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Last night I finally canceled my Age of Conan subscription. I’ve been on the verge of doing so since mid-June, but I kept waiting, hoping something would change. And the only thing that really changed was I found myself playing for shorter and less-frequent sessions. A pattern became evident. I’d boot the game, have fun for a while, then get bored and quit to go do something else. And as the days past, that “a while” period grew smaller and smaller.

I finally realized what was missing from my enjoyment of Age of Conan: a sense of progress. The gear my character was wearing looked pretty much the same at level 30 as it did at level 5. The stats on that gear were essentially meaningless (+0.2 defense, woot!). So getting better gear didn’t make any difference to either immersion (the visuals) or gameplay (the stats).

At level 1 I was fighting men and beasts such as crocodiles, which at the time seemed like a great idea. Too many MMOs have you fighting small snakes and insects at low levels. But at level 30, I was still fighting men and crocodiles (and bears and wolves) with very few ‘monstrous’ foes. Sure they were higher level, but so was I, so the fights felt about the same.

From level 1-20 I fought in jungles, on desert islands and in ancient crypts. Since then I’ve fought in…jungles and ancient crypts. While there are 3 zones to hit after you leave Tortage, they don’t really feel all that much different.

It boils down to the fact that whether I played a character that was level 32 (the max I got to, and to be fair that isn’t even half-way to cap, maybe things get better if you push past these doldrums) and then switched to a character that was level 12, the game didn’t really feel any different. So what’s the point of playing an rpg with progression levels if the levels all feel the same?

What’s worse, there are no ‘extras’ to help prop up the gameplay. I do enjoy crafting in these games, but here you have to be level 20 to start harvesting, level 40 to start crafting, and level 50 to harvest tier 2 materials. So you spend 20 levels gathering ore and wood to either donate to your guild (which will quickly bypass the need for low-tier materials) or try to sell them on the broker. Yawn.

There are guild cities, but no personal housing. The guild buildings just kind of sit there. Eventually they’re supposed to give buffs but those aren’t in the game yet. I guess right now they’re just good for bragging rights. There are no ‘hobby’ activities like fishing, or gambling mini-games, or any of the other little ‘time-waster’ things to do that make a world feel more real.

Last item is a personal one, and not a problem with the game per se. Apparently the crux of the high-end game play is guild vs guild PVP, besieging player-built battle keeps and so forth. Which sounds fun, but which really require a fairly substantial guild. I’m generally the kind of MMO player that joins a small, intimate guild, or no guild at all. This time I joined a huge guild (400 characters, I think at one point 135 or so players). This meant we got to build a guild city really quickly and all that but…I never really got to know anyone in it. It was such a large guild that the chat channel might as well have been a public channel. My contributions to the guild city consisted of handing over materials and gold to someone who handed them up the chain to someone who did the actual building. Essentially I was just a cog in the wheel. And ya know, I’m a cog in the wheel in the real world. When I’m playing a game I want to matter.

And yet a small guild won’t have the resources to do all the fun PVP stuff that is supposed to exist in the end game. This is a design decision on the part of Funcom and it isn’t wrong, its just wrong for me. I know other folk that love being part of something huge like this.

So, farewell Age of Conan. I’ll probably come back to visit now and then, because I had a blast for the first few weeks. I’m sure I’ll have a blast for another few weeks after I give the game 6 months to ‘rest’ and the combat stops feeling so familiar.

The guild stuff, though…now I’m worried about Warhammer Online, which seems to be equally large-guild oriented. Hmmm….



Comments:
20
  • I loved the environments in AoC, and I found the music really evocative. I liked the quests, too. I did not however enjoy the combat, and strongly disliked the gathering model (never even got close to crafting but by all accounts that’s not working anyway.) But your observations about lack of other things to do — and the heavy (large) guild emphasis — rings true to me as well. I stopped playing even before my first month was up. I never felt compelled to log in, really.

    Looks like it’ll be EQ2 for me for the foreseeable future, as there isn’t any other MMO I’m aware of that I have any interest in (I am staying away from pvp games in the future. It might be small minded but I simply can’t deal with the forums when pvp is involved. Gives me the willies heh.)

  • Could not have said it better myself. I hit 20 and said to myself…is this it? Looks good, plays nice but gets old quick. Too bad as it had so much potential.

  • EA Mythic have made a big deal about not forcing people into large guilds. You can create a guild with 6 people, and there won’t be any significant disadvantages compared to a larger guild. They want people to have fun playing with friends, and not be forced in joining vast behemoths like the one you joined in AoC.

  • That’s good to hear, unwise. Thanks for sharing that.

