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We were ushered to the boardroom where we were first briefed by Gaute Godager, game director for 'Age of Conan', and he explained where Funcom have come from in developing the game and why they decided to use the Conan license for their next MMORPG title. Gaute explained that especially within Norway and other northern European countries, there was a massive fan-following of Robert E. Howard's Conan and a deep appreciation of the world of Hyboria. John Milius' Conan movie, Gaute went on to explain, gave the Conan license global exposure, revealing Conan the Barbarian to the rest of the world and where Howard's works were only esteemed by strong cult followings. What was observed by Gaute, however, was that the Conan movies had somewhat "cheesed up" the Conan franchise and as a result the name "Conan" became only synonymous with the "Governator" himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. This in itself was not entirely a bad thing, but it was certainly a stigma that Gaute and Funcom endeavoured to detach themselves from when taking on the Conan license and developing a game set in Conan's Hyboria; the world that Robert E. Howard had brought to life in the 1930s.
It was a "back to basics" approach that Funcom had decided to pursue when first putting 'Age of Conan' to the concept stage of the game's development. Not to discredit the Hollywood Conan movies completely, Gaute did concede that the films did serve as a sort of visual inspiration for the game's dark and rugged look, but it was decided that Funcom would produce a Conan game that went right to the roots, and draw most of its inspiration from the original Robert E. Howard stories and the very popular Dark Horse and Marvel Conan comics. From there, it was now not only a matter of developing a game that broke the mould conceptually, but technically, as Funcom endeavoured to bring "action" to the combat and character interactivity with 'Age of Conan'. Given the setting and mood of the game, Gaute stated that they felt 'Age of Conan' was the perfect opportunity to revolutionise the level of interactivity players would have with their characters in the game and with combat in general, and at initially Funcom were told "it couldn't be done", to which Gaute would reply "Bull@#$%!" It was this vision that has carried Funcom through over the last four and a half years, and to the surprise of their many critics, they seem to be pulling it off. The briefing was concluded with Gaute finishing on, "So that's where we've come from... this game is going to kick ass!"
The game was then loaded up for as and we were shown some features of the game that had not previously been showcased to the public: crafting and keep/city building (PvP). Associate Producer, Morten Byom, took us through one of three crafting and city-building zones, the Lacheish Plains. In 'Age of Conan', players and guilds will be able to choose where they would like to do their crafting and build their keep and are given three options: the afore-mentioned Lacheish Plains in Cimmeria; the Purple Lotus Swamp in Stygia; and Poitain located in Aquilonia. Players will begin developing their crafting and tradeskills when they enter a friendly NPC village within the zone and begin collecting crafting quests or tasks. Funcom has made the decision to avoid crafting models found in other MMORPGs, namely "make 'x' amount to reach the next crafting tier", and gone with a quest-based and story-driven approach even with their crafting system. As a player progresses through the crafting quests they will be given new recipes and the ability to harvest resources of a better quality and ultimately create better and stronger items. You will not be able to attain crafting quests anywhere apart from these three crafting playfields (Lacheish Plains, the Purple Lotus Swamp, and Poitain), but you will be able to craft anywhere as long as you have the recipe(s) and ingredients/resources you need. So no having to run miles and miles to the nearest forge or working station, you are your own working station. Of course, as a role-playing element, players can always find themselves an area with a forge or a working bench if they feel that hammering on an invisible anvil does little for the sake of immersion and a decent role-playing experience.