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The Anvil of Crom: Thanksgiving leftovers and what's new in Hyboria

Jef Reahard

What's up, Age of Conan fans? Hopefully all of you had an overindulgent Thanksgiving (I'm picturing clusters of barbarians hunched around roaring campfires, gnawing the blackened meat off the bones of whatever game animal happened to pass by).

For my part, I spent the last couple of days avoiding work, gaining weight, and catching up on recent news from Funcom's Hyboria. I've been a bit distracted with various online shooters lately, but I always find myself coming back to AoC because of its unique fantasy world and rough-and-tumble themepark mechanics. Join me after the break for a few recent tidbits that piqued my interest.

Age of Conan - Pink sky
Siege testing and the 3.1 patch

So what's going on in the world of AoC lately? Quite a lot, really, and it starts with the game's next update. The 3.1 patch is probably going to hit the live servers over the next week, and Funcom recently hosted a testing event focused on siege and server performance during the runup to the new patch. Unfortunately the event was smack dab in the middle of most Americans' Thanksgiving holiday, so I didn't get to attend.

That said, it's good to see Funcom actively soliciting performance-related feedback, since this new patch is largely concerned with Dreamworld tweaks and optimizations. Once that's out of the way, of course, we'll be moving on to more exciting patches, and as game director Craig Morrison outlined in his last monthly update, 2012 is shaping up to be a blockbuster year for new content.

Xfire contest (with a free cloak!)

Normally I'm not one to promote Xfire, especially since its primary purpose seems to be propping up weak forum arguments concerning server populations. Recently, though, I put my social networking phobias aside and registered for an account, mainly to grab the free Cape of Bottomless Thirst being offered as a bribe for fashion-conscious AoC fans.

I know, I know, it was a moment of weakness, but I'm pretty susceptible to just about every new in-game shiny, provided it's not exclusive to the cash shop. The cape is part of a contest that runs through December 4th, so you've still got time to pick one up if you're interested. The marketing blah blah says something about being eligible to win some hardware, an in-game mount, and who knows what else, and if you're feeling like a sucker brave, you can find more details at the official Xfire site.

The cape itself is pretty useless in gameplay terms, but it's another item for the hapless collector (or roleplayer) in all of us. Those of you who remember the drinking cape that shipped with the original collector's edition box will have a case of deja vu here, as the new finery is another one of those equip-it-for-a-free-tavern-drink social items. On the plus side, it looks pretty cool, and of course we now have appearance slots. Woo!

Knut Haugen at work
Haugen's Savage Coast of Turan score wins HMMA

Long-time Age of Conan players probably don't need to be reminded of Knut Haugen's stirring soundtracks for the Hyborian Age base game, the Rise of the Godslayer expansion, and last summer's Savage Coast of Turan adventure pack. But now the unwashed masses outside of AoC fandom, including entertainment industry luminaries at this month's Hollywood Music in Media Awards, have finally gotten a taste of Hyborian musical decadence too, as Haugen took home a best song trophy at the gala event.

The winning track is called The Coast of Ardashir, and it beat out fierce competition from the likes of Dragon Age 2 and Little Big Planet 2 on its march to the top. Haugen composed, produced, orchestrated and mixed the track, and he enlisted the talents of vocalist Aubrey Ashburn and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Miriam Nemcova) to bring the piece to fruition.

Unfortunately, Funcom has not made any of the Savage Coast music available for purchase as of yet, but you can still give it a listen even if you're not in game (or you are in game and don't want to travel to Ardashir). Head to Haugen's personal website for the winning track as well as a good sampling of AoC music in general.

Speaking of websites, I can report that the official AoC page has a new interview with Haugen in which he discusses the various inspirations and techniques behind the Savage Coast music.

"Before I started composing the music, I spent some time studying Persian traditional music. Persia is of course the real world equivalent to Turan. The score is purely orchestral, but the rhythms, scales/melodies and harmonies are all based on Iranian folk music," Haugen explains.

He also talks a bit about the increased importance of big-budget orchestral scores in video games, and the fact that well-known film composers including Howard Shore and Danny Elfman are venturing into the realm of game music. "The first generation of game composers, who typically worked in-house and did both sound and music, was replaced by dedicated composers some years back. Now, this second generation of composers are about to go extinct unless they can start producing scores to rival those of the film heavyweights," he says.

For more on Haugen's methods and inspiration, check out this lengthy Anvil of Crom interview exclusive from late last year.

That's all I've got for you this week, folks. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and I hope to see you in Hyboria.

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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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