quality Assurance and Customer Service teams. As of now, there are no plans to do similar cutbacks in Europe.
  • The main priorities for Funcom are: free updates for Age of Conan throughout 2009; bringing fully localised versions of AoC to Russian, Polish and later Korean markets; development of their new The Secret World MMORPG as well as a number of casual and/or browser-based MMO projects.
  • The company already has a separate team working on the upcoming Age of Conan expansion and it will be increased in size starting from January 2009.
  • Funcom is still working on an Xbox 360 version of Age of Conan, but they do not commit to any deadlines yet.
  • Mr. Trond Arne Aas mentioned "positive trends" in terms of subscriptions thanks to Funcom's latest initiatives, although he did not disclose the exact subscriber numbers, only talking about the 400,000 they had back in August.
  • The Secret World will be based on the same DreamWorld engine that Age of Conan uses (but you probably already knew that as it was announced months ago). Hopefully it won't be as slow and buggy at the launch as Age of Conan was.
Head to GamesIndustry.biz to read Matt Martin's whole interview with Trond Arne Aas.

December 4, 2008

Age of Conan server merges begin

Funcom officials have recently announced the details of the upcoming server merges, all of which will be performed in the next few weeks before the Christmas holidays. US servers Bloodspire and Hyperborea are the first to be merged, with more to follow soon. There are two forum threads on the topic, namely server merge information and server merge FAQ. It seems that Funcom are taking things seriously: the FAQ topic answers most of the problems that could occur during the merge and explains how they will be adressed. The resources guilds have spent on their battlekeeps will be reimbursed, for example, and the PvE guild cities will simply be moved. In case of duplicate character names, priority will be given to older accounts.

Funcom will also be offering a one-time character transfer service in the future for those unhappy with their realm for one reason or another. Interestingly, there will be no restrictions for moving between servers with different rulesets or even languages (except of course you won't be able to move your character between US and EU ones):

The option to transfer characters to another server will be available after all server merges have been completed. Every character will be eligible for one free transfer and this offer will be valid for one month after the final server merges have been completed. This transfer will be free of charge and can be used once per character and will be available from your billing pages.
This option won't be available for entire guilds however, so if your clan wants to move, you will have to abandon your guild city and use the single character transfer service like everyone else.

November 30, 2008

Vote for Age of Conan as best RPG of the year

Voodoo Extreme @ IGN is holding a "RPG of the Year" poll. Interestingly, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures is among the nominees. Head there if you want to place a vote:

Click here for the Role-Playing Game of the Year poll.

Okay, let's face it - the poll does not make much sense. Single-player RPGs, such as Fallout 3, Mass Effect, or The Witcher are lumped together with MMORPGs like WoW: WotLK, Warhammer Online and AoC. I think everyone will agree that MMORPGs are very different from single-player roleplaying games and deserve their own category. If anything, I would group them with other MMO games instead of single player RPG ones. Then of course there are those annoying full screen ads before you even reach the poll (blast you, IGN!). Still, those things aside, if you enjoy AoC - why not show your support to the game? Even Funcom wants you to do it.

Personally, it wasn't a tough choice at all. Of the games listed, I've only played Mass Effect (which I quite liked) and Warhammer Online (which I still enjoy, fast paced PvP and earning titles is very fun) - and, of course, AoC which provided the best entertainment value for me so far (even though I'd argue whether it's any good roleplaying-wise). I admit I haven't ever played any Fallout game at all, so the craze of FO3 fans is kind of lost on me. As for my personal opinion, I think Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir was the best RPG of the year!

November 22, 2008

Funcom lays off 70% of their US staff

Rumour has it that Funcom fired a large number of people (TenTonHammer says 70%) from their Customer Service and Quality Assurance departments in the US. It doesn't come as such a big surprise, since with the upcoming server merges, less people playing, and especially less new players joining the workload and amount of petitions must have decreased dramatically. As you can guess, I don't see how this is any reason to panic about AoC closing down or anything of the sorts. I mean, Funcom have plans to expand into Russia, Poland and Korea, and release an expansion in 2009 for Pete's sake. Although I feel for the poor GMs, getting fired just before Christmas is probably not fun.

At any rate, according to the Q3 2008 report Funcom had 318 people working for them as of September 30 this year, and that's excluding the customer service personnel. With reduced revenue from AoC subscriptions and the expenses of running several half-empty servers, it's only natural that they have to cut costs somehow, and I hope they will be back on track after server merges and, quite possibly, even more layoffs.

November 15, 2008

Funcom's Q3 2008 Financial Report

Funcom's financial report for the third quarter of 2008 has been released, and it contains a lot of interesting information about company's financial situation, their plans for Age of Conan (such as introduction to Russian, Polish and Korean markets), and the status of the upcoming MMORPG title, The Secret World. I'll just outline a few things I found interesting.

First of all, Funcom reported an $18 million revenue this quarter. Their EBIT (Earnings Before Interest & Tax) and EAT (Earnings After Tax) were positive ($5.3 and $2.7 million respectively), as opposed to the Q2 2008 figures. Now, I'm no financial expert - it would be fair to say that I'm pretty much clueless - but I as far as I understand, if Funcom made millions of dollars in net earnings during past 3 months things must be going decently for them despite all the doomsayers on the forums. Too bad they didn't reveal Age of Conan's subscriber count this time, and I can't really guess it from the figures given, since box sales and income from Anarchy Online are also counted into that $18 million revenue. They do say that "Increase in Funcom revenues is mainly due to subscription revenues from the Age of Conan game", however.

But let's return to Age of Conan now. Here's a very cool picture of the status of AoC; apparently the game is only one checkmark away from having all MMO success criteria achieved! :) The only thing that separates AoC from global MMORPG market domination is "An RPG rule set that keeps the majority of players engaged for hundreds of hours"; of course that simply means that Age of Conan doesn't keep the players interested for as long as Funcom would like it to.


And here we have the focus areas for the game and the Age of Conan roadmap all the way up to the expansion coming out in Q4 2009. In another page, they promise the loyalty rewards system in Q1 2009; basically the same thing as Powerpoints, only they aren't called powerpoints anymore.


Finally, just before the dry financial figures start, we have this status report and a piece of concept art from company's upcoming MMO game, The Secret World. They have 70 people working on it apparently, and they will start hyping it up in early 2009. TSW will still use DreamWorld, the same graphics engine that AoC and Anarchy Online runs on. I have mixed feelings about this fact, and I hope they can polish the technical side enough since it's no secret that both games had a lot of performance problems.


I must say I'm particularly interested in what they mean by the "MMO gaming combined with Alternate Reality Gaming and social networking" statement. At any rate, TSW seems like it's going to be an original and unique MMORPG, although I'm going to be very careful about any "amazing" features that Funcom promises.

You can download the full report in .pdf format here.

November 11, 2008

Results of AoC Community Survey #4

If you read Age of Conan forums frequently, you might know about the Community Survey that a member named Wexx posts from time to time. If you don't, I'll let you know that it's an unofficial survey about the most important issues with the game, as well as some general statistics.

