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 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 . You can find screenshots of higher quality than those in the 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.