The Anvil of Crom: The winter of our discontent

The Anvil of Crom - angry man banner
Well, winter isn't just coming, folks -- it's here. And it's not one of those balmy south Florida winters when the temperature rarely drops below 50 degrees. No, this is a blustering Cimmerian winter, complete with hard freezes, winds of change, and dare I say a little Hoth-like chill in the air.

Age of Conan's 3.1 patch rolled out to the live servers a few days ago, and along with all the Dreamworld tweaks, it also brought a decent helping of bugs and general discontent. Join me after the cut for a deeper look.

Age of Conan - Tarantia stone bridge
The 3.1 patch

The 3.1 patch upset a lot of people, and Funcom is still in the process of working out the kinks even though the update went live back on November 29th. What was the problem? Most of the complaints I've heard pointed to newly introduced lag problems, and there have been a number of posts on the U.S. forums echoing that sentiment as well as various other quality of life issues (custom UI problems and the like).

To be frank, this unrest couldn't have come at a worse time for Age of Conan. Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to be casting its absurdly long shadow over the rest of the MMO industry starting with its early access period this coming week, and Funcom surely didn't need to give its smallish AoC playerbase a pile of technical reasons to seek greener pastures.

Curiously, the 3.1 patch hasn't been deployed to the European servers yet, and it probably won't have as much of a negative impact as it did on the U.S. shards since the Euro update will benefit from all the fixes that Funcom has been hurriedly patching into the U.S. client this week. A few players on the U.S. boards have even taken the enterprising step of figuring out a way to patch the Euro client into their existing AoC install folders. From there, they've created new Euro accounts and are happily playing the pre-3.1 game (though this respite will be short-lived).

Region-hopping and the specter of SWTOR

Region-hopping is a novel idea, though, even if I haven't personally experienced many problems as a result of the patch. I've always had a sneaking suspicion that the European version of AoC is where the real experience lies, given that Funcom is itself a European company and the Conan IP has a lot of appeal in Scandinavia and mainland Europe (possibly more than it has here in the States). Aside from the interesting cultural differences to be found on a foreign shard, it's also noteworthy that this group of players reported much higher populations, and they apparently found it much easier to get PUGs, raids, and PvP mini pops at all hours of the day.

The trade-off, of course, is a high ping (depending on where in the U.S. you're located). That seems to be the only downside, though, and I've been convinced to try the client-patching black magic myself so that I can finally get a good look at how the other half (ostensibly the larger half) of AoC's global population lives. Long story short, look for an Anvil of Crom Euro server report in the next few weeks.

Let's get back to population density for a minute. This is a dangerous time for AoC, and I hope that Funcom doesn't underestimate the TOR freight train that is getting ready to decimate Hyboria (and every other game world, to be honest). I've written about this before, of course, but now that it's almost here, I'm even more worried about it, particularly given the recent patch and the general discontent that seems to be percolating amongst a good portion of the American playerbase. My hope is that people will get the MMO story silliness out of their systems during TOR's free month, and then return to the meat and potatoes of AoC's heartier combat system and superior aesthetics. If not, well, it could be a long (and lonely) Cimmerian winter.

Jason Momoa needs a real director
Conan the Barbarian Easter eggs

In happier news, I finally sat down and watched last summer's Conan the Barbarian film reboot over the weekend. In lieu of a full review that doesn't really have anything to do with MMOs, let me just say that it was about what I expected: full of gorgeous visuals but saddled with screenwriters and a director who appear to be 14-year old boys (also, minus 50 DKP for hiring a composer other than Knut Haugen).

Jason Momoa makes a terrific Conan, though, and his roguish (if monosyllabic) prankster is much more appealing than the Schwarzenegger brawn-but-no-brains beefcake approach. I opined that the movie looked very much like the MMO after I watched the trailer last summer, and that held true when I viewed the full film. There were also some interesting extras on the disc, and it was a treat to see Funcom game director Craig Morrison pop up in a featurette that explained how the filmmaking team basically used AoC's version of Cimmeria as its production design blueprint. Here's to hoping that future Age of Conan adventure packs and expansions return the favor and make use of some of the exotic locales on display in Conan the Barbarian.

And that's all I've got for you this week. Watch out for those 3.1 bugs, and be sure to feast your eyes on what is still the greatest concept art in the history of gaming.

The greatest concept art ever
Guides Interviews
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.