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The Anvil of Crom

The Anvil of Crom Extra: Silirrion on Unchained, buying power, and more

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Business Models, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, The Anvil of Crom

It's been a huge couple of weeks for Funcom and the Age of Conan community. Unchained brought a new freemium business model, thousands of new (and old) players, and new dungeon content to Hyboria. One week later, PvP fans were treated to the opening of the new Blood and Glory servers, with hardcore rule sets that included increased PvP XP, corpse looting, and a return to the game's unforgiving free-for-all roots.

AoC game director Craig "Silirrion" Morrison recently took the time to answer a few of our burning questions about Unchained and the game's immediate future. Head past the cut to see what Silirrion has to say about earning Funcom points in game, veteran point allotments, paying to skip the grind, and some spiffy new community-focused server tech.

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The Anvil of Crom: Unchained, free at last, and some initial observations

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Business Models, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Anvil of Crom

Timing, as they say, is everything, and so I'd like to take a brief moment to thank Funcom for fouling up my carefully laid column plans this week. Also, it's a rare day that I'm not prowling the interwebs in search of news for our fair website, so of course, the second day out of the last six months that saw me take some time off was naturally the very same day that Funcom decided to launch Age of Conan: Unchained.

And yeah, I said Unchained, not Unrated, and if you think you're going to have trouble referring to the game as such after cozying up to the former moniker for the last month, console yourself with the fact that you now have David Lee Roth careening around inside your head for the foreseeable future. You're welcome.

In all seriousness, though, Age of Conan is free at last, free at last, thank God almighty it's free-to-play at last (even if it was a little sudden).

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The Anvil of Crom: Can AoC Unrated keep up with the Joneses?

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Anvil of Crom

Sooooo, City of Heroes and LEGO Universe caught the free-to-play bug this week. Fallen Earth did so the week before. What does this have to do with Age of Conan? Quite a lot, if you think about it, and that's what I'm given to doing every week around this time as I sit down to hum a few bars relating to Funcom's Hyboria.

In case you've forgotten (and it's easy to do thanks to the rash of announcements lately), Age of Conan is gearing up for its own version of freemium MMORPG madness. At this point it's anyone's guess as to when the big day will actually roll around, though, and the longer Funcom waits, the more it concerns me.

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The Anvil of Crom: Ranging across the border

Fantasy, Galleries, Screenshots, Age of Conan, Lore, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Anvil of Crom

"Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet." -- The Nemedian Chronicles

Conan fans will recognize the above passage as one of the most famous in the barbarian's extensive canon. It appears at the beginning of 1932's The Phoenix on the Sword and serves as a brief teaser for the history that underlies the world of Hyboria. Being something of an MMO lore junkie (and given the fact that I'm slowly working my way through Robert E. Howard's Conan library), I've often wondered about the origins of the Nemedian Chronicles and the people who wrote them. While Nemedia itself is not yet accessible in Age of Conan, Funcom's nods to Nemedian culture are numerous, and nowhere is this more evident than the Border Range. Join me after the cut for some impressions on this war-torn zone and the stories behind it.

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The Anvil of Crom: Recessions, appearance tabs, and PvP for the returning player

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Economy, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Anvil of Crom

Welcome to the Anvil of Crom, Conan fans. It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks, and all of the announcements, new content, business model changes, and general gameplay shenanigans are only going to generate more Age of Conan discussion as the summer wears on.

This week I'd like to take a brief time out to highlight some worthwhile (and ongoing) community discussions. Every so often it's good to take a bit of a break from my rantings and ravings and hand the microphone to you guys, and what better way to do that than by examining a few of the more interesting forum discussions to be found on both the U.S. and EU boards.

Without further ado, join me after the cut and add your two copper to the comment section.

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The Anvil of Crom: Server merges, separation, and why both are potentially swell

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Anvil of Crom

Last week I mentioned that the Age of Conan Unrated announcement has given us a lot to talk about. There's the 800-lb. free-to-try elephant in the room, there's a bunch of new content that's both coming soon and already here, and there's also an endlessly fascinating quote from Funcom game director Craig "Silirrion" Morrison that is, well, endlessly fascinating.

