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Reader Comments (16)

Posted: Apr 24th 2008 4:08PM GRT said

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"The stories of Conan the Barbarian were written well before Tolkien put pen to paper."

Wrong. Howard was born in 1906, Tolkien in 1892. Tolkien started writing while recovering from trench fever during WWI. Howard was 11 at the time. I think it unlikely he was writing Conan at the time.

Keep in mind that Howard killed himself at a very young age, after his mother died and he was unable to cope with her loss (somewhat ironic, given the personalitiies of his greatest works, Conan and Krull). Perhaps that's what lead the author of this post to think he'd started earlier.

Posted: Apr 24th 2008 4:23PM (Unverified) said

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Conan was created by American writer Robert E. Howard in 1932 via a series of fantasy stories sold to Weird Tales magazine.

K

Then Tolkien's Hobbit

Tolkien wrote the story in the late 1920s initially to amuse his three sons. It was first published on September 21, 1937 to wide critical acclaim.

So while Tolkien was older Howard was in fact the FIRST to publish. And Tolkien's Lord of the Rings wasn't first published until 1954.

So .... the more you know.

Posted: Apr 24th 2008 4:33PM GRT said

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Again I quote:

"well before Tolkien put pen to paper."

Nothing said about publishing. And Tolkien worked on The Book of Lost Tales before The Hobbit.
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Posted: Apr 24th 2008 4:37PM (Unverified) said

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Most people basically "borrow" ideas from other people's works. The Book of Lost Tales were basically just background to Middle Earth and were never really published until the early 80s. So while Tolkien was in fact writing before Howard, Howard published first.

So technically it could be considered that Howard was the real driving force behind it, which is what I was getting from the article.

I mean I write in my spare time and I consider myself a writer, but does the public know me as a writer? No because I haven't been published yet. When I publish my first work I am a writer.

Posted: Apr 24th 2008 4:51PM GRT said

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No argument with your facts.

The way the article was written, a reader could come away with the idea that Howard "came first" and Tolkien followed ("written *well* *before* Tolkien put pen to paper") and that isn't true. Essentially they were writing at the same time. Tolkien started first, Howard published first, Tolkien wrote more and longer since he lived longer.

I felt it was worth clarifying the timeline.

I would also speculate that neither influenced the other very much.

And I continue to worry about Age of Conan; the short and convoluted open beta system, the weird $5 surcharge to take advantage of pre-order perks, the NDA still being in place so close to launch... it all makes me uneasy.

I had to install a firefox addon ("Refresh Every") in order to get a key to the (paid subscribers only) Fileplanet beta, but I got one. I left the page open on a spare machine at work, auto-refreshing every 5 minutes. So at least I'll be able to try the game before plunking down my cash.
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Posted: Apr 24th 2008 5:04PM (Unverified) said

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According to my sources, Tolkien didn't begin work on Lord of the Rings until 1937. The first Conan story was published in 1932 (Weird Tales, see above)

While Tolkien may have written The Hobbit in the late 1920's, I somehow doubt that it was much of an influence on later works until after it was published in 1937.

If you would like to take issue with the phrase "put pen to paper", then perhaps you should substitute the phrase "was published and made available to the general public", however it doesn't quite have the same scansion, and is a little more wordy. In any event, I think you understand the idea that Cimmeria and Aquilonia aren't derivative settings of Middle Earth like many other MMORPG settings. I'm sorry if that wasn't made clear enough for you.

-K

Posted: Apr 24th 2008 5:24PM GRT said

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"While Tolkien may have written The Hobbit in the late 1920's, I somehow doubt that it was much of an influence on later works until after it was published in 1937."

Actually it wasn't much of an influence until the 1960's when it suddenly caught the collective eye of the free love generation. Derivative works didn't start really springing up until the 70's.

But anyway...

"In any event, I think you understand the idea that Cimmeria and Aquilonia aren't derivative settings of Middle Earth like many other MMORPG settings. I'm sorry if that wasn't made clear enough for you."

I'd argue the DAoC has nothing to do with Middle Earth. And then there are the titles you leave out, such as EVE, Tabula Rasa, POTBS & CoX.

So what makes Age of Conan scratch the "something different" itch that these are titles don't? Saying "Well, it isn't based on D&D and so on Middle Earth" doesn't really set it apart all that much when you look at the full spectrum of MMOs on the market now.

I'm not arguing with your point, just asking for more details.

