The Anvil of Crom: Greatest Hits Vol. 2010

Oh no! It's the end of a calendar year! It's that arbitrary point in space and time at which bloggers, journalists, and basically anyone who makes a living via the written word foists off a bunch of top 10 (or five, or other random number) lists on his loyal readers. Sadly folks, I'm no different, and though I'll gladly poke fun at the tradition, I'll also engage in it this week here at The Anvil of Crom.

Looking back, it's been quite an eventful year, both for Age of Conan and for Massively's coverage of the game. From the Rise of the Godslayer expansion to the various nerfs, buffs, rants, and interviews, 2010 has been one for the Hyborian history books.

Turn the page for eight reasons why.

Why eight? Eh, I don't know. Five's too few, 10's too many, and sometimes you just have to go with what feels right, you know? OK, enough preamble.

8. The crafting rant

It's fitting that I start the retrospective with a bit of a pseudo-rant. Over the course of this column, many of you have written in to chastise me on my delivery, to say nothing of disagreeing with some of my conclusions. As much as I enjoy AoC, though, I can't sit here and blow sunshine and rainbows week after week when there are many things wrong with the game. One of the more glaring things is what passes for a crafting implementation, and sadly, nothing has changed since my early summer roasting.

7. Offline levels

This one generated a bit of controversy, as people felt pretty strongly one way (fantastic! I can play now) or the other (doooooom, doom I say!). My opinion hasn't changed over the last few months, and in fact I'm happily leveling up a couple of alts using the secret stash of offline dings hoarded over the summer and recently inflated by my yearly subscription purchase. As I said in early May, MMOs should be worlds first and pacifier-like progression treadmills second (if at all), and this is a baby step in that direction.

Khitai doorway

6. Family unfriendliness

Speaking of controversy, the comments of this particular column were an interesting read, as they referenced everything from hip hop culture, to the objectification of women in games, to lengthy dissertations on Robert E. Howard's works (and Funcom's interpretation of them).

While almost everyone agreed that Age of Conan is several notches above (or is that below?) MMO industry norms for violence and sexual content, there was considerable disagreement over whether the intended audience is adults or kids who desperately want to be adults.

5. Leveling gaps

The Anvil of Crom's first proper game guide can be found here, and it's not half bad if I do say so myself. Nothing has changed in terms of the game's zones or zone structure as of late, so it's still current too.

4. Venja -- taking hardcore to a new level

File this one under "most unusual." Roleplay guilds are a dime a dozen, but honestly you've never really roleplayed in an MMO unless you've run with these guys. Venja takes hardcore to a whole new level, and I'm quivering with anticipation to see what its members can do in a sandbox virtual world given their creative track record in Funcom's anti-RP themepark. Not only that, but how can you argue with all the Rush references?

3. Class guide -- the Demonologist

The Anvil of Crom's second major guide takes the form of this look at the Demonologist class. I leveled from 1 to 40 in Tortage and the Gateway to Khitai zones, collecting information about everything from feats, to skills, to combat strategies along the way. When can you expect part two of the Demo guide (and an accompanying video with a functioning audio track)? Well I'm glad you asked. Look for the 40 to 80 leveling recap shortly after the dawn of the new year and a guide to raid specs soon after that.

My long-in-the-works Guardian guide has gone back to the drawing board courtesy of Funcom's latest class revamp, but look for it (as well as detailed examinations of AoC's remaining 10 classes) in the first half of 2011.

2. The F2P column

Controversy, thy name is free-to-play (at least around these parts). While most of my colleagues are on the cutting edge of crazy new business models, I'm still plodding along with the curmudgeonly belief that an MMORPG subscription fee is one of the best values in the history of entertainment. Not only that, but said fee should cover all of a game's content as it has in the past, and the Cryptics, SOEs, Blizzards, and sadly, Funcoms of the world that double-dip with cash-shop items and a sub fee all deserve a swift kick to the groin.

Unfortunately, most of the 200-odd commenters disagreed with me. On the other hand, page hits!

1. The Haugen interview

This one was probably the biggest no-brainer selection of the bunch. Not only was Knut Haugen gracious enough to take the time to answer a boatload of newblet questions, but he also expounded on them to such a degree that he ended up providing my favorite interview of the year. Aside from his observations specific to Age of Conan and working at Funcom, he offers significant insight into the creative process and the hard work that is necessary to be a successful artist.

So there you have it folks. My personal top eight entries from 2010. Thanks to all of you who've taken the time to read and comment, and I look forward to bringing you more interviews, insights, and exclusives next year. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got an urgent turkey and dressing deadline to meet, courtesy of my family and friends -- who also happen to be the subjects of this week's concept art. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I'll see you in two weeks!

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