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This sieging system, at least for us in Oceania, is a bit of a double-edged sword, but is certainly workable; it will just require a bit of negotiating with other guilds resident to the country the server is located in, and arranging a time that is suitable for both, so possibly a Friday night or a day on the weekend. It also means guilds in Oceania can set their own vulnerability window to a time that is completely and perceivably inconvenient to guilds resident to the country the server is located, and thus a keep and resource areas could be perpetually held, but on the flipside, it means that a guild resident to the country where the server is located could lay siege/challenge for a keep or resource area at a time that is not convenient for Oceanic guilds and others playing on alternate play-schedules. But like I said, the system is workable, and who knows? It might be tweaked further before or post-release. Apart from all of this, the siege machines looked very impressive and I can imagine battle-keep raids being on of those things in 'Age of Conan' that will add to the overall longevity and replayability of the game, even once players have reached level 80.
I've saved one of the best until last (that is until you hear from me again tomorrow), and this is where I share what I learned about mounts and mounted combat. Stein Erik Jenset, mount and mounted combat designers, used the analogy that mounts in 'Age of Conan' were much like the vehicles in 'Grand Theft Auto', and that is in the way each different type of mount had certain strengths and flaws and might be used in different situations. Stein described the horses in 'Age of Conan' as your typical sports car: very fast with great turning and handling; and the mammoth, as the second example, like the bus: slow to get moving, slow acceleration, a very large turning circle, but carried with it great momentum which makes it the ideal crushing and battering weapon. Players will of course be able to wield weapons on horseback, both ranged and melee, but the use of melee weapons on the mammoth is restricted due to being up so high in the first place. The mammoth itself is used as the weapon combining its speed and flaying of tusks to crush your opponents and fling them away like a used rag. Players will be able to used ranged weapons if on a mammoth. The horse doesn't miss out on being used as a weapon itself, as the player is able to use it to kick opponents in front with the front legs and behind with the hind legs.
Mounts will be available to players at level 40, but I asked the question of perhaps allowing players access to a very simply mount at level 20 just to get from place to place, not mounted combat what so ever. Stein then told us they were looking into doing this, but making the mount at this level simply a sheer convenience rather than a sign of the player's prestige. It was suggested that a low-level mount like this would be a donkey or a pony, nothing spectacular, but as promised, just something to get a player from place to place, nothing more. Riding a donkey or pony into Tarantia certainly would not add to your character's credibility as a dancing machine of death, but I suppose this would be the price one would pay for convenience, and it might be enough just to get one through to level 40 where they would start feeling more like a marauding warrior on a sleek yet dangerous horse, war mammoth, battle rhino, or camel. Mounts will come in a variety of colours and so forth, so again that sense of individuality stems from being able to choose what colour and mount type a player would want to venture out into Hyboria with. Mounted combat itself is certainly going to add a new dynamic to PvP and siege warfare, as it is something completely new to MMOs. From what Stein showed us, things are looking great and I get the feeling that riding and fighting a mount in 'Age of Conan' will provide many players with that "Awesome!" feeling in their minds.
This is where I'm going to leave things for today, but tomorrow I will be back with a hands-on report on the game itself, where I will be sharing my experience in a dungeon raid and capture-the-flag PvP, so stay tuned for that and more coming over the next couple of days. To keep you sated until then, be sure to check out the updated photo gallery located here.
Until tomorrow, this is Stephen "weezer" Spiteri,
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© Stephen Spiteri, January 2008