I'm interested to know more about the meat of the game. Have they moved away from the 'classic' stats? (Str, Dex, etc). Maybe its the combos in the combat system that makes it unique? The lack of auto-attack doesn't: CoX has that.

I read a LOT of hype about Age of Conan but it doesn't feel like there's all that much substance to the coverage so far, and I wonder if that's because Funcom is keeping the journalists at a distance. Which would be another reason to be wary, IMO.

Posted: Apr 24th 2008 5:42PM (Unverified) said

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This is one of those times when I wish I had an "undo" button. I apologize if you thought my initial response "snarky", that wasn't my intent, and it seems that we were "vehemently agreeing".

As for my firsthand experience with the game, I do believe that AoC uses the traditional stats system (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis) and, frankly, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. That part of the game that is "unique" is the integration of combination attacks and attacks of opportunity. I also understand that they are working on "spellweaving" where magical attacks can be combined for unique effects. I haven't seen this in action yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

(BTW, as a treat for those of you who read comments, and those of you who write them, here is a link to a Conan character creation video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLlkNoVHwBY&feature=related)

What got my attention were the visuals and the detail with which you could create and define your character. I think that this game might be a welcome change for those folks who have grown tired of elves, gnomes, halflings, and orcs, but still want a rich fantasy setting.

You are correct that there are many options for folks who want to leave the realm of Fantasy altogether, but it is a rather unique position to be in when you boast a fantasy setting that pays no homage to Tolkien in some form. (DAoC would be one example, but I'd be hard pressed to think of any others)

-K
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Posted: Apr 24th 2008 7:18PM GRT said

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Kevin, I didn't think you were snarky in your response. Well, not unreasonably so anyway, given my being anal about one line of your post.

Anyway, thanks for the video link and the discussion. I guess my worry here is with the game at launch. I 'get' their vision but I'm afraid it isn't all going to be there at launch. But if there's enough to engage me, I don't mind p(l)aying along while they build more systems.

FWIW I was a huge fan of Anarchy Online in spite of its dreadful launch. What I enjoyed about that game was its complexity, and the 'social' aspects (social clothing and such before such things were very popular) and how you could run a quick mission if you didn't have a lot of time, or go on a lengthy exploration run if you did.

Here, it sounds like attacks of opportunity and the combo system (as well as gorgeous graphics) are the launch-day hooks. I saw a gameplay video that showed 'shielding' that either you can move, or that moves on its own (which way it works wasn't clear to me) and now I'm guessing that's the 'other side' of attacks of opportunity. Hitting the enemy where his 'shielding' isn't?

Honestly, I wish the developers put more emphasis on talking about game systems and less on the fact that the game has decapitations and boobs.

Thanks again for the responses.

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Posted: Apr 24th 2008 5:30PM (Unverified) said

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Since we are going down the rabbit hole...

I am not sure Tolkien "wrote more".

Howard created a ton of literature in a very short time.

Cormac Mac Art, Conan, Kull of Atlantis, Various Cthulhu stuff, Solomon Kane

I could be wrong. I love both of their works.

The Hobbit was my first Fantasy story with Conan not far behind.

Posted: Apr 24th 2008 7:20PM GRT said

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Y'know, you may very well be right. I was visualizing my Conan collection, which I *think* is complete, and not very large (1 novel and a few volumes of short stories) and comparing it to my Tolkien collection, but I was thinking *only* of Conan and not of the other characters/series.

I stand corrected.
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Posted: Apr 24th 2008 8:49PM (Unverified) said

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One of the perks of running the MMO track at DragonCon each year is that I get to spend a few minutes of quality time with developers who come to talk about their games. If I had to guess, and I don't have to guess since they've said as much, the folks at Funcom have learned a lot of good lessons from Anarchy Online. That's another reason I have confidence in Age of Conan. These guys have learned some painful lessons about launching a game and I believe they won't make the same mistakes twice.

Blizzard was fortunate on a couple of counts when they launched World of Warcraft.

1) They designed the game with scalability in mind, learning the lessons from games like EQ. (crowding and server queues suck, and even WoW had problems initially with this)

2) Blizzard has enough cash and reputation to smooth over the rough patches that occur when a game launches. Even folks who weren't active on b.net knew that Blizzard wasn't afraid to take a little extra time to in order to put out a quality product. Those folks gave Blizz the benefit of the doubt when problems cropped up.

