Possibly the most
informative part of the Age of Conan Community Event
in Oslo, Ten Ton Hammer returns with the video of the developer panel.
Ten Ton Hammer readers can access the video href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/21347">here.
The hosts of the Q & A session fielded questions from the
and covered a wide range of topics from stealth to beta to spellweaving
and female characters.
You've seen the video
around the internet, now you can read the transcript.
The Age of Conan
From left to right:
Didrik Tollefsen, Terje Lundberg, Evan Michaels, Gaute Godager,
Pål Hansen, Erling Ellingsen
Q: Could you talk a
little about stealth? How is stealth going to work in the game?
Evan Michaels: The way that stealth works is a little bit
different than most games. Most games it's very binary. You're either
stealthed or you're not stealthed and if you are stealthed you're
pretty much invisible to everything universally until
something detects you or you get hit.
Ours is a bit more dynamic because it's a skill check between the
person stealthing and the people observing, meaning that for instance
in PvP different players will detect the player at different rates. So
one person might see another person and one person might not. That's
kind of the difference between the two. Stealth is very limited in our
game. Rogues are the ones that are good at it - especially the assassin
- very much specializes in it, while other classes can train their
stealth skill and be ok at it, they shouldn't expect to be amazing at
it. In that way, stealth is very useful, especially for the rogue
classes; especially when you're trying to get around mobs and stuff
like that, you are able to do that, very much like you are in
other games. But the penalties for not training your stealth skill and
not being a master in that skill are pretty harsh. We want to reward
players that invest in that as something as part of their character,
rather than just letting everybody have it for free. It's a choice the
player has to make to put the skill points in, invest in that stealth
skill, and then it's quite useful.
Gaute Godager: There
are a couple of unique things that we use. First of all the NPCs in
[Age of] Conan have different types of senses that they use to detect
people who are hidden. The vision sense is actually a cone so moving
around the NPC where you are out of sight will help you when you
Secondly, the light of day and the way light hits you also goes into
this "massively complex" formula that [Evan] made. [ style="font-style: italic;">laughs].
So, basically, if you remember - I don't know if someone
[here] played the first round of betas back in June - there
was a Thief light meter on the character portrait. That's not
part of the GUI any more but it will come back and then you will see
how light hits you, and that part of the formula; so you can stand
close to walls and you can use the lack of moonlight and whatnot to
increase your chances of not being detected. So that's going to come
back in. It's still there, it's just not visualized.
So those are very vital, important aspects of stealthing. And there is
another layer in that that we are debating if we are going to put in,
and that's the players' ability to see NPC senses. We are wanting to do
it but it's hard to make it look in character. So it's either like a
nice hand-drawn line or box that goes like this: [ style="font-style: italic;">makes clunky gesture of a box
waving back and forth] that follows the guy, or we need to
do some magic there to make it look in character. But basically it's
the same way of "highlighting" that you see in Thief, when their look
pans around, or in Commandos, if you remember that.
actually another element of stealth, and we've added these elements, as
Gaute mentioned; the light level, or the "cover level" is what we
usually call it. In addition to that we also have weight or sound noise
level, and that is controlled by your armor. Basically, if you wear
heavier armor which is nosier armor; full plate, chainmail, stuff like
that, you generate more noise while you're stealthing - which means
that you are more easily detected. That's one of the main reasons
non-rogue classes have a hard time stealthing.
they can go nekkid, right?
Evan [ style="font-style: italic;">laughing] style="font-weight: bold;">: Yeah! That
actually would help you stealth.
So all these things combined into a stealth system where the player has
to be a little more careful and considerate. You know, they have to
watch - Are they in the shadows? Are they hiding in the dark areas? Are
they being careful not to move? Because when you're standing still you
don't generate a noise level. You know, are they staying out of sight?
Things like that. So, you know, we want stealthing to be cool, but we
also want it to be hard because it is very powerful and part of the
coolness comes in mastering that skill.
you might have seen in beta - all classes have access to stealth. That
comes directly from the lore as far as I can define it - see every
character that is found in the game. In the books they sneak around
whether it's a priest or a mage; they all sneak and they stab each
other and so we wanted that. Thus, we needed to make it with elements
that it couldn't be as binary as it is found in other MMOs. It needed
to be more like a mini game - so that's why we did it this way.
Q: I'm guessing it's
disabled while you're mounted, correct?
Gaute: Yes. No climbing. No sneaking.
