Age of Conan Debuts on Steam

In free falling desperation it seems Age of Conan is finally on Steam.  The ailing franchise has been avoiding Steam integration for quite some time… but now it’s official.  Age of Conan will now join Steam’s large catalog of free games.

This change made sense for Funcom.  Although Steam will now be taking a direct cut of their profits they will now have a trusted interface for purchasing micro transactions.

The Steam wallet is one of the most valued parts of the Steam platform.  It allows people to pre-load a pre-paid mastercard on the spot to spend it on various purchases.

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Age of Conan Less Restricted

Funcom made a welcome announcement today!

Funcom is dropping most of the nasty restrictions they had on characters, the list includes:

  • All Classes Unlocked! Free players may now try any of the games classes completely free.
  • Classic Dungeons unlocked! The complete selection of classic dungeons are now unlocked for free play. This includes ALL the pre-80 dungeons and a selection of level 80 dungeons as well! Level 80 adventures in The Crow’s Nest, The Iron Tower, Xibaluku, The Slaughterhouse Cellar and Attilius’ Mansion are all now available for free play!
  • Gold cap increased! In order to allow free players to engage more in the end game economy, in particular with the incoming new crafting system in mind, the gold cap on free accounts has been raised from 2g to 10g.

These are basically all of the gripes I had with the game in the past.  While leveling you only get 1 of 3 classes… the free ones.

No one does leveling dungeons because it required a season pass.

As well this gold cap means that selling things actually might be worth a damn.

Overall these steps are designed to get people to end game faster.  The next stage will be to stramline leveling so it is faster to get to Level 80.

Funcom’s offering of more free content is part of a new strategy developed for TERA in which the game is mostly free.

Review of The Secret World: 30 Quests in 3 Days

Normally I would just buy an MMO and play it hardcore for a month.  But honestly I’ve been burned by Funcom twice so I felt the need to wait for a trial.

Little did I know… a trial was released very quickly to try and get more people playing.  The gimmick is that you get a three day trial.  If you play it enough to 30 quests done you get 2 free days.

Now in a normal MMO 30 quests in 3 days is pretty easy to do… but not in Funcom’s world.  The introduction to the game is about 45 minutes long.  It does not count as any quest.  Each quest is 5 to 7 parts and all parts have to be completed before you can get each quest.

Ultra Graphics in HD, mmmmm…

There are four other types of quests in the game “Main Quests”, “Side Quests”, and “Dungeon Quests.”  As far as the 30 quests thing goes only the “Story Quests” count towards the 30 quests count.  All of these other quests are repeatable every 24 hours.  You will need to do these quest lines and short quests to gain the experience to do the quests.  This adds on about another 20-30 minutes per quest needed to get the bonus.

This means you will need about 30-40 hours to  do the 30 quests.  This means a person will have to play about 8-9 hours a day to get the 30 quests done in 3 days to get their 2 free days.

Having tried to get my extra 2 days I ended up being about 3 hours short of it (weekend ended).  I went back to work and after another 10 hour session after work my time ran out.

I should also note that there are not exactly that many quests in the game anyway.  There are about 40 quests in the game total per faction.  To put that in perspective that would be about 120 normal quests in a normal game.  To make a comparison World of Warcraft has over 2800 quests per faction.

So yeah, this is not a PvE game and no one playing this should think of it as such.  The trial is a little odd considering how little PvE content is in here.  There are dungeons I’m sure, but no one is doing them.

The main problem is that there is no leveling process.  This means there isn’t really much of a funneling process for newer players.  In a game with no real levels to do there needs to be a way for newer players to get introduced to the game, questing is not the way.

Questing is what you do in a normal RPG.  There needs to be a transition from questing to doing something in a group.  I never really saw a need to make that shift.

After doing roughly half of the game, I just never saw a need to buy the game.  Funcom should have promoted what they felt was the best part of their game as opposed to trying to get you to do most of the questing content.

One of the weaknesses to MMORPGs is that they have to be an everything game.  When you have a free portion of the game it has to give a large enough portion of the game that will encourage you to buy more.  In truth the PvP should have been the focus of the demo.  If it was “complete 10 battlegrounds, 30 quests, or 5 dungeons” you might have seen people trying to get a better variety out of it.  People often will do PvP and think OMG I WANT, especially if their trial account is ranked.

I tried queuing up for a battleground but honestly since everyone was only doing quests and a few subscribers were doing dungeons I always sort of felt pigeon holed to only try out their questing content, which was lackluster.

With this I just really never did get that experience.  After doing so many zombie related quests I was simply getting sick of a zombie apocalypse.  Eventually at some point it has to move on.

But once again, this is more or less the problem of using a format designed to have levels and customization as you level, in a game without it.  Now to be fair there is a leveling system and I’ll explain that.

