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.