August 21, 2009

Age of Conan Rise of the Godslayer Expansion

Funcom came out with some big news a few days ago as they announced the official name of the upcoming Age of Conan expansion: the Rise of the Godslayer. I think it's a pretty cool and fitting name, seeing how you had to defeat the Grim Grey God for your destiny quest - and perhaps there will be more gods to slay, too!

Like I mentioned in my old Age of Conan expansion teaser post, Rise of the Godslayer will introduce a new area to the game: the oriental Khitai. Funcom's Craig Morrisson promises huge and beautiful Asian-themed areas to explore, a new playable race Khitan, tiger mounts, faction wars and perhaps most importantly - an alternate advancement system.

This AoC expansion will not introduce more levels or classes (which is pretty unusual for an MMORPG) but we'll get some sort of time-based skill training system much like the one EVE Online has. You will be able to train in various new abilities, learning them over time even while your character is offline. The aim of this, according to the Game Director of AoC, is more depth to combat and allowing each class to take on more roles. Will my Demonologist be able to dish out melee dmg now, I wonder?


Eurogamer has a nice 3-page early preview of the Rise of the Godslayer, and IGN came out with their own shorter AoC: RotG preview yesterday, so check these out for more info.

June 7, 2009

Birds Eye View of the Tarantia Commons

GamerDNA have posted a new exclusive screenshot of the Old Tarantia Commons area that's coming to Age of Conan in the 1.05 update. It shows the most of this area nicely from a bird's eye camera perspective. See it below or head to GamerDNA for a full quality screenshot.


We've seen how rich people live in the Old Tarantia with the merchants, temples, civic buildings, the villas in the Noble District, and even the palace of the King Conan himself. Now we get to see the Tarantia Commons where poor folk get to stay, a sort of ghetto in the Old Tarantia with street fights, gang wars and even a leper colony.

Tarantia Commons will be a lvl70+ area instead of the previously intended 40+, which I think is a great move since leveling in AoC is quite fast. Expect Tarantia Commons to be added to the Hyborian Adventures really soon.

May 17, 2009

Funcom Q1 2009 Financial Report

Funcom have released their official Q1 2009 financial report for their investors and anyone interested in the company. You can go ahead and download the .pdf file here.

I was quite pleased to learn that Funcom were in profit this quarter, with Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) and Earnings After Tax (EAT) being 2.898 and 1.468 million USD, respectively. Plus their revenues were around $7.7 million. Overall this goes a long way to prove the naysayers wrong who we almost ready to declare Funcom going bankrupt next year.

The report contains some information on Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, mostly outlining recent improvements to the game and the resulting increase in customer loyalty and activity. We also have this AoC roadmap for the next 6 months:


And I think all Funcom fans will be interested in how the development of their new MMORPG, The Secret World is going. From what I hear it was a big hit on GDC this year, and the sweet-looking teaser trailer has got a lot of attention from gamers. According to the report, The Secret World will be using the same DreamWorld engine that Anarchy Online and Age of Conan is, will be released both for PC and Xbox 360 (wonder how that is going to work), and there currently are over 100 people working on it - versus the 120 working on Age of Conan.

April 30, 2009

Letter from the Game Director: Update 1.05

Craig Morrison aka Silirrion has just posted his April 2009 letter to the community on the official Age of Conan forums. It mostly contains information on the upcoming 1.05 update to the Funcom's dark fantasy MMORPG. The update is being tested on AoC's public test servers and Silirrion mentioned a few new, previously unreleased details about it.

First of all, they are planning to give players some additional options for resetting their character feats, either in the form of a retraining price or a free reset, or maybe a combination of both. While I do appreciate that, the second point is much more interesting for those who haven't yet tried all the classes due to the tedious process of repeating the Tortage run and leveling all the way up. You will in fact be able to create a new level 50 character (as long as you already have another character above lvl50):

Next up and I think most interestingly for most of you, there will be a new option for players who already have a character above level fifty. All players with characters above level fifty will now have a one time option to create a new character that starts life at level fifty. This character can be of any class you want to make so you can jump straight into a different class after the update without having to go through the early leveling stages. This will be available to all players from here on in after they reach the milestone of leveling a character to level fifty.
Too bad it's only a one-time option, and I think it's much more aimed at new players who want to try things out. Finally, Craig uses the "top secret" strategy to make us all wonder what else Funcom have in store for us next month:
Lastly, we will be offering something else in relation to these changes during the games anniversary in May, but I’m not allowed to reveal that just yet. So keep your eyes peeled for more information as we get closer to the anniversary.
Visit the General Discussion in the Age of Conan forums to read the letter.

