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Age of Conan

Funcom's revenues decrease in Q2

Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, MMO Industry, News Items, The Secret World, Miscellaneous

It's still a better business model than Orochi.
Funcom has released its second-quarter financial results for the year, and it's not a glowing success story. Revenue dropped roughly $600,000 compared to Q1, a drop attributed to weaker in-game item sales over the quarter. Despite this, the report indicates that the company remains on-track as a whole, with the overall pattern of expenses not significantly changed. All of the major MMOs in the studio's portfolio are stated to be cash-flow positive, which is good news for fans.

While the company launched several marketing attempts to draw more players into its titles, The Secret World was the most successful at bringing in more players via its most recent major update. The company projects good results for LEGO Minifigures Online when it releases in October. Interested players can look at the full report, which is less overwhelmingly positive than might be ideal but hardly paints a picture of doom.

Jukebox Heroes: Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer's soundtrack

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Expansions, Free-to-Play, Jukebox Heroes, Music

Fans (or ex-fans?) of this column might recall that I went against the grain of popular opinion by pronouncing Age of Conan's soundtrack "adequate" rather than an "outstanding masterpiece." I think that I can extend an olive branch to the player army that's been chasing me since then, however, as I hold the expansion soundtrack in much higher regard.

Composer Knut Avenstroup Haugen returned for Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer, creating a 22-track journey through all new barbaric lands. Unlike his first score for this MMO, this one latches onto the Asian themes of the expansion and takes the score in a decidedly Chinese direction. It's well-done across the board and aided by a full orchestra. Really, my biggest complaint is that it's not easy to purchase here in the states for some reason. You can listen to and even download a few samples from the official soundtrack site, which still remains in operation.

So let's head to the far east for this week's exploration of MMO soundtracks, looking at the highlights from Rise of the Godslayer!

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Age of Conan's anniversary celebration starts today

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, Anniversaries

Age of Conan
Age of Conan turns six today, and doesn't that make you feel old? As we reported last week, Funcom is gifting players with a new PvP-themed Festival of Bloodshed that lead content designer Matthew Bennett calls "arguably our largest PvP patch in the game's history."

But wait, there's more!

The Shadows of the Past anniversary event sees players uncovering a plot against King Conan and traveling back to Tortage. The event, as well as a cash shop treasure chest giveaway, starts today and runs through June 3rd. The Festival of Bloodshed starts on May 21st, lasts for one week, and will recur on a monthly basis.

Age of Conan kicks off the Festival of Bloodshed for its anniversary

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Events (In-Game), PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play

It's the most wonderful time of the year, unless you'd prefer to not have a battle-axe lodged in your trachea.
What's the best way to celebrate six years for Age of Conan? Obviously, by encouraging the players to kill each other! In the game, we mean. Put down that hammer. The Festival of Bloodshed is a new event that will be running for one week every month, offering players a chance to take part in all-new PvP modes and events while earning fantastic prizes.

On PvP servers, the zone flagged for the Festival will rotate from place to place, while on the game's dedicated PvE server the festival will take place in the Border Kingdoms to ensure all PvP remains consensual. While in these regions, players can take part in the new Fields of Slaughter events (teams holding a designated region against all comers) as well as the Arena of Death. This comes along with new PvP daily quests, improved PvP gear, bonus experience for alternate advancement, and other rewards. So to celebrate six years of the game, read up on how you can reach out and touch someone. With a pointy bit of metal.

[Thanks to Anders for the tip!]

Anarchy Online and Age of Conan players vote on new content

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries, Anniversaries

Anarchy Online
Newsletters for Anarchy Online and Age of Conan were posted yesterday, and both of them had a common theme: an intiative by Funcom to let players vote on what new content they want to see developed.

Anarchy Online players voted for a new Shadowlands mission, which is currently being made for the Inferno zone. AO is also getting ready to show off the 18.7 patch, which contains a new ICC headquarters, the new player experience, and shop changes.

As for the Age of Conan community, players voted to see Conall's Valley and the Wild Lands of Zelata included with PvP events. The studio has scheduled a world boss event for May 7th, the sixth anniversary event for May 20th, and Patch 4.2 for some time this month.

Age of Conan introduces new subscription benefits along with a new world boss

Fantasy, Age of Conan, News Items, Free-to-Play, Promotions, Subscription

What if we tried killing her with drowning?  It's got to take eventually!
The latest of Age of Conan's monthly world bosses has arrived in the form of the Thrice Drowned queen. Emerging to terrorize the Thunder River, she will wreak havoc if left unchecked, since anyone who can be drowned three times and still come back for more is no one to be trifled with. Perhaps you'll be so enthusiastic about fighting her that you decide you simply can't miss out on any of the future bosses; if so, there's a subscription offer you might be interested in.

