Archive for the ‘AoC’ Category

Making MMO’s For the Long-Haul

Age of Conan was released about three weeks ago, and there are already people at max level…. Seriously? This just seems insane to me. This means that the somewhat-more-than-casual player will likely reach the level cap by the middle of July at the latest. I am completely baffled by this. I understand that players will eat through any content they are given, but an MMO should not have players reaching the level cap several weeks after it’s release.

Asheron’s Call took the first player over two years to reach the level cap, and a lot of that was done through serious grinding. Many of the players at that time (that were not in guilds built to gain xp and level faster) were around 80-90 if not lower with several more months before they were able to make it there. When AC was first released, there was no intention from the developers for players to reach the level cap righ away, which I think is evident by the arbitrary level cap of 126. I think they had it right for the most part, though. They started with a very large world with two big continents with probably 40 levels of content at release and through monthly content updates, they slowly filled in the landmasses with dungeons, landmarks, quests, leveling areas, and all sorts of new things to do. To me this makes much more sense than making content for 50 levels and jam-packing everything you need into 8-10 zones and then having to create new landmasses whenever you need to add content. Not only did this make players feel like their $10 a month was worth it due to the content updates, but it also allowed the developers to stay slightly ahead of the leveling curve so no one was left with nothing to do.

One thing that I would not really stand for which was considered the norm in AC was grinding. This was basically the only way to level, and while it was fun due to interaction with other players (8-man groups were the best way to maximize xp) it’s not something that I would want to do anymore. There were lots and lots of things to keep players busy outside of leveling, but there’s no doubt that leveling is where the progression happened. I don’t mind a good grinding session from time to time, but there is no way that I will play an MMO where this is the only means of progressing. The only way I would consider grinding through levels is with other players (grouping actually meant more xp than solo, go figure) who were literally pushing forward into a zone with some goal once we reached the end which would reward us with something other than just xp.

AC had something really good going here. The idea that it took two years for the first player to reach the level cap is brilliant. This means that you can’t even have an end-game really, at least not for many months in which you can prepare for it, or keep raising the level cap, so it’s barely reachable. I’m not saying that progression in these games should be agonizingly slow, but the rate of progression in AoC is pretty silly to me. If you put the max level pretty far out of reach, I think it will force players to take their time and really enjoy what they are doing. Obviously, this can go both ways and players can question why they are even playing if they can’t make it to the end, but as long as they are satisfied with content, I don’t think that will really matter.


A bit on Age of Conan

I just listened to the podcast Brent posted which got me looking into AoC a bit more, and I must say I’m getting excited. After doing a little bit of digging on their website, I saw this:

“Player guilds can fight for the right to control large battlekeeps. Once captured, players will have to defend their property against the ruthless attacks of other players, driven by both greed and envy. At the same time players can also build entire cities outside the Border Kingdom, which other players can not attack! You must however be prepared to defend them from sieges brought on by computer-controlled enemies hiving next to your city.”This is something that I’ve been waiting for and describing for quite a while. I’ve always wanted to have guild-run outposts or towns that needed to be guarded and could be captured. This system offers the best of both worlds really. You and your guild (or perhaps an alliance of guilds) can vie for control of either the bigger, more powerful battlekeeps. In this case, you have to defend it from other players. If you aren’t looking for quite as much of a challenge, you can always build towns or cities and remain safe from players, but risk attack from (what I would imagine to be somewhat weaker and easier) NPC combatants. Also, from what I understand, these fortifications players built are entirely destructible which allows guilds to become far more invested in protecting their investment (be it time or money, or likely both.)

This coupled with the seemingly revolutionary combat being implemented in Conan, I can’t help but feel a twinge of anticipation and excitement. That said, I’m not sold on the style (the mature theme) of the game yet. That’s not to say that I won’t play it because of that, but more to say that if I’m not convinced of its necessity, it will be tough for me to enjoy playing this game. I haven’t done much research on Warhammer so I’m not sure whether they are implementing a system similar to this, but seeing as that game seems to be equally or even more geared towards PvP (or RvR if you will,) I’m curious to see how they stack up in this respect. It might come down to a few minor or major differences in the two that help players decide which is their game of choice.


Building an MMO for the Future — Suicide or What?

I just can’t help but wonder what Sigil was trying to do with Vanguard building it for specifications that won’t even be possible for another 12-18 months. It’s true that technology doubles very quickly, I believe it’s 18 months, but still… is that any kind of way to advertise your game?

“OK everybody, we are going to have an awesome game for you to play 18 months after we release it! I know this doesn’t make any sense, but we actually need that 18 months to fix all the bugs that we failed to take out in the longer-than-usual production time we had to build this game. So even though there will be more than a dozen new MMO’s for you guys to play, we feel confident that you will be ready to try our game once you can buy a computer than can run it at more than 20 FPS”

I don’t know about everyone else, but that to me seems like exactly the message they should have slapped on the box of this game before it shipped. My only question is this; How many gamers are actually going to stick around for a year and a half waiting for this game to become playable, when there will be new games coming out left and right (LotRO, WAR, AoC, Spellborn, Huxley, Tabula Rasa just to name a few) that surely won’t have such high expectations of its players bank account to buy a top-of-the-line PC? It seems like this is the problem with EverQuest 2. I have a pretty decent computer… 2GB RAM, 2.8 Ghz Pentium 4 processor and a Radeon X600 256MB graphics card. It’s a decent computer and I can’t even play EQ2 on high settings or else my graphics card shuts down every 5 minutes or so. I’m not going to play a game that I know could look good with a great PC if everything looks blurry and faded on my PC, especially when the game came out over 2 years ago. Just use common sense Sigil. Sure, you will get a few new players when tech rises, but it won’t be anywhere near the 1-300k you probably lost by a) releasing too soon and b) asking far too much of your customers. Get it together, and hopefully other companies will realize that they need to build their game for today, not for three years from now so they can retain customers better.