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Age of Conan

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.

Serpent Men abound in Age of Conan's new Dragon Spine dungeon

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

Serpent Men abound in Age of Conan's new Dragon Spine dungeon
Age of Conan updates have slowed somewhat since Funcom restructured itself over the past year, but the dev team is still adding new stuff to its rendition of Robert E. Howard's Hyboria. The latest patch features a new dungeon called Coils of Ubah Kan which offers a "brutal challenge" for six-man groups along with appropriate loot and rewards.

The instance is part of AoC's Dragon's Spine content, which became the title's second adventure pack when it released in early January, 2013. Players must fight their way into the ancient underground city of the Serpent Men in order to complete the new dungeon. Funcom says that "even more content will come to this area in the near future."

[Source: Funcom press release]

Jukebox Heroes: Expansion themes

Age of Conan, EverQuest II, Final Fantasy XI, Guild Wars, Opinion, Star Trek Online, Allods Online, Miscellaneous, Jukebox Heroes, Music

Jukebox Heroes Expansion themes
Main themes seem to be a strong favorite among video game music fans (and even the casual set), but I've talked about them a few times already. So instead of puttering around with main MMO themes, why not give expansions some of the credit?

Not every expansion gets its own theme tune, of course, but plenty do. We've covered a few of them in this column so far, including Riders of Rohan and EVE Online: Apocrypha. What we haven't done is spend an entire week looking at these upstart themes and see how they compare to the originals.

So strap on your headphones and prepare for symphonic excellence. Here are six great MMO expansion themes that deserve a few minutes of your time!

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Age of Conan composer joins PlanetSide 2 and Starcraft II nominees for music award

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Culture, Events (Real-World), News Items, Free-to-Play, Music

Age of Conan joins PlanetSide 2 and Starcraft II as nominees for music award
Say what you will about the rest of the game, there's little argument that Age of Conan has impressive music. And now, soundtrack composer Knut Avenstroup Haugen joins the list of nominees for the Best Score in a Video Game at the 2013 Hollywood Music in Media Awards. His nomination comes for his work heard in AoC's latest content update, Dragon's Spine, which can be heard in the trailer.

Other nominees include Jeff Broadbent (Planetside 2) and Russel Bower, Derek Duke, Glenn Stafford, and Neal Acree (Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm), nominated in January and March, respectively. The winner for best score will be selected at the HMMA ceremony at Hollywood's Fonda Theatre November 21st. Interested in listening to these impressive soundtracks for yourself? You'll find selections for both AoC and PS2 (and many more) in our own Jukebox Heroes feature.

Director's letter for Age of Conan talks loot, merges, and dungeons

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

If you're concerned about drop rates, that may be a different discussion altogether.
If you've not been happy with loot rewards in Age of Conan, you can take some succor in the fact that the designers aren't happy with them either. The latest director's letter discusses the problem of rewards in the first Dragon's Spine dungeon and explains that the team is trying to create interesting loot without creating a huge power imbalance between new and veteran characters at the cap. While the next few dungeons will fill out the loot sets that have been established, the team is actively working on long-term solutions.

Beyond that, the game remains on-track for server merges in the summer, with older unplayed characters moving into "archival" status to make database merges less onerous. The tradeskill revamp and further dungeons are also in the works; Coils of Ubah Khan is nearing launch as the next dungeon. For more details on the updates and discussion of achievements, take a look at the full letter.

Some Assembly Required: Five ways MMOs should support player events

World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, Aion, EverQuest II, Events (In-Game), MMO Industry, Warhammer Online, Vanguard, RuneScape, The Secret World, Miscellaneous, Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required Five ways all games should support player events and why
Over the course of Some Assembly Required, we've covered a few player-run events out there that haven't been highlighted in their respective game columns. After all, we're all about PGC here, and you can't really get content more player-generated than that! But with all the the possible events across the whole gamut of games, there's no possible way to attend them all, let alone cover them here; there is only so much time in the day and space in the column. Of course, that won't stop me from trying!

From Age of Conan to Warhammer Online, a few of the events I've been able to catch are festivals, races, plays, fishing contests, tavern storytelling nights, quests (yes, quests), treasure/scavenger hunts, trivia contests, arena duels, gambling nights, musical concerts, war games, horse races, weddings, dance-offs, terraforming challenges, auctions, jousts, fashion shows, tournaments, funerals, crafter fairs, and more contests than can even be mentioned. These examples aren't restricted to any one genre, either; creatively concocted events run the gamut and include themeparks like Aion, MOBAs like SMITE, and more -- and not just sandboxes.

