Age of Conan - Hyborian Adventures Q&A
Hi! First of all, let me introduce myself. I am Gaute Godager, the Game Director of Age of Conan - Hyborian Adventures. This basically means my job is to be in charge of the creative vision for the game.
1) It was recently revealed that Age of Conan is going to be one of the showcase games for the launch of Microsoft�s new operating system, Vista. This should bring more attention and exposure to the game. What does it mean for you behind the scenes though? What (if anything) have you had to do differently now to maybe help accommodate this and get the game to the Vista level now?
Being a Vista Showcase means several things for us. First off, it gives us access to early versions of the DirectX10 software and hardware. Thus we may make the game focused on these areas, implement new effects, ready the game for faster rendering etc. Within this context we are also considering carefully which features we could add to the title to really exploit the benefits of DirectX10. The game will also be fully playable with DirectX9 as well.
Also, Vista comes with greater security, greater capabilities of living room gameplay (most Vista version include media center integration) and several features to make the setup and download of games easier. All this we comply to in order to help the customer have a, hopefully, flawless experience.
2) Consoles. It has been said that Age of Conan may very well end up in a next generation console and not be only a PC title. Is this still the case and if so, is there any word on what console you may go with?
Yes it is still the case, and no there are no details we can give to the public as of yet.
3) Formations. What exactly are these �formations� I am hearing about? They seem to be NPC characters that we may have control over. Is this the case? If so, can you please expand on how one would acquire them, how many we can have and how they would be used?
Think of formations as teams vs. 2.0. Let me start by explaining the role of teams in normal MMOs. They are the basic building bricks of the cooperative gameplay amongst the players. They take on different roles and have interdependencies. One is the damage dealer, one is the healer etc.
With formation we want to take that one step further. It is not something to create using only NPC's (though you can put NPC's into them), but something the players choose to accommodate a challenge. It is to make the physical relation between the players important. You put the strong, heavy guys in front; you put the weaker in the back. Just as everyone has done for years in strategy games, single player RPG's and pen and paper RPG's. We simply add that thing back into the team play.
Now, the formations can also be used as tactical tools in massive combat or pvp. Here you will find the different formations work differently against other formations. Pike men work best against charging knights, archer's best against pike men and cavalry best against archers etc.
The Formation also gives the players several types of bonuses. First and foremost the ability to block off monsters or other players wading through it, also skill and stat bonuses and the ability to do special attacks. (Charge with your phalanx of horsemen, fire a volley of arrows etc.)
4) PVP seems to be a large part of Age of Conan. Is PVP being added as a main aspect of the game or, can one play the game and enjoy the content without having to take part in PVP action?
You can play the game fully without engaging in PvP. Our design philosophy has always been to let PvP be something you can choose to participate in, or not. The bonuses you gain from PvP are first and foremost bonuses used in pvp.
I don�t ever want to directly, or indirectly, make players feel they have to do something they do not want to. That is one of the key elements of an MMO in my opinion � not being one game, but rather many games in one world.
In addition to that, since I think PvP is very enjoyable, we have designed a PvP system with many types of PvP. I will describe them in detail in the next questions.
5) There are different types of PVP from what I understand. Can you give us some information on these different aspects of the PVP system?
These are the types of PvP we will offer in the game: 1) Team vs. Team based PvP. In this you can flag your character as wanting to participate in PvP on a certain side and be automatically matched with other people to quickly get into the game where you must capture the flag, kill the opposing team or whatnot. You can also enter the fray with an existing team, and simply opt to find opponents.
Another feature here is the auto-leveling feature we have added to put you on par with your opponents. There are 80 levels in Conan, divided into 4 tiers. From level 20 on, you can participate in this type of PvP. Then you will be auto-leveled to the next-to-highest level of your tier, so that at level 20 you will become a washed out level 39. With washed out, I mean you will have the hitpoints and mana of a similar level character, but you will be stuck with your current abilities and spells, although they have been improved in strength.
There are several types of minigames for the player to participate in here, but which ones make it to the finishing line remains to be seen.
The second type of PvP is the massive Siege PvP. Here a guild, or a �super-guild� (coalition of smaller guilds) can occupy a piece of the fabled "Border Kingdoms" and using the Village Building system we support to build so called Battlekeeps for favours at the Court (Conan is King in our game, which in time is set just after "The Hour of the Dragon", one of Howard's best novels) and bonuses for the guild.
