Conan’s second PvP weekend

If open betas are as much about marketing as they are about testing, turning the Age of Conan servers into open PvP for the remainder of beta was a strange decision.

Funcom was in an interesting position. They previously let players level up to 13, but they didn’t allow open beta players to go further because they didn’t want to reveal the end of the single-player storyline, which goes to level 20. Therefore, they increased your character’s level to 20 and moved you out of Tortage to your racial home city. Once you left a certain area within your home city, PvP was enabled.

While they preserved the mystery of levels 13-20 for the open beta testers, I wonder how much confusion and annoyance they created for testers who aren’t fans of open-world PvP.

When I logged in to the open beta yesterday, there was a note that said to use the only item left in my inventory, and it would level me to 20 and move my character out of Tortage. Once that was done, I was left in an area I’ve never been to before, with no instructions about what I should be doing next. I was in a huge city, so I had to start off wandering around, trying to find an exit or any touchstone that would indicate how I can progress from level 20.

I suspect that if I had leveled to 20 in Tortage and progressed to a bigger city without the 13-20 leveling bump, there may be quests that would give me some direction in the new city. Instead, I managed to find an area of the city where guards 20 levels higher than me aggro when you get near them. Then I found a PvP-enabled area in the city, which wasn’t noted as PvP-enabled until I got attacked shortly after zoning in. Then I had to fight through graveyard camping when I respawned.

Fine, I’m familiar with PvP servers, so once I escaped the graveyard Wheel of Re-Death, I decided to move out into the world to see if I could find what else was available. Problem was, I had no idea where to go. I left the East Gate of the city I was in and wandered the countryside. There wasn’t a single NPC beyond the city, and I didn’t see a single player either. I followed all the roads on my mini-map, but they led to zone lines with no way to cross to new territory. The zone just ended at a flat wall. It was a huge un-itemized area, with roads and buildings, but no apparent purpose.

I ran back into town to try and find my way to places where I could quest and level, but I got annoyed feeling lost in a big new city and logged out.

Listening to the chat channels as I wandered the empty world outside the city, the usual PvE vs. PvP arguments were raging. Anyone who has played mmorpg’s for any length of time can imagine the AoC chat this weekend between players who want to camp respawn points and the players who would never choose to play a FFA PvP server.

I know Funcom wants to preserve the 13-20 content for release (which is maybe another reason the closed beta NDA hasn’t been lifted). I know they want this game to contrast with WoW’s nicey-nice world, and I think that can be a selling point. However, dumping everyone (PvE and PvP fans alike) into an environment where there’s no clear direction and turning the FFA hose on all the PvE types seems like a bad marketing move. The PvE fans can just choose a PvE server, and lots of them were saying that’s what they would do, but Funcom’s decision to go FFA with a level bump was another weird misstep while introducing their game to a larger group of players.

I wish I had time to log in today, but I don’t think I will. I think the open beta ends soon, and I’m left with a strange feeling about whether I should buy the game or not. Yesterday just felt so disjointed, and I wonder how much of the game is done beyond the 1-20 area. I can’t imagine why Funcom would have an exit from a city that leads to a totally empty countryside, with roads that clearly just run into zone walls. Clearly, I missed something in town, but I got tired of talking to every single NPC I meet trying to see if they have something of interest to say way back in EQ. The “level to 20” token should have at least dropped a quest into your journal to tell you where to go, but instead, players are left to wander. I’m not sure what Funcom was thinking. It wasn’t a great introduction to the levels beyond Tortage, and I think Funcom missed another opportunity to get their hooks into undecided gamers.

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6 Responses

  1. BUY IT. I managed to get high enough in the CB to be able to tell you that the game is much better when you actually do level from 1-20 and hit the open world. Even ask Keen, despite his problems with performance, the game actually gets better in my eyes once out of Tortage.

    You won’t feel too disjointed once you know why you’re there and you’re actually led into the wild with the continuation of the 1-20 quest line.

    Though I liked Cimmeria much more than Keen did. I haven’t played around too much in Stygia. But Acquilonia is top notch for a starting city too, if a bit maze-like at first. It’s always easy to get lost in a new MMOG, but even worse when you’re dropped into the world unaware.

  2. Oh, and it’s much nicer on PvE servers… PvP servers are crap and only there because people cried loud enough for them. Within weeks after launch population on those servers will be nil… it’s just not a game designed for open PvP, not until the Border Kingdoms anyway.

  3. The patch fixed almost all of my problems as well! I was finally able to actually play the game and it was as fun as I hoped it would be. I jumped to 20 and had the same awkward and annoying PvP environment experience so, since I was really never able to play the Tortage part due to my technical issues, I ended up just creating new characters and playing the 1-13 stuff for like 16 hours on Saturday.

    Like I said before, I have a huge predisposition to liking all things Conan so I thought the quests were engaging and had the right pulp-fantasy flavor, mastering the fatalities was really fun, and the combat system is more appealing than clicking auto-attack and then running to the fridge (haha).

    It seems like we’re all in the same boat though – excited about the potential but fairly concerned about what feels like a general half-arsed approach to a great many things on the part of the developers.

    I just hope they’re not relying a few cool aspects outweighing a bunch of bad stuff to sell people on the game…a Mature-rating and bloody fatalities in a poorly-made game is going to attract a kind of graveyard-camping fanboy punk that will make the true believers that are playing out of love for the material not want to play even more than the aforementioned poorly-madeness.

    Hopefully these fears prove to be unfounded on release but either way, I’m gonna be there, bringing bloody ruin to my enemies, frothy mead to my allies, and sinewy battle-hewn shoulders that welcome the weight of Hyboria’s golden dreams and dark destinies!

  4. I’ll be reading everyone’s blogs to see what they think. I haven’t completely crossed it off my list, but I’m leaning more toward not playing. I think I’ll wait and see what the reviews say after the first couple weeks.

    Bildo, you’re right about PvP/PvE, although I’ll likely try both if I do buy the game. There’s stuff to like about AoC, but there are a lot of obstacles to the fun, not the least of which is that brilliant blinding light every time someone casts a spell or I hit an individual light source that sends that cathedral beam across my screen ๐Ÿ™‚

    I haven’t completely decided against it, but I probably won’t be in at launch. I think. I’m still considering it ๐Ÿ™‚ Might depend if I stumble across the Gamestop on the way home from work one night next week! Impulse buys aren’t impossible in my world.

  5. I understand your concern with the PvP weekend; however, it was labeled “PvP Weekend” for a reason…
    It’s like a PvP fan logging in to a server holding a PvE raid event and bitching there’s no PvP, or instructions on where to PvP.

    That’s just my two cents; I don’t mean to offend.

  6. No offense taken, and for people who take a minute to think about it, you’re probably right. However, lots of people in the chat channels didn’t seem to be taking that moment to think ๐Ÿ™‚

    There’s a difference between PvP not being available to someone who wants it, and PvP being forced on someone who’s not interested, ya know? But yeah, hopefully people who were upset know that they can choose a PvE server and decide when and where they might want to PvP.

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