Questions by Cody
“Micajah” Bye, Managing Edtior

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Answers by Evan
Michaels, Designer for Age of Conan

Arguably, the most important aspect of any massively multiplayer online
game is the player’s relationship with their character.
Through thought provoking gameplay or solid balancing, every gamer
should have the opportunity to love the class that he or she plays.

Evan Michaels is one of the group of individuals responsible for making
the classes in Age of
Conan: Hyborian Adventures
fun for players of the
game. While we were in Oslo, the Ten Ton Hammer staff sat down with
Evan to discuss a few of the more intriguing problems faced in MMOGs
today and how AoC is dealing with them. His answers are quite candid,
and his enthusiasm for building these classes is really apparent.

Although we ran out of time before he could answer all of our questions
(sorry mages and rogues), the information that he does present is
important for each class in some way or another. Enjoy!

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According to Evan, he
believes that the magic and melee classes will have an equal number of
players over time.

Have you ever worried
about having an overwhelming number of melee characters compared to
your magic classes? It seems like the type of person that is attracted
to the Conan lore is more “melee” oriented rather
than a magic user, and thus more players may be melee classes.

style="font-weight: bold;">Evan Michaels:
We’ve discussed it a bit, especially since magic was
relatively uncommon in the Conan stories. In the past, we talked about
artificially controlling the number of mages on a particular server,
but we didn’t really want to go there.

However, I think you’ll find that things will balance out on
their own, regarding the melee/magic users. The mage classes are really
quite good. The Demonologist and the Necromancer are some of the best
soloists in the game. Two guys on the combat team pretty much play one
of those two classes; they are mage type characters in almost every
single game that they play. With those two representing the Mage
archetype, I think that mages will be fine.

Given the IP, people like the up-front, hands-on action that can be
gleaned from whacking people with your mace, sword, or large object.
And I have to admit that it’s fun. When I play the Barbarian
or Guardian, for instance, I love getting up in people’s
faces and doing a knock back sort of maneuver then killing them with my

How are you going to make
sure that the classes presented will be viable in both PvP and PvE?
What sort of balancing process have you gone through?

style="font-weight: bold;">Evan: It’s
a really tough situation, when you try to balance both PvP and PvE at
the same time. To an extent, as a developer you must make a concerted
effort to do your best to balance things, but also realize that
you’re never going to make everyone happy.

Everyone’s opinion on PvP balance is different.
Who’s overpowered and underpowered, what’s the
optimal spec, who’s the best and who’s the worst,
buff and nerf, and blah blah blah. It goes on forever!

Of course, it’s half the reason people play MMOGs;
it’s for that back-and-forth, tugging and pulling.
I’ll admit that I’ve done my fair share of whining
on message boards. I was very talkative on the AO forums about my
thoughts on class balance, and I think it’s perfectly normal
for people to talk.

But you have to remember to put everything into perspective. We may not
want to make a certain class good in a certain area. While the people
playing that class may desperately want to be good at this certain
attribute, we have to step up and say that that is not how we designed

Then there are areas of classes that are obviously broken. We do find
out that certain abilities work differently then we expect, or players
discover they don’t have a way to defend themselves against
particular abilities. That’s when we implement new things.

It’s a daily process for us. We look at character development
balance all the time. We talk about random abilities for random classes
on a hourly basis. Stuff comes up, we gather around a computer, look at
it, play with it, mess with the numbers, and figure it out.
It’s a fun job, but it’s really challenging. I
think we’re really getting there and our goal is to make
these classes as good as possible.

How do combos work in

style="font-weight: bold;">Evan: Formations are
something that we’re not really considering at the moment
when looking at how the combo system works. We’re primarily
making sure it works in just normal combat. I try to make sure that the
character itself plays well.

In addition, we’ve created feats and abilities that are
focused around group combat and how they interact with groups.

Do you think that Dark
Templars and Conquerors will make good raid tanks compared to a

style="font-weight: bold;">Evan:
They’re different. I like the arguments that people bring up
when comparing the different “tank” classes.
Blizzard did a good thing in finally getting two sets of raid tanks, so
players could have arguments on determining which tank class was the

And that’s actually what we’re aiming for. I want
people to argue over whether their tanks are viable in raid type
situations. If we can get them close enough so that people can argue
about it, then I’m happy. We don’t want only
Guardians to tank during raids.

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The Dark Templar
excels at AoE damage compared to the other Soldiers.

But you don’t
want to blend every class together, right?

style="font-weight: bold;">Evan: The Dark
Templar is a little more “Paladin-ish” –
if you’re comparing to WoW – in that he’s
by far the best at holding aggro on multiple mobs. He has the most
tools for doing that. He has the reactive unholy damage. He has the AoE
stuff. Snares, roots, etc. So, he’s by far the best at AoEing.