  • You joined a zerg guild and feel like a “cog in the wheel”. This is common in every zerg guild in any mmo. You are level 32, maybe get into a “family” style guild that you say you enjoy and worry about the city building until you level a bit. You made a poor guild choice and blame the game for it.

    The three post level 20 overland zones each have a completely different feel to them. They haven’t been colourshopped with drastically different colour palettes or filled full of different types of candystriped monsters because the game strives for reality. Each of those zones looks and feels “real”. But, if you think the a southern Egyptian desert and the wilds of Canada look the same, so be it.

    People hitting 20, saying is this it?, and quitting is quite humorous. You can hit level 20 in AoC in eight hours of play time. That would have been like someone saying “Is that it?” after hitting level 5 in EQ1 when it first launched (once you killed one orc pawn you’ve seen the whole game after all).

  • Gnova, first, thanks for the comments.

    Now in my defense, I did start the guild section of the post with “Last item is a personal one, and not a problem with the game per se. ” So I specifically did not blame the game for it.

    And I agree with you that the game strives for reality. I just didn’t find the AoC reality very compelling. I honestly believe there’s a much bigger difference between the Egyptian desert and the wilds of Canada than there are between the post-20 overland zones of Age of Conan. I’ll grant this is a pretty subjective opinion, though.

    Again, thanks for the comments.

  • My wife and I both played AoC for the first free month, and cancelled a few days before the free time ran out. I had fun at first with it and I got to experience a good bit of the content as when I left I was 56, and my wife was 48. Once I hit 50, the quests began to dry up, and at 53 it turned into all group quests. Looking ahead at what others found when they got to 80, it was pretty much a grind from 50-70. No way I’m paying to just grind mobs for 20 levels.

    But the real deal came when they patched it so grey elite/boss mobs hit you as if they were your level. This for me killed it. MMO’s are, as a couple, our primary activity together in the evening. We enjoy leveling past some of the instances/group quests, then going back and soloing/duoing them. When you can get killed by a mob 30 levels below you, its just plain silly. I’ve watched the patch notes for every game patch since I left, and it appears Funcom doesn’t want to fix some of the gamebreaking aspects of play/quests/areas. Quests/instances that were reported even in beta are still broke, but yet they have plenty of time to screw with other aspects of the game.

    Looking seriously at my dissatisfaction with WOW (I will login, stare at the screen, check the auction hall, stare some more, and logout), and now AoC, I’ve come to the conclusion that the SOE Station Pass is probably my best bet. I’m having a blast in EQ2 right now, and if I hit a plateau with that, I can pop over and play Vanguard, or spend some time in SWG, etc. I really enjoy questing/crafting, and at least EQ2 has that in abundance. I hope it holds up and keeps me busy for some time.

  • Peter, trust me, it only gets worse the higher you go up in levels. In the beginning you at least have a choice of where to quest in. Later in the game it switches to no choice about where to “grind” in as quests start to run thin around level 53 and you’ll be just monster killing. What will you be killing you ask? Well, men.. and some apes… and a scorpion or two. Yea it wasn’t interesting to actually do it either.

    Apparently this game is appealing to a specific pvp niche. Most of the guys I see that like AoC liked and played games like Lineage II. Which I completely don’t understand how anyone could like that game but people do so more power to them.

  • I posted comments in the Massively article that linked here, but the simple fact is that you only got up to level 34.

    http://www.massively.com/2008/07/10/another-blogger-flees-age-of-conan/1#c13093569 if you are curious of the link.

    I’m a level 80 Tempest of Set on the Tyranny server and, honestly, a lot of what you said was wrong.

    @pufonthis: it is catering to the PvP niche, thank god. If you don’t like PvP then I very much doubt this is the game for you.

  • Hi Nadril,

    I read your comments over at Massively. Thanks for taking so much time to make your points.

    I really should have left the guild size stuff out of this post because it really is all within my control to find another guild or what have you, but basically the post was about why I was leaving the game. I was just sharing my personal experiences.

    It wasn’t a post about why others shouldn’t play it and honestly I’m really glad that there are people like you enjoying and supporting the game, because that means it’ll be around for a long time (more choices is always a good thing, in my opinion).

    That said, it is my belief that an MMO should be enjoyable from level 1 to level cap. I’m not going to dispute that AoC really shines at level 80; I can’t comment on that. All I can comment on is that I lost interest before I got to level 80…well before, and I was quite upfront about the fact that all this was from the point of view of someone who didn’t even get half-way to cap.

    Keep in mind that I had an absolute blast playing at first. I was in Early Access and hit level 20 by the time that ended, with a /played of 19 hours (I sat through all the quest dialogs so I was pretty slow). For me to spend that much time in a game over 3 days is totally out of character. I was completely addicted.

