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Age of Conan

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.

One Shots: Breaking news

Screenshots, Age of Conan, City of Heroes, Guild Wars, Culture, One Shots, Humor, Champions Online, Miscellaneous

This just in! We've received reports that caped crusaders are beating the ever-loving crap out of a villain literally 12 feet in front of us! Seriously, if we could just turn these news cameras a little to the right, you'd see the whole thing, but for now you'll just have to take our word for it. Sponsored by Doritos.

Reader Sean submitted this particular gem: "I used to play quite a bit of Champions Online from closed beta through about four months after launch. Before the dark times. Before the patches. Here I am laying the smackdown on Foxbat during his 15 minutes of fame -- surely not what he had in mind."

Ha ha! Surely not there, Sean! Now for a word from our sponsors, and by that we mean more excellent player-submitted screenshots.

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Age of Conan to receive some new world bosses

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, Previews, News Items, Free-to-Play

Meet the new world boss, similar to several of the less world-related bosses, something something fooled again.
Do you like finding huge monsters out in the world and taking them down? Then you'll have reason to be excited about Age of Conan's upcoming world boss system. The most recent game director's letter explains that these bosses are an outgrowth of the anniversary event designed to make the game world feel more dynamic. Each boss will have a one-week spawn period, and with 12 bosses in total, players will be facing a different boss each month.

The boss will spawn within one or two outdoor areas and can be engaged and fought by any level-appropriate characters within those areas, with rewards going to anyone who takes part in the fight and survives for at least one minute before it dies. Item caches are dropped by each individual boss, but the bigger reward comes to players who manage to be counted as slaying all 12 bosses as they spawn. For more details, as well as information about upcoming gathering and event changes, take a look at the full game director's letter.

Age of Conan unchains three dungeons in overhaul

Fantasy, Age of Conan, News Items, Free-to-Play, Dungeons

Age of Conan players wanting more challenge in their dungeons have three more choices on the Unchained circuit. The Halls of Eternal Frost, The Scorpion Cave, and The Caravan Raiders Hideout have all received a major overhaul and have new Unchained modes to up the difficulty ante.

Of course, new modes means more endgame loot! Besides what raiders and dungeon-divers will find in the dungeons themselves, those who a complete the full tier of Unchained dungeons are rewarded with a chance at some of the best dungeon loot in the game courtesy of a new mastery quest. Additionally, more treasures can be found in a variety of other dungeons throughout Hyboria.

Age of Conan sneaks a peek at some (selectively) stylish crafting

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, Previews, News Items, Free-to-Play, Crafting

Style is a subjective thing, guys.
Age of Conan is already unchained according to its subtitle, but players are still restrained in certain ways. You can't just craft an item with your chosen stats and have it look like whatever you want, can you? Of course not! At least, not until the major crafting revision goes live, and the latest game director's letter shows off how players will be able to do exactly that.

The letter previews the new crafting interface, which along with ingredients allows players to select a style for the crafted product. New styles are unlocked via completing missions and certain achievements. The system also allows for adding new visuals as endgame drops or from the cash store, giving players more flexible options about how to look. Take a loot at the full letter for more details, as well as discussion about the next major content update and the possibility of porting elements over from The Secret World.

Leaderboard: What changes would bring you back to a previously played MMO?

Polls, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Leaderboard

Leaderboard - What changes would bring you back to a previously played MMO?
I just realized something. The original concept for this Leaderboard column hinged on two competing MMO philosophies duking it out. In recent months, though, it's sort of expanded into a more general feature and an excuse to make sure our criminally underused polling software still works.

Eh, whatever. Random thoughts of an MMO blogger, I guess.

Anyway and on topic, I've been thinking about going back to Age of Conan lately. So far I've managed to talk myself out of it, but yesterday's dev letter and its crafting tidbits piqued my interest. It also got me wondering what exactly the criteria is for returning to a game you've cast aside before. I imagine it's different for everyone, so for today's Leaderboard, tell us what changes -- if any -- would bring you back to an MMO you've heretofore abandoned. Vote after the cut!

Ever wish that you could put to rest a long-standing MMO debate once and for all? Then welcome to the battle royal of Massively's Leaderboard, where two sides enter the pit o' judgment -- and only one leaves. Vote to make your opinion known, and see whether your choice tops the Leaderboard!

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Age of Conan dev letter outlines new dungeons, tradeskill revamp progress

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Dungeons, Crafting

Age of Conan dev letter outlines new dungeons, tradeskill revamp progress
Age of Conan game director Joel Bylos has penned a new director's letter recapping the various happenings in Hyboria.

Funcom is still hard work on AoC's long-awaited crafting revamp, and Bylos says that the "single most important part of the tradeskill system was completed earlier this week." Apparently there was plenty of work to be done converting old items and old tools into the new system -- some of the assets were originally created using Anarchy Online toolsets, for example. It sounds like there's still a long way to go, though, as Bylos mentions that UI work, content work, node placement, and tutorials still need doing.

The letter also mentions Age of Conan's traditional Halloween event as well as three new dungeons that have made their way onto the game's test server. Click through the links below to read all about it!

Original Age of Conan game director talks combat influences

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play

Original Age of Conan game director talks combat influences
If you've been around the MMO block a time or two, you probably know the name Gaute Godager. If not, he's an original Funcom founder, as well as a game director on 2001's Anarchy Online and 2008's Age of Conan.

AoC fansite Assassin's Hideout recently scored an interview with the elusive developer, and it's an interesting read thanks to tidbits about the game's setting and its unique combo combat system. As for the former, Godager says that while Funcom considered many IPs -- including George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire -- the Conan property made the most sense because it lent itself to the "stylized HBO-like grown-up game" the team desired. It also helped that Robert E. Howard's Hyboria license had recently been acquired by Funcom partner Paradox.

Age of Conan's combo system is indebted to a 1993 fighting game called Samurai Showdown that served as one of Funcom's very first projects. The developers all took a fencing lesson, during which the instructor said that "all sword fighting [is] based around only six attacks. Up left, up right, straight down, down side up left, down side up right, and stab." Godager says that the explanation stuck with him and ultimately had a significant influence on MMO combat. "Look at EverQuest and draw a line to Neverwinter," he explained. "You will see Conan in there directing the speed, intensity, and flow of combat."

[Thanks Slith!]

Age of Conan's August letter previews the Great Hyborian Race

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

The finish line is atop the skulls of your enemies.  It also has a ribbon and some flowers.
How do you implement open world PvP in an aging game? Age of Conan is going to do precisely that by running a race. Director Joel Bylos discusses the upcoming Great Hyborian Race in his director's letter for August, an event designed to promote PvP as well as give everyone a chance to see the game through new eyes. New players and old will have a chance for glory, fame, and fantastic prizes.

How will it work? After the server merge (which has been delayed slightly by moving the game's offices), a new Blood and Glory ruleset server will be started specifically for the race. Players will have sharply limited use of XP potions, no use of offline levels, and a simple goal of reaching level 80 as fast as possible. Prizes will be given to players who reach the top first and who gain the most PvP experience. The letter also discusses upcoming unchained dungeons and upcoming unchained PvP, so even if you don't want to race you'll have something to explore.

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