As you might have noticed, that's quite a bit of content, content that comes at no cost to the the studio! So why is it these events can be so hard to find? With so much free content at their fingertips, it would behoove studios to make it the norm to support and promote these events. And the tools they need to do so are already at their disposal.

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Age of Conan's May Director's Letter details new content and tech

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

Screenshot -- Age of Conan
Crush enemies, see them driven before you, lamentations of their women, yadda yadda. You know the drill. The Age of Conan Game Director's Letter for this month has hit the interwebs, and the topics of discussion are the recent 5th Anniversary event (and the new event system that it utilized), the impending transition to single-server technology, and a number of updates heading to the game soon. The first phase of Age of Conan's switch to single-server tech (which involved moving all of the servers to the same physical location) has been completed, and the AoC team is now "preparing to move towards the new phase," which means merging all same-ruleset servers.

Meanwhile, in Hyboria proper, Age of Conan recently held an in-game event to celebrate its fifth anniversary, and this included the introduction of some snazzy new event tech. In a nutshell, the previous system required that the game be patched in order to both begin and end an event, but with the new system, the devs can run and adjust events on the fly. On top of that, AoC players can expect a smattering of new content over the summer, beginning with the new Coils of Ubah Khan dungeon. Later additions will include new Unchained Dungeons, the Palace of Cetriss, and a shiny new tradeskill system. To get all the delicious information straight from the barbarian's mouth (ew), just click on through the link below.

Funcom Q1 sales and restructuring keep studio moving forward

Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi, Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, The Secret World, Legal, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

Funcom restructuring, good Q1 sales keep studio afloat
If it's not the best news ever, at least we've got some good news from Funcom today. The studio posted its first quarter financial report, showing that it had solid sales and "significant" operating expense savings because of the recent restructuring of its organization.

Funcom made over $6.3 million of revenue in the first quarter, mostly thanks to sales and subscriptions of The Secret World and Age of Conan. The studio said that it saved almost $1.2 million of operating expenses in the same period thanks to the restructuring. Also, The Secret World made more money in Q1 2013 than Q4 2012 thanks to its new business model.

In terms of game news, Funcom is pushing forward with its LEGO Minifigures MMO, the new Anarchy Online graphic engine, a summer release for Issue #7 of The Secret World, and development of several smaller titles. Both LEGO and Funcom will be working to "establish closer integration between the physical product and the game." Finally, thanks to recent decisions by the studio, both Anarchy Online and The Secret World are boasting larger numbers of players than in the previous quarter.

Age of Conan announces 5th anniversary event, new membership perks

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

Age of Conan announces 5th anniversary event new membership perks
Just because it's a tough and gritty world in Age of Conan doesn't mean folks don't know how to celebrate. In fact, Funcom has announced fitting festivities for the fifth anniversary of this fierce fantasy world. Each day for five days starting Thursday, May 23rd, a new epic boss will begin roaming the lands of Hyboria, and each day that a boss remains unconquered it will increase its level of brutality. On the flip side, the chance for epic rewards for defeating one also increases by the day. All players, regardless, of level can join in the fight to take these monsters down, and everyone will have a chance at the rewards.

As anniversary gifts, all players will receive a one-week pass to Khitai as well as other items that can be claimed from the item shop. Members will receive a double item store discount throughout the five-day event as well as a special gift.

Starting tomorrow, membership will include account-wide double xp items, 200 bonus points per month, and a bonus AA point for every level (granted retroactively). Interested in becoming a member? Funcom is also offering a special deal through May 30th granting 50% more time with multi-month subscriptions.

Second Wind: Age of Conan

Fantasy, Screenshots, Video, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Humor, Livestream, Second Wind

Age of Conan screenshot
I remember playing Age of Conan when it first came out; it seems like an eternity ago. So many titles have been released and failed since then that it's easy to get it all mixed up, and it doesn't help when many of those titles are sub-par or just plain boring and forgettable. Age of Conan sort of messed with my head with its insistent instancing and odd combat mechanics. I just couldn't wrap my head around what the game was trying to do.

Is it a hardcore PvP-centric MMO? Many would say so. Is it a grand, single-player adventure? In some ways. Is it an immersive romp through the long-lived lore of Conan the Barbarian? I guess so. It's a bit of all of these but does none of them perfectly. I decided to jump back into the game because the last time I played it was when it switched over to its odd freemium model that is all-too-common in Western MMOs these days.

