Gordo’s Gaming Blog

My adventures in the many worlds of gaming.

Posts Tagged ‘Funcom

Grinding can be fun. Wait, what?

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More reports from Hyboria. Now, I’m level 47, and recently I’ve taken part in a couple of grinding sessions with some guildies. Now, normally, I’m strongly opposed to grinding, but, in Age of Conan, it can be kinda fun. I get really good XP from these sessions, as we use the ‘apprenticeship’ system – this basically scales a character up to 1 level below a group member – so that I, as level 47 can join up with players in the 60s. The XP is scaled down, of course, but with 6 of us there, we can rip through mobs at some pace, and there are plenty of mobs to go around in some (apparently designed) grinding spots. So why is this type of grinding fun?

  1. Good rewards – get a fair amount of cash, and really good XP from doing it.
  2. Social aspect – playing with a few other people is much more enjoyable than grinding alone.
  3. No downtime – if there’s anything more annoying than grinding creatures, it’s waiting for them to respawn.
  4. Age of Conan’s combat system – it makes it all the more frantic and chaotic, and as you see the hordes of enemies fall at your feet, it’s really very fulfilling!

Now, of course, I’ve only been doing it for a few hours, and depending on how much is required, I could get sick of it. But so far, it’s been good. The problem is crafting is nowhere near as fun. The crafting system in Age of Conan is the laziest and most boring I’ve come across. They’ve made resource zones, which, in themselves are boring, as they’re just landscapes with nodes scattered, and to craft, all you do is run around, gather, run around, gather. It’s so frustrating as most of the nodes have been emptied, and it feels as though you’re getting nothing done (which you’re not!). So, I’ll be steering clear of the crafting in Age of Conan. That said, having read the latest WAR newsletter, the crafting system Mythic are using looks very cool. Quite basic, but I like it, as I play an MMO to fight, not to stand watching progress bars. Funcom saw it as an oppourtunity to increase the amount of time people play their game. Luckily, EA Mythic didn’t fall into the same money-grabbing trap.

Written by Gordo

June 5, 2008 at 7:40 pm

Posted in Age of Conan, MMO

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Forts at Thoughty. Oh, no – Thoughts at Forty.

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So, I’ve hit the big 40 in Age of Conan, and I thought it was about time I posted again about this game. If I’m honest, Age of Conan is rapidly losing its charm to me, and the carbon copy crafting system has a lot to do with it. To even learn the professions you need to grind, which I’m pretty sure is a good indication of what’s to come. For those of you who hadn’t realised yet – I hate grinding.

Combat is still fun to me, I love the way it’s implemented, and the buzz you get after a fatality. The quests in the game are starting to get to me though, or rather, the lack of them is. I’ve had to grind a bit recently, and the members of my guild who’re approaching 80 say that most of the game after level 70 consists of grouping up and grinding. That’s pretty worrying and puts me off the game a bit.

The music I still love, the sounds too are great. I’m still troubled by how little it immerses me, compared to games like Morrowind and Bioshock, it’s very poor in that regard.

It’s a shame, because the game had such a strong start in Tortage, but it seems that maybe Funcom concentrated too much on Tortage, and neglected the rest of the world. ‘Age of Conan: Tortagian Adventures’ would have been a more appropriate title.

Nethertheless, I have over 3 more weeks of prepaid time, so I’ll keep playing. It wouldn’t be the first time I hit a certain milestone and the spark comes back. Indeed, I was considering quitting LOTRO when one day I suddenly got reinvigorated by it, and really enjoyed it once again. Will the same happen in AoC? Only time will tell.

Written by Gordo

May 31, 2008 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Age of Conan, MMO

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Age of Conan, Part 2

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OK, so I’ve been playing Age of Conan for 5 days now. As I’m sure you’re well aware, a lot of things can change in 5 days. However, I’m still feeling pretty positive about AoC now, even 5 days on, and after many hours more in the game.

What do I still like about it?

  1. The combat – it’s not gotten old yet, and it doesn’t look like doing so for a good while either; it’s really refreshing. What I think is the best thing about the combat is you’re always involved. You have to make the character move, make it attack, and as a result, when you kill your enemy, it feels all the more satisfying – especially if you get lucky and pull off a fatality.
  2. The sound – I didn’t really talk about the sound in my original post, but the sound is fantastic. The music fits each area perfectly, from the greek sounding background music in Aquilonia, to the chanting and tribal songs of Africa-esque Stygia. The combat sounds are great too – if you listen carefully you can even hear your enemy’s skull crack as you bring the sledgehammer down on their head. Tortage really was amazing though, with every quest and every NPC voice acted. Sadly, that is only carried on as you carry out your destiny quest – but there are rumours that more is being recorded as we speak and will come in future patches. Which would be great.
  3. The graphics – each zone is designed well, and looks beautiful. Even on my moderate PC, the areas feel alive, and look it too. I’m more of a fan of realised graphics, and therefore it suits me perfectly. Stylised fans may not like it so much, but personally I can’t see how anyone could think it ugly.