Games are the exact opposite of other software genres (note: I work in the industry, but I can't say for whom) In the business world, Microsoft popularized the model of "Ship now, patch later" (anyone remember Internet Exploder 1.0?) and that will absolutely destroy a game (especially an MMO). A buggy launch hurt AO, as well as many other games that never got a fair shake in the market place because the early buzz was "This game is buggy. It sucks"

Even if AoC is the greatest game since Pong, it's not going to "kill" World of Warcraft. If anything, it will be a welcome competitor in the marketplace that forces both games, as well as any newcomers (Are you listening, 38 Studios?) to raise the bar on what is "good enough" in the MMORPG space.

-K

Posted: Apr 24th 2008 10:04PM (Unverified) said

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Couple things about Age of Conan:

NDA WAS Lifted. It was lifted the day the Gamespot PVP Beta went live. Go to youtube and you will see a lot of new videos.

The 5 dollar charge is as follows. When you buy a game you get 30 days free. So the monthly is 15 dollars (I know its 14.99 but lets make it eays). The 5 dollar charge is for a 3 day head start AND 10 additional days of gametime after the standard free 30. So for 5 you get 13 days free which is greater then 1/3 the standard 30 days and is ACTUALLY cheaper then paying for 10 days. So in essence they are giving you 3 days for free. So it's not really that big of a deal honestly. Some people play for 30 days resub then completely hate the game, instead you put 5 extra in get 13 extra days and it COULD possibly save you 10 bucks in the long run.

Posted: Apr 24th 2008 11:31PM GRT said

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The point is, other games with an "early access" for pre-ordering haven't charged anything extra. You get in a few days before launch, and generally a week grace period to get a retail key installed. ie, 10 days "free".

Funcom sent out an email talking about how pre-ordering really helps them because it allows them to better estimate what load will be like on launch day. So in some sense we're doing them 'a favor' by pre-ordering. I guess in my opinion, giving us those early access days (with no charge, but the hassle of downloading a 12 gig client...that's the size of the beta download anyway, according to Fileplanet) is their way of returning the favor.

It isn't a huge deal, but it's just another data point that's somewhat off-putting. I'm still trying to understand why they put out a press release saying MSRP was $59.95. So far no online retailers have raised their prices to reflect that 'official' price, and I'm hoping things stay that way.

I don't mean to dump all over them, I'm just a bit wary. Been burned too many times when I got hyper-excited about a new MMO. Honestly Kevin sharing his personal experiences with chatting with the devs gives me hope.
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Posted: Apr 24th 2008 11:08PM (Unverified) said

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Actually Justin, just the PvP Weekend's NDA was lifted. Closed beta and tech beta are still under wraps, though that will likely change come next week.

Hell, I'm just glad the PvP weekend was a success.

Posted: Apr 25th 2008 8:38AM (Unverified) said

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For what it's worth, MSRP means exactly what it says. Manufacturer's *suggested* retail price. If retailers want to go below that, they can dip into their margins as far as they want. (I'm not sure what the wholesale rate is, but I'm fairly sure it is much lower than the MSRP)

And yes, pre-orders help MMO companies at launch for obvious reasons. So much so, that new games are inclined to provide a "ramp up" period for the people who pre-order as an added incentive.

Server hardware is expensive, but not having enough of it can make the game laggy at launch which does not give players a good first impression. Figuring out the "right number" of servers to have at game launch is a task that hasn't been done for a large-scale release. If you'll recall, Blizzard had to add a BUNCH of servers for World of Warcraft after launch, and we all knew that was going to be a huge title. Other games, such as Pirates of the Burning Sea had too many servers at launch and wound up scaling back. (although, in fairness, PotBS had an architectural breakthrough that allowed them to support more players per server than they had originally planned for.)

One model that might work is, on launch day, putting a small subset of your servers online, waiting until the server population hits a threshold, then adding servers gradually until your population growth curve flattens out a little bit. If I were running an MMORPG, I would certainly have a deal in place with my server manufacturer to add or return hardware as needed. (of course, I'd be hoping to add, not return, but you have to prepare for any eventuallity) Of course, I'd also want a server architecture that is scalable and upgradable in order to take advantage of new hardware as it comes out.

The point is, it isn't enough to have a good game. Your architecture, infrastructure (better make sure your "pipes are clean") and business model have to be sound in order for the game to be profitable. (Games that lose money, no matter how good they are, don't stay online for very long. Bad games, even if they make just a couple of dollars in profit, stay online forever.)

Whatever else can be said about Funcom or Anarchy Online, it's still online after all this time. That says a lot about Funcom's ability to keep a game going despite the rough start it had. That's part of the reason I remain confident that they've learned their lessons well.

-K

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