Double Buffered

A Programmer’s View of Game Design, Development, and Culture

Age of Conan: Meh, I’m Done

Posted by Ben Zeigler on June 8, 2008

As a follow up to my last two posts, here are my final impressions on Age of Conan. I hit level 46, and I’ve canceled my subscription. The immediate cause of me canceling is that I have run out of missions to do, and I hate mindless grinding. On top of that, there’s a bunch of problems with the game in general that keep me from being motivated to break through to the next group of quests. The game continues to gorgeous and the basic combat fun, but the other problems have piled up to the point that I’ve lost the will to go on. I may pick it up once some of the issues are fixed, but for now here is the list of Things That Suck About Age of Conan:

  • My class (Ranger) has multiple abilities that do absolutely nothing. I put some feat points into Pitch Pots, which from the description are interesting-sounding grenades. However, you activate the power and… nothing. From reading the boards, they don’t work for anyone. This is a common problem across all classes and levels.
  • The economy sucks. At level 40 you can first purchase your horse, for a price of 3 gold. At level 46, I had just gotten 1 gold. At this rate, I don’t think I’ll be able to afford a horse until 60, at which point the 30-gold horse is available.
  • The guild cities don’t work. Your guild can purchase various buildings (at a very high material and gold cost), but when you get them none of them are operational. You might thinking buying a trading post would let you use it, but no. It’s just there to get accidentally destroyed, which is pretty easy to do.
  • The death penalty is just kind of funny. The entirety of the death penalty is a very minor 30-minute debuff, unless you find your corpse or gain a chunk of xp. Because the death penalty is so minor, and you get to pick your respawn point at death, suicide is by far the fastest travel method in the game.
  • Crafting is really irritating. You can only start gathering materials at 20, and crafting at 40. There are a small number of material nodes that are SUPPOSED to be on your mini map (and are every 3rd time I log in), but they don’t replenish very fast and competition is tight for them. Then to level up crafting or collecting you have to craft/collect resources and then give them to the trainer to advance. I’ve spent multiple hours crafting and have ABSOLUTELY nothing to show for it, other than being halfway to higher levels of crafting. On top of that, the stuff you craft is worse than grey trash drops.
  • Quest mobs/objectives have horrible respawn times. There is one quest item that is needed by a central quest, and only respawns every 90 minutes. Think about that. Most of the players on the server need to do that quest, but only one person every 90 minutes actually can. Oh, and it doesn’t share if you’re on a team even. I’ve spent several hours camping out for other quest mobs to respawn, as well.
  • I’m not in love with the community. By making an “adult” game I was sort of hoping that it would get a more mature audience, but the community is probably a bit less mature than WoW, if that is even possible. As an example, here’s a 23-page thread on female character breast size.
  • Many of the interior maps are horribly broken. Map graphics are consistently missing, and sometimes the scale of the map is off enough that certain discovery quests are impossible to complete. I still am yet to Enter the Pyramid, despite having defeated everything inside it.
  • Some of the basic game mechanics are broken or extremely confusing. Here’s a 38 page thread on the broken character stat system. The summary is that it consists of a large number of players saying “Stats (strength, dexterity, etc) appear to do nothing. Funcom, please fix this system or at least explain it to us”. The official Funcom response can be summarized as “Working as intended. It is not our policy to discuss gameplay mechanics publicly. STFU noob”. The brokenness of the system, and the response of the developers, personally offends me as a player and developer.

Overall, I characterize Age of Conan as a game with an excellent engine (it rarely crashes) and art team, but with crappy game systems programming and design. The polish of the early levels hides the systemic problems, but the game really starts to break down as you get into the 40’s. The game is worth playing as a free trial (you could get through the fun parts during the trial period), but is not worth paying a monthly fee for in it’s current state.

