Today we have a brand new interview with Gaute Godager, the Producer and Director of Age of Conan. The game, which is developed by Funcom and published by Eidos, is easily one of the most anticipated upcoming MMORPGs. It is based on the Robert E. Howard novels. Find out what Godager had to say about the game's development, story, pvp and other features.
Answers by Producer / Director Gaute Godager
Questions by Alexander Macris, Dana Massey, David Greene, Michael Bitton
WarCry: There have been many interpretations of Conan - the original REH books, Lin Carter and L. Sprage Due Camp's pastiches, Robert Jordan's Conan, the Conan of the films, the Conan of the comics. From which has Age of Conan drawn the most inspiration?
Gaute Godager: Hi! We have tried mostly to grab inspiration from REH himself. His work is our reference, our inspiration and our judge and jury. Saying that, we have and will include works from many other authors and sources if we need to. We do this following the great pulp traditon of Conan's works - there are many Conan's by many people. Not all as great as Howard, but we also make our own.
WarCry: The Hyborian World is notoriously low magic, but MMORPGs tend to be awash in magic spells and wizards. How are you balancing player expectations with adherence to Howard's setting?
Gaute Godager: I do not necessarily agree that Hyboria is "low magic" per se. If you read Howard's books, there are always magicians and sorcerers falling to Conan's might.
What is very true though, is that Conan is the anti-theses to evil, corruption and then naturally - magic. The world is seen through the eyes of a barbarian giant, not the eyes of a stygian priest, awash in intrigue and magical corruption.
We are trying to balance both types of players game-play expectations 1) I want the same in Conan as I am used to in other MMOs and 2) I want something different and true-to-lore. The balance right now is tilting towards 2 I guess but it is a constant struggle and I admit it not one that we take lightly nor think is easy. But then again, this is the juice, the meat, of game development isn't it?
Gaute Godager: Many of the heroes and villains of Conans universe will appear. I won't write a list here but Valeria is definitively there. I would like for you to hunt them down ;)
WarCry: So many games are missing the social factors of play, such as social clothing in addition to armor. Will AoC support social clothing for those times you don't need to be dressed head to toe in armor?
Gaute Godager: We have two layers of clothing on the main character. One for armor and one for clothing. You will have to dress up yourself, and yes we have many many social clothes.
Gaute Godager: Our goal is to let ever well sized guild (30ish+) be able to build their own player village to do crafting and interact (guild bank, guild events inside their guild halls, etc etc). We have decided to not offer player-only owned buildings today. I hope this will be part of an expansion pack. Basically we would like to examine how the players treat their villages and then do a really proper housing project. As in real doors, invitation system, covering the walls in what you want (heads of demons and arms of your opponent) and no zoning to get in.
WarCry: Awhile back you made a forum post outlining many potential server options, has anything been nailed down yet? Or is this something we'll see going into beta?
Gaute Godager: No we have decided on two types of servers, and their difference being how we handle PvP. A) Massive glorious Siege PvP in the Border Kingdoms, Tier Based Mini-game PvP and Drunken brawling as the only PvP options on the "normal" servers. As in 100% voluntary PvP. B) RPvP servers. Here you find Roleplaying and free-for-all except in hubs.
This is our decision on this (and I'm trying to coin the RPvP abbreviation of course ;p) because in Hyboria (Conan's world) there is no Role Playing without being able to kill someone. It is as simple as this, killing your friends is always in character. To explain a bit more on how this is working in detail:
We have 4 basic level tiers in Age of Conan. 1-20 is tier one. 20-40 is the second, 40-60 the third and 60-80 the fourth. If you on a RPvP kill someone in another tier, or someone much weaker than you defined in another way if this is too liberal, you will increase the chance of getting a bounty placed on your death. This will result in very untimely visits from bounty hunters, and ultimately a possible jail sentence.
You might think that sounds boring, being a player character in a jail, and we have designed this not as an actual wait-until-you-are-free sentence, but more as being in the stock doing a repetitive in-jail quest to get out. The important point with this is: we need the consequences. When the ability to fight is this liberal there must be consequences for shameless PK'ing.
Gaute Godager: We have a ranking system we have a blood coin looting system. We want to have item looting, but haven't yet decided the exact balance for this, so it is not something I can promise right now. Will we be able to loot everything, one item, items from the back-pack? We shall see.
We want risk. As to reward, this is much better ;) We have a levelling system for PvP. We have a ranking system. We have special PvP feats and equipment. You can revel in PvP goodness. You can build your own PvP battle keep, mine PvP only resources and focus on minor objectives.
You can even drink yourself into a near-stupor and hammer your friends in a proper bar-brawl through our drunken brawling system. Isn't that a sweet reward all in itself ;)
Gaute Godager: The single player game is shaping up nicely. Great focused quests, nice cinematics and drama - just what you expect from a proper story driven game. I think we have focused less on this because players have. They all like it, but they all seem to want us to make sure they have the option to group up and do social gameplay from as early as possible.
I think this is the trend we see here, players want more choice - and so we supply them with multiplayer options during the period where they can play the single player game. How do we accomplish this, you may ask? It is quite simple. The single player game have for the mostly been moved to the night-time of the game, and the day-time is filled with more players. You switch from one to the other by taking a small nap, no waiting is involved.
This works great with our story line as it is focused on helping the resistance in the city of Tortage, ruled by the vicious ruler Strom. When is most clandestine work taking place? Night-time, naturally.
WarCry: What are some of the challenges of getting this game to retain its complexity while also being developed for the Xbox 360?
Gaute Godager: The challenges are mostly on two parts: Communication and GUI. The game mechanics stay more or less the same.
WarCry: You're into the home stretch now. Can you talk about some of your goals and planned phases in testing?
Gaute Godager: We have two foci, mainly. The first is on stressing the server and crashing them as much as possible (so we do this during Beta, and not after launch). The second is a general game-play focused beta. Here players will get to the max level and play through the game in the normal way.
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