Then other guilds can lay siege to your Battlekeeps, possibly destroy it and build their own in the ruins of your claim. This Massive Siege PvP will possible one of the most spectacular experiences in Conan.
We will also offer PvP servers for those players who want this experience, we are still uncertain about the popularity of these types of services so we might not launch with them.
6) The Drunken Brawling PVP sounds like fun and may be something that players who normally shy away from PVP may like as well as it is so different. Can you elaborate on this style of PVP play a bit?
Yes, the Drunken Brawling PvP is the final form of PvP we offer in Conan. Here you do not fight with your level, class or abilities. This is a complete flat system where you fight with how drunk you are. The more you drink of a certain type of beverage, the more you gain certain abilities. Mead makes you able to take more pounding, but also makes you sluggish. Wine makes you fast and fragile. Liquors make you strong and aggressive, but with lower chance of hitting an opponent. You can pick up chairs, or even other players, and toss them around in the bar brawl.
If you win, you get the dames (or guys); if you lose you get tossed out by the bouncer.
You are right; this is our bid to give a fun angle at PvP, an easy and relaxed entry to those aspects of the game.
7) Crafting. It has been said that crafting will be quick and simple. Does this mean that there is not much involved with the crafting system? Or, is it just simple to understand but still has some depth to it?
When we say that the crafting is quick and simple (and useful), we mean that it does not contain much craft-grinding. You do not have to craft over and over the same things to gain abilities to make something useful. We have 20 crafting levels and 9 different crafting skills. All of these skills (potion making, siege engine building, weapons, armor etc) are useful and different.
To gain a level you simply have to solve a quest. To solve the quest you have to make a difficult item containing most of the skills you need for that level.
The crafting system is very deep, I would say. It contains using drops from monsters, crafting stations you must build in your guild, gathered items, resources extracted in the area your guild has built its home base.
First and foremost, though, the crafting system is useful. I will now explain why, in your next question.
8) Crafted items vs. loot items. Will items that are player crafted more sought after than loot items? Or, is there a balance between the two?
Having made Anarchy-Online, we saw how it was really hard to make crafted items and loot items balance. One would inevitably be the strongest / best and slight the other. Even though this might vary, it left more people dissatisfied than anything else.
We decided for Conan to find a real, deep, niche where we could used crafted items, and only crafted items. For us this we made the crafted items the dynamic items. So not the best items, nor the strongest, but the ones which would adapt. The method we employed to achieve this was to use a �gem-socketing� system. Here players can make a really good weapon, for instance, and then as they meat an opponent very vulnerable to fire damage, for instance, insert 4 gems of fire-damage increase. Then later they could make it a holy weapon etc with other gems.
In addition to this, some items can only be made through crafting. Examples of this are siege engines, certain types of food and potions. All in all we have carved a niche, or rather a market for crafted items.
9) Conan canon. To what extent will we see notable characters from the movies, comic books and other literature? Will they be random NPC's, quest givers or to what other extent may we see them?
It has been a clear goal to use the Hyborian lore to the fullest. As this is set in the time after �The Hour of the Dragon� book Hyboria has just been a playground for powerful magic in an attempt to resurrect the black, brutal kingdom of Acheron.
With this theme of resurrection, and the magic unleashed, another (than Xaltotun) arch-enemy of Conan now make an effort to unleash old enemies of Conan to bring him down. The player is actually a pawn, unknowing and unwilling, in this deep story line with resurrection as a theme.
Without going too much into the details behind this, you will see many friends and enemies of Conan from classic short stories and novels appear with new creatures, gods and demons crawl out of every crack in the rotten Hyborian ground. For instance, the first person you meet as you wash up on the shore in the Barachian Isles is Kalanthes, one of Conan's oldest friends.
10) Are you able to elaborate on any of the �mini game� aspect of Age of Conan? Such as city building, a political system, resource gathering and so on.
Village building is something done by Guilds or Super Guilds. Here they gather resources (wood, iron-ore, raw gold and stone) to build their own village and home areas. This is done in the so-called Resource and Building Regions.