Advertisements

8 Responses to “Age of Conan: Meh, I’m Done”

  1. I seem to remember that Final Fantasy XI took a somewhat similar approach to stats – yes, there were stats, and in FFXI they had very major effects, but it was never entirely clear what they affected unless you spent a lot of time testing. (Which people did, and it was basically known what things did, even if the actual formulas were crazy black boxes including your stats, the enemy’s stats, buffs, debuffs, the time of day, and the weather. I am not actually exaggerating here, they included all of those things.)

    The difference being that they definitely did things.

  2. JZig said

    I don’t have any problem IN THEORY with opaque game mechanics in an MMO, but the reality is that MMO developers of all types (I’m including Cryptic while we were running CoH) sometimes make mistakes in implementing game mechanics. By not giving information to players, it creates a atmosphere of distrust and “we know better than you” that I think poisons the MMO player-developer relationship. FFX1 pulls that off by not caring about that relationship AT ALL and just going with a top-down design for all aspects. As a consequence, I can’t stand the game 🙂

  3. Yeah, that’s fair enough. I do rather like the idea of not-entirely-clear mechanics that the player has to figure out, but it seems like more often than not those mechanics are broken. Which is, shall we say, not exactly ideal.

    I need to toss more automatic test stuff into d-net to track this sort of thing.

  4. Wolfe said

    We got a little plan to set up unit testing for game mechanics, think it could work? ^^

  5. JZig said

    Yeah, actually, unit testing of gameplay mechanics could work. Here’s the important thing:

    It has to be empirical. During CoH development we initially evaluated gameplay balance inside the spreadsheets or by using characters with time-saving “equivalent” powers. Both of these methods failed miserably, because the test environment is crappy. We eventually did all our important testing in a more realistic environment, which worked out. The only way to properly unit-test game mechanics is to use the exact same environment as the end users, because otherwise you’re going to miss something. What I’ve seen of Ben’s stuff shows that what he’s doing works (actually fire bullets off and see how much damage they do over time), and it could definitely work for an MMO as well.

  6. el said

    One of the things I really hate in the game, is the lack of help functions. What is this ? How to do ? and so on. Not even the graphics properties are explained in the game. Call me stupid, but I’d really like ingame help.

    I got tired of playing AoC at level 10-12. The entire meaning of the game is to run around finding spots. You can’t “sprint”, cause you get exuausted immediately, and can’t fight a squirrel if exhausted. The “quests” themselves are “nothing”. It takes forever to do nothing, just move around.

    I’ve spent a lot of time playing Oblivion on the 360, and I think the graphics there are a lot better. Smoother and more “real life” somehow. Maybe not as detailed, but better anyways.

    AI is really poor. Mobiles walk around in cirles, and stands there waiting to do anything till you are really close.

    Actually, I don’t like anything about the game, and I will certainly not pay a monthly fee playing it.

  7. el said

    One of the things I really hate in the game, is the lack of help functions. What is this ? How to do ? and so on. Not even the graphics properties are explained in the game. Call me stupid, but I’d really like ingame help.

    I got tired of playing AoC at level 10-12. The entire meaning of the game is to run around finding spots. You can’t “sprint”, cause you get exuausted immediately, and can’t fight a squirrel if exhausted. The “quests” themselves are “nothing”. It takes forever to do nothing, just move around.

    When I now got to “homeland”, all my interrest in the game dropped. It’s all the same again. And what’s the point of leveling ? What do I gain ? Again, where is the help-system ? There’s nothing to drive me forward.

    I’ve spent a lot of time playing Oblivion on the 360, and I think the graphics there are a lot better. Smoother and more “real life” somehow. Maybe not as detailed, but better anyways.

    AI is really poor. Mobiles walk around in cirles, and stands there waiting to do anything till you are really close.

    Actually, I don’t like anything about the game, and I will certainly not pay a monthly fee playing it.

  8. […] by JZig on July 11, 2008 I’m not playing Age of Conan any more, but I’m still following it’s development. There are still a wide variety of technical […]

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

 
%d bloggers like this: