Mitra's Method: Stephen "weezer" Spiteri's Age of Conan ColumnAge of Conan Editorial: The First Cycle of the Moon…Mitra's Method: Stephen "weezer" Spiteri's Age of Conan Column - RSS 2.0
MMORPG players have their differing opinions on pick-up groups (PUGs, for short): some will avoid them at all costs, others will gladly welcome themselves into a PUG whether it is motivated by desperation or a necessity dictated by the type of quest you are partaking in, while others will allow themselves in to a PUG only if very specific conditions are met (e.g. is there a "tank"? Does the group consist of guildies? Does the team have a good healer?). I think the best experiences in MMORPGs are mostly attributed to the sort of people you play with. I've had both pleasant and forgettable experiences with PUGs in Age of Conan so far. The pleasant: joining a PUG in the Wildlands of Zelata gearing-up for a Sanctum of Burning Souls run; the team consisting of myself (Polearm Guardian) as the "tank", a two-handed sword Barbarian, a Bear Shaman, a Priest of Mitra, a Demonologist, and finally a Dark Templar. To put it simply, it was the first time for a long time that, as a tank, I didn't feel pressured to maintain aggro or to ensure that I was ever going to lose it. Our DPS was great, communication was clear and concise, the Priest classes buffed and healed on cue, and what capped it off is that we stuck to rolling "Greed" for loot. We ended up clearing the Sanctum in just under 30 minutes! Very pleased with the experience, I added each of my teammates to my friends list and have since then managed to team-up with at least one of those individuals at a given time for a particular quest. The forgettable: Priest class goes AFK (Away From Keyboard) at crucial times, namely in the middle of fighting an Elite Boss or as a wave of mobs is triggered during a point in a quest or dungeon; or someone, it doesn't matter who because there's often one in every team, that always somehow manages to pull aggro off a roaming mob or didn't quite see those extras, and your classic team-wipe ensues. Unfortunately, not even the harsh and testing world of Hyboria is immune or can prevent the class-A dope from entering the realms, but then again it wouldn't be an MMORPG without them.
It took a little while for the gold farmers/sellers to make their way into Age of Conan, and quite amusingly, some of the feedback left on the forums regarded the arrival of the farmers and sellers as somewhat of a christening of the game as a "true" MMORPG. Funcom is doing what they can do smoke-out these folks, but it has made the sport quite interesting in Hyboria. I don't know what it's like on other RP-PvP or PvP servers, while there is no record being kept, I'm quite sure every observant player about their business has an eye out for these individuals and is set on making their farming a difficult task. Can Funcom get rid of the farmers? It's a big task, but I'm of the opinion that a farmer makes a good target. I feel sorry for those on PvE servers whose only defence against gold farmers/sellers is by use of the petition system. That's what I love about open PvP: no one is safe from your blade, bow or magic, not even those that come in numbers in order to profit from something that quite simply has no value in the outside world.
Digressing just slightly: we all know that the launch of Age of Conan has had its bumps and a number of players have been left more than just a bit jaded, but we do know that Funcom has done a remarkable job in pumping out those fixes in order to make the game what it should be. In that respect, Funcom are actually pulling it off and are actually sticking to their word (*Gasp!* a game developer that actually makes good on their promises? What has the world come to?!?). Personally, I've not been left disappointed by what I have experienced in the game so far. I'm on a server with a rich diversity of players and individual goals, approach to competitive play and PvP. No matter what time of the day I play, there's always a massive amount of other players on at the same time, so the social aspect that MMORPGs - especially where Age of Conan is concerned - has to offer can please even the most attention-demanding player, and from what we know is on the horizon or coming very soon to the game, things are only going to get better and better. Personally, I'm looking forward to the Fugitive system; nothing would please me more than to defeat a labelled fugitive and loot him of one of his items and a bit of his gold.
What have the first 30 days in Hyboria taught me? Be on your guard; adventure with experienced players; revenge is a dish best served cold; Hyboria is a large and wonderful world, so soak it in; and finally, don't be afraid to peek around every corner or turn every stone, because you're bound to find something beautiful, amazing or so surprising that some sort of sick fascination within you cannot force your gaze away from it. I wonder what the next 30 days are going to teach me.
Until next time, this is Stephen "weezer" Spiteri,
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© Stephen Spiteri, June 2008