Anyhow, building a city in Age of Conan isn't for the faint of heart. I've been promising to talk about it for nearly a month now and continually pushing it back because that's about how long it takes for a tiny guild (currently four active members) to build anything worth talking about. Happily, tier two is nothing to sneeze at, and we've now got a satisfying sprawl covering a sizable portion of the southern Purple Lotus Swamp. Our city, resting behind some rather enormous sandstone walls, features everything from a well-fortified keep, to all the crafting facilities and a trader, to a large contingent of NPC guards, nobles, and (because it's Funcom) hookers.
Read on to discover the pai... er, fun that is Hyborian city-building, and don't forget to check out the gallery below.
In game terms, yours truly is also physically unable to play an MMORPG without mastering its crafting aspects (more on this later), and we all share a desire to enable sustained progression for the guild. As such, the city quickly became priority number one. Anyhow, probably more information than you needed, but if you ever decide to build your own Age of Conan town, take my advice and do it with a guild of at least 10 to 15 full-time resource gatherers. A rich uncle or three wouldn't hurt either.
Why would you want a guild city? To be perfectly honest, nothing beats a tier two or tier three city in terms of general atmosphere and cool factor. The sheer size of the thing is impressive in and of itself, and being able to run to the top of your keep and gaze out over three dozen buildings and some massive fortified walls is quite gratifying. I also defy you to suppress a demented cackle the first time you swing open the huge wooden doors and stroll into the interior courtyard of a city you helped construct.
Aside from the all the eye candy and associated nerdgasms, the towns also feature a fair amount of NPC life, several of them quest-givers who boast unique cosmetic and social items. For the powergamer in you, the cities also grant passive buffs to all guild members, depending on a number of factors including buildings constructed, tier levels, and keep size. For example, your priests will love you for building and upgrading a temple (which grants them magic resists), soldiers will appreciate barracks (defense rating), and rogues will benefit from a thieves' guild building (attack rating). Additionally, the guild keep will grant everyone bonuses to health, mana, and stamina.
Finally, anyone wishing to mastercraft in Age of Conan will need to become a member of a guild with a tier III city. Making top-level weapons requires the appropriate weaponsmith shop, as do the other crafting professions, respectively. Solo crafters are out of luck, as the advancement quests require access to progressively higher levels of guild city crafting facilities.
So, what exactly is involved? I'm glad you asked. First off, you'll need to pick a plot of land. Currently, cities can be built in the resource gathering zones allocated to each of the game's original three racial choices. If you have a penchant for the relentless heat of Stygia, you can join us in the exotic Purple Lotus Swamp. Highlanders can try their luck tilling the cold, hard ground of the Cimmerian mountains, and Aquilonians can choose from several plots spaced around the golden fields of Poitain. Happily, your character's racial choice doesn't affect your zone options; Stygians can build in Poitain, or anywhere else, if they wish, as can any other race. Currently Funcom is not allowing city construction in the Khitai zones introduced with Rise of the Godslayer, but it is an oft-asked for feature on the official boards, so time will tell.
To get started, the guild leader will need to claim a city plot by going to the guild management tab and selecting your desired zone. There are three available plot locations in the zone, and you will be assigned one at random. Prior to doing this, you're required to have 24 unique guild members (which we accomplished by guilding several of our alts) and the guild leader must be level 40 or above. You'll potentially share an instance of your zone with two other guilds, making resource competition something of a factor, particularly on PvP-enabled servers. Once your plot and zone are assigned, you'll be able to zone to your guild city via any of the entrance gates into the resource zone. You can also purchase the Path of Comrades ability from your city's temple priestess, which will enable you to teleport home at a moment's notice (although it does share a cooldown with your Path of Asura ability).
I also defy you to suppress a demented cackle the first time you swing open the huge wooden doors and stroll into the interior courtyard of a city you helped construct.
Once you've secured your location, it's time to find an architect. Architecture is the game's most specialized crafting discipline (architects exist solely to make player city components) so you'll either need to skill one up yourself or buy pre-made plans and blueprints off the trader. Each city building requires a certain set of blueprints as well as raw materials (granite, sandstone, ash lumber, etc.) to construct. Once your architect possesses the appropriate skills, as well as the required resource components for the desired structure, it's as easy as clicking on the build stone and standing back as walls, stairs, subfloors, stonework, and eventually an entire building raises itself from the earth.
The build process itself is rather fun to watch; my only regret is that I didn't have the presence of mind to turn on Fraps while we all stood by and watched our architect conjure the keep and the city walls. One other point of note is that buildings must be upgraded in a certain order, beginning with the keep. For example, my high-level weaponsmith quests required a tier two (followed immediately by a tier three) weaponsmith shop to complete. Unfortunately, our architect couldn't simply upgrade the tier one shop as I requested, and instead we had to gather money and materials to first upgrade the keep (as well as several other buildings).
With all of the fun and exciting news out of the way, here's the catch. The resource requirements for a guild city are out of sight, and likely beyond the means of new or returning players unless they have a ton of spare gold or access to resources from a previous guild stockpile as we did. Even with that good fortune, it has still taken us several weeks to complete tier II, and we're looking at several more before we max out tier III and call everything complete. So far we've spent over 300 gold on both blueprints and raw materials, and conservatively we'll probably double that before we're through. It would be cheaper if we harvested everything ourselves, but it would also take the better part of a year with four people. Thankfully there is a silver lining in the form of upkeep and maintenance costs (or rather, the lack of them, which was a welcome surprise after the initial investment and building expenditures).
Ultimately, there's a lot to like about Age of Conan's guild city system. Though the resource requirements are quite insane, the benefits are worth the trouble, and to be honest we haven't even discovered all of them yet. Look for future city-focused installments of The Anvil of Crom, as I'll be bringing you all the details as we complete the project and expand the guild. In the meantime, I leave you with an image of our inaugural city council meeting. That's our bar stool-wielding architect on the left, just after I asked her about the tier three weapon shop.
Age of Conan beta and launch day veteran, as well as the creator of Massively's weekly Anvil of Crom. Feel free to suggest a column topic, propose a guide, or perform a verbal fatality via email@example.com.