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The Revolutionary Real Combat of Age of Conan

Posted Fri, Jan 25, 2008 by B. de la Durantaye

Video games have drawn all sorts of different crowds over the years. From the early days of “Pong” to today’s First Person Shooters, there have been many variations in genres, earning interest from the very young gamer to the very old enthusiast. Video games have become an every-day part of our modern lives.  And those lives may very well change with Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures. Funcom, the developers of the game, will be bringing a whole new combat system to the Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) industry.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft User Interface

In today’s popular MMOGs such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest 2, the standard combat system includes selecting a target, such as a vicious goblin, by clicking on it, and then hitting an auto-attack button that will cause the player character to perform a standard attack repeatedly, whether it be swinging a sword, firing arrows, or blasting the opponent with various spells. While this standard attack will certainly do damage, the real meat of the fight comes from players clicking on various icons representing different attacks and abilities they can perform. It has become a pretty standard system, and MMOG players have learned the system well. It is simple and it is effective.

Age of Conan wants to change this system and introduce their own.  The game aims to deliver a “Real Combat System” that sheds away the old method of fighting in the game, and bring an all-new combat experience to the gaming field.

With this new approach, all attacks will be in real time. This means if a player chooses to swing their sword, they will be able to do so - anytime, anywhere. Where they swing their sword will also be up to the player. They can aim for their opponent’s legs to cripple them, or slice at their head to deal the death blow. They won’t have to select a special ability from their icons to do all of their attacks; they’ll simply execute the command with a keystroke or gamepad button. This also means the player will have to be within striking distance to hit their target, or they’ll just end up swinging wildly through the air.

Age of Conan Ranged Combat

Age of Conan Ranged Combat

Players who prefer to stay at a distance from the battle will have a similar feel to the combat system. Gone are the days of clicking a single "ranged attack” icon on the screen and watching the player character perform the actions.  Ranged players of Age of Conan will actually have to string the bow, and take aim at the enemy whether from a first-person point of view or an "over the shoulder" camera angle. 

What does this all mean for the MMOG industry? If Funcom is able to deliver such a system, in a working, comprehensible interface, it could potentially reshape the future of MMOG development by immersing players even more into the game. Immersion is the one aspect that all MMOG developers aim for, as it is what keeps their customers playing their game for months or even years.

Let’s take a brief look back again, to see what has drawn players into the gaming field over the years.

First, the bare bones of all video games lie in their appeal to hand-eye coordination. This is the raw “fuel” that makes things fun. Whether it’s rotating a paddle to make a bar on a television screen go up and down, or if it’s quickly tapping a unique series of buttons in specific order to execute a devastating attack in a computer-generated street fight; the one thing all games have in common is they require hand-eye coordination. And it’s fun.

MMOGs, to date, haven’t explored that "fuel" to a great degree. Although it is involved in the game-play, as outlined earlier in this article, combat tends to stick to a specific system of moving the mouse and clicking icons on the screen. This greatly depreciates the value of the medium on which these games are played. It’s a computer. It’s a video game. Have fun with it. Players want to feel a part of what is happening on the screen. With a combat system as involving as what Funcom hopes to deliver, players will be able to feel as if they’re just that: a part of the battle.

The system also promises to deliver what MMOG players have been wanting for a long time: a clear and obvious standard to measure a player’s skills, and not by their in-game gear. With MMOGs today, any gamer has the ability to earn a virtually limitless arsenal of powerful items and abilities. These items, however, cannot be used as a yardstick to the player’s abilities in the game. With a huge boom in the secondary market, with shady dealings of people and companies that sell in-game items, cash, and leveling services for real life currency; the line that was once in place that would give players the ability to measure a player by the type, or tier, of in game gear they were wearing has become completely blurred. With Age of Conan, however, as soon as you enter combat with another player, you’ll be able to identify if the player is a skilled, learned player, or if they are someone that perhaps hasn’t been able to master the demands of the game.

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic

As new as the Real Combat System is to the MMOG industry, it is old-hat for other types of gamers. First Person Shooter games, in particular, are renowned for their evolving combat systems. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic offered a very dynamic and powerful combat system for swordplay and sorcery, and Ubisoft implemented the mechanics with astounding success.  The difference here though, is that “Messiah” was a single-player game, with some multiplayer options. “Age of Conan” will be a massively multiplayer game where thousands of players will be playing simultaneously; sometimes with each other, sometimes against each other. If the genres are able to merge well, it will attract a completely new type of player base. 

Potentially the new aspects being brought to this game could make it more difficult and frustrating for players. This could possibly lead to low subscription numbers, and that’s something all MMOGs want to avoid.

If it succeeds though, we could potentially witness a new era in gaming that brings together the best of several genres of games: MMOGs, First Person Shooters, and Strategy Games, with plenty of hand-eye gameplay as the fuel to keep it burning hot for gamers from all walks of gaming experience.



Will Funcom strike gold with their potentially revolutionary new combat system, or is it just a gimmick to attract new customers?
 Let us know what you think in the Ten Ton Hammer forums!

Ten Ton Hammer is your unofficial source for Age of Conan news and articles!

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