As we wrap up Carolyn Koh's string of reports from the Consumer Electronics Show last week in Las Vegas, we take a look at Funcom's insanely anticipated Age of Conan. This MMO promises a brutal experience on the PC, Windows Vista and Xbox 360.
Based on interviews with Erling Ellingsen (Product Manager) and Jorgen Tharaldsen (Product Director)
Article by Carolyn "Sylvene" Koh
Due to launch in summer 2007, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures is three years in the making, and currently in the "friends and family stage" of closed beta. Despite a crowded and noisy convention floor and several Windows Vista blue screens of deaths with both computers, we managed to see a little of the newbie experience on Age of Conan.
I met up with Erling Ellingsen, Product Manager and Jorgen Tharaldsen, Product Director of Funcom, Norway and we chatted amiably of the world of Conan while waiting for the technical staff to fix the problem. "So, how would you describe the world of Conan for those not familiar with the IP?" Jorgen's description was quite succinct. "We are brutal barbarians struggling for survival in Hyboria."
We started in character creation and we found ourselves on a slave ship selecting between the Stygian, the Aquilonian and the Cimmerian. Escaping slavery, you are making your way in this brutal, backward world. There is one word I can say about the level of physical character customization possible in Age of Conan, and that is "astounding!" Over 30 different aspects of physical attributes that you can adjust await the eager fans. For example, just for the cheeks alone, you can adjust the length, the width, the height and the depth.
The same goes for the body. You can create an anorexic woman with huge (and I mean huge!) ta-tas, a man with the physique of Arnie or Pee-Wee Herman as you wish, and as usual, there's the wonderful one-click randomizer. One thing you cannot do is to give your character a pot-belly. Ahem... you are an escaped galley slave after all. But, onto the game and its unique features!
Camp gameplay. Players can interact with the environment in different ways - one of them is to poison the water so NPCs become weakened when they drink. Another is distraction. NPC guards can be drawn off by firing an arrow or throwing a rock to create noise. Funcom is still working on their AI to change the range of NPC sight and hearing in different conditions such as day and night.
Jorgen tells me, "What we are trying to do though is to use our AI and dynamic scripting so that i.e. an area will change "behavior" at night, like it would in real-life. For instance the streets of a city will see a different kind of life at night than compared to day."
We touched on some unique class skills, such as the ability for Thieves to climb and pickpockets (only NPCs).
"The thief class was merged into the barbarian class as Conan was indeed a
thief etc. That's going to be so cool! You can even hide in the shadows and whatnot and use that expertise in combat...won't be able to pick a sword that easily though," said Jorgen enthusiastically.
Spellweaving is another unique ability - that of combining spells together before unleashing them. Jorgen also let on that if players drew too much dark power too often, they might find themselves in a hotspot, fighting to find their way out.
At this point in the world, Conan is not a young adventurer, but King of Hyboria. Although there are three different races, Age of Conan does not have a faction system, but you do want to curry favor with the King. Hmm... I wonder what favors a player may obtain from the King?
Real Combat is Age of Conan's calling card. Players will be able to control where they direct their blows in combat and if you happen to swing through a group of enemies, everyone within the arc of your weapon will sustain damage. There's no auto-fire with bows, and there will be mounted combat - where the way you ride counts - i.e. more damage if you are charging than if you walk up and poke someone with a spear.
The Microsoft Xbox360 controller is compatible with the PC and Erling used it to great effect showing off the combat system.
Three forms of PvP will be available. The one that is most accessible and could prove to be a lot of fun is Drunken Brawling. With a cool twist - the type and amount of alcohol you consume affects your skills. Some skills may improve; others (such as the ability to actually hit your target) may go down. What sounds like fun is that levels & equipment don't matter here as it's all about how well you hit and how well you hold your liquor!
The mini-games are arena type games such as King of the Hill and Last Man Standing. Players wanting to participate will be matched up by the in-game match-making engine - not only that, the PvP-leveling system divides the 80 levels into four PvP tiers, and players will be auto-leveled up to the max level of that tier during the PvP fight to keep the contest challenging.
Finally, there is massive PvP or siege PvP, an end-game type for guilds to battle for the control of keeps in the Border Kingdoms. Siege engines, mounted combat and even cavalry charges. Is that enough to give you gung-ho PvP players palpitations of excitement? All PVP will give you PvP standing Funcom aims to track on the website.
The Age of Conan website: http://www.ageofconan.com has great in-depth information on the game and I urge readers to take a look at it as it will cover more information that a tradeshow article will be able to.
"We actually showed the game in DX10 full resolution at the show-floor, a world first!" Jorgen was proud to proclaim. Already rich in colors and detail in DX9, the game looks wonderful in DX10. Gamers need not worry that they will have to upgrade to Windows Vista as well as Vista capable machines to play Age of Conan when it launches. Age of Conan will ship using DX9 with the graphics upgrade to DX10 available later in the game.
What about beta applications?
"Soon... soon..." was the twinkling response.
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