Although there are a lot of good things about Age of Conan, I’m starting to find areas which I don’t like so much:

  1. Quests. Quests in Age of Conan are highly variable – I’ve done some really good ones, some absolute beauties, requiring not much running between places, just lots of action and great storylines (an example of this – the quests in Border Range in Aquilonia – they were fantastic). I’ve also done some awful quests – quests taking me halfway across the zone to talk to an NPC, who then wants me to go back to the original quest giver. Also, it needs me to run through mobs 5 or 6 levels above me! Another problem I find with the quests in Age of Conan, is that, often, there aren’t enough quests for me to level up sufficiently. I had to grind 1/3 of a level earlier to get some quests within my level range again. This is poor design – nowadays, in pay to play MMOs, where questing is the main mechanic for levelling, I expect more quests than I need – I expect to be able to drop quests too easy for me, not have to do them for pitiful rewards just to get the next level up. On the topic of quests, each zone seems to have just 1 quest hub!? It seems like in the zones which are intended for a wide range of levels (e.g. Wild Lands of Zelata), I could be running huge distances to do a quest for me at level 36 or 37, because all quests can only be picked up or handed in at the very beginning of the zone where you join at level 20. Running disrupts immersion, and ruins the fun value of the quest.
  2. Zones. The zones in Age of Conan are meant to be small areas of a massive map. As such, you only play a fragment of the world at a time, and the zones are not connected – you need to travel through load screens to get to other areas, via fast travel NPCs. This also means that you can travel many many miles in seconds, resulting in a huge break in immersion, as you were in a sandy desert with tropical beasts, and now you’re in the mountains being attacked by wolves. Personally, I loved WoW in this regard – the whole area was one massive area where you could run from one end to the other uninterrupted if you wanted to. And the fast trave of riding a wyvern, eagle or bat was awesome, you got to see the whole zone and landscape; even if it did take several minutes to travel from one zone to another at times! As for the instancing matter – it doesn’t bother me too much, as in the larger zones, instancing only seems to be used to prevent congestion – I like that – I mean, what’s more frustrating than waiting around a quest mob spawn with 10 other people?
  3. Monotony – this comes from the requirement of many boring quests, I’m afraid. Sometimes, I find myself playing for a couple hours and getting bored – it stems from lack of immersion I guess, as I don’t feel ‘in’ the game, so my mind wanders to other things. What compounds it is the daunting task of levelling – there are so many levels to achieve, I feel as though I’m only just on the tip of the iceberg. That should be a good thing, but I’m worried that as I level up, the quest grinding will only get more boring, and the rewards will get lower.

Overall, I’m still happy in Age of Conan. I am, on the whole, enjoying the levelling process, though sometimes the lack of (good) quests can get to me. I don’t mind it, and every MMO I’ve played before has been the same; MMO developers concentrate on keeping players playing for many hours, and they do that by creating a bucketful of quests to do; sadly, this often results in monotony for the player, which in turns ruins immersion, and makes the player go away and do something else for a while.

Verdict? Age of Conan is a good game, and probably my favourite MMO of all those out at the moment. It doesn’t do anything worse than any game that’s come before, and it brings some really nice innovations to the genre. But, it’s far from perfect – the Holy Grail of MMOs it is not. It’s quite difficult to get immersed in it, but if you can cope with taking breaks occasionally between levelling, you’ll be fine. I know from my post it looks like I think there are a lot more bad things in the game than good, but in actual fact, that’s not how I feel. It simply hasn’t corrected all the errors in previous MMOs – I can live with them, and if you enjoyed a previous MMO, you probably can too.

Written by Gordo

May 28, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Age of Conan

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As I mentioned earlier, I’ve recently started playing Age of Conan. This game has been anticipated for a long time, and has been delayed many times over recent months. All of this, I think has compounded people’s interests for it, and it has been described as the ‘first next-gen MMO’.

So far, I’ve got to level 26, and I must say, I’ve really enjoyed it. The first 20 levels took place in ‘Tortage’ – a dank and corrupt harbour town full of pirates, prostitutes and political intrigue. Ruled by the tyrant Strom, who you aim to eventually overthrow, you meet many characters from the ‘Resistance’ a movement put together to fell Strom, and put an end to his dictatorial ways. I won’t spoil the storyline for you, but needless to say, it’s a very satisfying way of being thrown into a game, it’s a small story that your actions affect the outcome of, and your decisions lead to the climax of the storyline.

However, it’s not just a pretty storyline that makes Tortage such a bundle of fun; the comabt system in Age of Conan has been a major selling point for many people – it’s not based on the traditional ‘auto-attack’ system seen in countless MMOs previously; instead, you control your characters swings of their weapon – you find the weaknesses in your enemies’ defense, and you exploit them. It really means you get involved in the combat much more – I remember in WoW, I could set a fight going, go afk, get a drink, and come back to see my character standing over the corpse of my enemy. Well – that’s not the case in Conan. To put it bluntly, if you did that in Conan, you’d find a ressurection screen when you came back, or if you ran, you might have a few points of health left.

The graphics in Age of Conan, truly are spectacular, providing you have the PC to run it – not everybody does; and I can only afford to put it onto high ocassionally. However Funcom promise in the patches to come in the upcoming weeks that they will optimise the game even further, leading to better performance for players.

So, you might be asking; where does Age of Conan fall short? I was thinking that too… until I read some posts about the game on different blogs, when I realised that, in truth, it is nothing new, apart from a) Realised graphics as opposed to stylised which many MMO developers have preferred and b) The faster paced, action RPG style melee combat. Questing, NPCs, party dynamics, I think every other game mechanic is the same. Well; does that make it bad? You might well ask, and, upon reflection, I’m undecided. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it gives it pretty alloys and tyres.

If I had to sum up Age of Conan in a sentence, it would be this:

Fast paced fun, with great graphics (if you can run them), evolutionary combat, but in general, it’s just the ‘EveryMMO’ with with eye candy.

Written by Gordo

May 27, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Age of Conan, MMO

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