You might recall that I tried posting polls here on AoCBlog, but they didn't get enough votes to be accurate enough. Going to the forums and asking the players directly seems to be the best way. Wexx's survey gets a lot of attention, so perhaps even Funcom developers read it and make conclusions - it does get some replies from the mods at least.

Here are some of the more interesting statistics:

  • 91.32% of the players are male and only 8.68% are female - so be careful who you cyber with.
  • Interestingly enough, 30-34, 35-39 and 40+ age groups are dominating the PvE/RPvE servers, while 20-24 and 25-29 are the largest on PvP/RPvP ones, somewhat proving the notion that older (and more mature?) players prefer the PvE ruleset. Personally, I find it too limiting on a game like AoC.
  • Over 84% of survey takers are part of a guild, which is a good number IMHO and shows that guilds are a important part of the game (allowing Funcom to attract players with new guild features).
  • 46.83% of the players have already finished their Tier 3 Keep, but the majority (59.06%) still feels that the amount of materials required to complete a T3 village is too high. I agree with this, since the resource grind is pretty terrible - on the other hand, I think T3 shouldn't be an easy goal to achieve.
  • Most of the players found the crafting skills to be either "Not Enjoyable" (Alchemy, Armorsmithing, Gemcutting and Weaponsmithing) or "Very Unenjoyable" (Architecture). Ouch. I agree with one thing here, crafting is boring.
  • Majority of the survey takers (46.66%) believe that after appointing Craig Morrison as the Game Director, there have been "Signs of Improvements".
See the full survey hosted on Google Docs here, or read the forum thread: US / EU.

November 7, 2008

Conflagration Demonologist: finally stronger in 1 vs 1 PvP

As you probably recall, the October 29th patch had a huge amount of notes. Many things were added, including the PvP notoriety system, and many were modified, such as the combo system, but this time I'd like to talk specifically about the impact the patch had on the Demonologist class, it being my main character and all. I'm still trying to figure some stuff out, so I'll just post my impressions so far.

First, let's start with the improvements. Interestingly, it's the Conflagration tree that got most - if not all - of these. (And about time, too!).

  • Planar Shift is now instant-cast when fully feated. If only it had a bit longer duration.
  • Flame Body is now instant-cast when fully feated. I always thought this spell could use either a longer duration or a shorter casting time. I'd have preferred the duration, but I suppose instant-cast works too :)
  • Set's Chosen now reduces the damage caused by Archfiend's Pact buff. Finally, our ultimate lvl80 skill actually becomes useful! In addition, all Pacts now deal percentage-based damage to the caster instead of flat amount. The end result is that Pacts deal less damage than before, especially to Conflagration Demonologists.
  • Some minor stuff like Shrink and Forced Summoning being permanent (unless you choose to cancel them). Interestingly, Shrink also affects your Chaos Imps.
Okay, here's where it gets really hot (pun not intended):
  • Incinerate can now be applied by Greater Flames (2x effect!), Inferno of Amher if feated with Black Ashes, and Let them Burn (1x for every tick). Improved Waves of Flame too, but does anyone actually take that feat? Blazing Fire also gives a 33/66/100% chance for Hellfire Stream to cause an Incinerate effect, but that's a minor improvement and I've always found the feat to be useless. Now, the damage caused by Incinerate is as lousy as always (even with fully feated Lingering Flames), but now you can put Incinerate on groups of people with your AoE spells, and...
  • There's a new feat called Scorch in the Conflagration tree that causes every Incinerate effect to also induce a Blistering Wounds debuff. Not only it reduces healing that the target can receive by 5% and all natural regens (health, mana and stamina) by 20, it also stacks up to five times - just like Incinerate does. In the end you can have -20% healing and -100 regen debuff running on your victim. Definitely the best part of this Demonologist patch! It kind of reminds me of Playing with Fire ability that Bright Wizards in Warhammer Online have, only it's way less useful and not overpowered at all :)
  • Detonation is now instant-cast, and although it had its damage reduced accordingly, it now causes a knockback if you learn the new Backdraft feat (33/66/100% chance to cause a knockback). Take that, Havoc users! Now we Conflag demonologists have a knockback CC spell, too :) There's even a 3 meter splash area (!), and the power of the knockback depends on the amount of Incinerate debuffs you have running on the target. Admittedly, even with fully feated Backdraft it doesn't always work on players. It seems you need to stack as much Incinerate as possible to improve your chances.
  • Storm Chains is now instant-cast, and applies a 30% AoE snare if you take the according Havoc feats. Hands of Underworld is also instant-cast (although the root part never worked for me, the increased running speed is nice), and the casting time of Gates of Hell has been reduced from 2.5 to 1.5 seconds. Now, the changes might seem good, but with the root nerf that I'll write about in the next paragraph, they don't mean all that much.
Now a short summary of changes that I have mixed feelings about:
  • Casting Concentration now works. This is a good change I suppose, as long as it doesn't impact your spellcasting too much. I haven't had much trouble, but I have Casting Concentration maxed and a nice amount of points added from my gear, too.
  • All Crowd Control effects break after target's health is reduced by a certain percentage. I think it's about 20% for our roots. At any rate, in PvE the Gate of Hell breaks from it's own damage on normal mobs after ~5 seconds. GoH was never too useful in PvP to begin with, except when fighting a Soldier (since they don't have root-breaking abilities); well, now it's borderline useless. Similar rules apply to our stun (Fiery Torment), but its duration was short in the first place, and mainly used to interrupt enemy's ability or give you a chance to charge up your Greater Flames.
  • Let them Burn damage was reduced by ~50%, and although it ticks faster (every 2 seconds instead of 3), the damage being cut in half does not really make up for it. It is easier to "catch" more targets in LtB area for several ticks when PvPing though.
  • Greater Flames now give +150% damage to your Fires of Gehenna instead of +200%, although it gets a bigger bonus from +magic damage gear and buffs now. I'm not sure yet but it seems that with decent gear and our damage buffs GF FoG will hit for at least similar amount of damage as before.
Wow, this post turned out longer than I really planned. Of course, I probably left out some minor changes, and you can always read the whole patch notes on the official forum.

At any rate, with these changes I'll naturally have to respec, possibly several times till I find the perfect build for myself. You might recall my old post about my Demonologist build; I decided to drop Tome of Elrik for now, and invest the 8 points freed from the general Mage tree (I still need Purge from it!) into Conflagration. This was a pretty hard desicion since it reduced my dps, but the new feats are too appealing to miss. At the moment I'm using this build, but I'm seriously considering dropping Impish Horde - as much as I like the little buggers - leave only 1 point in Gates of Hell, and put the spare into Agonizing Fiery Torrent, or perhaps Blazing Fire for instant Hellfire Stream + Detonation combo. (Speaking of builds, that's a new feat calculator from AskKalanthes.com that I'm linking to. They seem to be the first people to adapt to the feat changes in the 3.0 patch).

To sum up, I'd say this patch brought the class back to life for me. We're definitely stronger in 1 vs 1 PvP now (I know that's not the most important part of the game, but it's no fun being a free frag). However, there's little improvement in group or mass PvP, besides that nice Blistering Wounds debuff.

