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.