April 12, 2009

Positive Age of Conan reviews from GDC 2009

It seems that the GDC (Game Developers Conference) 2009 was a big success for Funcom's flagship MMORPG, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures. Several of the biggest gaming portals reviewed the game, outlined the improvements made by developers, and interviewed Craig Morrison - the man who was able to bring AoC back on track after its bumpy launch.

GameSpot has a short article talking about recent additions and updates to AoC. While it doesn't have any new or exciting information, I suppose coverage by one of the most popular gaming portals means only good things for the game.

IGN Vault has a short chat with Craig Morrison where he talks about future updates, such as improvements to the RPG system and new areas.

Massively and ZAM both have lengthy and pretty interesting interviews with the Game Director of Age of Conan. Speaking of interviews, there's also one in video form made by MMORPG.com. You can watch it from the official source, or on YouTube below. It is mostly about the changes that Craig Morrison and the team made to the game after he was appointed as the Game Director. It also touches the subject of free trials.

Craig Morrison Video Interview @ GDC 2009 by MMORPG.com


Finally, EuroGamer has an interesting article titled "Conan's Second Coming" where Rob Fahey plays his character from level 37 to 70 and describes his impressions. Free trials are also mentioned (if you haven't tried AoC yet, you can do so for free here!).

February 27, 2009

Letter from the Game Director February 2009

There is an exciting new letter from the Age of Conan Game Director that outlines the changes the next major update will bring. It includes changes in items, character attributes and statistics as well as GUI modifications.

The first part will be revamping of the RPG system. Attributes that you gained automatically while leveling up and attributes that your gear gave you haven't influenced your character that much up till now. However, this new update will increase the effect of attributes and in essence make your character stronger:

At a basic level what we have done is add an additional range to the attribute budgets, this additional range comes from items and trickle down from your primary attributes. Mobs and encounters have been rebalanced to account for this increase. The end result is that items and trickle down now account for up to fifty percent (give or take a couple of percent variance here and there) of your overall budget for any given attribute. For comparison that contribution did not exceed twenty five percent before the changes, and ‘trickle down’ barely influenced it at all.
I must say this change is looking pretty good and will make attributes much more important. Up till now it made more sense to wear +dmg gear than +INT, for example, and months ago there even were discussions whether attributes worked at all. You can find the examples of how this update will make attributes more important (refer to the director's letter for full information):

Every one point of Strength
  • Increases Combat rating when using melee weapons (except daggers) by 3
  • Increases Armor by 2
  • Increases Natural stamina regeneration by 0.05
  • Increases OOC stamina regeneration by 0.15
  • Increases Stamina by 2
  • Increases OOC health regen by 0.15 
Every one point of Intelligence
  • Increases Spell damage with 0.3 per hit for spells with Intelligence attribute (mage spells)
  • Increases Mana points by 3
  • Increases Natural mana regeneration by 0.07
  • Increases OOC mana regeneration by 0.38
  • Increases Protection from Electrical/Fire/Cold magic by 0.5 
Every one point of Constitution
  • Increases Health points by a number depending on class, roughly 5-8
  • Increases Stamina points by 2
  • Increases Natural stamina regeneration by 0.05
  • Increases OOC stamina regeneration by 0.15
  • Increases OOC health regen by 0.15 
Every one point of Dexterity
  • Increases Evade rating by 0.5
  • Increases Stamina points by 2
  • Increases Combat rating with ranged weapons and daggers by 3
  • Increases Natural stamina regeneration by 0.05
  • Increases OOC stamina regeneration by 0.15 
Every one point of Wisdom
  • Increases Spelldamage with 0.3 per hit for spells with Wisdom attribute (priest spells)
  • Increases Mana points by 3
  • Increases Natural mana regeneration by 0.07
  • Increases OOC mana regeneration by 0.38
  • Increases Protection from Holy/Unholy magic by 0.5 
What's interesting is that some stats (such as Evade) are now ratings instead of percentages. Dexterity, for example, gives 0.5 Evade rating (not %) per point. I am wondering what figures will the calculation involve.