I'm having a blast with the new Detonation, but instead of more CC, I'd like to see more damage. All Demonologist skills and even the class description give you the impression that they're a damage-dealing class, but Funcom do not always seem to think that way.

October 30, 2008

Developer Diary #6: PvP Notoriety

It has been a while since last Developer Diary was released; in fact, I believe it was even before the launch of AoC (quick check says it was on 14th March this year). I was a bit surprised to see that they chose to continue this tradition and release a new Developer Diary months later; then again, the last update is a pretty big one.

Number 6 has Craig Morrison and the crew talking about the recent PvP updates, and the PvP notoriety (murder) system which was just patched yesterday. Watch it on YouTube below or download the high quality version from the official Age of Conan website.


Funcom have been releasing various interviews and updates on the PvP in Age of Conan for a while, but you might still find some parts of this one interesting, even if you have been following all the news. They touch the subject of redemption in this Diary, which I think is one of the most interesting parts of the update. Instead of killing a set number of monsters or waiting to reduce your "murder points" like in some other MMOs, you will have to redeem yourself by doing race-specific quests. I'm glad to be a Stygian since their way of redemption is simply scaring the sh*t out of law-keepers and forcing them to accept you back into your city. Awesome - well, probably the first 50 times you have to do it, anyway.

Speaking of PvP Notoriety, here are the full October 29th patch notes on it if you missed them:
  • The Notoriety system will be introduced in update. You can be flagged as a Criminal or Murderer depending on your actions in PvP.
  • Criminals and Murderers can trade with their guild NPCs, and with shady merchants and bankers.
  • Murderer Resurrection Points have been added, and are marked on the minimap. Murderers can only resurrect at these locations. Other players cannot see murderer resurrection points unless they are also murderers.
  • PvP XP is now split between all attacking groups and individuals, based on their relative damage.
  • Outlaw camps have been added in several adventure playfields and hubs, for use by Murderers
  • Outlaw camp vendors sell green and blue potions.
  • A player attacking another, who is of too low level to yield PvP XP to the attacker., will now be flagged as a criminal for a few minutes.
  • The cost for using shady teleporters is relative to the number of murderpoints the player has.
  • When you are in a playfield that is too high level for you, you will receive a debuff called Free Prey. While this debuff is on you, attackers are free to kill you without being penalized with criminal status or murder points.
  • All guards should attack murderers now.
  • Redeemer npcs in the Outlaw camps will give murderers quests which will enable them to reduce their murderpoints.
  • When awarding PvP xp to a group of players, the base XP is now calculated based on the highest level character in the group (similar to how PvE XP is calculated).
  • Guards can now use ranged weapons.
  • It should no longer be possible to engage in pvp on pvp servers inside raid instances.
  • No PvP xp reward will be given if a guard helped you kill someone.
  • The criminal buff will be reset to 5 minutes if you hit your target again while you have the buff.
  • All guards in Conall's Valley, Conarch Village, Old Tarantia, and Khemi will now attack players when appropriate.
  • If you are a Murderer you will have access to a Criminal chat channel.
  • Criminals will never get help from a guard (when attacked by players and NPCs).
  • Innocents will get help from guards when getting attacked (by players and NPCs).
Refer to this forum thread for the whole list (it's pretty long).

I have to say I was pretty skeptic back when they announced the PvP consequence patch a few months earlier. I thought the FFA PvP was great as it was: no restrictions, and no rewards which would encourage PvP farming. I did like this second part of the update right away though; it looks well thought-out, especially things like Free Prey debuff, which should prevent low level players from purposely turning others into murderers.

October 27, 2008

Copy your character from Live to Test servers

I know it's been a while since this was announced, but I only learned about it just now. Man, I should really visit the forums more often. Anyway, apparently Funcom has been offering an option to copy your characters from Live to Test servers in order to, well, test out new things better. Here's what you have to do if you want an exact duplicate of your character on TL servers:

  • Log in to your account at https://register.ageofconan.com.
  • Click on the "View Subscription" link.
  • Scroll down and click on "Copy My Character to Test Live" link.
  • Follow the instructions listed.
Here's the forum thread with the info, and of course the Test Live server forum (you will need to type in your login again). This sounds pretty cool. I haven't yet tried it myself, but I probably will when they announce some interesting updates for the Demonologist, so I can try them first-hand, and weeks before they are implemented on Live.

October 18, 2008

Interview with Know Thyself guild from Cimmeria

Today's post is a bit different from the usual. I got to interview the leader of a successful Age of Conan guild Know Thyself that plays on US RP-PvP server, Cimmeria. Read on.

Let's start with some background. How and when was the guild founded? Is Age of Conan your first game?

Gorbin: Personally, I am a longtime MMORPGer. When I found the persistent worlds fun in NWN1, I went and started trying out MMOs such as DDO, SWG, WoW, and played for about 6 years. WoW especially I played one of the best geared elemental shamans worldwide (both pre and post-BC). However, I ended leaving and trying AoC. I wanted a small, quiet guild where I was not in charge, and just logged in for a raid, then logged out, without any stress from being one of the guild leaders. So I joined a small guild that promised big things, Caedes Dues (The Slaughter Gods).

As time wore on, I became the first level 80 in the guild, and the competitive streak in me drove me to butt heads with the guild leader, who stated outright that he never reached the maximum level in MMOs, and that this guild would not, under any circumstances raid endgame content. That set me off, and myself, along with 15 or so other guildees left the following day to create Know Thyself, to fill the gap we wanted.

How is your guild organized and how many members do you have?

Gorbin: I am the Guild Master, and by definition hold the final say on many events that transpire. However we also have several very hard-working officers, and when I am not around, I trust them to step up and lead the guild as if it was their guild to run. I trust them, as do the members with these tasks. When multiple leaders are online, as is the norm, we tend to share the tasks needed to complete, and it works out great. Its nice to not have to worry about day to day things while gathering resources, PvPing, or just relaxing in Thunder River taking in the scene.

Regarding recruitment, Know Thyself prides itself for having some of the most dedicated, trustworthy, and generous members on Cimmeria. To preserve that atmosphere, we have a strict recruiting style that includes an first meeting, application, guild interview, and finally trial membership, which no other guild uses. We've been able to weed out dbags and asshats alike, and its suited us well. It also helps maintain our "quality over quantity" motto that has become so diluted with the larger guilds of Cimmeria. It shows greatly when a group of our 6 takes on another guild of 10 or more in a group, and they cry cheats when in fact it was simply lack of training. (Yes, we have siege training, PvP teams, forum help, and other training to help with this)

If I may ask a more personal question, is it hard being a guild leader, and do you invest a lot of time into it?

Gorbin: Its a good thing I have my own business. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to run a guild like Know Thyself. I believe that a Guild Master that does not put in several hours a day 7 days a week cannot service a guild of our caliber in Age of Conan. The Guild Master is the center point for all actions and as such, an offline leader is like someone that abandons a puppy. No good can come from it. I spend 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week serving my guild as it is needed, and when I do finally crash from exhaustion, one of our hard-working officers is able to pickup where I took off. In a smaller roleplay guild, a guild master that logs in once every few days, or for casual guilds that only have an event once every few weeks....its possible that system would work fine. But Know Thyself is a very active guild, and as such, requires a very active Guild Master.