You level up weapons.  As you level them up you get AP which you can invest into abilities and passive abilities.  As you level you also gain SP which you can invest into a separate talent tree.  You seemingly just get them randomly and completing quests, PvP, and dungeons will grant you these.

You can also combine objects and pieces together to make glyphs which you can place into your weapons to make them better.  You will get like 1000000 of these materials so you might as well use em.  It is done through a unique system where you place ingredients in a matrix above and a catalyst item in a slot.  After combining the new item appears in a third finished product slot.

So yes, there is encouragement for doing these… it’s just not such an obvious benefit.  When you are in a typical game when you level up there are giant stars everywhere and it is like winning the lottery.  In this game the letters SP or AP appear and that’s it.

Now I will say that The Secret World has some strengths…. but they are also unfortunately weaknesses.

Great… more zombies….

One of the strengths is that you actually have to read/listen to quests and understand how to search for things.  There are not just a million things around and you have to find people and things.  It doesn’t lead you directly to it and there are very few bread crumbs.  This gives finding things quests a stronger air of difficulty.

This is however also a weakness.  When things are not so obvious to find every now and then you will find an item that is impossible to find.  I spent about 30 minutes walking around an area looking for a surveillance camera.  After a while I thought to myself… it’s probably hung up on a wall somewhere.  As I looked up, there it was.  However the game had a trash heap where I thought might be the place to search for this thing.

It was tedious and it made me not want to play the game.  Even the most obscure detective point and click adventures are not this bad.

In an attempt to innovate it seemingly does too much of the same stuff and not enough unique things.  In a market where people are moving to targeting and skillful dodging, Funcom doesn’t take the risk and do this in The Secret World.  Instead it ends up being a button mashing adventure.

Now of course this is odd because Age of Conan was designed around manual dodging and aiming, but not this game.  Funcom has always tried to make MMORPGs emphasizing that skillful hardcores will play it instead of casuals.  But it just doesn’t work out.  In this game the hardcore bit is that you have to be very aware of quests and searching.  If there is something else you have to be aware of beyond giant yellow circles… I don’t see it.

This of course doesn’t stop the usual Funcom players to be complete and utter assholes.  It is almost pointless to ask for help in chat because people simply will not help you.  Having said that if you hit the B button you have a built in browser that can install Flash and watch YouTube videos, read Wikis or get help from your local Troublmaker.

This is something that is great and bad.  The obvious great thing is you can immediately look for help on anything.  The bad is that it isn’t controlled enough.  Funcom should have made their own Wiki and gave people room to improve on it and add in changes.  Instead you just get a Google browser as the default.  It didn’t help that there is no real controls on it so a person can use this browser to look at 4Chan, Porn, or CollegeHumor.Com.

I do like that they at least tried to integrate stuff into their game, next up I wish they’d put in an MP3 player for those of us that hate game music, thanks Funcom!

The graphics of the game are seemingly too good.  I say this with a pretty top end machine and having had my machine crash and burn many times.  The video card overheated three times on Ultra and the game crashed to desktop 5 times on High.  The game simply does not have vertical sync which allows frames control so you don’t have crazy spikes in graphics caused by the persistent environment.

I’ll also note that the game isn’t a world.  It is entirely instanced and the world has tones of invisible walls you cannot get past.  Yes, disappointing I know. I was swimming along the sea trying to run away from enemies… and then I just stood in place to die.

In the end Funcom is right.  In an interview with MMORPG.COM talking about Age of Conan Unchained , Craig Morrison of Funcom said “we realized you have to give people most of the game for free and then offer passes to the smallest portion of the content for it to work.”

The same is true with this trial.  If I had unrestricted access to the game, I might have bought it.  Instead I found myself being denied from entering dungeons and never being able to get into a PvP encounter.  I find myself running around the world trying to figure things out on my own and looking to an already existing item’s shop wondering if there is anything inside that might help.

The Secret World is a beautiful game designed for people with a lot of patience and a lot of time.  It is however (from the trial) not worth a subscription and seriously needs to consider making it free to play after purchase.  There are a lot of cool little things about this game that makes it different, but not enough to pay $200/year.

Note this negative review is done with minimal amounts of team play, no PvP, no dungeons, no raids, and no end game content what so ever.  However if a game feels bad as a leveling experience, it’s probably not that great at anything else.

Age of Conan vblog #13: Strom Dies

Well Strom finally dies, watch to see the story unfold post mortem (oh and you get to see the big epic battle too).

It is as I feared and I as I was warned, the post-Tortage is quite underdeveloped.  The personal adventure will not continue until Level 30.  However the remainder of the game stays fully voiced, which is good… because I’m done with reading.