Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures Updated Impressions - Crafting, City Building, Sieges, Raids, and More

We went to Funcom's offices to get a first glimpse at the high-level content and never-before-seen features in this promising massively multiplayer online RPG.

Despite the fact that its launch was just pushed back two months, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures is in the final stages of development. That much was made clear as we recently visited developer Funcom's offices in Oslo, Norway, where more than 200 employees are busy putting the final touches on this intriguing massively multiplayer online role-playing game based on the famous universe created by author Robert E. Howard more than 75 years ago. The visit gave us an opportunity to see many aspects of the gameplay that have been kept secret until now, from city building, crafting, siege battles, and high-level content.

Age of Conan is a game that's almost five years in the making, and it's a massive endeavor that promises to deliver an interesting new approach to MMO-style gameplay. That's because the early part of the game can be played almost entirely in single-player. This will give you a chance to build your character and get used to the nuances and intricacies of your character class. When you reach level 20, you can move on and join the online realm, adventuring with or against thousands of other players online. The game's content can be divided into stages. There's the initial 1-20 stage, which you can play mostly by yourself, though there are opportunities to play with others. The next stages are defined as 21-40, 31-60, and, finally, 61-80, and things get progressively more challenging the higher you go. At this point, we'll just mention that Funcom has separate teams dedicated to making content for each stage of the game.

Sure, horses are neat, but try riding in battle atop a woolly mammoth!

One of the first things the designers showed us is the game's crafting system, which will play a pivotal role in the economy. Players can make many of the goods and weapons in the game, and the crafting system will also be tied into city building. Each of the three main regions in the game contains a dedicated resource-and gathering-playfield, which is basically a large area full of potential resources to harvest and use in crafting. While you can find resource nodes in other areas of the game, the majority of them can be found in the resource-and-gathering fields. Gaute Godager, the game's director, said that there are five primary trade-skill professions: armor smith, weapon smith, alchemist, architect, and gem cutter. There are also secondary professions that help supply the materials needed for the primary professions. "So if you want to make armor," he explained, "you have to go out and get the metal, get the leather, [and] combine it."

The crafting system is quite complex and rich, with dozens of different resources. For instance, there are about 16 different rock types alone. Once you have the resources you need--and one nice aspect of the game is that it keeps a separate inventory for your resources, so it doesn't clutter up your backpack--you can make an item using a recipe. Another interesting tidbit about the crafting system is that you can craft items anywhere you are, so long as you have the necessary ingredients. This is to alleviate one of the issues found in other games, where you're forced to constantly visit a forge or smithy to craft items. Player-made items in Age of Conan will come with at least one gem slot, which you can use to permanently embed a gem. These gems can be harvested or recovered from slain monsters and can imbue a bonus to the finished product, thereby customizing it and making it special and more powerful. Rare items will have two gem slots.

Eventually, you'll probably want to form or join a guild of other players. There are various reasons to join a guild, but a key one is the ability to build cities. There are two forms of cities in the game: crafting villages and battle keeps. Each guild can build and own a single crafting village, which is basically a center for commerce and social interaction. To create one, simply build a central keep on the designated node, and this will open up additional build nodes that radiate out from it, where you can build different types of structures. Each building requires a different amount and type of resource, which is derived from crafting. You'll need at least 30 members in your guild to create a city; you can basically have an unlimited number of people in a guild.

Siege battles will offer large-scale warfare, along with the ability to raze cities to the ground.

Though guilds can have only one crafting village, they can also build a battle keep. The difference is mainly thus: Crafting villages cannot be attacked, but battle keeps can. That's because battle keeps are finite in number; there are only nine locations in the game where they can be built. If you want to build a battle keep, you'll need to seize one of those locations. This ushers in the siege warfare aspect of Age of Conan. If you hold a battle keep, your guild will be tasked with having to defend it at least once every two or three days. Siege battles can involve hundreds of players on offense and defense. The attackers can build siege engines, which can be used to knock down walls. The defenders must try to hold out for a certain amount of time. The goal is to either attack or defend the central keep; if it's destroyed, the defenders lose and the attackers seize the location. So why even bother trying to hold a battle keep? Well, every building that you own, in both the crafting village and the battle keep, will grant you bonuses. So the more buildings your guild controls, the better.

The designers also gave us a glimpse at mounted combat, which is something that we hadn't seen yet. One of the key differences in Age of Conan compared to other games, they said, was the ability to fight while atop your mount. For example, if you're on a horse, you can still swing your sword and attack enemies. Your mount can also participate in a fight by perhaps kicking. The horse is a pretty good mount, but it pales in comparison to the rhinoceros or the woolly mammoth. The latter handles combat a bit differently; since you're basically sitting 15 feet in the air, it's impossible to swing your sword and hit someone on the ground. Still, when atop a mammoth you can use ranged weapons such as a bow, or magic. Whenever you're on a mount, you and your mount share health, so if you die, it dies, and vice versa.

