OpenEdge gets a shout-out on the wonderful Shut Up, We’re Talking podcast #45. Grats to him, and his mention of it reminds me that I intend to get back to Age of Conan around its one-year mark to see how things have come along.
It’s no secret that Age of Conan’s touted PvP features were something of a bust. But it also fell victim to two other factors, the impact of which remains uncertain.
The first seems to be a trend when new MMOs launch nowadays, what I call the PvP Choad Factor. This occurs when a bunch of choads who think they enjoy PvP get into a new title which promotes it heavily. When they inevitably find that they actually don’t enjoy it very much, they proclaim the game to be busted rather than seeing that their actual issue is with PvP in general. After all, if they really liked ‘consequences PvP,’ they’d be playing EVE Onlne, or maybe Darkfall, as the fantasy alternative. Darkfall may end up suffering from this as well, but the limited launch appears to be offsetting this to a large extent – limiting access also limits the ability of the choads to bitch about it – a smart move on Adventurine’s part. I have no opinion on how good or bad Darkfall may actually be, but watching the sociological impact from the outside has been interesting.
The other factor was the extreme hype over Warhammer Online, of course. Partially this was Funcom’s fault for marketing Age of Conan in a similar position to WAR, as a game oriented around PvP, when that turns out not to be what it really was. AoC’s launch was marred in large part by a barrage of hate from WAR partisans who thought that title would be the GRAETEST EVAR experience. This was a pretty understandable feeling at the time, with a big chunk of AoC’s PvP (which was, again, supposed to be a major part of the game,) non-functional and the WAR hype machine in full force. Alas, WAR turned out to be a disappointment, centered as it was around an RvR experience that the game did not actually provide, and by ladling on the weaksauce in every other department.
I think that Age of Conan is flatly a better game than Warhammer, because I have decided that I personally prefer a variety of experiences within an MMO. I enjoy PvP as one element of play, but I also enjoy PvE, crafting, instances, atmosphere, and other dimensions of exploring the game world, and to put it bluntly Warhammer shit the bed in all of these areas. But I also think that AoC offers a better PvP experience than WAR does, regardless of the non-functionality of city seiges and mass battles (Are those still non-functional? I’ve haven’t kept up with it.) Firstly because the combat system in AoC is worlds more interesting and dynamic than the well-balanced but derivative WoW-style combat of WAR, and secondly because viewed in the light of my own preferences, as an adjunct to gameplay rather than the whole of it, occasional PvP that actually happens in a game in which PvP is but one aspect of gameplay is infinitely preferable to constant PvP in a game wholly centered upon it, but in which it is seldom if ever actually available.
Both games suffered from technical issues from the get go – AoC with the monstrous lag inherent to large-scale actions and WAR with a server population cap so low that it was impossible to have meaningful RvR on the great majority of servers – those without an ideal population value and balance within what turned out to be a very narrow range. Of the two, AoC’s technical issue turned out to be less significant, because it turned out that it was actually a game that had more to do than just PvP, and from my limited technichal knowledge, it’s probably easier at least in the short term to tweak client performance upward than it is to redesign your server architecture to allow for a higher per-server population.
It strikes me, though, that Age of Conan does have an advantage of six months over WAR, which may make the comparison a little unfair. But only a little, and I am at any rate inclined to be charitable toward AoC, which landed with modest expectations among rational commentators, and harsh toward WAR, which was being pimped endlessly as the Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha of MMOs not just by intelligent bloggers (like Heartless and Keen, among others, and I was certainly eventually worn down by it myself,) but also by semiliterate troglodytes who commonly responded to contrary opinions by calling people ‘fagz’. (True story, and this un-admirable element of the community is one of the reasons I don’t much bother with GAX anymore, despite the presence of many worthy voices there, and my admiration of Ryan and Gary. I know maturity in this hobby is an unreasonable expectation on my own part, formed by years of particpation in the generally erudite and mature online tabletop community, but there it is.)