Two new rewards are available to players who subscribe for six months or a year at a time; a ring that grants bonus alternate advancement XP and another ring that grants a bonus to PvP and Prowess XP gain. Subscribing for six months nets a version of these rings with a 25% bonus along with an extra two months of subscription time; subscribing for a year nets an extra four months and rings with a 50% bonus. In short, if you want to step up your subscription game, now is the time to do so.

CEO Ole Schreiner on Funcom's future and that police investigation

Fantasy, Horror, Age of Conan, Business Models, Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, The Secret World, Buy-to-Play

Funcom logo
Funcom CEO Ole Schreiner recently spoke with GamesIndustry.biz in a lengthy interview that covers everything from the performance of The Secret World to the future of the company to the recent Økokrim raid.

The police action has to do with former CEO Trond Arne Aas and accusations of insider trading relating to The Secret World's launch. "What we know is actually very little and the few things we do know, we can't talk about because it's an ongoing case," Schreiner says. "The charges are two-fold. The first is that Funcom, between August 2011 and August 2012, manipulated the market. The other is that we had wrongfully filed insider information."

It's not all gloom-and-doom going forward, though, as Funcom has gotten the Dreamworld tech behind Age of Conan and The Secret World to work on consoles, Android, and iOS devices. "It's not so much about the technology as the knowledge, which we've been building for 13 years," Schreiner explains. "It's a platform -- it has all the elements you need to make, run, and maintain a game from the production tools right down to the customer service and QA tools."

Schreiner is also optimistic about Funcom's future, which is currently focused on LEGO Minifigures Online. "This new strategy is a natural evolution of the company," he states. "We would have taken this path anyway, no matter how The Secret World turned out."

Jukebox Heroes: Top 40 MMO themes, #20-11

Age of Conan, Darkfall, Final Fantasy XI, Guild Wars, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Allods Online, Blade & Soul, Miscellaneous, PlanetSide 2, Defiance, Jukebox Heroes, Dragon's Prophet, Music

SWG
We're growing ever closer to my top picks for MMO theme songs, but we're not quite at the end yet. This week we are on to the third part of our Top 40 MMO main themes countdown. To repeat my self-imposed rules for this list: I limited myself to just one theme from a particular title, even if there were multiple themes in a game. Entries had to be a main theme or the closest equivalent of that; they had to be from MMOs, not from MOBAs; and I had to divorce my weighting of the track itself from the popularity of and my experience with that game. So there were no points added or subtracted based on my love of the game. I'm counting down the best music, period.

If you missed earlier parts of this series, check out themes #40-31 and #30-21. Otherwise, hit that continue button and get listening already!

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Funcom's financials take a sharp blow

Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, Business Models, MMO Industry, The Secret World, Legal, Miscellaneous

Funcom
The earnings report for Funcom's fourth quarter 2013 is in -- and it doesn't look pretty.

The studio reported that revenues are down both year over year and quarter over quarter due to deferred billings with The Secret World and increased competition. However, Funcom said that a better business model and new marketing programs are resulting in a stronger first quarter for 2014 and that its MMOs are "cash-flow positive and will remain so in the foreseeable future."

Funcom said that it is taking steps to turn around the business with a new strategy to focus on more mid-core online games with smaller budgets and shorter development time. It's also continuing to invest in LEGO Minifigures Online and the Dreamworld technology. The latter is important so that the studio can release games across multiple platforms including Android and iOS tablets. LEGO Minifigures Online is scheduled for open beta testing this summer.

The Økokrim charges regarding possible market manipulation between August 2011 and August 2012 were mentioned. Funcom said that no employees have been charged, and the company is cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation.

Director Joel Bylos on The Secret World's Tokyo and Age of Conan's PvP

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, Patches, Previews, News Items, Free-to-Play, The Secret World, Buy-to-Play

All flapping raids, all the flapping time.
It's the end of the month, and that means it's time for The Secret World and Age of Conan's director letters. Director Joel Bylos had plenty to say about both games. Tokyo may have been pushed back slightly for The Secret World, but Bylos stresses that the net result will be a much better area that will really come alive with flavor. He also discusses the controversy around the game's Mystery Boxes, noting that the boxes are not lockboxes; they can be purchased only directly from the item store, and they contain nothing that cannot be earned in-game.

Hyboria, meanwhile, is due for another pass of PvP reward balancing. The Dragon's Spine dungeons and the tradeskill updates are still approaching completion, albeit more slowly than most players would probably like. Daily quests are also on the table for introduction to tie into the new world boss system, which should give adventurers in Age of Conan one more way to enjoy the game.

Field Journal: Tortage and the problem of starting areas

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, MMORPG, Field Journal

Shockingly, I didn't see anyone else running around topless.
It's been quite a while since I've played Age of Conan. Rather than try to figure out where I had left off and what I should be doing with my existing character (and possibly ending up with nothing much to write about), I decided to start anew. The starting experience in and around the sub-tropical pirate city of Tortage is rather distinct. Since I'm already familiar with it, I knew I could find enough in it for an entry in this journal.