We also had a chance to glean a bit more about the quest variety in the game. The first major quest that you encounter is the destiny quest, where you learn about your character. The majority of these quest missions take place during the early part of the game, through the level 1-20 portion, but it will also follow you throughout the rest of the game. When you get out into the larger world, you'll have an opportunity to take part in a lot of battle and fighting missions, which will be tied into larger wars and conflicts. The designers didn't just want you to go out and kill X number of opponents for little reason; instead, they tried to tie it into the larger context of the game. Depending on your character class, you'll get specialized quests. Rogues, for example, will have the chance to sneak around towns, eavesdrop on conversations, and even try to murder someone asleep in bed. Another interesting quest is the chance to play the role of a judge in a criminal matter, where it's possible to wrongly sentence an innocent man to death.

The high-level content will test your character.

Finally, the designers explained the raid system to us. The high-level raid content will be tied closely to the game's story. You'll play as an ally of Conan as he battles two enemies, one of them being the Black Ring Citadel. There will be more than 20 raid encounters at launch, designed for 24-player groups, and they're going to last between two and three hours on average. It's also foreseen that you'll probably make several attempts before you manage to defeat a raid mission the first time. There are essentially eight dungeons in the game, divided into three tiers. At the first tier there are three dungeons, and you must defeat any one of these to advance to the three second-tier dungeons. You must defeat all three of these in order to advance to the third and final tier. While it's possible to advance after playing just one first-tier dungeon, the designers warn that it's probably best if you play through all three, as doing so will help bulk you up in terms of high-level equipment that you'll need later on.

We saw many aspects of the game under development. The sound designers showed off just one of the 20,000 sound effects, along with a sample of the more than three hours of music in the game. The motion-capture team demonstrated how they record the hundreds of different types of fight animations you'll see. Meanwhile, the programmers showed off some of the lavish graphics and other neat features, such as the dynamic weather system and the dynamic day-night cycle. This all adds up to Age of Conan shaping up to be an impressive game. The fact that it's getting an M rating helps reinforce the idea that this is an MMO for grown-ups. The world of Conan is a brutal place, and Funcom says that it's not holding back. We'll all find out when the game launches on May 20 for the PC. The Xbox 360 version will arrive at a later date.

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Discussion

151 comments
Zerot
Zerot

aoc is one of the most fail mmo's ive ever played the devs really have no clue what makes games fun. game is completly instanced aswell so its not even really a mmo.

creed190
creed190

what the hell when is it comming to the xbox

JaredTrotterboy
JaredTrotterboy

looks good, definitely gonna have to get this, after Fable 2 of course.

ShadoweaverCode
ShadoweaverCode

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Un4givingAsault
Un4givingAsault

You know why the PS3 is awesome. Cause it doesnt have sweet games like age of conan

Gifted_One
Gifted_One

Wow, I really hope this game is as amazing as it could possibly be.

BigSmitts07
BigSmitts07

sounds awesome, im thinking about getting this game...ive never really playyed mmos, but this one catches my fancy =)

einarabelc5
einarabelc5

I'm sick of these guys posting the same fuking video about Conan's combat as it was something new. What lameasses....

kna3000
kna3000

CG isnt that great, yet they'll charge $15 a month... i dont know... This game wont be released before september, maybe something will happen till then ...

DarkMaster7991
DarkMaster7991

Yes finally a MMO on a console that might be good! Phantasy Star Online was okay. But this looks great. I wonder if ti's cross play?!

Micloven
Micloven

this game lookes like it is going to be good

Netherscourge
Netherscourge

Probably the usual cost: $49.99 for the box, $15 a month for the subscription with other payment options, like 1 year blocks for $10 a month or whatever. Nothing official has been released yet though.

deadline
deadline

Hunawearl -- I hear you, I was just thinking the same thing. Although my wife will probably want to play with me, so that gives the nod to PC. Unless I were to pick up a 2nd XBox 360 and HDTV........

Hunawearl
Hunawearl

Just torn between my high-end pc or the 360 (I can sit in my recliner and play the 360 on my 50" plasma) version - probably get both - : )

skopas
skopas

this is going to rock. I wont mention WOW, cuz it sucked after 3 months..lol

kafuffle
kafuffle

Bootistmonk Those decapitations are called fatality moves, they talk about it in the new designer diary #5, sounds prettttty cool. I've been playing FFXI for 5 years now because it feels the most real and mature from the others I've played, and this looks like it willa ctually tear me away. Real-time combat, class-specific quests, mounted combat, seiges, keeps, villages... I don't think I need to go on! Wow.