This last bit got lost in the big announcement blitzkrieg, and because it was buried in the depths of a thread about roleplay on the EU boards, it's safe to assume that 99.99% of Age of Conan players didn't read it. Regardless, it may well be one of the more interesting and exciting developments in Age of Conan's short history. What was it about? Well, it involves servers, server merges, and new technology that could change the way we think about MMORPGs and server populations.

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The Anvil of Crom: Beggars, choosers, and why Unrated isn't a sign of "failure"

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Business Models, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Anvil of Crom

Hi folks, and welcome back to The Anvil of Crom. First off I'd like to thank Funcom for single-handedly making my writing life absurdly easy for the foreseeable future. The tidal wave of Age of Conan announcements this past week have basically pushed all my carefully laid column plans back about two months.

Which is fantastic.

The only problem is what to talk about first. F2P? The Savage Coast? Various Craig Morrison interviews as well as an obscure quote that's more interesting (and exciting) than the rest of this stuff put together? I guess it only makes sense to get the reaction to Unrated out of the way first, so join me after the cut as I do just that.

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The Anvil of Crom Extra: Craig Morrison on pioneering the hybrid business model

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Business Models, Culture, Interviews, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Anvil of Crom

Conventional wisdom holds that Turbine is responsible for bringing the free-to-play/subscription hybrid to the west. It might surprise you to learn, then, that Funcom's Anarchy Online F2P implementation pre-dates the much-hyped Dungeons and Dragons Online experiment by a good four years.

Yes, Funcom is no stranger to free-to-play, and the MMORPG maker is looking to expand Age of Conan's playerbase -- much as it did Anarchy Online's -- by trotting it out again. It's no accident that this is happening alongside the latest salvo in a substantial content rollout that started earlier this spring and will continue well into late summer. Funcom is timing the buildup to take advantage of an expected upsurge in Conan interest as Robert E. Howard's barbarian reaver re-enters the public consciousness with the August release of a film franchise reboot.

I recently chatted with Funcom's Craig "Silirrion" Morrison for my second exclusive interview in as many weeks, this time picking the game director's brain about business models, content updates, and why we won't see additional servers to handle the new player load.

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The Anvil of Crom: Age of Conan year three retrospective

Fantasy, Age of Conan, MMO Industry, PvP, PvE, Opinion, The Anvil of Crom

The past 12 months have been something of a whirlwind for the Age of Conan team. While content updates for the game were a bit lighter than normal, Funcom was nonetheless working quite hard behind the scenes for much of the game's third year.

As a result -- and despite the residual stickiness of the outdated "Failcom" rhetoric that floats around the internet -- there's never been a better time to be an AoC fan. The dev team has expanded, content updates are coming at regular intervals, and there's even a new server ruleset on the way for those of you in favor of unforgiving PvP action. Add to that the cryptic hints of a big announcement that Craig Morrison has been dropping over the last little while and you've got a recipe for Hyborian intrigue the likes of which we haven't seen since launch.

Speaking of AoC's launch, it happened three years ago this week, and today's Anvil of Crom offers you a look back at year three's most memorable moments. Put on your birthday hats, break out the kazoos, and join me after the cut for more.

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The Anvil of Crom Extra: Silirrion on Age of Conan's past, present, and future

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, The Anvil of Crom

Welcome, barbarian friends, to a special edition of The Anvil of Crom. Age of Conan's third anniversary is here, and the sheer amount of things to talk about has necessitated two columns this week -- and driven me to consume a celebratory pint (or six) of Cimmerian ale. First up is a recent sit-down with Funcom's Craig "Silirrion" Morrison wherein the game director chats about the fantasy title's past, present, and future.

Hyboria has changed dramatically since AoC's May 2008 release, and even bigger changes are coming, including new content, a new server ruleset, and a big announcement that Morrison's been hinting at via Twitter in recent weeks.