I know that Know Thyself is playing on Cimmeria server, which uses RP-PvP ruleset. I've also heard that you participate actively both in PvE and PvP. What would you say is your guild's main focus, and where does roleplaying come into this?

Gorbin: KT's primary focus is endgame PvE content. Nothing else comes before our raids. We want to set some of the world firsts when new content comes out, and as a result, most of our members (myself included) are PVE specced, and run parsers, do calculations, and anything else needed to succeed in raids. PvP comes second, and many of our members shoot for Rank 5 (and eventually Rank 10). Lastly, we do participate a little in roleplay. One of our officers hosts a weekly event in a Battlekeep for roleplayers, and it attracts dozens of guilds our to socialize, and have fun.

What can you tell about the community in Cimmeria? Is there enough competition and action going on? Are there any problems, such as low playerbase like in some other servers?

Gorbin: Cimmeria is the 1st or 2nd most populated server in the Age of Conan world at the time of this posting. There's a huge playerbase to have, however, there is not much in the way of competition on the server. Very few guilds are large enough to do some of the things Know Thyself does, and others are massive zerg guilds that are home to some of the most loud-mouthed asshats you can find in any MMO.

What are your guild's biggest achievements? Please, go ahead and brag.

Gorbin: Lately we've been trying to clear raid content with less than 24 people, simply to see if its possible, and how few people it takes to down a boss. I can't recall exactly, but just last week we had a group clear up to, and kill Honorguard with about 8 members. Considering the headache to do so, its quite the feat!

We are also (at the time of writing) 1 of the 3 guilds to hold a Tier 3 Battlekeep. Of those 3, one would not have a BK right now if not for the direct intervention of KT honoring our alliance, and saving the guild from losing it. So in many ways, 1 of 2 guilds is a better representation of the gravity of the situation.

Destroying Eximo's BK:

 

Destroying Murder Herd's BK:

I see that your guild is quite successful. Do you have any special strategies and tactics that give you an edge over other guilds?

Gorbin: Everything we do we have a plan. Before we walk into an instance, strategies are formed, and we walk into a raid with a pre-set plan that will assist us in success. No one likes 4 hour wipefests, and we like our raids short. "QQLL" is the saying. "Quick in, Quick out, Loot and Leave." The less time we spend one night in an instance, the more time we will have doing a harder instance, or PvPing, or relaxing at the end of the day. As I touched on earlier, this also applies to our PvP. We give siege training for all trials, and have designated PvP teams that train small groups. When seige war drums sound, we take those PVP captains, they rally their teams, and we walk into the siege ready to go, with tactics and teams that we've trained with for months. Know Thyself has a flawless siege record, and we pride ourselves in it. Organization and teamwork will always overcome bad odds.

Does Know Thyself have some unique aspect that separates it from all the other guilds?

Gorbin: Know Thyself has a different PvP ethics and code than many guilds have. With the introduction of the PvP Patch, and the lack of consequences, it has brought out the worst of every guild. Spawn camping, griefing, killing lowbies, any scare tactic used by some of the larger zerg guilds as a recruitment tool "Join or die" is something we are highly against, and we aim to protect those unable to defend themselves. As a result, we encourage what we call "Fair PvP." In a nutshell, if someone is not worth PvP XP, we will not attack. Someone that is more than 7 levels lower, if they have been killed more than 5 times that day already, or if they are one of our allied guilds, we will not attack. Oftentimes, we find a solo player PvPing, and will ask for a duel, so as to make it 1v1 and as fair as possible. This evens the odds for the soloer, and gives us a chance to test our mettle. Against massively larger raids that sit in Kesh grinding, spawn camping, these duels are asked, but as you can imagine, their PvP ethics are far lower than ours, and generally not accepted.

PvE raids and battlekeep sieges aside, do you guys organize any special events?

Gorbin: Yes, we have had several smaller events, all very different from the next. Every week we have 1 day devoted just to grinding resources for our Guild City. (At the time of writing,) there is no guild on Cimmeria with a completed T3 city, and we aim to be the first. We are well on our way, and will likely reach our goal. As I touched on earlier, we also host a weekly Tavern event for roleplayers, and we have a large turnout from the server. This event is hosted within the walls of a Battlekeep to keep grievers from disrupting the event, and to allow everyone in attendance to switch to their roleplay outfits without worrying about harm that might come to them. This has given us a very positive relationship with many that come to enjoy the festivals, and is complete with food/drink, dancers and other entertainment. As if weekly events weren't enough, we also host other events that are not weekly. Some examples include a jousting tournament, a PvP tournament (Both 1v1 "Last one standing" to arena-style PvP teams fighting). Lately we've talked about a lottery, where guild members would buy rally "tickets" and the winner would receive a large sum of gold (perhaps even enough to finance an armored mount and training or something). There's no shortage of events for someone in Know Thyself. We sincerely do have a little for everyone.

I've been curious about the name of your guild. Is the phrase "Know Thyself" somehow related with your guild's ideals or policies?

Gorbin: The idea "Know Thyself" comes from ancient Greek roots. Long story short, to "know yourself" you know your strengths, and your weaknesses. By knowing your weaknesses, you can correct them, thereby eliminating them. This constant pursuit of perfection improves you, to the point that nothing can withstand you. In Age of Conan, this is carried over to knowing your class inside and out. Know your feats, your PvP skills, PvE rotations, and better yourself. Become our highest DPSer, best healer, or best mitigation tank. Become one with your class, and be the best on server (eventually) world-wide. This is what Know Thyself's main goal is: to be the best of every class on our server. Once we are there, improve further, and never stop in the drive to be perfect.

Now that everyone has learned how awesome your guild is, what would you say to those wanting to join? Is Know Thyself recruiting?

Gorbin: As the Guild Master, I welcome you to join Cimmeria. If you like PvP, you will find our large player base, variety of guilds, and (guild-depending) maturity of players is a great place to start. For new players, this is a great starting area, filled with players that are willing to help you. I will be glad to take time out of my busy schedule to assist you personally. For characters on dead/dying servers, its true, you can wait for Failcom to merge the servers, hope and pray it helps. But how long did it take the PvP Patch to come after it was announced? Months. The PvP Patch was promised in the box, and half a year later it came. I urge you to re-roll on Cimmeria instead, and skip waiting on Failcom. Come and reroll here, because if they merge the servers, nothing but extra players can come to Cimmeria, and you are guaranteed a player base here, and now. Know Thyself would be glad to bring you in, and help you get to 80 quickly, and you can become part of a guild that doesn't just promise big things, but is part of larger events. Yes, KT is recruiting a few last players/classes before we close recruitment. We do not want to be a huge guild with 500 members. We believe in balance, and as long as we have 60 active (active=login once every 1-2 days) players, this is all we need. Quality over quantity.

