I am very upset by a feeling that Age of Conan ia stuck in this perpetual cycle of waiting for "better stuff that is coming" and receiving stuff that is aimed at fresh/intermediate lvl 80 character that no one really wants (fresh lvl 80 characters have almost too much content options already).
Age of Conan is not build on tried & true MMO rules such as faction split and raising level cap and that creates a lot of issues in the long run.
Let me be honest: I like that the pop is not split into two factions (a'la horde vs alliance) and I like that we are at lvl 80 cap while trying to re-use old content and make the whole world more dense and usable. That's cool, I can get behind that. What I don't like is the fact that for the last 2-3 years game pretty much stood still for me with little to no new content. You might be shouting now (if you gave two shits about it) "No new content Slith? We had tons!" sure we did, but I believe that at the very core of MMORPG lies the very basic idea for progressing your character and that is sorely lacking.
I like the AA system even thou I am well aware of it's flaws. It was an elegant solution to the "lets rise lvl cap to 90 and make old world empty shell" and it worked, for the most part, very well. In truth you just need about 50% of all AA perks because whatever else you will get after the essential stuff is just a filler that won't benefit you with passive buffs nor you will ever use other active stuff that most popular 2-3 perks.
A lot of veterans are by now capped on AA progression, not only on that meaningful 50% of stuff worth getting, but literally they have bought every AA possible. I am also AA capped and by this time and, considering how casual I am about group pve, I think many others are too. Too add insult to injury I am still getting mastery/prowess points so by the time we get new AAs, say in 2015, I am almost sure that I will be able to simply buy out everything with few clicks. For this reason alone I think new method of progression should NOT be part of AA because, since programmers didn't have the forth sight to cap AA points at certain amount, veteran players have already hoarded tons of AA ready to be spent on new stuff.
I am sure that this is the "Achilles heel" of AOC as the game have struggled with itemization from it's very beginning. The issue with old system was that it made creating "meaningful gear progression" very, very hard (I would agree) so it was re-written into more classic stats system in 2009. Four years later Funcom got cough in it's own loop hole as it's super hard to create anything that it better than Khitai, but not so close to T4 that it makes raiding obsolete.
|T3 quest item. Awesome at it's time of realise.|
|New unchained dungeon drop. An utter shit in 2013|
So freshly made lvl 80's have lots and lots of loot options while veterans can just get all Khitai stuff and stay in T4 raiding (if they want and CAN raid T4 with their guilds). It makes the new dungeons in Dragon's Spine very unattractive and, while they are PUGed on Crom, on Fury even guild teams are not doing them.
If there is not item progression incentive then only people that are extremely "PVE passionate" will go there. There is nothing wrong with making hard dungeons with weak loot that are ran only by said passionate players that all are about PVE challenge, right? Well I am not a game developer (but I play one on TV!), but spending a limited resources to create content that will appeal only to niche group of players at are small percentage of overall population, generally speaking, sounds like a very bad idea.
What is the solution? It sure as hell is not plain "better loot" because indeed at some point devs will crank out something that is T4 equivalent or better and whole kind of hell will get lose. At the same time shitting out garbage like Hell Walker amulet is just aggravating. We need a new system to address this because this issue is otherwise solved by raising level cap. Sure raising level cap makes your hard earned epics worst that trash blues in the new zones, BUT you have new stuff to be looking forward to. I prefer THAT over buying a hyrkanian dagger in 2011 and getting stuck with till 2014.
Before Funcom got re-structured ye old game director had this idea of set bonuses. The idea was if you were wearing full set of certain armor you would get bonuses for doing so. It was far from perfect, but you couldn't argue one thing: it made getting full set kinda desirable. Otherwise I am sure as hell NOT getting new Crawling Chaos pants to get 7 hit rating upgrade over my Brittle Blade ones. And so I didn't. I am paying for Dragon's Spine content as premium member, but to say that I have underplayed it is a gross UNDERstatement. Dragon's Spine is just bad and it is prime example why Funcom can't create new content without introducing new mechanics first.
Talking about beating a dead horse here :X The amount of pvp lvl 10 players is just staggering and that is not only thanks to Bori (I am of the opinion that Bori PvPers left the game long ago out of sheer boredom), but because, it the end, it's not THAT hard if one it really into pvp. The upcoming unchained minigames, as I see this, are same old same old minus gear.
which brings me to other issue called......
"Catching up game"
It very much seems like Funcom is making everything with "new people that need to catch up" in mind. By the very design if FC makes any more progression to veterans it will create bigger gap. Why that is an issue? If someone has 3 years of advantage playing AOC then no one should be handled tools to "catch up" aka given a shortcut to reach a destination which took others years to reach. I am not saying that new customers shouldn't be taken care of, but I fail to see the reasoning to give them preference over veterans when creating content. Unless... Oh yeah, it just occurred to me that it's easy as pie to create new content for fresh lvl 80 characters and it's very hard to do the same for vets. Still it is the veteran players who keep this game running and keeping one vet in game will probably create more income than several casual players who will just do some F2P gaming and jump onto new & shiny MMO that is coming out soon.
What is the solution?
I am big fan of customization. HUGE fan in fact. Buffing veterans further is not really all that creative and +5% to my GC damage won't really add all that much to the game play and my enjoyment of the game.
Here are few ideas that I would like to see in game in some shape or form:
1. leveling up weapons - kinda borrowed from LOTRO, but it would be nice to be able to get that form of personal attachment to the weapon, especially if you could name it.
2. glyphs system - WoW has this. It's pretty much a way to customize your old abilities with new stuff. For example we could have glyp of souls and glyp of lotus weakness. If equiped these would add to the lethargy combo either chance to capture soul shards (gryp of solus) or add -10% magic damage debuff (glyp of lotus weakness). Of course this would another issue with the balance of the classes, but at SOME POINT Funcom needs to face this (over avoidance of it is painfully evident).
3. class specialization and new trees - it would be awesome to upgrade your character into "hero version" of it's original class. Assassin would be Master Assassin, Dark Templar would be Dark Crusader and so on. This would open up another tree similar to current feat trees and in order to get points to spend them there you would need AA points. Again it is question of balance.
4. New levels a'la paragon system in D3 - What are paragon levels?
The current system of Paragon levels was added into Diablo III in the v1.0.4 patch on August 22, 2012. The system is an end game feature that provides additional levels and bonuses for characters once the reach the max level of 60. Once at max level all experience gained by a character counts towards his Paragon level. Characters can level up to Paragon 100, and each level awards that character a passive bonus of 3% to Magic Find and Gold Find, plus the same attribute bonuses as a normal level up (3 to the class main stat, 2 vitality, 1 to the other two stats).
So this is a small benefit that you can get over time. Not my definition of "fun", but is still a form of progression.
5. crafting - crafting can be a form of progression, but it doesn't have an universally appeal. Some are just NOT crafters nor they will ever be regardless of how good the new system is. At the core of the game is brutal combat and cranking out "really good mage pants" via crafting will never have same impact on general population and it's enjoyment of the game.
6. new pvp levels - YES PLEASE! If Funcom intend to keep this game around (the company have Conan license up to 2019!) you need to throw pvpers a bone.
I hope that 2014 will be the year of meaningful changes to AOC and not a constant stream of unchained, old dungeons with loot that leaves much to be desired.