TigerGuy06
TigerGuy06

I'm eager to take a look at this. It sounds like a great idea for the 360. I just hope there aren't any online fees for this game. I'll keep an eye on the progress of this game as the months go on.

mishary85
mishary85

whay you alawas have to bay for mmo games make it free

Bootistmonk
Bootistmonk

Looks like a great game, although i expect it to be extremely laggy for most PCs, theres no doubt gonna be lots of bugs when it is released, although thats to be expected for all MMORPG's, im wondering about the combat system though, ive seen screenshots with decapitation, im wondering if it is just a random final blow type of attack, or if just a few swings and the target is dead, im guessing it is just a final blow, because if not then they would have to majorly revise the combat, because it would be to easy to kill someone/thing. Other than that from what i have seen it looks to be a great game, i believe it will be worth getting.

ruthless2k6
ruthless2k6

Finaly a reason to stop playing COH/COV, im getting so bored of that game so I hope this turns out to be as awesome as I see in the videos and what I read about it.

miksalud
miksalud

The game sure looks promising, however there was one thing that made me a bit skeptical: the combat system. It looks a bit, confusing. By this i mean swinging a sword to hit something, if you hit it, its head is chopped off, if not, you miss an arm or leg or whatever. I hope this isn't the way you fight with the monsters (i dare not mention the pvp). Still, the looks, the innovations are way better then some older MMO's like WoW which is starting to get freaking boring and monotonous. We need fresh blood. C'mon! :D

advocacy
advocacy

Bah. I pay for Xbox Live. Then I pay again to play this almost-as-good-as-Warcraft-MMORPG. Rather play Halo 3 or COD4 for FREE.

ashgoush
ashgoush

I WAS WAITING FOR A GAME THAT HAS TO OFFER SO MUCH FROM THE DAYS THAT INTERNET WAS A DIAL UP THING.i am bored of wow so this is gona be great

kevinketavet
kevinketavet

I dont know how there bringing a complex mmo to a dumbed down console

King_Wii
King_Wii

You know AoC is realy looking good, I'm a bit upset that they pushed the date back, but hey if its a better game when it launches then more power to them I suppose. Untill then I'll keep playing AO (Funcom's other game) which is actualy getting a graphics update later this year. Personaly after reading all the features about Conan it sounds alot lik AO just with better graphics and a modern design philosophy behind it. And hey, if its anything like AO its going to be a GREAT game! (I always say AO is what SWG should have been).

thenewau25
thenewau25

zzzz when will this finaly be realesed, whell i buy it.....zzzzz.....

ozobee
ozobee

It sounds great to me, I've been a conan fan for a very long time, I hope it has some of the movie and book in it and new stuff as well.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

It will have to live up to its expectations for me to get it, dont get me wrong, i love RPG's and this does sound really cool, i wonder if 360 & PC will be intergrated into the same world or are they developing seperate worlds for both platforms? i 'll keep my eye on this but im not holding my hopes for an amazing game.

Jim_ster
Jim_ster

OMG Cant wait to play this game. sounds and look to amaicing. A game for me for sure. :P

1kalli1
1kalli1

i dont know, i think something about it will suck and many people will stop playing it, i have that feeling.

PenthiusX
PenthiusX

niceeee all the things i like to have in a game

Xenon2050
Xenon2050

Wow... I haven't been following this too much until lately but it sounds truly amazing... I like that it is being designed for the mature crowd, I always thought WOW was too kiddish (pretty good but kinda kiddish). I liked their Anarchy Online and the complexity of it, but they really needed better tutorials because it was hard to get into. The economy sounds pretty good, I sure would like to see other games do the economy similar to how EVE has theirs. Fighting on horseback (rhino, mammoth) sounds awesome! I'm definitely going to try this out when it gets here.... And to the people who are complaining about monthly fees, if you buy a year of XBL it costs a little more than $4 a month and games like this are generally $15 a month... You are talking about less than $20 a month, half a cell phone bill, most likely less than your internet and about the cost to take your girlfriend (or boyfriend) to a movie (with soda). It is really not that much. And if on the PC and you pay by 3 or 6 month increments it really isn't that bad. You can't expect them to develop and continue to develop a game and not get compensation. Stuff like this costs millions and even if it is a hit it could take years to recoup costs... If you don't like what it costs than don't buy it and don't post here complaining. it is how it is.

Warghost2k
Warghost2k

Finally!! A Mature rated MMO! This game is going to kick ass!

JB2B
JB2B

I hate those game devs, there a bunch of *******. And you know why, they keep pulling money out of my pocket.

lt_daryth
lt_daryth

borovnica: If you are worried about spending your paycheck on MMORPGs then I suggest you stop buying gold. Unless, of course, you only get paid $20 a month.

