This time around, there are actually some constructive discussions going on in addition to the usual Craig-Morrison-broke-our-PvP wailing, so join me after the cut to see what's what in the meta-cloud surrounding Funcom's Hyboria.
pulse-taking exercise, the vast majority of AoC-related discussion happens on the o-boards. There are some scattered destinations around the intarwebs that offer up more focused discussion (the Assassin's Hideout is a great place to frequent if you like your Hyboria with a side dish of squishy melee DPS, for example), but for the most part, it's all happening on Funcom's forums.
Let's get to it, shall we?
The new player experience
A user named Moebius0 checks in with this thread relating his new player experience. Unlike many of the posts by veteran AoC players that start off with the best of intentions and end up degenerating into an anti-Morrison tirade, this one remains free of personal attacks and hyperbole through to the end. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the following comments, but hey, you can't have everything. At any rate, the OP addresses both the good and the bad of AoC, with the former being almost everything about the game prior to level 80, and the latter being the skull-crushing faction and AA grind that sets in when you journey to the lands of Khitai. We're also treated to the author's views on the ham-handed Bori PvP implementation, which, naturally, match my own.
Moebius0 talks about his experiences taking a max-level Assassin to Bori, only to be immediately tracked and killed by a guild-camping zerg despite his stealthing upon entering the zone. This touches on two issues simultaneously: the Ranger tracking skill as it relates to PvP and the fact that Bori's broken mechanics allow mega-guilds to own the entire zone and make it a waste of time for everyone else. The thread illustrates the two choices that Funcom is giving players when it comes to obtaining endgame gear, neither of them anything less than horrific. You can either join a zerg-guild to grind your PvP gear via Bori (or if you're really masochistic, you could grind it yourself via a year's worth of PUG minigames), or you can subject yourself to the repeatable-quest grind for Khitai faction gear. Either choice is a series of artificial obstacles placed in your path before you get to "the fun part," and while some may argue that that's the very definition of a themepark MMORPG, my point here is that the endgame just doesn't fit with the rest of AoC at all.
To put it mildly, both choices suck, and it's a shame that Funcom has made such an enjoyable experience from 1 to 80 and then bolted on a completely tangential endgame grindfest that is one of the most transparent carrot-chasing exercises on the current market.
Three things you want in AoC
Sado2020 wants your feedback. Specifically, he'd like to know what three additions would make AoC a better experience. While this type of post has been done before, it nonetheless provides a useful look at what a cross-section of the playerbase finds most important at this point in the game's life. As of press time, there are around six pages featuring 60-odd replies, far less than I'd like to see but enough to spot some trends regarding possible avenues for Funcom to explore going forward.
Predictably, many of the respondents want "meaningful" PvP, though few can agree on what that entails. For some, it's basically "blow up the game and return to 1.04." For others, it's more reasonable suggestions such as world objectives, bug fixes, and enforcement of hack/cheat/exploit violations. One poster even goes so far as to call for a complete armor nerf, leaving gear as appearance-only items for PvP and having the associated stats and bonuses relegated to PvE encounters. While this treads pretty close to the aforementioned blowing-up, it isn't as crazy as it sounds initially. If handled correctly, it would eliminate both the Bori grind and parts of the Khitai faction grind and would focus Age of Conan's PvP on player skill (throwing a bone to the die-hards who pine for the days of 1.04) while still allowing the folks who enjoy post-1.05 PvE and gear progression to get their fix. In a nutshell, everybody wins.
Other items that show up multiple times during the course of the thread include social armor tabs, player housing, cross-server minigame queues, and the addition of a real economy and/or crafting system. These are all things that I've touched on in past Anvil of Crom editions, and of course I'd love to see even one of them make it into the live game.
Effective melee PvP without combo-canceling
Rekvar opens an interesting can of worms with this PvP forum thread. In it, he asks for advice on selecting a melee class that doesn't rely on the combo-canceling exploit for much of its effectiveness. For the uninitiated, AoC's combos feature pretty elaborate (and in some cases, lengthy) avatar animations. Some time ago, players figured out that canceling a combo before it finishes and beginning another one often results in a bug that grants you the damage results from both combos. While Funcom has acknowledged that this is an exploit, it has gone unaddressed for so long that it's become an accepted part of the gameplay for many PvPers. The fact that it's tricky to pull off and requires a decent amount of trial-and-error plus good timing and practice has in fact made it into something of a measurement for player PvP skill.
While the thread is a bit old (it originally began in September but was recently brought back from the dead), it features a lot of good class-specific opinion for newer players considering the PvP path.
And I'm about out of time and space for this week. As you can see from these snapshots, the Age of Conan community is a small but very vocal lot, and while its members don't always agree on everything, they routinely offer up food for thought and fascinating discussions about our favorite MMO. Until next week, I leave you with footage from the second annual Hyborian combo-molder's convention.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.