Age of Conan - Update 6 Q&A with Craig Morrison

Time,the measurement of which ultimately controls everything about our lives, seems to be in an increasingly short supply.
Time,the measurement of which ultimately controls everything about our lives, seems to be in an increasingly short supply. Nowhere, in the gaming world at least, is time more critical, and more of a factor in success, than in the MMOG. Games, and the developers who make them, are given precious little of the aforementioned quantity with which to meet the high expectations of their exceedingly fickle fan bases. While many recent releases have either pulled the plug or settled into a defacto acceptance of their product’s station in the gaming hierarchy, a couple titles have risen to the challenge and aggressively fought to keep their games moving forward and recapturing some of the launch day magic. Funcom’s Age of Conan is leading that charge with sweeping additions and a new expansion, Rise of the Godslayer, in the works. We sat down recently with Craig Morrison, the games Director and Executive Producer to talk about the renown system and other changes in store for the game:

Ten Ton Hammer: High level guilds can get team-based PvP arenas through the renown system. What sorts of games can be played in these arenas, and does the owning guild have any sort of advantage when competing in them?

 Craig Morrison: These arenas are really just for fun. They are intended to give guilds a PVP environment that they can control access to and allow them to have fights on the terms they want. The system in the arena allows players to choose how many they want on either side of a fight to the death, it might be one on one, six on six, or even one on many if they want to! There aren’t any rewards, or advantages to the guild themselves, like I said this is mainly a fun toy for the PVP players to use for their own fights and tournaments without having to worry about outside interference.  

Ten Ton Hammer: Are there any other new buildings that will be rewarded for guild renown?

Craig: Players will be able to get a brand new tavern building for their guild city. In addition they will be able to earn a new social instance, which is themed to their culture, which appears beneath their existing keep.    

Ten Ton Hammer: Can you give us some examples of some of the new decorations available through renown?

Craig: There are a variety of banners and environmental objects like shrubs, sculptures, and totems. For the more macabre amongst you there are even some corpses that can be strewn around.

Ten Ton Hammer: Has guild city land expanded, or will the new buildings take place of older ones?

Craig: The new building appears in a completely new slot, so you won’t have to replace anything in your city.

Ten Ton Hammer: In the IGN article, it was mentioned that mounts and companions will be renown rewards as well, and can be shared by the guild. How does this work? If someone takes out a mount for a run, will it be unavailable to others?

Craig: The renown ranks open up quests that can then be done by anyone in the guild so they can all earn the rewards. So access to the rewards is shared and it is then down to each player to seek out the rewards they want to get for themselves.

Ten Ton Hammer: How do the renown-rewarded mounts compare with other mounts in the game?

Craig: The main difference is in the visuals; we didn’t want the new mounts to take the place of the old ones. The new mount gives players another option.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are the renown rewards free once you’re of sufficient renown level, or are they simply unlocked, and you’ll still have to buy and/or build them? And if so, where can they be purchased?

Craig:  A combination of all of the above! Some will unlock quests that you have to complete in order to get the reward, some will unlock vendors and some will unlock new buildings. The vendors and quest givers will appear in your guild city.

Ten Ton Hammer: Do you predict large guilds will reach renown level 20 very fast, and conversely, how long would it take a smaller guild of 10 or so players to progress?

Craig: Larger guilds will of course progress quicker, but we want [satisfying progression] to be achievable for the smaller guilds as well. We are currently balancing that during testing and there will most likely be some form of weekly contribution caps to ensure the gap isn’t too extreme. But, as I said, that’s something we will fine tune during testing.

Ten Ton Hammer: Valor renown can be earned by killing monsters and completing quests. As there are a finite amount of quests in the game, will it be of significant advantage to start new characters to earn renown through all the low level quests again, or will it be easy enough to gain valor renown on a veteran character who’s already done a lot of the content?

Craig: I don’t think [there will be an advantage to starting a new character.] There are also lots of repeatable quests and we are also going to be introducing a lot of new content in the expansion with lots more quests for people to work on.

Ten Ton Hammer: Without spoiling anything, could you give us a small taste of the kinds of fights players will be experiencing in Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold?

Craig: I really don’t want to spoil anything there, but as we have hinted at in the promotional material, players will find that King Conan himself is taking an interest in the attempts to battle his old foe. I think the team has done a great job making the encounters interesting, and continued the trend we have tried with recent updates of hiding special extra challenges within the encounters, effectively offering an optional ‘hard mode’ for additional rewards.

Ten Ton Hammer: The loot in the dungeon is the best gear seen yet. Will players be able to get by here if they haven’t raided before, or would it be more recommended for seasoned raiders?

Craig: Players will have to have worked through some of the existing raids first. [The Stronghold] is adding a new tier of challenges above what already exists so players will have to have experienced the existing raid content first before trying to take on Thoth-Amon

Ten Ton Hammer: Players will be able to fight alongside Conan in part of this expansion. Is this a new story arc or will it tie in from something else previously hinted at?

Craig: Well, Thoth-Amon is one of Conan’s best known adversaries, and the King will take a keen interest in your attempts to take him down. The story does tie in to some of the elements the players have already experienced through their destiny quest as well.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the Update at this time?

Craig: Just that I hope players enjoy the new content and features when they reach the live servers, and remind everyone that the update will be available for public testing very shortly as well. We look forward to seeing what the players make of the new additions to the game!

We would like to thank Craig for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us regarding Age of Conan;  with the new expansion looming we can imagine all the folks at Funcom are burning the candle at both ends. What do you think? Can the Rise of the Godslayer breathe new life into the game? The new features certainly look exciting and ambitious, but will they be enough to return interest to pre-release levels? Only time will tell for sure.

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