Leonagard
Leonagard

Ihope it beats WoW or I ll be forced to go back to blizz mmo:)

DeadZone21
DeadZone21

Eric7233, I feel the same as you. Every time I read more about AoC I seem to grow more excited for its launch. May 20th isn't that far away! Keep your hopes up people! I don't have much to say, but I would like to add two things. One: for those of you who don't seem to like this game, you will probably end up buying it after a month or so of its launch, hehe. Two: I read up on their community site that they're putting a lot of work into "decorating" your house and such. Apparently you can furnish a house, buy nice civilian clothing, and other things like necklaces and such. I got a sense of this in FFXI, (Final Fantasy Eleven) but it was mostly for more storage in your mog house; nothing real customizable. Anyway, it seems to me the team putting this one together knows the term, "Smaller additions and details create the overall masterpiece". Heh..agreed? Cheers for Age Of Conan, brotheren!

DaGhOsT187
DaGhOsT187

im just happy its not pc only as i hate having to keep buying new cards each year to keep up~but sound like fun

DemonOfloom
DemonOfloom

Cant wait to play this! I'm happy they've decided to implement more traditional features into the combat, as from my experiance "skill" based online games dont hace much of a lasting appeal. Having the need to work in order to become more powerful is much more satsifying.

Massacher
Massacher

sounds good. i for one am waiting with baited breath for this one. it's going to leave WoW in the dust.

steveys
steveys

A4Audigy: In addition to the larger battle keeps Conan has developed a plan for smaller guilds. There are smaller structures that they can capture and smaller keeps then can control. Also, no one guild can possess more than 1 of the 9 spots in the Border Kingdom. As a result, total control is impossible. Additionally, you might be wondering how a smaller guild can ever try and raid a larger guild. Well, they can "hire" other mercenaries (players) for money to help them lay siege to an opposing guild's keep. This will allow a smaller guild the chance to maybe combine forces with vigilantes in order to take down larger guilds. There is also talk about having control of resource points, and this will also aid in the smaller guild experience. -MoreDots- I doubt the combat will be dumbed down to the inept quality that WoW offers. I have read marvelous things from people who have PLAYED the game already. It seems as though we are looking at the next-gen concept to MMOs and if you look at some console games like Assassins Creed and God of War the possibility of this kind of combat system seems more than capable. I think you should wait and see before being so negative, and I believe you will find yourself pleasantly surprised. Also, if you take a closer look at the development you see that all the inner workings are there for the combat system. They have the real time engine, so there is essentially no delay for any player. This allows for the dodging, combo attacks, and placement of attacks. I see no reason why the system won't come to fruition.

-MoreDots-
-MoreDots-

@mikel , I wish that were the case, 90% chance it won't be though. Seeing as that'd be eliminating a huge playerbase and scare away publishers, so the developers have probably chickened out on that one, it'll be just like WoW in that you just push a few buttons and if you're gears good and you have the timing down, it's nothing.

A4Audiguy
A4Audiguy

The game looks awesome, but I worry about these battle keeps. If there are only 9 spots or whatever, wont that kinda make it so you have to be in a mega guild to get the benefits. Smaller more personal guilds will be left in the cold I would imagine.

mikel222222
mikel222222

looking good so far. hopefully its not too item based, and more skilled base!

eric7233
eric7233

Omg ..everytime i learn more about this game it gets twice as good. The siege battle thing looks awesomely fun. Organizing your guild together and planning to siege atttack on another guild for control of a battle keep .. WOW! Well I dont really need to know anything else. my decision is made .. this should be one of the greatest mmorpg experinces i have ever had and i plan to play it for a couple years. And another good thing is it will be mostly people my age so I will have a guild of friends that are like minded and at least a littel more mature . bleh i could go on all day but i just cant wait .. this is going to be a gaming experience that I will remember for the rest of my life just like starwars galaxies .. which by the way was one of the few mmorpgs that allowed you to build cities and elect a mayor and other govt members etc... It really did add to the over all quality of the game experience to be a part of a whole comunity that included a guild and a guild owned city. I just hope the houses allow for personal furnishing and decoration .. I turned one of my houses from stawwars glalxies into a strip club by manipulating the various furnture pieces and would charge a entry fee for visitors who wanted to come to our town and take a look at it .. was pretty cool. There was a dancing profession in that game so i would have them dancing at certain times when I "opened" the club for biz. I think ill opt for the xbox version because 1. i'll have a much prettier game by a long shot and 2. With the tremendous amount of hours you spend playing mmorpgs, it will be fantastic to be able to relax in my recliner instead of a computer desk/chair