Second, there will be a new system for showing character statistics. Age of Conan doesn't really provide much information about your character now, but that's about to change, too. The new character statistics window will have tabs named General, Combat, Physical, Magical and PvP which will in turn contain more detailed information - such as bonus spell damage for Fire or Electrical spells, for example. Here's what the Magical, Combat, PvP and Physical tabs might look like:


I say "might" because it's all still a subject to change. You can find other example pictures in the letter on the official site.

In addition the letter promises tweaking of high-level items, improving some classes and their feat trees, and even a brand new gem crafting system (hooray!) that will be revealed soon:
In addition we have worked to make the item stats display better in the GUI and make the comparison of items better.

This is really just a teaser for the information that is to come. These changes have also allowed us to look at each of the classes and make changes to feat trees, skills and spells. Some of these changes were necessary due to the changes above (like the new Armor system) some for balance concerns and adjustments. A lot more information in this vein will be released as we prepare the update for the public test servers. In addition there is also a complete new gem system for crafting items that I haven’t touched on here that will also be revealed soon.

The items themselves, in particular those at high levels have received a lot of individual attention and tweaking to get the most benefit out of the system
Overall it looks like that exciting times are ahead for Age of Conan, and I'm very glad about the excellent work by Funcom and especially Craig Morrison.

Read the letter from the game director on the official community website or discuss it on the forums (EU / US).

February 23, 2009

Funcom Q4 2008 financial report

Funcom have presented their financial results for the 4th quarter of 2008 in a meeting at Vika Atrium, Munkedamsveien 45 in Oslo this morning. They have also released the report and a nice presentation in .pdf format for the general public.

The main positive points are that the customer retention has been improving in Age of Conan and that the average playtime per subscriber has also increased during the last few months. I think this is largely thanks to Craig Morrison who is doing a great job as the game director for AoC.

There are some negative sides, as well. Funcom's EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Tax) and EAT (Earnings After Tax) have been negative: -23,396 TUSD and -30,854 TUSD respectively - compare that to Q3 2008 figures of 5.331 TUSD and 2.763 TUSD, which were probably largely boosted by box sales. However, the company's financial position remains strong, with approximately 40 million USD in cash as of December 31, 2008. Quoting Mr. Aas:

Funcom is well equipped to meet the current challenges, and considers the financial resources to be sufficient to develop, complete and launch the MMOs in development.
Let's move on to some more exciting stuff about AoC now. Here's an Age of Conan update road map as shown in the Funcom's presentation. Note, it does not have expansion mentioned in Q4 as the last report did - it's likely we'll have to wait till 2010 for it:


Here's information on the sales focus for Age of Conan, including massive digital download-based free trial marketing campaign in the next 6-9 months:


I am sure you remember the talk about Funcom's next MMO, The Secret World which is set in a twisted version of modern Earth. They have moved forward since Q3 and have more people working on the project, as well as more complete playfields and game features:


And for the desert, let's have some more juicy info on Funcom's finances. This handy table outlines company's most important financial figures from Q4 2007 to Q4 2008. There's no revenue from the mobile division starting with third quarter of 2008 since Funcom sold their Plutolife to a company called Jumbuck Entertainment:


I hope you found this interesting. For more info, visit Funcom's news page for investors, or click here to download the Q4 2008 Report and the Q4 2008 Presentation.

February 19, 2009

Age of Conan Game Director on Twitter

You probably know Twitter, the micro blogging service that allows you to post short (up to 140 characters) messages with your status updates, or whatever you want really. I am on Twitter as well, although I joined just recently and haven't yet figured out what topics should I focus on.