    And since then (since May 19th) I’ve made another 12 levels (a tiny number!) with that character (and messed with some alts, getting a few of them into the teens). I can’t check my /played right now (at work) but at some point it comes down to economics. Is it worth $15 for how much I’m playing? And it isn’t.

    I was honestly puzzled at how my reaction to the game had changed, and that’s why I wrote this post. To try to work out what had happened.

    Anyway, again, thanks to you and to everyone for the comments. It’s been an interesting discussion!

  • Peter, NO you should have definitely said your stuff about guild size. Age of Conan is telling people that if they aren’t in an uber guild they don’t matter, they don’t get to participate. You gave your honest assessment of what this felt like to you.

    Yes, you will take some flak for only getting to level 32, which honestly is very early in this game and only takes about a week to get to that point as a casual player. But your points are valid, 32 should feel a lot different than 5 and it doesn’t.

    Nadril, I really don’t think this game was originally planned to be a “PVP” centric game. Yes now after release it looks like the PVPers have found their niche with AoC but I’m sure Funcom would love to grab a larger audience. Seeing as there are lots of PVE servers too I don’t think it’s fair to say “if you don’t like pvp this game isn’t for you” as clearly they tried to make a PVE game too. In fact if I’m not mistaken in early interviews they talked about not having a lot of PVP at all and late in development decided to throw in PVP.

    We go back and forth on this AoC thing a lot it seems across many websites. The thing is you don’t have to get to 80 to give your opinion on a game. In fact it DOESN’T get any different at 70+, I’ve been there. It’s all the same as the low level stuff but the monsters have more hit points. Sure they throw in a new model or two here and there. But I needed to kill a lot of scorpions and hillmen well into my 70s to advance. I was killing them in a desert that looked exactly like Khopsheff province. Or I was in the snowy mountains, which seemed like all I saw from levels 49-70. Killing hillmen over and over and over. No instances but Sanctum to speak of when I was leveling up. Unless you count Main System which was about the worst level design in all of MMOs.

    So one thing we can agree on, if you like PVP you might like this game. If you like PVE with your PVP stay away.

  • scary how much the blogger’s sentiments mirror my own…
    its a shame because AoC has the style and atmosphere down really nicely. but, the two major pillars of an MMO to me and i presume many others is “Risk vs. Reward”!!! you could say the game has some risk, PvP (unfortunately it means nothing as of right now), a death penalty that can add up (i could care less about death penalties though and prefer light DPs anyways). but heres my major issue with the game, theres very little reward. i agree with the blogger here, i made it to lv 32 with my hunter and saw a total of 2 different styles of armor that did nothing statistically. you know, i wouldnt even mind if either the stats were useful and there were few models OR the stats were useless and there were many different models… alas, neither is true, what a shame. i cant play a game that doesnt feel rewarding, all we get for leveling is another “arrow pattern recipe” to follow to do different attacks. and is the combat “revolutionary”? not to me. if it was real time and the combinations of my real time swings in the right patter unleashed a powerful combo attack, that would be cool. instead im left watching/waiting for some arrows to light up so that i can hit the next number on my KB to finish the combo. meanwhile, my eyes are glued to that small area instead of being able to enjoy the atmosphere during combat. theres just too many things that kills the experience overall for me.

  • Your sentiments are pretty much the same as mine. Although I was more disappointed about the lack of pvp features and current ‘bugs’ related to that.

    To my opinion, a game that has been hyped and branded as a pure PvP game should lack so many features at launch. AoC has great potential, but I’m not supporting the, in MY opinion, current beta-like state of the game.

    My thoughts can be found here:
    http://www.stefson.com/212/why-age-of-conan-is-not-my-cup-of-thea/

  • Getting to 80 in 4 days and finding out that all the end game content is broken, bugged, or just plain un-tested only makes things worse.

    For a game that prides itself in “end-game”, it doesn’t have much to show for it. As for myself, my guild, our pvp battlekeep, and raid gear; its all canceled now.

  • Peter,

    You shouldn’t leave the guild size stuff out.

    I played a conquerer and did make it to level 80 (actually, with total exp I was probably about level 83, since they lowered the xp it took up to 70 and raise the 70-80 xp when I was level 69).

    In the end, they expect you to have at least 48 members ONLINE to be in a guild siege. That means 150+ people in your guild. If you dont’ have 48 people online, you can still siege, but the game is designed (at least it was when I quit) to let 96 people into the zone, it didn’t care from where or what team they were on. So if you didn’t have 48, and they didn’t go in there as soon as the zone opened, then it could en up being 92 people vs 4.

    I assume they will fix this, but this means that small guilds (guilds with less than 150 people, or 48 people on at the same time) have no real place.

    Even if you did have a big guild, winning or losing doesn’t even matter. Nothing is gained really.