Let's talk about the game itself for a bit. During the first 2 months after the launch, a lot of people became disillusioned with Age of Conan and left. Did your guild suffer any casualties?

Gorbin: The first 2 months Know Thyself was hardly a guild. We started around July, and as a result, we missed that part. We were around for the release of Warhammer though. However, since we practice close bonds and relations, we lost only one member to Warhammer, while other guilds fell apart and died, Know Thyself grew stronger, and brought in many of the diehard AoCers from these dying guilds. That said, the one member we lost was a great one. We value each member in Know Thyself, and he left on good terms. If/when he returns, he would be welcomed back warmly. This is how Know Thyself treats its members.

What are your thoughts and expectations about the future of AoC?

Gorbin: We expect the Criminal/Murder patch to come swiftly, and help promote guilds with a strict PvP Policy such as ours. We expect more endgame content, and less of these "Revamp" lower level instances that no one runs nonsense. Lastly, we expect more variety for crafted armors, new styles, and for gems to be fixed correctly.

Knowing me, I probably forgot to ask something important... Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Gorbin: I would like to thank you for the time you've taken with us, and really appreciate the spotlight you've put us in. If you find yourself rolling a character on Cimmeria, I hope you'll apply to our guild, and we can show you firsthand what we've told you just now. And as a personal thank you to the members of Know Thyself. Without you, none of this would be possible. I promised a guild you'd be proud to call home, and I think we've done exactly that. Thank you.


I'd like to thank Gorbin for providing this interesting insight into the life of Know Thyself. I haven't done a guild interview before, so it was a lot of fun to learn how other AoC guilds operate. If you'd like to find out more about Know Thyself, visit their guild website.

October 6, 2008

Interview with Craig Morrison

TenTonHammer has posted a short interview with the Game Director of AoC, Craig "Silirrion" Morrison. It doesn't contain any important information or updates, but you can learn a bit more about Craig's background (he's been playing MMORPGs ever since Meridian 59 came out in 1996, apparently), and what exactly does the job of a Game Director involve. The plans for further Age of Conan evolution are also mentioned: PvP, battlekeep siege, and guild functionality are the areas Funcom will be focusing on... PvP combat being the most important part:

I think for my part the main areas that I will be trying to focus on will be more of the MMO mechanics that we can advance further. Bringing in more guild and community functionality and continuing to build on the PVP and Siege sections of the game, I think we have a great deal of potential there to really make the players involved in the world they inhabit. Conflict I think is a key factor for a game world to maintain long term interest and the world created by Robert E Howard for the Conan universe just cries out for that conflict to be expanded upon and developed.
Another interesting topic is the server merges. The letter to the AoC community already mentioned them in the passing, but it seems we'll have to wait a little longer for them to happen:
We covered that a little in my latest letter to the community. We are looking at it, but the details are still being worked on, but we will be sure to let everyone know as soon as we have the details. It was addressed because we saw that many players were indeed asking the question, so we felt it was worth addressing. I wanted to acknowledge the community and let them know that while we don’t have the ‘immediate’ plans as it were it is being discussed and considered, and we will make sure we do what is right to ensure the best playing experience for our players!
Go to TenTonHammer.com to read the whole interview.

September 29, 2008

Letter from the new Game Director of Age of Conan

The official Age of Conan website has posted a letter to the community from the new Game Director, Craig Morrison. (I believe you already heard about him replacing Gaute). It's a very long, informative and down-to-earth letter; having read through it all, I really can't help but think that "Silirrion" will do a lot of good to the game.

Here are the main points of interest:

  • Ymir’s Pass: this large new zone will stay on the test server through several updates on live in order to test and polish it as much as possible before releasing. I don't care about it too much personally, since it's a level 55-60 area; I think they should be adding more high level zones instead.
  • 2nd part of PvP system update: the consequence system will add repercussions for killing low-level players and other "evil" acts like that. A player who gets "murderer" status won't be allowed in towns, but they will be able to use services of NPCs in new "criminal camps" (although it might cost more than services of "honest" vendors). Nice to know that murderers will be able to use the NPCs as well.
  • Items to become more powerful: currently the items account for a maximum contribution of 25% of your characters total in any given statistic or ability, but they are aiming to increase that closer to 50%. They are also adjusting the formulas so the statistics, such as STR or INT, will add more to the visible abilities like your Health and Mana pools. I find that to be the best news of all, since I always felt that increasing your character's statistics through gear did very little in actually making him stronger.
  • Changes to Kingship and Powerpoints
    • Powerpoints are still coming, although there will be a name change (always thought the name was silly - thanks for that, Craig!) and it will be a loyalty program that will backdate and reward you for your active Age of Conan subscription you've had ever since the launch. 
    • Kingship, on the other hand, is being looked at and will probably be redesigned from scratch. It might also include some form of alternate advancement for your character, or "lateral progression" as the Game Director calls it.
  • Server merge: yes, it will happen, and both with North American and European servers in order to maintain healthy population on every server. Great desicion, and just about time, too!
  • DirectX 10: it's almost ready to be released in Test servers; how soon we'll seen it on Live depends on the results of the testing.
Overall the letter leaves a very optimistic and positive impression. Things are being done, and Funcom are working hard to improve the game. Head to Age of Conan's community site to read it all.

September 22, 2008

Jørgen Tharaldsen on the future of AoC

IGN's Connanvault has just posted an interview with Jørgen Tharaldsen, the Product Director for Age of Conan. The video was recorded at this year's Austin Game Developer's Conference which took place on September 14-18. Jørgen mostly spoke about the current state of the game and the upcoming content, such as the new PvP system and additional areas. Gaute's resignation and the just-released Warhammer Online have also been discussed, among other things. Watch it on YouTube below or head to IGN.


Here's a condensed version of the interview:
  • Now that there's no rush to meet the deadlines, Funcom is taking things slower and making sure that each new feature is complete and polished.
  • The main goal of Funcom is for Age of Conan to be a top MMO (a strong number 2, since they don't plan on competing with World of Warcraft).
  • The upcoming content includes PvP updates (which are coming out in stages) and new areas made to fill the content gaps, such as Ymir's Pass, House of Crom or Tarantia Commons. No exact dates are given, but most of this should come out this year.
  • Guild Sieges are a big priority of Funcom; they are working on balancing them and ensuring smooth performance with 48x48 (for now) players in the field.
  • Only 3 people in Funcom are working on the Age of Conan expansion. It's in the initial stage of developing and the release date is unknown at this time. The rest of the team are still working on improving existing content.
  • Gaute is leaving game developing for good and going back to psychology. Leave it to him to deal with AoC addicts!
When talking about Warhammer Online, Jørgen also bragged about Funcom pwning the EA Mythic team in an FPS game. Way to go!

September 17, 2008

Craig Morrison replaces Gaute Godager as Game Director for Age of Conan

Funcom announced some suprising news today. Apparently, Gaute Godager has resigned from his position as the Game Director for Age of Conan and quit the company he participated in founding and had been working in for the past 16 years. I guess we won't hear his cool Norwegian accent in Funcom videos anymore. With Gaute leaving, there's also very little left of the 'original' FC team.