The Conqueror is interesting because he’s more of a DPS
– Evasion style of tank. The Conqueror doesn’t use
a shield, so he’s kinda up front and suicidal in a way. But
he’s still viable as a tank class. The evasion versus health
argument is always an interesting one, because there’s pluses
and minuses to both in any tanking situations.

I played a main tank for two years, so I could go on and on about that,
but I think there’s a viable argument for both of those

The Guardian is more of a straight-forward tank. He has the most HP and
the most armor. He wants you to pick him because he’s simply
brute force.

The Dark Templar is more versatile because he has the group heals,
along with the Conqueror’s auras that are more of a general
support sort of effect.

Like I said, the Dark Templar is more of an AoE tank and the Conqueror
serves that DPS role.

Does the Conqueror do as
much DPS as a Barbarian?

style="font-weight: bold;">Evan: Not quite, but
if he’s in the frenzy stance it comes close. He does more of
a Bear Shaman sort of DPS. But he’s got dual roles because he
can tank and DPS really well. He might be the one that takes the adds
at first, kills them, then switches over to frenzy stance to do DPS on
the boss mob that the Guardian or Dark Templar is tanking.

It’s kinda cool, because we’re really working on
the dynamic of the tank classes in the game. The buffs that they get
when the other people in the group are taking hits are really cool.
They all have their own theme.

For example, the Dark Templar has these “Sadism”
buffs. It increases their damage when their groupmates are hit and
increases their lifetap value. Eventually, when it stacks up to ten
– all these tank buffs can stack up to ten – it
gets this “maximum” sort of effect. When the Dark
Templar reaches this max value he starts pulsing AoE damage.

The Conqueror, when he has this buff, actually starts healing his team.
When he’s stacked up to ten, the Conqueror actually has a
chance of rezzing dead members of his team.

For the Guardian, I think he starts getting an increased chance for
retaliation defense procs and stuff like that.

All the tanks have their own little theme, and they actually work
together really well. We’re really trying to promote variety
with that system, because if you’re in a group with six
people, the Guardian buffs won’t trigger off of another
Guardian. But a Dark Templar’s will trigger off a Guardian, a
Conqueror’s will trigger off a Dark Templar, etc.

This way, the three tank classes can work together without stepping on
each other’s toes.

Will there be any
taunt-type abilities in the game?

style="font-weight: bold;">Evan: We are adding
some “click” taunts into the game. These are mostly
“rescue” sort of taunts that are only used in
emergencies. Basically how it works is that all of your combos will
have increased hate generation added to them, so you’ll be
able to pull things off your teammates much easier.

How do you think people
that normally play priests will react to a priest that can actually do

style="font-weight: bold;">Evan: I think
that’s a tough call. Some people are going to find it hard to
adjust. It’s really not the same as sitting there spamming
heals non-stop. I did it in Anarchy Online on my Adventurer in raids.
I’ve raided with a Priest in WoW. I know what conventional
healing is like, and I know that moving to our healing is a bit of an

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Healing your
teammates is very important, especially when faced with a monster like
this one.

That said, I think our brand of healing is a lot more fun.
I’ve actually been working on the Priest of Mitra recently,
and I’ve been revamping their feat tree. So I’ve
been playing pretty extensively with the Priest of Mitra, and
it’s really fun! I’m finding that I can do damage
and healing at the same time, which makes me a bit more versatile to my
group other than just spamming heals.

However, the theme for the two major healers in the game –
the Priest of Mitra and the Tempest of Set – will be
different. The Tempest of Set does better healing by doing more damage.
The Priest of Mitra is the opposite; she does better damage by doing
more healing.

They kind of have an inverted orientation, but it’s the same
end result where they have to juggle both at the same time. For
example, the Tempest of Set has this ability where every time he nukes,
he has a chance of casting a heal for no mana. Every time he nukes he
also has the chance of putting a buff on himself that will make his
next heal more powerful. Finally, he has a chance to make the targets
of his team heal pulse AoE damage and things like that. The Tempest is
definitely very offensively oriented; he starts the fight with damage
and ends it with healing.

The Priest of Mitra really increases his damage potential by setting up
a solid healing base. I was working on a specialized feat recently
where each target you hit with a cone heal grants you a stacking buff
on yourself that increases your holy damage. Or there’s
another where every tick of healing from one of your spells gives you
the chance of allowing your next damage spell to be cast for free. Like
I said, they’re really focused on getting a solid healing
set-up in their group before doing the nuking.

The Bear Shaman is obviously different than both of these two, because
he’s melee focused. Unlike the other two healers, the Bear
Shaman’s team heal procs from melee hits. It’s a
very interesting class, and it will be interesting to see how former
healers from other games react to our healing classes.

Thanks for all of the
information, Evan, and I hope we can talk again soon!

Do you think
it’s a good idea to overlap classes to the point of having
arguments between each class? How do you feel about the way the priest
archetypes are designed?

us know on the forums!

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016