So I leaped into the fray on my Stygian Herald of Xotli to refresh my memory while slicing, dicing, and frying pirates. I had a fair bit of fun doing so, but from the start, I had one nagging complaint distracting me: This isn't very representative of the game after Tortage. It's true that few starting areas in MMOs are, but AoC makes for an interesting case in how sharp that division is.

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Perfect Ten: MMO features that were hyped but never delivered

World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, City of Heroes, EVE Online, Guild Wars, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Ultima Online, Vanguard, Humor, Champions Online, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous

Octonauts
Developers like to talk a big game. It's expected, it's encouraged by all parties, and it's part of the fun. When a game or big expansion is coming up, the spokespeople for studios like to hop on stage, grab that mic, and start proselytizing for all they're worth. And while some promises come to fruition, others are various shades of white lies, and still others never come to be at all.

These are the features that studios would much rather you forget were mentioned in the first place, although this is the internet and the internet never forgets. Well, players who latch on to everything devs say as absolute truth never forget.

Sometimes things happen along the way in development. Studios run out of time to get in all of the features and have to prioritize which make the cut and which do not. Features end up not testing as well as hoped and the studio quietly drops them because the PR hit for the features not going in is much less than the disaster that they might cause. And some developers like to flap their gums and spout brainstorm ideas that send the actual programmers and designers back at the company into spasms of agony when they try to figure out how to make them work.

Today let's go through 10 features that were talked up but never delivered in MMOs!

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Age of Conan's January Director letter talks PvP gear, daily quests, and crafting system

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries, Crafting

Age of Conan's January Game Director letter delved into the game's most recent patch as well as the upcoming re-balancing of PvP armor, an update on the crafting system overhaul, and a look at new daily quests. Additionally, the next world boss to start rampaging through Hyboria (which will have more frequent spawns than those before it) will begin its menacing spree on February 5th.

PvP armor will be receiving the same re-balancing treatment that PvP weapons recently got, giving newly level-80 players a fighting chance to land some good blows and dish out damage in PvP. As an update on the long-awaited crafting revamp, the letter notes that all existing items can be broken down into salvaged components for upcoming crafting recipes. And finally, new daily location quests will give players a reason (and rewards) for traveling across Hyboria each day and visiting different locations.

Choose My Adventure: Hanging my hat in EverQuest

Fantasy, Age of Conan, EverQuest, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Massively Meta, Choose My Adventure

If ya'll were all fired up to see a rousing round of Age of Conan over the next few weeks, yer gonna be disappointed. This rodeo don't take kindly to cheatin', so AoC's been disqualified. What I can't figure out is why the perps would brag so brazenly about tryin' to fix the event. Do they think we don't read forums? Maybe some folks just fell off a horse and hit their heads one too many times?

I'm sadder than a frog without a lilypad; I feel bad for all the genuine rule-followin' fans who wanted to see their favorite game get the spotlight it certainly deserves. And this will really put a bee in their bonnets: AoC probably woulda won even without the tamperin', so those fools who decided they didn't want to play fair an' square just blew it for the rest of ya. And here I was looking forward to returnin' to Hyboria. For those supporters who voted legitimately, I hope ya still get your time in the ring in another Choose My Adventure.

With that unfortunate business outta the way, I'd like to introduce ya'll to the star of our show: EverQuest. It edged out Anarchy Online by just a few votes to takes its place as the next CMA title. Ya might find it a bit ironic that the keeper of the Norrathian Notebook is heading to Norrath, but since my first attempt to sink my feet in that soil didn't pan out, I'm hopin' it'll be different with ya'll directing the adventure. 'Sides, seems kinda fitting, it being the Year of EverQuest and all. Now there's a whole mess o' choices this week, from race to class to server, so get in there and brand yours before 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, January 31st.

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Age of Conan director's letter talks achievements and PvP

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Patches, PvP, News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries, MMORPG

Age of Conan
Age of Conan senior designer Matthew Bennett stepped in to author the game's most recent director's letter, and in doing so offered updates on AoC's long awaited achievement system as well as some valuable intel on the state of PvP items. According to Bennett, the Age of Conan team has a rough design in place for achievements that centers on broad categories like PvE, exploration, and dungeons, with sub-categories being designed for each.

Bennett also explained that the dev team is taking a hard look at Tier 3 PvP gear by working to re-balance stats on key items to make them more useful and up their damage output to an appropriate level. The PvP team is also working on Tier 4 PvP items. Finally, Bennett reminded players that starting in February, Portents will return to their normal cycle of starting on the first Wednesday of the month and lasting until the following Tuesday.

As for the big things like The Palace of Cetriss raid and Age of Conan's new tradeskill system? While not the focus of this particular letter, those key game elements are still in development.

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