Here's what he had to say about his desicion to leave the company:

I have done my very best making this fabulous game, but I have concluded there are elements which I am dissatisfied with. I have decided to act on this, and as a result I have chosen to leave Funcom. It is time to get new, fresh eyes on Age of Conan, and I wholeheartedly support the appointment of Craig. I have had a fantastic time these last 16 years, and I am very proud of the many things Funcom has achieved. Funcom and Conan will always be a big part of me, but as I now look to new ventures outside the gaming industry I am certain Age of Conan’s future is in the best of hands.
Uh oh - it seems there were some internal disagreements regarding AoC; not surprising really, considering all the heated debates about undelivered promises and complaints from the players about the state of the game, especially in the first 2 months after launch.

The one to take over his position is Craig Morrison, who had been working as Funcom's Community Manager, and later as the Producer and Game Director on Anarchy Online. He also seems to be a huge fan of MMO games and he had worked at IGN’s Vault as Associate Editor, managing websites dedicated to several of those.

Here's what Craig had to say about his new job as the Game Director for AoC:
Taking on the position as Producer and Game Director on Age of Conan is a great challenge but also one I welcome. I have a clear conviction I can lead the further development in a good way, evolving Age of Conan into something even better. My main priority now is therefore to listen to, and act on, player concerns, while ensuring we add additional great content to the game. At heart I will always be a gamer, and the coming changes and additions to Conan will always be done with the gamers in mind. Together I am certain we will shape an amazing future for Age of Conan.
I wonder if this means that we'll see some major changes in AoC; surely Mr. Morrison has a different vision of the game than Gaute did. This change could do a lot of good for Age of Conan; I don't want to say anything bad about Gaute, but now he has 2 'bad' MMO launches under his belt, while Craig Morrison (known as 'Sillirion' by Anarchy Online players) seems to have done a great job as the Game Director of AO.

September 10, 2008

Age of Conan PvP gear screenshots

Since the AoC PvP patch is supposed to come out some time 'very soon', I thought I would post screenshots of those cool and sexy new PvP sets and their stats and PvP level requirements. Here they are (yes, I'm aware that quality of some of those pictures is pretty bad):

Barbarian PvP set:

Bear Shaman PvP set:
Dark Templar PvP set:
Herald of Xotli PvP set:
Necromancer PvP set:
Priest of Mitra PvP set:
Ranger PvP set:
Tempest of Set PvP gear:
Assassin PvP set:
Demonologist PvP set:
 Guardian PvP set screenshot:
Conqueror PvP gear screenshots:
Screenshots of PvP weapons:
Screenshots of PvP jewelry and cloak:

What can I say; while the stats of those items are pretty good, the looks of the most are simply gorgeous. Also, it's pretty interesting to see a +magic dmg glaive (a polearm) for Tempests; most of them have been using 1 handed + a shield up till now, as far as I've seen. As for Demonologists, I see we have a choice between a staff and a dagger + talisman; the difference is minimum, with the staff adding a bit more magical health and mana tap, while the dagger/talisman combo adds some more intelligence and natural mana regen.

September 4, 2008

Warhammer Online lead designer writes Age of Conan off

There was a short interview with lead WAR designer Mark Jacobs posted on the Multiplayer blog at MTV.com. I thought it was a pretty interesting read since they were talking about the reasons why MMORPGs fail (MMOs have the highest failure rates among entertainment products, apparently!), and what is needed in order for them to succeed. One of the games that the Mythic VP mentioned was - yep, you guessed it - Age of Conan.

I think that the greatest mistake that Funcom made was not listening and not learning from what had gone before. When they looked at the game when they were ready to launch, I can’t imagine how they didn’t see the issues that other people saw. According to their annual reports, they had plenty of money. They should’ve looked at it and said, ‘We need to delay this game.’ There are probably reasons I’m not aware of… but I think that’s their biggest sin.
Mark also said that in some way he wanted Age of Conan to succeed and to show everyone that it's not only Blizzard who can create a successful MMO. In other words, the lead designer let us know in no uncertain terms that he didn't view Age of Conan as possible competition anymore. On the other hand, he didn't write the game off completely yet:
If Funcom are willing to spend the time and the money to fix the things that — according to the players — are broken, and put in the things that players say they didn’t put in, they can turn it around. But now they’re going to have to leapfrog over us and then leapfrog over Blizzard in order to bring back a ton of players — that’s going to be tough. They won’t be what they could’ve been.
I agree completely that Age of Conan didn't deliver all the things that Funcom 'promised'. The game was clearly overhyped; if it wasn't, perhaps the players would be more forgiving, and instead of seeing a lot of initial sales and a huge nosedive in subscription count later on, we could have seen low to moderate initial sales followed by a steady growth, with Funcom adding new content continually.

Still, subscription count isn't the only indicator of how good an MMORPG is. I'm sure Age of Conan will find it's niche in the MMO market, even if it won't be a huge commercial success that it could have been. I'm also sure that a lot of players (including me!) had and are still having tons of fun adventuring in Hyboria.

Continuing the same thought, if Darkfall will come out and deliver the promised features such as free-for-all PvP and full PvP loot, many players (especially the Ultima Online crowd) will surely call it the best MMO ever - but I somehow doubt that Darkfall will ever come close to, say, Warhammer Online in terms of subscriber numbers.

Head to Multiplayer blog to read the whole interview.

September 1, 2008

Age of Conan hyperlink exploit vulnerability fixed

As you very well know, Age of Conan's chat system (which the game inherited from Funcom's other MMORPG, Anarchy Online) allows the users to link to items and even post hyperlinks. Those are usually used for guild recruitment, but according to a recent publication from a security expert firm 'Independent Security Evaluators', in-game links could be used for malicious purposes as well. This affects both of Funcom's MMOs, because, as I mentioned before, they share the same chat system. Two types of attacks were possible in Age of Conan:

  1. The so-called 'directory traversal vulnerability'. By clicking an in-game hyperlink, the player's character could be forced to 'read' (post in the 'Say' chat) a plain text file located anywhere on his computer, one line at a time - since the game interprets each one of them as a script command. If you have AoC installed in C:\Program Files\Funcom\Age of Conan, for example, a link that would make your character read a file located at C:\mysecretdiary.txt would look something like this: ../../../mysecretdiary.txt. Looks harmless enough, unless you like keeping all your passwords in a text file named passwords.txt on your desktop, or have one full of Age of Conan's emote commands - but even then, the hacker would have to guess the location of it.
  2. The buffer overflow attack. By employing the same tactics, the hacker tricks a player into clicking a hyperlink. The game script parser cannot handle extremely long lines of text, so if the link is pointed to, for example, ageofconan.exe (a huge file), the game client promptly crashes.
Like I mentioned before, AO is also susceptible to this bug; in fact, the exploit could do much more harm there, since it actually allows the hacker to gain access to the victim's computer. This requires the player to click two hyperlinks, first of which opens an actual website and places a special cookie on his computer, and the second one, which executes the said cookie by means of previously mentioned 'directory traversal' bug. It is all demonstrated in a cool video from ISE that you can watch on YouTube below or download a high quality version from the creator's website. The poor guy in this clip gets pwned and his Anarchy Online account details are sent to the hacker.