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Age of Conan game director talks about server tech, tradeskills, and more

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

Age of Conan game director talks about server tech, tradeskills, and more
Joel Bylos, the game director for Age of Conan, has put out this month's game director letter. In it, he addresses his team's plan for addressing "most of the concerns and requests" that players have.

Through a three-phase process, Age of Conan will come closer to having the same server functionality as The Secret World. Servers will be moved to the same physical place, then servers with the same ruleset will be merged, and then cross-server queues and functionality will be implemented. The tradeskill system is getting a massive revamp. Key changes there include the near removal of quests from tradeskill progression. Dragon's Spine and Unchained content is starting to get scheduled, bit by bit, for release.

You can read the full dev letter on the official site.

Funcom's Joel Bylos on the centralized TSW, AoC, and AO team

Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi, Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, Previews, News Items, Free-to-Play, The Secret World, Interviews (Massively's), Sandbox

Massively Exclusive  Bylos expounds on the centralized team for AO, AoC, and TSW
By now, most MMO gamers are pretty familiar with the fact that Funcom underwent restructuring. But what does that mean; what exactly did it entail? The term "restructuring" in itself signifies changes but does nothing to actually enlighten folks on what the changes are. Other than the fact that Joel Bylos was named creative director for all three of Funcom's titles -- Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, and The Secret World -- and that the team will be in one centralized in location, we know little of the details.

How many developers survived the restructuring and relocated to remain on the team? Is this move foreshadowing one or more games slipping into maintenance mode? How will the coveted dev attention be divvied up? What does the future hold? Devoid of facts, players are left left wondering about how these changes will impact their favorite games.

While chatting with Joel Bylos in an exclusive interview, I was able to ask some of these very questions.

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Funcom's Bylos named creative director on AoC, AO, and TSW

Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi, Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, The Secret World

Bylos named Funcom creative director, overseeing TSW, AoC, and AO
Funcom has announced that The Secret World creative director Joel Bylos is now the creator director for all three of the firm's MMORPGs. This includes TSW, Age of Conan, and Anarchy Online. Bylos has penned letters from the game director for TSW and AoC, while AO's Dave "Ilaliya" Williams passes the torch via a forum post.

Bylos' TSW letter talks additional content plans up to and including Issue #12 (the live game currently sits on Issue #5, with #6 scheduled for early March). Bylos has a special place in his heart for AoC stemming from his time as the lead designer on the Rise of the Godslayer expansion, and his initial game director letter reflects on both coming home and the opportunities for expanding Hyboria. He also talks a bit about the pros and cons of having a single production team working on three live titles.

Finally, outgoing AoC producer Craig "Silirrion" Morrison recaps his four years at the helm and hints at a "new opportunity within the MMO world."

[Thanks to David for the tip.]

Age of Conan pillages Steam

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Business Models, Free-to-Play, Promotions

Age of Conan pillages Steam
Age of Conan's become the latest title to join Steam's free-to-play library. To celebrate the game's release on the digital distribution platform, Steam is offering a special pack of goodies for 35% off.

The Tortage Survival Pack is currently $6.49 (regularly $9.99) and includes a set of beginner weapons, items to teleport you to your origin city, a DPS-boosting ring, a 20-slot inventory bag, fireworks, 10 XP potions, and a blue snow mammoth mount.

Jukebox Heroes: Age of Conan's soundtrack

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

Jukebox Heroes Age of Conan's soundtrack
I'm going to be honest with you: I've been putting off this particular column for months now. I've been dreading it, really. Because what I say next is probably going to turn off a lot of you who seem to worship this score like nothing else I've seen: I only kind of like Age of Conan's soundtrack. It's not really my favorite, nor in my top 10. And I know that this goes really against the feelings for this score that I've seen professed in Jukebox Heroes and elsewhere.

You know what? That's OK. Musical preferences are some of the most subjective things in the world, and we can't be expected to like everything, right? If Age of Conan's soundtrack gets people listening to more MMO (and even video game) scores, then that's a win for our niche-within-a-niche-within-a-niche hobby.

This score (and all of Age of Conan's subsequent music) was composed by Norwegian Knut Avenstroup Haugen. He won several awards for his work on the game, including the International Film Music Critics Association Award for Scoring Excellence. If you're interested in the man, Massively's Jef Reahard did an interview with him back in 2010 that makes for good reading. Otherwise, let's head onward and I'll share my personal favorites from the original game score!

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