Poor Age of Conan.

Funcom's sword, sorcery, and sandal epic is a perennial also-ran in Massively's semi-monthly Choose My Adventure voting. For the uninitiated, CMA is a series wherein one (un)lucky Massively scribe puts his or her gaming life in the hands of the readers for several weeks at a time. Poll participants can choose the game, and depending on various factors, the character race, class, vocation, goals, and a number of other gameplay-related guidelines.

The writer then plays and reports on the experience, usually publicizing the character and inviting interested readers to play along. While the CMA series has visited some pretty diverse locales over the last couple of years, including Darkfall, Aion, Lord of the Rings Online, and Wizard101, Age of Conan always seems to come up short in the polls. That's OK though, because The Anvil of Crom is gearing up to take an occasional page out of Massively's Choose My Adventure book. Flip past the cut to find out how.

Yes, I'm kicking around the idea of opening up some polling and adding a new wrinkle to my weekly Age of Conan coverage. Unlike the time-limited CMA columns, this would be an ongoing experiment with no real end date. Also unlike the CMA pieces, there will be some weeks when I skip a play report to focus on the various goings-on in the world of AoC or wax rantastic on whatever and whomever as it relates to Hyboria (i.e., I'll still be pumping out the Anvil of Crom commentary that you've come to know and revil... er, love, yeah, you love me, right?). So, the zone reviews, class guides, commentary, miniseries and blah de blah blah won't be going away, and you can think of this possible new CMA-lite angle as simply another recurring featurette rather than a complete column re-design.

Anyhow, I'm out of preamble. With today's exploratory column, I'd like to talk about my ultimate goals and maybe put up a preliminary poll or two to gauge the interest. Even though some of the column's (or more accurately, my character's) activities will be left up to the readers, I'm going to exercise some editorial control over the miniseries simply because there are certain folks in the AoC community (and any online community, really) who would gum up the works for the lulz.

Why?

First off, why do something like this? Well, if you've been following AoC, you know that big changes are coming. In the short term, we've got the new Blood and Glory PvP ruleset experiment, the Dreamworld upgrade, and a fair bit of new high-end and solo-friendly content. We've also got the specter of free-to-play hanging over the game, and even though Funcom has never officially (or unofficially) confirmed or denied anything regarding future business models, the writing is on the wall when you look at the game's existing item shop and underlying support structure -- not to mention the fact that a F2P AoC already exists in the Korean market.

Whether a F2P switch is good or bad is not something I'm going to get into this week, but it will bring a lot of new interest to the game when (if) it happens, and reader input can play a role in making sure that all of the game's good stuff gets adequately explored.

Also, Age of Conan's endgame is quite group-centric, and as I've been unable to convince the usual suspects that serve as my MMORPG partners-in-crime to make a consistent go of Hyboria, I've also been unable to provide adequate coverage of raiding, 6-mans, high-level PvP, and other aspects of AoC that can't be soloed. In a nutshell, I need a guild, and this gives me a good excuse (and a kick and the pants) to go get one.

Still another reason to do this is to provide more of a comprehensive chronicle for those new or interested in becoming new to the world of AoC. While high-level rantings and ravings are fine and will continue to serve their purpose, a long-term look at what it's like to go from Tortage to endgame (and everything in between) is something that you don't get a lot of in the gaming press, and it's certainly never been done with regard to Age of Conan. In fact, the timing aspects are the only real downsides to the main Choose My Adventure series: It's just over far too quickly. Six weeks isn't a lot of time when it comes to most of these games, and invariably whole aspects of the production are omitted in favor of time, space, and editorial constraints.

Finally, perhaps the best reason to embark on this little experiment is that it would simply be a lot of fun. At the end of the day, that's what we're all here for, amirite? My Darkfall CMA series was uneqivocally the most enjoyable bit of research and writing that I've done for Massively in the past year (damn, it has been a year), and doing something similar with The Anvil of Crom is quite the exciting prospect. Similarly, the folks I met in Darkfall seemed enthusiastic about the pieces and the gameplay that went into them, and with interest in Age of Conan on the upswing, the time seems right.

If all of this sounds like I'm trying to convince myself, or at least weigh the pros and cons, well, yes, I am, and I'm doing it in public because I'd like to see whether there's any real interest in a community-driven aspect to the column.

When?

With all that said, what do you guys think about a PvE-server miniseries to start, followed by a Blood and Glory miniseries when the new servers roll out in May (or thereabouts, as the game director necessarily left us with a bit of a window in his latest update)? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, vote in this week's poll, and tell any interested AoC friends or guildies to come and make their voices heard as well.

Until next week...



Jef Reahard is an 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 jef@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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