It seems Funcom has acted on ISE's warning quickly and released patches fixing the first vulnerability in both AoC and AO. The second vulnerability is apparently still in the game though; here's what ISE guys had to say about that:
We do not believe that the buffer overflow alone currently poses a serious risk to players, but we recommend that Funcom fix it promptly so it cannot be used in any future hybrid attacks. In the meantime, we suggest that players exercise caution when downloading custom game scripts from third parties.
So, the standard stuff - find out what you're clicking before you click... And you should really get Firefox + NoScript as well and set it as your default browser instead of that outdated IE; it makes surfing much more secure.

Anyway, I haven't seen any of those links floating around in AoC. Then again, I don't really pay much attention to guild recruitment links, not to mention actually clicking. Has anyone seen people posting these, or perhaps even fallen a victim to one of those exploits himself?

August 26, 2008

Gamona interviews Erling Ellingson at GC 2008

Gamona interviewed Erling Ellingson at Leipzig during this year's Game Convention. As always, AoC's product manager was ready to tell us about how awesome the upcoming updates to the game are. According to Mr. E., Funcom received a lot of feedback from the players stating that they want new content and new, more diverse items (what a surprise!) so that's what the next update will include. You can watch the interview video below, or just read the summary of information given it it.

The upcoming updates will include:

  • A 'huge' new outdoor area, the Ymir's pass.
  • A new dungeon, the Amphitheater, which is connected to Ymir's pass.
  • Tarantia Commons, a 'bad' neighborhood of Aquilonia's capital with gang wars going on.
  • New high level raid armor.
  • New PvP gear.
  • PvP Consequence system (heh, it was promised how long ago?).
  • Graphics improvements, some of which will be available on DX9 as well. The eyecandy will include:
    • HDR lightning
    • Better occlusion
    • More realistic reflections on water
    • Caustic simulation (shafts of light coming through water surface)
  • DX10 support 'will be done when it's done'. That's better than giving a deadline and then failing to meet it, I guess.
  • There's a full-blown expansion aimed for late 2009 release.
Watch the video on Gamona or YouTube below:


Erling also mentioned that US and EU player bases are pretty much the same in terms of size. Since there are around 400k Age of Conan subscribers, that would mean 200k players are adventuring in Hyboria on both sides of the Atlantic.

Finally, when asked about the game approval process they had to go through before the release, Erling said that even before submitting AoC to institutions like ESRB or PEGI, Funcom themselves had removed several fatalities from the game. Why? The product manager said they were 'pure torture' and they didn't want that kind of thing in the game. Heh. I wonder what those imaginative Norwegians had produced that they decided was too violent to show to the rest of the world.

August 23, 2008

Age of Conan expansion teaser

GC 2008 (Game Convention) at Leipzig came and went, and as usual, Funcom guys didn't miss the chance to market their game. One of the most interesting news for me was the upcoming Age of Conan expansion that is slated for 2009 release.

While I think that AoC needs tweaking, balancing and polishing a lot more than an expansion, I still can't help but feel excited about it. I mean, I've already seen pretty much all the world of AoC - short of two raid dungeons - so it would be nice to explore new areas. Especially because DX10 should be fully supported by the time this comes out. Maybe.


What you see up there is concept art for the new expansion; this teaser pic is all Funcom released, but it's no wonder really - the game has only been out for a little more than 3 months, so you can't really expect them to have made a lot of progress there.

Judging from the oriental style of the buildings in the background and the ornamental armor, the expansion will likely take us to the land of Khitai, which is sort of a Hyborian version of China. Did you know that the Russian word for China is pronounced 'kitai' (something like kit-tie)? I don't know whether it's Russian or some other language that Robert E. Howard took the name from for his Khitai, but as you probably know, all Hyborian nations are based on our world. Here's where it is located in Hyboria (look to the east):


You'd think Funcom would have chosen a country closer to the areas currently in game - like Nemedia, or Shem - but there you go. At least fans of all things Asian should be happy, especially if the expansion will contain anything resembling katanas. We can probably expect a new race and a few classes to be added along with it, too. Plus, this expansion seems to be a part of Funcom's plans to enter the Asian markets with Age of Conan in the second half of 2009.

August 20, 2008

Funcom's Q2 2008 financial report

I somehow managed to miss this interesting piece of information which was released 4 days ago. While it mostly contains financial... stuff that will only be of interest to the investors, it does have some very interesting information about Age of Conan playerbase and Funcom's future plans. The best part is that since it's aimed at the shareholders, there's very little marketing fluff. Let's dig in:

Point #1: as of August 14th, 800,000 copies of Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures had been sold and the game had 415,000 active players. 'Active' meaning they either are still playing their free month, or paying for a subscription. Uh oh! That basically means that more than 48% of the customers who bought AoC stopped playing. Things don't look too good here, but maybe 415,000 subscribers (and that's provided those still on their first month will continue playing & paying) are enough to cover Funcom's expenses?

Point #2: Funcom reported a revenue of $13 million in the second quarter of 2008, which was about $1m higher than expected due to bigger AoC box sales. However, the company also reported an operating loss of $5.7 million, which is mostly related to launch costs. Now, they do expect higher revenues in Q3 (between $16m and $20m) but that will depend on whether they can keep existing subscribers or not. And Funcom seems to be trying hard to do just that, Powerpoints and all...

The rest of the report outlines Funcom's plans to enter the market of casual MMORPGs (such as Java-based Runescape which you can play in your browser) in year 2009, and the work on their new large scale MMO, The Secret World. Rest assured Age of Conan and Anarchy Online won't be forgotten either. I know because Funcom's Fancy Chart says so:


Speaking of The Secret World, there were two screenshots from the game in said report:


That reminds me. Someone on the official Age of Conan forums posted a conspiracy theory that AoC was only meant to be a cash cow in order to get enough money for TSW development. That cannot be true, now, can it? Of course not.

Read the report here (it's in .pdf, so you'll need Adobe Acrobat for that... Lagrobat I call it).

August 12, 2008

Age of Conan GM fired for cybersex with a player

When I first heard about an Age of Conan GameMaster having cybersex with a player, I was sure it was a fake, so I didn't pay it much attention at all. After all, what sane GM would spend time doing something like this when they should, I don't know... Be busy working on answering those petitions, maybe?

Turns out all of it was true though. While the beginning looked more like some fooling around from both parties, the GM later did, in fact, tell the player to... Well, see for yourself (be aware, this contains some explicit language):

<...>
To []: No, in game =[
[|GM|]: your panties wont come off in real life :)
[|GM|]: oh…
[|GM|]: I’ll just have to tear them off and have my way lol
To []: YES!!!
To []: Whip out your massive sword too.
[|GM|]: ROFL
[|GM|]: lol you like?
<...>
[|GM|]:you been a bad girl?
To []: I’ve never been a good girl.
[|GM|]: oh very nice. But you know you will have to be spanked right?
[|GM|]: Hmm take me out and put me in your mouth’
To []: !
To []: Not till you spank me with your sword!
[|GM|]: hmm you are bad.
[|GM|]: what if I rip your panties off and **** you hard till I am satisfied?
To []: That sounds perfect
To []: Going to use clobber? :P
[|GM|]: Want to feel you get really we so I can put just the head of my **ck inside you and use my hand to slowly move it around before plunging it fully into you and making you take it all.
<...>
You can read the full transcript at the mmorpg.com forum topic. The player soon admits that he's a male and proceeds to have fun at the GM's expense, who then finally realizes he's been had. Classic.

