Age of Anarchy in Conan’s Secret World Online
Today was the day of the April Game Director’s letter for three of the MMOs I subscribe to/pay for – Anarchy Online, Age of Conan and The Secret World. The reason for that is of course that the Game Directory is the very same person for all three of these games, Joel Bylos.
I like Joel. He has a mix of enthusiasm combined with a no-frills this-is-the-way-it-is approach in his writing, the latter in particular visible when he is replying to comments in the forums. For all three games he has been fairly quick to provide replies to comments and questions people have asked after reading the letter. This is a welcome approach and helps to clarify matters where needed (and possible).
I have read through all three letters and the forum comments made so far; I am going to make a few brief notes about this, going from the most negative to the most positive in terms of player response.
For veteran Anarchy Online players, there was not really anything new here – they are working on the New Player Experience (new starting experience for new players) and the new engine. Both are expected to go into open beta later this year. With in particular the new engine, this has been something that has been ongoing for several years (6+ years I think) and the NPE has also been talked about for quite a while. When these are ready they will make the game available on Steam.
The update included a few new screenshots with the new engine. Since Anarchy Online has a completely different code-base from the other two Funcom games, there is limited benefit from the shared resource pool for the three games. It seems the game currently has 3 developers working on the game and they themselves much set the agenda for what should be done currently. Joel in this case is more about removing obstacles to let them do their work rather than making any major design decisions.
If they release the new engine and the New Player Experience this year it would be quite nice, but I do not expect much. I am glad though that they are keeping the game running (glares at NCSoft) and do not give up on the whole idea.
The Secret World
This letter was primarily about the next issue for The Secret World, issue #7. This is going to have a Cate Archer/James Bond theme to it and the small bits and pieces Joel mentions about the conent does certainly have a certain secret agent flavour to it.
A new auxiliary weapon will be available – the flame thrower. Spewing fire is of course always fun, so this will probably be a welcome addition to the arsenal of weapons. There are also a couple of tweaks to the PvP system – I have not done any PvP in the game since around launch, so I do not have any comments on these.
Another detail that was mentioned was the ability to stream custom playlists and radio stations through the client. One thing this means in practice is that people can listen to their own music and audio and not have that in conflict with the voice acting and spoken dialogue in the game. Sounds like a nice thing to have, although I typically do not have other music playing myself at the same time.
There were also a few brief notes about issue #8, which will take place in Venice.
General reaction seems to have been cautiously positive – the general theme for issue #7 has been mentioned before, so this is probably not entirely new for many people. Counting the number of comments, this was probably the game with the fewest comments of the three.
Age of Conan
Age of Conan players have not seen a huge of amount of love in terms of content updates and information in recent times. This seems to be improving. The letter includes a few updates which seems to be welcome.
Server Mergers and Single Server Tech – Funcom aims to get reasonably close to the single server tech that The Secret World uses (people can play with each other on any server when in teams) with Age of Conan as well. This is going to happen in multiple phases, the first phase starting now in May. This means that the EU and US populations will merge and the servers physically located in the same place – which is not the case now.
All of it is not going to be a single happy server family though – there will be a separation between PvE and normal PvP servers still, as well as the Blood & Guts PvP servers. The latter may potentially removed entirely though, since the population on these are quite low. Most people and I guess in particular people playing on US server may welcome this change – population is significantly higher on the EU servers it seems.
Late last year the first part of the Dragon’ Spine content update was released – more of this will be coming in a near future. As I understand it this is primarily high level/end game content. A couple of dungeons, a raid an some PvP mini-games seems to be on the plate here; some of this should appear on Testlive server in May.
Unchained dungeons and PvP mini-games. Funcom have had a few dungeons which are referred to as “Unchained” – these are existing/old dungeons that has been available in the pre-level 80 game that have received a tougher level 80 version of them. I.e. target level is 80 and there are new mechanics involved to make them more challenging. This sounds a bit like normal vs nightmare mode dungeons in The Secret World. I like the idea and concept with this, one can experience these dungeons even if you have outleveled the original versions. About 6 dungeons were explicitly mentioned, but I have seen other comments that there may be more than that coming down the line.
The Unchained PvP mini-games are about a PvP experience where gear is not the issue, only player skill. All characters will have fixed set of gear (for their class, I assume) and are set to max level, so everyone from newbie to long time veteran start on equal footing. For people that enjoy PvP this sounds like it could be a good thing. I might try it out myself also, even though I am quite sure I will suck at it.
Tradeskill system – a signficant revamp of the tradeskill/crafting system has been in the pipeline for a while now and most players seem to look forward to this. There is still a fair amount of work to be done though to get this in place, so this will probably take a number of months before it is in place.
5th anniversary – Age of Conan will be 5 in May and there are some preparations going on for that. There were indications that there may be some kind of live events here. Anarchy Online will be 12 in June and soon after that it is time for The Secret World for its first anniversary, so there would be a few celebrations coming soon.
Miscellaneous Quality of Life fixes – a number of bug fixes and Quality of Life additions will be coming soon also for the game – I guess the “press-key-to-loot” option from The Secret World may find its way into the game here, for example.
As with most MMO game forums, Age of Conan has its fair share of grumpy players. Still, the reactions to the Game Director letter seem to have been quite positive overall. People feel that there is some love from Funcom to this game also.
Age of Conan is probably the game I spend the most time in currently; I think it is a great game and it suites my altoholic tendencies quite well – I have created characters for most of the 12 classes (no Priest of Mitra yet though). The Secret World comes in 2nd place- I enjoy it quite a lot still, but there are fewer game sessions overall nowadays. The plans for the games seem ambitious yet realistic; if Joel’s team manage to pull this off I am a happy player.