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Shannon “Pharamond” Drake over at Funcom and Mitra’s Method’s Stephen “Weezer” Spiteri got together for a little chat about the status of Age of Conan. Drake gives us some answers in a special edition of Mitra’s Method!


Mitra’s Method: Age of Conan Q&A
Answers by Shannon Drake (Creative Writer, Funcom)
Questions by Stephen “Weezer” Spiteri

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Mitra’s Method: Going gold was obviously a big milestone for Funcom to reach with ‘Age of Conan’, can you tell us what the buzz is around the office at the moment? Is it still very much “go, go, go”? And for those confused about what “going gold” means, can you tell us what it means for ‘Age of Conan’?

Shannon Drake: I can’t say anything about going gold one way or the other, I’m afraid. Stock market thing.

Mitra’s Method: Not taking the three-day head-start into account, how do you see May 20 panning out in your mind? Paint a picture for us.

Shannon Drake: A Picture.

But seriously. 😉 While we’re ever-hopeful for a completely smooth and pain-free launch day, and will be working tirelessly towards that with the open beta and PVP test and tech/stress tests and general beta (whew!), I don’t think any of us is naive enough to think that everything will go completely smoothly and according to plan. However, we’ve made plans from everything is perfect (this one involves champagne) to real Wrath of God-type stuff (this one, not so much) and will be doing everything possible to keep players informed and happy should things go wrong and even if they go right.

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Mitra’s Method: I understand that the ‘Age of Conan’ will be dividing up into two teams post-launch: a “live” and an “expansion” team, but focussing on the “expansion” team for a second, can you tell us – or at least elude to – what’s on the horizon for ‘Age of Conan’ in the months after release?

Shannon Drake: Let’s just say I’d experience what my English ancestors experienced when Vikings came a’raiding if I went downstairs and said “Hey guyz, what’s in the expansion?” about now. 😉

Mitra’s Method: One of the key features of ‘Age of Conan’ is its revolutionary real-time combat system, and it’s amazing, but I was wondering how important it was for Funcom to pull this off. Gaute Godager spoke about how at the start “it couldn’t be done” but how does it feel to have it nailed-down? How do you think this will change MMORPG gaming?

Shannon Drake: The thing I’ve noticed playing other MMOs since I started working on Conan is that I’m a lot less tolerant of classic autoattack+special attack combat systems than I used to be. Even in a game I enjoy, I find myself jabbing forlornly at the movement keys and muttering, “So I can’t do anything but stand here flailing away?” It’s hard to go back to it once you’ve gotten used to swinging your weapon yourself, working through combos, and otherwise actively managing your combat.

Mitra’s Method: What are your own plans for the game? Are you going to roll a character, join a guild, get in on some PvP or sieging, roleplay, that sort of thing? How is it possible for a developer or an ‘Age of Conan’ team member to enjoy the game as much as others after working on it for so long?

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Shannon Drake: Well, you do have a point. If you’re the guy playing to “win the game,” it can be kind of hard to let go, especially since we see it on a day-to-day basis. It’s not conducive to the achiever types when “winning” is a matter of logging onto one of our internal servers, scripting your way to victory, and running around the high-end playfields people will take months and months to get to. But at the same time, there really is a lot of fun there, even if you’ve “won.” We were just downstairs testing the PvP client for the Gamespot event and we were acting just like players: talking smack, coordinating, swearing like sailors in front of a journalist, dragging people wandering by in to fill out the team, and really having a good time of it. Another fun part of it is seeing how it all has come together, seeing stuff you haven’t seen before, and seeing how much things have improved. Many moons ago, Conan was a default model in his underpants standing in a blank room. Now Conan looks Conan, living in his palace, with courtiers around, scripts and voice effects, emotes, and everything!

As for what I’ll do, I’ll be PvPing and annoying people, much like I was doing when our test this afternoon (as an aside to Nico, Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on yoooooooooou?). Whenever you find yourself dead as an Assassin skulks away, and you’re wondering where that jerkbag came from, it’s me. I’m da jerkbag.

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Mitra’s Method: Regarding PvP, what can a player expect as they progress through the PvP levels? What are some of the changes a player might notice in their competitive play as they start from PvP level one and finish on PvP level 20? And while we’re still on the topic of it, has Gaute gotten any better at PvP?

Shannon Drake: PvP levelling is not as play-experience defining as all that. It’s not like being Level 1 versus Level 20 in the game, where something Level 20 is harder simply because they’re Level 20. It’s more an indicator of your (or the other player’s) skill and, as such, the higher level they are, the harder they’re going to be to take down, not because they’re just “Level 20 and you’re screwed,” but because they’re the badasses that clawed their way to the top. It’s not about being better simply because you’re higher level, it’s more a badge of honor, like “This guy is the best of the best, and if you take him on, he’ll chop you into tiny bits!”

Mitra’s Method: Players will appreciate different things in a game – beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak – but what’s the one thing, if you could only pick one thing, you hope every player will make note of and appreciate in ‘Age of Conan’?

Shannon Drake: We don’t talk about it as much as we talk about everything else, but the sound design is amazing. It’s more than just the music, too, and even more than the ambient sounds (though both of those are fantastic!). It’s things like the noise each spell you cast makes, so it’s possible to tell, simply by listening, when you’ve cast Spell A versus Spell B. The sound guys toil away in a dark corner of the building, then wander up and hand us these beautiful gems before disappearing into their sound mines again. We don’t say anything about it, because we might startle them, and then we’d never see them again!

Mitra’s Method: Any last words for the Mitra’s Method and ‘Age of Conan’ faithful reading at the moment?

Shannon Drake: The long, hard road out of production is almost done! We’ll see you in Hyboria in under a month!

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