The only problem is that in these areas, monsters / NPC's (picts, bandits etc) are doing the same. They gather resources and build their own villages and strongholds. This will inevitably lead to conflicts. Here monsters will lay siege to your well defended (hopefully) village, and you can do the same to theirs � in sort of an inoculation against further attacks.
11) As there is a single player aspect to this game at the start of the game and that it takes place on the server, is there a subscription fee associated with this part of the game? Or, does the subscription not kick in until after you make the transition to the MMO portion of the game?
No there isn�t. You can buy the game, and play as long as you want on the servers in the single player part of the game. You have also got one free month in the multiplayer part of the game. Most likely, though, you must enter your credit card even if you only want to play the single player part, well at least I think so atm. There are several reasons for this. First of all, even in the single player part of the game you have access to /tell and chat and it is too easy for players to make a completely �untraceable� character to harass others. Secondly, Conan is a very violent, indeed a mature, game. By forcing a credit card we can avoid young people getting access.
12) As I understand it, character development in regards to selection of archetypes, class selection, profession and so on takes place over the course of many levels. Can you expand on this a bit more?
You start out the game as a slave, on a slave-ship. When you get to level 5 (after approx 1 hour of gameplay) you must choose your archeclass. Here you can choose from 4 different types: Mage, Priest, Rogue or Soldier. Then at level 20, as you leave the single-player portion of the game, you will choose your specialized class. There are around 25 different classes to choose from here.
At level 40 you choose your guild-class, or Prestige Class as we call them. This is how you interact with your fellow man. You can choose from Lord (Village building expert), Commander (Group, Formation and Raid expert), Crafter (expert at crafting) and Master (with a permanent NPC member of your team).
13) Combat. As I understand it, there will be six different points of contact on an enemies body that you can pin point your attacks on. What exactly does this allow for in combat and how does it translate visually during combat?
We call this system our �Multi-Point Melee System�. Here you can choose from up-left, up, up-right, down-left, thrust or down-right attacks. This is an effort to bring the depth of fighting games or action games to the MMO genre. In Conan you do not have the automatic attack system, but rather must compose your attacks as you are close to your targets.
These 6 directions will deliver attacks against different parts of the body of your opponent. Thus you can exploit vulnerabilities and differences combat styles of your opponent. The different directions are also the ways to create combos for the player. Here will be able to execute massive attacks, super-natural moves and deliver a substantial amount of extra punch to your opponent.
Also in our attack system, you do not target an opponent by clicking on him. Rather you hit whomever you are in front of. You can also hit several opponents if you want to with your wide attacks.
14) How are the servers going to be set up for AOC? Will people outside of the US be able to play on US servers or will people be limited to servers set up for their �local� area? Also, how will updates/patches be handled? Will they be pushed after a downtime period or possibly during log on with out downtime involved?
We will have localized servers, and local servers. There is no technical limitation to let players play on servers on the other side of the globe, but they will not have the same direct experience I think, simply because of the speed of light -> lag. In addition to this, our distribution partners might want to limit the accessibility of outside area servers, especially in the outset of the games life, to be able to control the amount of players in a particular area.
We have an in-game patching and download system. Certain parts of the game, like the game.exe file itself need actual downtime to be updated (it is impossible in windows to change the file you are playing, basically, it is locked). Other parts of the data might be updated run-time. As to the size and scope of how much we update runtime and with downtime, remains to be seen. It definitely is a clear goal to limit the down time. To completely remove it is still a bit off though.
15) Finally, with E3 2006 now over; how was the feedback for Age of Conan during the show? What (if anything) did Funcom take away from the show after being able to present Age of Conan to the public there? Also, when can we now expect beta to open?
The feedback for Age of Conan was, how shall I put it, fantastic. We won awards on several of the major sites for best MMO of show: Gamespy, Gamespot, IGN and more. (See our homepage for list of details: www.ageofconan.com.)
We took away an even higher dedication to deliver quality, and also quite a bit of fear to not meet all the expectations we see building for this game. What can I say? We simply must work even harder ,)
We will open beta sometimes during the summer. It will be extremely limited at first. Look into our community site for more details. http://Community.ageofconan.com
I hope to see you all in Hyboria very soon,
I would like to thank Gaute Godager for taking time out of his busy scheduale to participate in this Q&A. To learn more about Age of Conan � Hyborian Adventures, please visit www.ageofconan.com. For more information on Funcom and their other games, please go to www.funcom.com.