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The Anvil of Crom: All I want for Christmas

Jef Reahard

Buuurrrp. Ah. Begging your pardon, but you know how it goes this time of year, leftovers and all that. Seeing as how this is a Thanksgiving holiday weekend here in the States -- and the annual Christmas shopping orgy has begun -- it seems an appropriate time to indulge in a bit of list-making with regard to Age of Conan.

I don't normally do lists here at The Anvil of Crom, as many seem to be the game journalist's equivalent of the oh-crap-I've-got-a-deadline-but-no-topic safety net. Occasionally, though, they serve a real purpose. In my case that purpose is bitching politely talking about what I'd like to see Funcom add to its AoC recipe. So, in honor of the pilgrims and their pilfering of North America (or the cold turkey sandwich you're no doubt stealing from your fridge at this very moment), I present to you three things Age of Conan should pillage from other MMORPGs. Join me after the cut for the rundown.

Crafting (courtesy of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes)

Ah, crafting. It's pretty well-established that while Age of Conan is one of my favorite MMORPGs, it's also the only one on my favorites list with a crafting implementation that completely sucks. If you're curious, I've already gone into the how and why of said suckage, and I won't revisit that here. What I will do is tell you that the crafting system in SOE's Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is what Age of Conan crafting should have been (and no, naysayers, Hyboria isn't solely about combat).

But Jef, you might be saying, Vanguard? Really? Why not the crafting in Star Wars Galaxies? Well besides the fact that I didn't want to have two systems from the same game on this list, Age of Conan is a much more item- and loot-centric game than SWG was in its pre-NGE days, and as such, a systems transplant would be something of a nightmare.

Vanguard's system, on the other hand, was designed from the start to feature the pervasive bind-on-pickup and bind-on-equip item mechanics that MMO developers love, but it still manages to be a fun and rewarding tradeskill system in spite of that. More importantly, Vanguard's crafting has got some depth. A lot of depth. So much depth, in fact, that players can and do become crafters exclusively. I know, I know, most of you just want your bewbs, blood, and PvP when it comes to Age of Conan, but what's wrong with some other options that expand the world, the gameplay, and likely, the playerbase? Funcom's clearly not interested in revamping things back to the way they were prior to 1.05, so it might as well make the best damn PvE-centric game it can make, right?

Fluff armorThe Storyteller system (via Star Wars Galaxies)

This might seem like an odd choice to some, particularly from a game that had a lot of interesting and unique systems. While SWG featured everything from absurdly robust character customization and player housing to one of the more in-depth crafting systems and player economies in the genre, I miss the Storyteller props more than any of that.

For the uninitiated, NPC vendors existed in a couple of the game's major cities, and they sold these little green Storyteller tokens that resided in your inventory until you were ready to use them. Clicking on one brought up a menu interface that allowed you to select props for placement in the game world. The list was huge and featured the same niftily textured and detailed static objects that game designers originally plopped down on planets throughout the galaxy.

Want to spawn a YT-1300 (the Millennium Falcon, for the Star Wars-ignorant)? You could. How about a squad of stormtroopers that would not only mill about or accept patrol waypoints but would also be attackable NPCs for players in your story group? Yep, you could do that too. Oh yeah, you could even place items on your expendable extras for players to loot. There were also a bunch of city structures, landing pads, and flavor items that allowed player gamemasters to bring the world to life.

There were restrictions, of course. You couldn't place any objects in the game's large (and largely empty) NPC cities, nor could you drop props in a player city unless you were a resident. Still, with a vast game world, there was ample room for storytelling vignettes, and the objects eventually disappeared via their own spawn timer so as not to clutter the planets with digital set dressing.

How would this work in Age of Conan? That's hard to say, especially given the fact that the game already has significant performance issues for many users. Adding more objects to the mix might complicate matters and put even more of a strain on the Dreamworld engine. Funcom would also need to think long and hard about placement restrictions, as AoC has a lot of players who would no doubt see such a system as a way to monopolize mob spawns, influence PvP, or otherwise grief their fellow Hyborians. Perhaps the devs could make use of the game's instancing technology, spawning a private copy of Khopshef Province for player gamemasters to customize to their liking.

Guild management interface (from EverQuest II)

This one is a complete no-brainer. Every MMORPG, not just Age of Conan, should ape EQII's peerless guild management interface and functionality. AoC's guild tab features some useful tidbits but remains fairly unintuitive, and it absolutely pales in comparison to the information smorgasbord that is EQII's guild window. Everything from raid boss kills and quest completion events to a detailed and customizable ranking system are the order of the day. There's also the robust recruiting and guild info page, a roster page that is sortable and highly configurable, and a comprehensive log that contains everything from member turnover, to bank transactions, to fluff like level dings and other individual member events.

Honorable mentions

Of course, no wish-list edition of The Anvil of Crom would be complete without my requisite pining for appearance armor slots and player housing. Yes, yes, you've heard this before, and Craig "Silirrion" Morrison has even gone on record as saying that he would like to implement the former, but until it actually happens, I'll continue to bat the lashes over my sad puppy dog eyes.

Anyway, that about wraps up my Age of Conan Christmas list. Thanks to Funcom's development updates, I know I won't be getting any of this stuff, at least this year, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to see AoC broaden its horizons a little bit. Whether it's a direct copy of any of these systems or a novel twist on the mechanics to make them a better fit for Hyboria, spending development cycles on these items can only help the game. As much as a certain vocal minority wants Age of Conan to be a PvP-focused third-person melee title, it's a themepark MMORPG, one that could stand a systems expansion.

Until next time, I leave you with a scene from the new Find the Leftovers minigame currently ongoing in my kitchen.

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

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