Join us after the cut as we discuss PvP, PvE, forthcoming appearance slots, and more!

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The Anvil of Crom: Is Age of Conan a PvP-focused game?

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, PvP, PvE, Opinion, The Anvil of Crom

One of the great things about Massively is the deluge of MMO information and opinion that is spread across the site on a daily basis. Since I'm so closely tied to our Age of Conan coverage, it's interesting to read other writers' perspectives on Hyboria, particularly when they don't match my own.

Take one of our recent early-morning conversation starters in which Funcom's title is described as a PvP-focused game. Despite being a throw-away reference, the wording here struck a strange chord. Age of Conan does feature both open world and instanced PvP, but said PvP is -- in my experience -- a red-headed step-child in terms of content updates, system tweaks, and player preference.

The key here is "in my experience," and it's amazing how a simple turn of phrase like "PvP-focused game" can send the mind drifting on all manner of perceptual tangents. Analytically, though, is Age of Conan a PvP-focused game as of May 2011? Head past the cut to find out.

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The Anvil of Crom: Can Funcom capitalize on the Conan film reboot?

Fantasy, Trailers, Video, Age of Conan, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Anvil of Crom

I don't know about you, Age of Conan-faithful, but I'm a hopeless film trailer junkie. I collect them. I watch (and re-watch) them on my computer, my phone, my television, and of course, at the cinema proper. A lot of the time, trailers are substantially better than the full-length films they're meant to sell, and I've even been known to pay full price for a ticket only to walk out after the preview (particularly when said preview concerned a long-awaited prequel and was inexplicably tacked on to the front of Meet Joe Black).

Given that Conan already plays a significant role in my gaming life, I think deconstructing the recently released trailer for the upcoming film franchise reboot makes a certain sort of sense. Sadly, Massively isn't a haven for film criticism, but I'd like to get around that by doing a bit of theorizing on how the new flick could conceivably affect our favorite MMORPG.

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The Anvil of Crom: Time to move on?

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Anvil of Crom

Welcome back to The Anvil of Crom, Conan fans. This week I'm going to tackle something a bit off the beaten path. I've been messing around with the Refuge of the Apostate on various toons, and our Choose My Adventure Bear Shaman is holding in his late 30s as I attempt (so far in vain) to get some dungeon time in before moving on to the Field of the Dead.

Something's been on my mind lately, though, something that's not entirely unique to Age of Conan but is nonetheless a significant part of the overall fan experience. In a nutshell, I'd like to discuss AoC's community, and at the risk of offending (or more likely, inciting) portions of it, why it's so unfortunate.

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The Anvil of Crom: New AoC devs bringing optimism for the future

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Anvil of Crom

Wait a minute. Stop the presses. W. T. F?!

Do I detect some optimism here? From the Age of Conan community (and while we're getting all incredulous, from me)? What's next, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, and mass hysteria? As strange as it sounds, I do believe the tide is turning ever so slightly when it comes to Funcom's fantasy MMORPG. Things are, as they say, looking up, in no small part due to some fresh content and the promise of more to come.

Join me after the cut for a stroll down why-it's-a-good-time-to-be-an-AoC-fan lane.

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The Anvil of Crom: Your guide to the Refuge of the Apostate

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, PvE, Opinion, Hands-On, The Anvil of Crom

Wow, I've completely forgotten how to play my Demo. Due to recent adventures in Bear Shaman land, my level 80 Age of Conan characters have been collecting quite a bit of dust. I haven't really missed them yet, either, as the Shaman is a heck of a lot more enjoyable than I expected. That said, he's only 35, and therefore he's out of the running when it comes to showing me through the new Refuge of the Apostate dungeon content that Funcom released a few days back.

Join me after the cut as I get reacquainted with spamming shockstrike and running around with various succubi pets and a severe outbreak of particle effects. I might even be persuaded to offer up a proper guide for the new dungeon (and some review commentary) as well.

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