There's more to the situation though, and I found out about it just yesterday when the author of this prank (known in Age of Conan as Fastolf) told the whole story to Destructoid.com . You can find screenshots of higher quality than those in the mmorpg.com topic there, plus, you learn some scary details about the whole thing. Apparently, after threatening the GM to post the screenshots online, Fastolf asked him to transfer 100 in-game gold to his character. Sure enough, it was there within 24 hours. Can you say corruption?

While Fastolf shared his plans to leave AoC and start e-whoring on Andorhal in WoW instead, the story doesn't end so nicely for the GM in question. According to the interview Funcom's representative Erling Ellingsen gave to a Norwegian magazine ITaven (original/translation), the Game Master we only know as Acendedlion has lost his job.

July 17, 2008

17th July patch - PvP stats and attributes

The 17th July patch introduced a number of new things to the game, improved UI, Line-Of-Sight check at the end of spell casts, and various bug fixes among them. A whole new PvP stat window and a separate bar for PvP exp were added as well, although it seems these aren't working at all yet.

I'm not sure if these new PvP attributes (such as invulnerabilities or health/mana/stamina taps) will only be gained from new PvP gear, or from old PvE/crafted gear as well. The latter seems more likely to me; some sort of modifier could also be applied. For example, a gear which gives 1% invulnerability in PvE could give only half that amount in PvP. This is of course only speculation; I really hope Funcom will soon provide reliable and detailed info on a major addition to the game like this.


Now for a bit of a laugh, mouse over the new attributes in your PvP tab and you will see things like "ShieldChemicalAC", "ShieldNanoAC", and so on. It seems Funcom did a splendid Copy>Paste job from their 7 year old sci-fi MMORPG, Anarchy Online!

July 14, 2008

My conflagration demonologist build

Seeing how I introduce myself as a demonologist in the blog description, I thought it wouldn't hurt to actually tell a little about my character. He's a short guy who lives in Wildsoul and enjoys setting things on fire. Here are a few screenshots from his endless wandering around Hyboria looking for more flammable stuff:

Demonologist in Kheshatta Demonologist in Tortage
Demonologist in Khopshef Demonologist in Conarch Village

As I'm sure you already understood, I'm playing a conflagration demonologist. Us demonologists are forced to specialize in one school of magic (either fire or lightning) by means of reducing our magical rating severely, and then buffing it with a spell - but only either for lightning or fire this time. It is theoretically possible to use both schools effectively by putting 5/5 points into Archmage feat (general Mage tree), but I don't see much point in that, not to mention you won't have enough points to get the 'good' feats in both Havoc and Conflagration trees. Note that magical rating plays no role in PvP, so even conflagration demonologists will be able to use some lightning spells (most notably Shockstrike and Storm Roots) to their full effect (minus all the bonuses given by Havoc tree, of course).

Personally I went the "fire" route right from the beginning since it's effects just seemed so much "cooler" to me than those of lightning. That is to say, I would have stuck with conflagration even if it was considered the weaker tree, but it really isn't. Both Havoc and Conflagration have their uses, with Havoc delivering a bit less dps but having better CC and I believe higher burst (temporary) damage as well. Here are the main good points (in my opinion, of course) of the Conflagration tree:

  • Gates of Hell: awesome 10 second root that also damages your enemies.
  • Let Them Burn: powerful channeled AoE spell, great against groups of mobs or players.
  • Set's Chosen: -50% to the damage dealt to the demonologist by his Pact with Set and Bloody Pact with Set buffs (with 5/5 points invested). Makes you able to deal damage with Pacts on without commiting suicide!
  • Phase Out: a buff to your Planar Shift spell, with 2/2 points invested the spell will now give you 50% evade (as well as other bonuses) for 6 seconds.
  • Hell's Blood: boosts the Vile Ambrosia buff given by your pet. This gives all your group a very nice in and out of combat regeneration.
  • Greater Flames: doubles the cast time of your main single-target nuke (Fires of Gehenna) and increases it's damage by 200%. The only feat in Conflagration that allows us to actually deal some serious burst damage.
  • Combustion: with 2/2 points, this makes your Hellfire Stream an instant-cast spell, although it reduces the cooldown to 3 seconds. This increases your dps as well as gives you a second (!) instant-cast spell for PvP in addition to Shockstrike.
I'm only a few bars from hitting lvl80. and here's the demonologist build I decided to use. Note that I'm missing Hell's Blood from the list of good feats above - I decided to get Chaos Imps instead, and haven't really found where else to take points from. If you decide to use this build by any chance, you might want to consider putting only one point into Gates of Hell (the rest don't seem to do much at all, although some say they increase the damage dealt by GoH slightly) and get Hell's Blood instead. My alternate build would be this one; Fields of Fire isn't that useful at all, but I'd probably take any feat that boosts my nuke, no matter how slightly. Alternatively you can take those 3 points from Fields of Fire and put them wherever you want.

As you can see I haven't put any points in the hate reduction talents and Misdirection. This is a build mostly for group PvP, or so I'd like to think. I only got to lvl80 just now, and it will also take a while for my guild to "grow" enough to be able to participate in any real mass PvP, so I am yet to test it out there. I seem to be doing alright in 1vs1 and PvP minigames though - for a demonologist, anyway :-)

July 10, 2008

Weekly poll - game content

This week's poll is about the type of game content you prefer (PvE or PvP). As you know Age of Conan has both (in form of endgame raiding and massive PvP siege combat) which is probably a nice strategy since it attracts different kinds of players. Personally, I'm playing on a PvP server, but I have some interest in PvE content as well (even though I'm not really a raiding player). Let's see what other players think!

Last week's poll was about the character classes. Here are the results:

I found some of these surprising. Tempest of Set and Priest of Mitra being the most played classes wasn't a surprise at all, but strangely Guardian made it into top 3 as well. Assassin is one of the least played classes, and that makes sense considering their poor performance in PvE and PvP.

July 7, 2008

Age of Conan Quick Start

I have been using AoCQS for a while and I really love it since it saves so much time when launching Age of Conan. This cool little program lets you skip intro videos automatically and even start the game without the annoying scan of local files. It also has a number of other interesting options, such as performance-boosting ones (which I have enabled, although I haven't noticed much of an FPS increase) and stability-related tweaks like automatic deletion of the shader cache before each launch.

Age of Conan Quick Launch
I'm usually very cautious when it comes to software like this, but AoCQS seems safe enough. At any rate, a huge number of people (over 30k) are using it. You can download the program from ConanMods and even get support from the author in the official forums.