    I ended up cancelling as well, I paid them for one month which I am not even playing.

    If you like FREE FOR ALL PVP, which is different from the word PvP, then you may like the game. BUT, Funcom doesn’t apparently think that their servers are FFA (they are), and they are changing them to non FFA by making penalties for killing lowbies and things like that (think flagging, jails etc). It doesn’t appear they put much thought into the server types, and changing it mid stream is one of the worst things they can do.

  • I agree as well. I love the feel of the game. I love the looks and I can live with the bugs for a reasonable period of time. I like the combat system. I also agree there isn’t enough to keep the interest going for now.

    Until I reached crafting level, I loved the concept of the guild city but the reality fell flat. I kept hoping for more. I wanted to be able to participate, to feel like I was contributing, to maybe someday have a piece of land I could call my own. I created an Architect and then found it is pretty much a waste of time unless you happen to be THE guild architect.

    I think it would be so much better if the guild architect could lay out the city plan and each member could add materials and “build” the city. What fun is it to put all the materials in a guild bank? Personally, I want to see the construction and feel the accomplishment. Right now my options are farm materials and money hand them over. Woot!

    The addition of player housing in the city would certainly give each player a reason for wanting to defend their keep (and their home). As it stands, I honestly don’t care if the city is built, destroyed or defended. The current implementation city leaves me feeling like I’m farming so someone else in the game can have all the fun of constructiion. There isn’t much incentive to participate.

    I’m always a heavy duty crafter in any game I play. Yet, in this one, if I could delete all my crafting skills I would. The long trek to mastering a useless skill, with long periods of inactivity, short durations of accomplishment and the need to create characters to store the garbage I harvested but can’t use yet has killed any desire I had to continue with crafting.

    I’m currently in the mode of playing for shorter periods of time and the time between playing is getting longer. I’m not sure if I’ll wait it out or just wait until something else comes along.

  • I would have to say this article bar the guild stuff was exactly how i felt ..i got to 42 and the game started to grind and tbh i just stopped logging in and cancelled last weekend.The graphics were great on my rig..music was great..ill be back to try it later in the yr but for me its back to vanguard ….

  • Between May 20th, and June 18th, I played, slaved, and made my way to 80 doing repeatable quests and grinding groups.

    Basically, Age of Conan has almost nothing to offer. The game is less fun at 80, than it was from 20-40.

  • Pretty much summed it up for me too.

    I feel bad though as I got a few mates in, but strangely enough they still enjoying it :S

    I think my biggest problem is a lot of what initially sold me was either bugged, incomplete or non-existent. “Its only been out a few months” i hear people say, but the game was sold to me as having this stuff IN-GAME as working, and I felt extremely cheated when I started to play and simple things like drunken brawls and Guild City buffs were not in. Got to 80, thought i might try crafting as in other MMO’s it always broke up the game so i didn’t get too bored of just fighting.

    I chose Alchemy, and hit a wall in Tier 1! I think it was 3 of the Alchemy items where not even in the game, and 2 of the other items where in a group area you needed to farm. I realize that they’ve added a way to get the 3 missing items now (random alchemy boxes, dropping from Mage type enemies) but the 2 Group Area grinds remain the same. So I couldn’t get past tier 1, so i thought I’d try gathering. Well i found out that 1/2 of the gathering skills where either bugged or not working, when i left.

    And finally some more questionable things, like Talents not doing anything which get posted in the forum over and over and the next patch comes and they’ve fixed some minor things whilst ignoring the more ‘vital’ issues.

    Anyway, I just feel so let down with it. I have cancelled and I pretty much wrote most of these in the “Reason for Cancelling” form.

    As with Moe above me, I thought L5-30 was excellent (and why the loss of voice acting if this games 25+GB?), but after that its downhill when you realise @ L65 that you’ve just replaced your newish looking armor, with armor that looks identical to your L20 gear(Identical as in Model AND Skin).

    I’ve got a fair few other issues with it, but I’ll spare you guys, and just say this. I really hope Age of Conan listens to the community about fixes and ideas, rather than cater to the “OMFG RANGER/POM/NECRO IZ OVERPOWARED!?! NERF!1″ crowd.

    Thanks for reading,

    Shane

  • I hear what you’re saying.

    I have enjoyed the combat and have made it to lvl 69 but my entire guild has quit due to the lack of content and I just can’t pull myself to log in any more to have significant sessions as my class (DT) is pretty useless solo and there’s nothing for me to do other than grind to 80 and look for a new guild so I can sit about waiting for content. The items are a grind as well. Some 50 items are better than their 60 exuivalent at the moment.

    Give it a while until the consequence system and kingship’s have been introduced and are bug free.