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.
First up this week is an interesting PvP breakdown on the U.S. forums. A user named Oldmanrock posted to ask for a bit of a primer on all the PvP changes since the game's launch. With the coming free-to-play influx, scenarios like this one will likely be common, as many former Age of Conan players are no doubt interested to see what's changed in Hyboria since they took their leave.
PvP has changed a lot, as several users make clear in this thread. Gear is, of course, the biggest difference between the current game and the pre-1.05 builds, and veterans expecting to come back and roll over players who may not be as skilled with the keyboard will be in for a bit of a shock if those targets have been grinding their Khitai factional armor or PvP sets. The former provides healthy DPS bonuses while the latter offers substantial protection bonuses (particularly gear pieces at rank 5 and above).
Alternate advancement abilities are the other big change, and though it is still possible for a skilled lower-level player to kill a fresh 80, it's not as easy as it was a couple of years ago. Finally, the thread touches on the lack of open-world PvP and the fact that a huge majority of AoC's current playerbase has already achieved max level (making sub-80 PvP unlikely, at best).
Social tab concerns
Next up is a blurb from the EU boards relating to AoC's forthcoming social tab functionality. Yes, the game is getting appearance slots in the very near future, but since the mechanic hasn't yet shown its face on TestLive, we really have no clear idea of how it's going to work.
Enter Arienella's thread speculating on appearance tab functionality and its potential problems. What's the rub here? Well, it boils down to potential restrictions on social wearables as they relate to armor class. Age of Conan's soldier archetypes may don any article of armor or clothing in the game, from the heaviest plate down to the threadbare rags of your average Tortage newb.
Rogue and mage archetypes, on the other hand, are in many cases restricted to cloth. While this is obviously desirable in terms of game mechanics (elsewise we'd have a game called Age of Armored Casters), it could leave a sour taste in the mouths of clothies if Funcom decides to tie the appearance slots in with a class' "real" armor proficiencies.
Put simply, soldiers will be able to wear whatever they want for cosmetics while still keeping their stat gear. Clothies would theoretically be restricted to cloth. Some players argue that that's OK simply because sorcerers shouldn't be wearing armor even if it's a gesture of vanity. For my part, though, player choice is the operative phrase, and mages availing themselves of slick-looking leather or chainmail sets (and of course keeping cloth stats underneath) doesn't seem too far removed from the Hyboria we've seen in books, comics, and films.
The Hyborian recession
The real world isn't alone in terms of protracted economic downturns. Hyboria's got its very own recession going on across most, if not all, of the game servers, and a post by Bandwagoneer on the EU boards kick-starts a lengthy discussion that touches on the causes, effects, and possible solutions for Funcom's in-game financial crisis.
In very general terms, Age of Conan players are quite poor relative to the costs of gearing up an endgame character. Gold sinks are plentiful and hard-hitting, particularly when it comes to endgame faction armor that tacks significant gold costs onto the existing factional and Mark of Acclaim purchasing requirements (and when I say "significant" I mean upwards of 15 and 20 gold per armor piece in some cases).
New players are also at a disadvantage when it comes to acquiring their first mounts at level 40 (a low-level horse sets you back one gold, while the riding skill required to equip it adds further financial obstacles for players who don't have monied alts or sugar-daddies waiting in the wings).
Questing rewards from 1 to 40 rarely net a player the resources needed to acquire the mount, and while many people can and do resort to selling harvested crafting materials to supplement their income, the lack of demand for crafted goods has rendered this option time-consuming and impractical at best.
Level 80 mounts are also a problem for many players, particularly the Khitai steeds that require the ridiculously overpriced eastern riding skill (which is only available from NPCs). Again, the questing content (40 to 80 this time) contains far more gold sinks than it pays out in gold rewards. Were it not for the fact that I've built up a huge cache of veteran tokens over the years, I'd still be grinding gold for my eastern riding skill and the mounts that require it.
A few players have suggested that the incoming free-to-play population will create demand for crafted goods and thus jump-start the stagnant crafting game and the underlying economy. After all, many of these players won't have access to Khitai (which contains the game's best looted gear) and will theoretically need to make do with crafted stuff or old-world drops.
The appearance slots we talked about earlier may also have a bit of a ripple effect on AoC's economy, particularly if Funcom adds new crafted gear that appeals to players in a visual sense. Even if the devs do throw a bone to the armorcrafters and fashion-conscious, though, I'd still like to see either the quest rewards raised or the faction armor and mount prices lowered (drastically in some cases). Ideally, we'll see a bit of both.
That's all I've got for you this week. The previously mentioned threads are by no means exhaustive, as there's always something interesting going down on the AoC boards. Let me know if I missed anything worthwhile in the comments, and I'll see you guys next week.