Q: In what areas has the
beta helped you clear up things that you weren't clear about or make
decisions to add things, remove things, or change things?
Well. Oh. [pause.]
That's like asking "please describe the last year."
Pål Hansen: In
the background of the player there's lots of information. There's
nothing being sent if there's nothing wrong but when it crashes and all
that we have a full stack of traces and so on. So we are able to fix
that very quickly.
most obvious one, of course, is the one that we stated as a reason for
delaying the project in August. That was very much from serving,
hearing, listening to journalists, people playing and looking at beta
testers' focus tests, hand-picked influential people that we liked to
ask and then just basically seeing that. I felt that the old way of
executing combos was inverted to the way I wanted it to be. People
couldn't remember and they didn't automate the things I wanted them to
remember and automate. I think that's the major thing that cost us
quite a lot.
It can be on the class side. Class interests, but sometimes it doesn't
even reach beta before we axe it. But sometimes it does; and then we do
It can be on the pacing of the game. We changed the pacing of the game.
We tune it up after listening to what people have to say.
It can be on the degree to which people are locked down in the Tortage
part of the game.
You might not know it, but we have it in the works right now, for you
who are not in the beta: The first twenty levels of the game is "single
player" we call it, but it's not really that, it's more focused. You
can do single-player epic quests during that part of the game. They're
called "Destiny Quests." People were actually saying that
they really, really enjoyed it but they missed travelling. So what
we're doing now is that we're adding a smuggler that will take you,
smuggle you out during the day and that you go someplace that you
previously couldn't access. Which, of course, all the story-lovers of
the game sort of said: "That's really going to be hard for you to
explain unless you do it properly because it's all about being
secluded." But that really came directly from the beta testers saying
"I miss going there, and I especially miss having my high level friends
kick my ass, or coming to give me stuff, give me coin, and whatnot."
So we are changing the game almost everywhere on every level. It's just
a communication where the factors are time, effort, and vision, and we
try to have those merge as much as possible with the feedback that we
get; to find the sweet spot somewhere in there.
I hope that was some concrete examples.
Q: We haven't heard much
about spellweaving for a while. How is that coming along and can you
tell us a bit about it?
Terje Lundberg: We still have a spellweaving as part of
the plan for release. We've revamped it some to make it more simple and
familiar. It still will be a big part of the magic system. We have the
first test phase running upstairs already, but it still has not reached
The way it will work is a special sequence where you cast spells and
when that sequence is fulfilled you get a big option of doing something
really heavy or nasty, with effects that might have on your character
as a big risk involved pending on your character.
style="font-weight: bold;">Q: Soul corruption?
Terje: Soul corruption is still something that we're
thinking about - kind of different, hard to explain.
will be many various negatives. As we talked in some of the various dev
diaries before, and one of the examples was potentially killing
yourself. That is definitely on the table for the more dramatic
spellweaves - the big ones with the very large effects. They will
possibly kill the caster if they're not careful.
Q: Sending yourself to
hell? Is that still in the works?
Gaute: That was one of the things we saw people not
responding to favorably to - when they got put to hell during a raid.
Yeah, it's a cool idea and people will be all "Yeah, that rocks," but
then they're like "that sucks!" So I don't expect that.
Q: So a bit more
Gaute: Yeah. More practical, more down to earth, but
still extremely deadly. I would say more for the caster than for the
Q: Female character
choice has been disabled for quite a while now. How is that coming
along? Do you expect to add it back in beta before launch?
Gaute: There are a couple reasons why we didn't do it. It
took a lot of time to clean up all the animations - we have about 3,000
animations per character to do that properly. It also was to
do with just making sure that it looked good enough before we launch it
because people have special expectations for the female. It's going
into the mid-January milestone which is Monday. It usually
takes a week to get to the beta and so you can expect to see it then.
It is testable right now if you're a GM. So it's
right there, under the surface but gameplay wise it doesn't really
matter. They play exactly like the male. Visually they're different and
people have a special need for the female to be "hot" in the Conan
game. It's a delicate balance and we've worked around the clock to make
it and to have the rating boards approve it.
That's really a big issue for us because we need hit the Mature rating,
not under-the-counter sales. So that's been a tough one for us in that
regard, but yes, it is coming, and it's coming now in a very very short
Didrik Tollefsen: She's
very good looking. I tweaked her myself.