Anyway, Craig Morrison - the Game Director of Age of Conan - has recently told us on the forums about his new Twitter channel where you can find AoC-related updates straight from the big man himself, unfiltered by any PR people. You will find Mr. Morrison at http://twitter.com/Silirrion and you can subscribe to the RSS feed of his tweets as well if you prefer getting your news in an RSS reader.

This is a pretty cool way of getting AoC news in a less formal and casual style, and most likely before the official announcements are written, too!

February 15, 2009

Age of Conan character database by Yellow Gremlin

Yellow Gremlin (YG) have launched a very cool new feature: an searchable online AoC player profile database where you can show off your character, the gear you're wearing, and more. If you've played WoW, you probably know the WoW Armory or Allakhazam; YG provides a very similar service for AoC. It's still in beta and they haven't started profiling characters in most EU servers, but that's to come in the future. For now, they have their bot grabbing information from players in US and one German realm. Here's a full list:

  • Cimmeria (RP-PvP) US @ Tarantia Tradepost
  • Tyranny (PVP) US @ Tarantia Tradepost & City of Tortage trader
  • Wiccana (PvE) US @ City of Tortage trader
  • Aries (PVP) EU DE @ City of Tortage trader
  • Set (PvE) US @ Tarantia Tradepost
  • Ironspine (PvE) US @ City of Tortage trader
  • Gwahlur (PvE) US @ City of Tortage trader
As for not being listed in the database, that feature is yet to come. For now, you will just have to avoid those locations if you don't want to reveal your gear (although I suppose constantly avoiding the tradepost in Old Tarantia would be hard). Here's a list of the current YG's AoC character database features:
  • Perma-links for each player that shows your highest level (Great for forum signatures).
  • Level History - We store your previous levels so you can see how you've progressed!
  • Player names are built into our suggester for quick searches.
  • Ability to filter profile results by options such as Server, Level, Class, Race & Gender.
  • Timestamp'ed in UTC so you know when your profile was updated
And if you wish to discuss it, you can read the thread on the EU forums or the one on the US forums.

Personally, I find this character DB to be very useful and cool and I can't wait for Yellow Gremlin guys to bring it to EU servers as well!

February 10, 2009

Update 1.4 coming next week

Tarib, the Senior Community Manager of Age of Conan has recently announced that the 1.4 game update will most likely be deployed on live servers sometime next week. It's unofficially dubbed "the most important update since the launch of the game", and among various fixes and updates also contains new content: the new high level dungeons Xibaluku and Slaughterhouse Cellar, the level 43 dungeon Cradle of Decay, and the Wing 3 of the Black Ring Citadel raid dungeon.

This patch will not add support for DirectX 10 yet, but Funcom will likely included it with their next "big" update.

January 23, 2009

Vote for AoC in MOG 2008 Reader's Choice Awards

We AoC fans have helped to make the game the VE3D Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year. Now we can get Age of Conan one or two more shiny badges in the Beckett Massive Online Gamer 3rd annual Reader's Choice Awards. All you have to do is take a short survey and answer 7 questions:

  • Best New MMO Release of 2008
  • Best MMO of 2008
  • Best Fantasy MMO of 2008
  • Best Sci-Fi/Historical MMO of 2008
  • Best Expansion/Addition of 2008
  • Best MMO Trailer Released in 2008
  • Most Anticipated MMO
Voting will end on January 31st, 2009, and the winners will be featured in the issue 18 of the Massive Online Gamer magazine. Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures has great chances to win in the "Best New MMO Release of 2008" category at the very least. Make your vote count!

January 7, 2009

Age of Conan: best MMORPG in 2008

Voodoo Extreme (VE3D) @ IGN have recently held their annual Game of the Year Awards where most popular titles of 2008 competed in 16 distinct categories, from Best Graphics to Best Music/Rhythm Game. AoC fans must be pleased to hear that Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures not only won the Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year award, but also was a runner up for overall 2008 Game of the Year Winner (which was Fallout 3, by the way). Click the VE3D logo for the full list of games:


Age of Conan has really matured since the bumpy launch and continues to improve, so I believe this award is well-deserved. I don't see any other MMORPG titles that came out in 2008 that would match AoC in innovation and bringing new features to someone stagnant MMO industry.