Funcom’s Age of Conan Going Down The Drain

I was taking a look through my Google Reader subscriptions and found a great article at Online Massively Multiplayer.com about Funcom’s Age of Conan. I decided to leave a comment and really got going, so I decided to re-post my comment there as a blog entry here.

I was one of those initial AoC subscribers. I was looking for a way to break free of the WoW grind. AoC was fun… at first.

The starter island is a masterpiece and is everything an RPG MMO should be. I especially loved listening to the voice-overs. That’s partly where Funcom failed I think. They set their own bar during the first 20 levels of game-play, and then fell short afterward. I remember being shocked when I left the starter island and found out that there was no more voice-over dialogue. I remember seeing it mentioned that they intended to complete more voice-overs for the quests, but I didn’t stick around to find out. They should have had it all done to start with, or not done it at all. That was just the first disappointment.

On top of that, AoC didn’t really introduce anything innovative or new. In fact, it felt like a step left, instead of a step forward. There was nothing wrong with the classes, per se, just the game-play itself. Most of the interfaces felt awkward and just not that intuitive.

Also, I remember being particularly disgusted with the amount of quests that required you to go from one end of the zone to the other (or one end of the game world to the other), especially considering they weren’t very interesting to start with. Granted, there are only so many scenarios you can come up with as far as quests go in a game where you grind XP or grind quests to level up, but instead of making them as hard as possible to take up time, why not make them easier and focus on other aspects of the game that will appeal to your player base? I think most players now take partial enjoyment from the leveling up, are amused slightly by some of the quests, but all in all just want to get to the “end-game” content.

Speaking of running from one end of the zone to the other, what was with their idea of putting the crafting NPCs in a separate zone on the far end of a zone packed with mobs? Why did the game even need a special zone for a crafting town? That should have been incorporated into the three major cities. On top of that, placing level restrictions on being able to craft is getting old. It doesn’t make sense, even for a fantasy world. I can’t wait for a game that will allow a person to be solely a crafter if they want to be. (And a good game with a bard class would be nice! I miss that from DAoC/FFXI!)

I suppose the general idea I’m trying to get across is that AoC wasn’t well thought out, and had a rough, unfinished feel to it. Today’s MMO players expect more from their games. On top of that, most have played multiple MMOs of high caliber and don’t want to take a step sideways. They want to take a step forward to something better. When it was released, AoC didn’t stand a chance against polished games like WoW.

The market is so competitive now that I think companies will have to try to appeal to niche markets rather than mainstream. For example, most people play WoW because there’s just nothing better available.

I’ve been rather disappointed by the MMOs coming out recently so I’ve turned to F2P games to occupy my spare time while I keep my eyes peeled for the next blockbuster MMO. Right now I’m content with Combat Arms and Runes of Magic.

Combat Arms is a fantastic online FPS that keeps the action pumping. It’s so well laid out that I just can’t believe it’s free. Every time I log in I’m impressed with the gameplay. The only thorn in Combat Arm’s side are the number of hackers that manage to get past their hack detection software. If Nexon could find a way to prevent hackers from getting in the game matches this great game would be golden.

Runes of Magic is a great game that’s free to play and incorporates elements of WoW, UO, Guild Wars, FFXI, and who knows how many others. It’s as if they plucked out the best parts of each game and rolled them into one very entertaining MMO.

Hmm… looks like I dropped a quarter instead of two cents!

[Posted by myself on Massively Multiplayer.com on Tuesday, March 31st at 12:38am SGT]

“D” for what?

My wife related an interesting story to me the other day that I thought I’d share.

We’ve all had conversations on the phone where we’ve been asked to spell something out so the other person can make sure they’re copying it correctly. We say things like, “A as in Apple,” “B as in Boy,” and “C as in Cat.” Now… maybe it’s different where you’re from but I’ve always said “D as in Dog.” That’s what’s normal right?

