Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer Interview with Craig Morrison
Funcom recently announced details about the first expansion for Age of Conan Hyborian Adventures (AoC) titled 'Rise of the GodslayerÂ. Ten Ton Hammer recently got the chance to speak with AoC Game Director, Craig Morrison about the upcoming expansion and the content players will be receiving when it goes live.
Ten Ton Hammer: For those not as familiar with Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, can you tell us what inspired you to use the Empire of Khitai as the basis for this expansion?
Khitai has been thrown into chaos by the actions of Conan and is the setting for the new expansion.
Craig: Khitai was a front runner from the start when we considered where we would take expansion content. It allows us to create a very different feel to those areas, and gives us a great potential for diversity. We wanted to offer something different for the expansion and the lands of Khitai offered us that opportunity.
Then the team wound a really compelling and interesting link to the original Conan tales that really sealed the deal and allows us to tell a very interesting story in the expansion.
Ten Ton Hammer: WhatÂs the story behind the new land? What is it that moves the player into action while they're adventuring there?
Craig: The storyline for the expansion is really intriguing. The actions of King Conan many years previously (in the original Howard tale Â The Tower of the Elephant Â a seventeen year old Conan has an encounter with an ancient being that was revered as a deity in Khitai) have had a long lasting effect on the lands of Khitai that are only just now becoming apparent. The player will get to discover how the current political upheavals in Khitai are linked to the actions of their own king many years before, and they will have to make some hard choices about how to interact with the various factions.
The story in the expansion is one of its strengths and works on two levels. At a top level you have the mysterious danger that is threatening to plunge Khitai into chaos, and possibly even civil war, and it is all linked to Conan. Then you also have the playerÂs individual story and how they choose to operate with the factions within Khitai, they will have to make allies in order to progress, but doing so will also mean they make enemies!Â Â
Ten Ton Hammer: How large is the landmass being added and what sort of themed areas and content can we expect to see?
Craig: There are five massive new playfield regions, each with a lot more explorable gamespace than the previous playfields as we have focused on more open and vast locations and less of the narrow mountain passes and valleys. The largest playfield in the game currently, for example, is YmirÂs Pass and it has some 1,200 NPCs, the expansion playfields have up to 2,000 each.
Ten Ton Hammer: How much of the new content is aimed at solo and group play?
Craig: That depends on how you look at it, in the expansion itÂs a mix. The vast majority of the quest and faction content can be played solo, so players have a lot to aim for and enjoy there. Then you have the dungeons and raid areas that are aimed at groups and raid forces. So I think there will be a lot there to satisfy fans of both solo, group and raid gameplay.
Tigers and wolves can be earned as mounts or pets in the expansion.
Ten Ton Hammer: How will the new faction ranks function? When players gain with one faction will they lose with the other? Will one faction become KOS (Kill on Sight) if the players faction is too low?
Craig: Yes, the faction choices in the expansion come with consequences. As you make an ally of one faction you will be angering their enemies. So as new areas and new quests open up to you on one hand from your allies, other areas will become much more dangerous for you to enter as your enemies will very much want to see you dead!
Ten Ton Hammer: How will a playerÂs decisions to betray a faction impact them with the other faction in the area?
Craig: It will certainly have an effect! That is an area we have to balance during the testing phases. We donÂt want betraying your current allies to be meaningless but we also have to ensure it doesnÂt strand a player completely with enemies on all sides!
Ten Ton Hammer: ItÂs been said that you wonÂt be raising the level cap or adding any additional classes with the expansion, but rather improving your current list of classes. In what way will you be doing this and can you give us some examples of what we can expect to see for each class? Can you also touch on the alternate advancement system?
Craig: ItÂs a little bit early for examples just yet. The new abilities will be a mix of class and archetype specific additions, as well as some general ones. The system itself is currently going through the last parts of the design phase before we start to implement and test all the abilities, so we will be talking about the specifics in more detail a little bit later on.
Players will advance in two ways with the alternate advancement system. First, they will choose new abilities that are available with the new alternate advancement points, and then they will also be able to use an over time training method to effectively Âlevel-upÂ those abilities and open up more powerful tiers of those abilities.
Ten Ton Hammer: How will the new Khitan race differ from the current ones, and how will their destiny quests play out?
Craig: I donÂt want to spoil two much there. While the destiny quest for Khitan players will share elements from the existing destiny quests, the story behind the Khitan seer is very different from those that aided you through your quests in the original game. She has a very different agenda and attitude towards King Conan!
Players can earn an assortment of new loot by earning favor with the factions.
Ten Ton Hammer: With the addition of wolves and tigers as a potential mount or pet, how will players earn these creatures as either? Once they do have them, how will the player level them up and what kind of benefits can they provide as a mount and as a pet?
Craig: The new mounts are earned through new epic quest lines at the top of certain factions in the expansion. Getting them will be no small endeavor and will be one of the highlights of the expansion for many players.
We have taken a different approach to the new mounts in the expansion. They arenÂt just about speed increases. We didnÂt want to invalidate all the work players have put into getting their swift horse mounts. So the new special mounts in the expansion, the Tiger and the Wolf, instead have special abilities that mean they offer something different for players. So the Tiger for instance has stealth options as it is able to stalk silently with itÂs rider aboard. We basically wanted to ensure that the new mounts offered the players more options rather than just raising the bar for speed boosts.
Ten Ton Hammer: What kind of new dungeons and raids will be in Rise of the Godslayer and what sort of bosses and enemies will players be facing in them?
Craig: There are quite a few really interesting locations and encounters, literally reaching from the sky in Pillars of Heaven to under the ground in the Mines of Chosain. The team is really concentrating on adding new dynamic, fun and interesting encounters that I think players will enjoy. We have been able to do this well with the new encounters we have added to the live game lately and we want to keep that going throughout the expansion.
What kind of new, shiny loot will players be able to obtain in the new expansion?
Craig: A lot! Each of the twelve factions (ten main factions and two hidden ones) have armor sets that come in four complete tiers, and offer other rewards, like weapons and consumables. In each of the four faction ranks an entire armor set becomes available to you, so itÂs not just boots and gloves at tier one, helmet at tier two etc, each rank you achieve allows you to get your hands on a complete set! Then there are the new tier four class armors and weapons on top of the general dungeon and quest rewards that players will be able to attain.
Ten Ton Hammer: Have you set a general timeframe for when the expansion may be released?
Craig: I am afraid not just yet. We want to get some of the testing phases done first before we consider the release window. A lot of good progress has been made, and much of the expansion is already complete, but there are also areas we are still working on, so we will be waiting a little while before discussing release dates and such.