Erling Ellingsen: Didrik,
maybe you can add a bit. How it's been working with the female models,
why you have been taking your time.
was a great cast as well. We had lots of fun doing it. It's a challenge
as an artist - to make a goddess that everyone can say is good looking
to them. We all have our preferences.
don't know how many different versions of the female mesh, the female
animation rig, the female heads, the female faces, the female hair that
we've been through. I guess the rig has been swapped out four times or
five times. The mesh even more than that. It's just massively
challenging to get it right. It is now. You need the right sizes in the
Q: I thought we could
create a woman character that looked differently?
Gaute: To some internal people's amazement, yes. Yes, you
can make someone look like someone you really would not want to date.
That's not a problem.
Q: So we can make a
character fat, or... ?
Gaute: Yes. There is a special club for people like you
style="font-weight: bold;">Q: How much effort have you made
thinking about female gamers in Age of Conan? It seems like such male
Gaute: It's an interesting question. How to
phrase that one?
First of all, female players are very very important to us and we want
to include them as much as possible. But yes, you are absolutely right.
Conan is an adolescent's fantasy, pulp world with and the modern
female, equalitarian values don't mesh always 100 percent with that
type of world. I think we made a choice that we would include or try to
make it as pure as we could from a visionary point of view; to welcome
all the females that wanted to play, after having sort
of screened them away based on the vision being pure, if you
see what I'm saying. I think there are quite a few female players. We
watch the threads on our beta boards and we watch the people talking
about the game. But I definitely think that we will have fewer female
players than we would in a less pulpy, male-fantasy type universe.
I don't think it will be noticeable for the player. Not to be very glib
about it, but nine tenths of the people you meet who say they're female
aren't anyway. So making that nine to three isn't going to make that
much difference. But all the elements that female players enjoy are
there. All the social aspects that we normally say are typically female
values - they're there. But I must say that there will most likely be
more males enjoying those values anyway. It's not as cut and dry as you
see them. It's not what appeals to whom isn't as cut and dry as we
would like to hope for when we market the game.
like to just add one thing on that. When I've been travelling around a
lot, talking with the gaming press and so on, I meet a lot of female
journalists of course, and many of those have actually said that they
look forward to Age of Conan because they can finally have a chance to
play something sexy, and not just a cartoon character, or a caricatured
character. They can finally play something realistic and mature, and
something they can identify with.
Q: In regards to raiding
and looting, what kind of mechanics are in place for players to choose
from? How do you handle loot?
Gaute: Let's start with group looting. We have three
different loot modes. Round Robin, we have team division and random and
I think we also have first come, first serve. In terms of the raid,
it's the raid leader that can distribute. So there isn't any "token"
system in place for handling raid achievements. Not as far as I know. [ style="font-style: italic;">Turns to Evan] Do
you know of anything that snuck in there somewhere?
we don't have anyone from the high-end gameplay here and a lot of that
has to do with their planning. We have generic systems but how they
implement the execution of it is purely up to them. I know from talking
to them that they're primarily going for drops. I've heard talks of a
token system but I haven't heard specifics of what they have planned
doubt there is something concrete there. Did that answer your question?
You were asking about raids more specifically. We will have twenty plus
raid targets at launch. We're going to have 24-man teams as raid target
number of players. Almost exclusively the raids are high level, as in
75+ to 80. I think there are one or two examples of lower level, but
I'm not totally sure if they're going to make it or if we ramp them up
to level 80. Our estimate says that we have several hundred hours of
raid content, and I hope that's true, but it also depends on how hard
we make it. I mean we can make one raid take several hundred hours. [ style="font-style: italic;">Laughs]. But I
guess that won't be too appreciated.
We are planning to have an item-based raid leveling system which gears
you towards taking the next level of raids in place. I think there are
three tiers of raid content.
Currently there's tiers of raids and raid loot planned of increasing
strength that will basically allow you to start working on the next
tier. They have a very interesting and creative solution going on with
the way that raid drops versus non-raid drops works and from I've seen
the balance of that and how it impacts PvE non-raiding versus raiding
is actually very solid. The distribution - We're in a unique situation
with basically our classes and that's caused by the fact that most of
our classes are what would normally be considered "hybrid classes."
Very, very few of our classes only have one role and due to the kind of
generic system we use for what people can equip. A lot of the loot that
drops will be used for multiple classes and multiple people at the same
As far as I know there aren't any current plans to only drop, say, a
necromancer item or a dark templar item and if you have no dark
templars in the raid, you know, you just have to let it rot on the
corpse. So I think they're trying to take a very broad approach and
make sure the progression is as fun as possible.
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