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Are female characters really penalized in Age of Conan?

Adrian Bott

There's an unpleasant rumor gathering strength in the Age of Conan community. It seems to have begun with this eight-page review, which (despite delivering a relatively healthy overall score of 76) is uncompromising in its criticism of those parts of the game that, in the reviewer's opinion, fall very short of what was advertised.

The bombshell comes on page 7, where the reviewer states outright that '... Age of Conan's weapon swing time depends on the duration of the visual swing animation, and female characters swing their weapons about 25% slower than males - so every female melee character does 25% less damage over time!'

Immediately, players demand to know whether this is true or not. Some report that it is; others report that they're not seeing anything at all different between their characters, and maybe it's down to class as much as gender. Although there's a lot of noise and not a lot of signal, the general consensus from the forums appears to be that female characters are indeed attacking more slowly, resulting in overall lower DPS.

Some players express satisfaction at this discrepancy and make tiresomely predictable sexist comments. Several female players react with frustration and anger. Maturity plummets, even by stereotypical MMO forum standards. Threads are modsmacked. And while all of this is going on, FunCom refrain from offering any clarification as to whether this is a known issue, an intended game feature, a bug that's only just being discovered, or what.

As of this morning, FunCom have finally spoken up:

'There should of course be no difference between a male and a female character of the same class (other than the looks). But we have gathered the feedback about this and are looking into it.'

So, whatever oddities may be going on mechanically, at least we now know there's no intended difference in function between the genders. This is just as well. Even for a game that was hyped as 'boobs and blood', penalizing characters for their gender would have been spectacularly stupid.

In the meantime, some ingenious players have provided fixes along the lines of the 'unsheath your weapon to fix your mount speed' trick. Poster Dnotice even provides evidence that variation in listed attack speed may be down to the gender of the first character you log in when starting AoC, and not the gender of the character you may be playing at the time. Curiouser and curiouser: although the listed speed can be altered by changing the first character's gender, the actual animation speed apparently can't.

Now that the initial euphoria of Age of Conan's release is ebbing, the criticism of its bugs and other problems is gathering momentum. FunCom will, no doubt, track down and fix this issue as soon as they can, but as bugs go, this has to rank among the more unfortunate. We're well aware that some of the Age of Conan designers worked hard to counterbalance the characteristic sexism of the setting. Issues like this just risk undermining that work.

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