Well, often times when you’re in another country you come across things that may be normal for that country, but they just sound odd, or even hilarious to you. This is one of those things.

My wife was on the phone with a local man, and the man was spelling something for her. Just to make sure she had heard correctly, she asked the man, “Is that ‘D’ as in Dog, sir?”

So….

So, what do they say in Singapore?

“No, ‘D’! D, for…

Donkey!”

Maybe Shrek wasn’t such a big film here, but in the US it’s well known to the point that almost everyone associates the word Donkey with the film. Apparently that’s the case in the Philippines as well, but not here! When my wife told me this story, I just couldn’t help but hear the phrase in my head, but with Shrek’s voice. “D for Donkey!”

Do Video Games Cause Violence?

I know this is an old topic, but I just wanted to say my piece.

There has been a lot of controversy in the US about video games and the effect they have on kids. Some parents complain that video games loaded with violence give kids the impression that it is an appropriate way to solve their problems.

This whole concept of blaming video games seems to have sparked off with the incident at Columbine High School, which, by the way, has spawned its own video game called Super Columbine Massacre RPG. The parents of the victims were looking for someone to blame, which is only natural, and somehow they latched onto video games and movies as the source of the two offenders aggression. These parents went so far as to attempt to sue the makers of video games and movies for their supposed influence in the Columbine incident. Thankfully, their suit was thrown out as ridiculous.

Do video games contain a lot of violence? Well, sure they do. Violence and action are the main staples of some of the most popular video games ever to come out, like first-person-shooters Doom and Halo. There’s also the wildly popular Grand Theft Auto series which, as the name implies, focuses on stealing cars and also involves crime-filled storyline scenarios and prostitution, among other things. Even the MMO genre has its share of violence. Most of the more popular MMOs incorporate some form of PvP (player versus player) combat into their gameplay.

So, does that mean video games are to blame for inappropriate behavior? Well, no, it doesn’t. Responsibility always falls back on the person who commits the act, and on the parents if the person is a child. I grew up playing video games. As an adult I’ve played a lot of violent video games as well. I’ve also seen a lot of violent, gory, criminal things on television, in the movies, and in real life, both as a kid and as an adult. So, does that mean I can go kill someone and then blame it on video games? Can I say TV made me do it? Get real. People are set above animals for a reason. We are sentient. We can think. We can assimilate new information and come to logical conclusions. It is up to each person to use that knowledge appropriately. Just because I’ve seen someone die on TV from a shotgun blast to the face doesn’t mean that it’s something I should do too. I’ve also seen the Roadrunner run through a wall with a road and scenery painted on it. I’m not going to do that crap either. If someone can’t distinguish between fiction and reality, that’s not a matter of the media they’ve been exposed to. It’s a matter of a mental disorder.

In the case of children and childrens behavior, the responsibility ultimately lies with the parents. If parents don’t want their children playing violent video games, then maybe they should take an active role in their child’s life and monitor what they have access to. Either watch or research what they’re planning on watching and make a yes or no decision. Check out the music they’re listening to and decide on whether or not you think it’s right for them. Oh, and those labels on the covers of video games (and the ratings on movies for that matter) are there for a reason. They don’t get marked “Mature” because they involve calculus, you know.

On top of keeping track of what your kid is seeing, doing, and listening to, another great idea might be to get involved in your kids life. Remind them that you’re not just their parent, you’re their friend. Ask them how they feel. Ask them about problems they’re having. Tell them they don’t have to be embarrassed with you because you may have been through it too. Emphasize “may” so they don’t think you’re being condescending. If they want to see or listen to something you object to, ask them why they like it. Just… talk to them. If parents talk to their kids more and develop a better relationship with them, then I’m sure most of these crazy things that happen (like Columbine) can be avoided. The biggest thing to remember is that kids should be respected too.

Then again, this all makes too much sense, and we’re living in a time when common sense just isn’t so common anymore.