Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dagger and a bowl of rice: more rice, less grind

Good news everyone! Right now Rise of the Godslayer has arrived to the state that it should have been since day 1. Shouldn have but wasn't.  What matters now is that this 2 years old expansion got finally polished and worth giving a second chance by all those who got turned off by the amount of grind. And if you don't own Khitai yet? By Crom, you are in for a treat!! Let's go over the changes that made Khitai the expansion it is today:

Marks of Acclaim
The dreaded MOAs are tokens which serve as a form of currency in the land of 999,999 Gods. Pretty much everything costs some amount of MOAs or MOAs and gold. Furthermore MOAs can be spend on potions that, when consumed, grant the player large amount of mastery experience. Thanks to the questing system revamp turning in the quest to the NPC now gives large amount of MOAs. For example: simple Brittle Blade quest in Chosain used to give 2 MOAs and after revamp same quest gives 18 MOAs. Where is the catch? The grindy feel of the Khitai was mainly caused by re-doing simple and fast quest that were giving small amount of MOAs. Those quests had short cool down so the player could pick up few of them, do the quickly and return to pick them up again. The revamp brought in 20h cool down to all completed quest. On one side this prevents players from re-doing the quests over and over, but it gives great  rewards instead. This grants players a lot more rewards for shorter time playing which they can now utilize to do other, more varied quest and get even more rewards. Rewards simply keep on giving. Don't get me wrong: MOAs are not raining down from the skies, but getting them is a great experience. I have no doubt that this is how things should have been. This change is also benefiting people with alts greatly, because it let's them do few quests here and there while changing their characters and STILL progress at reasonable pace.

Faction Progression

Factions and story behind them were always the highlight of ROGS. The story is simply delicious and the experience is memorable to say the least. One of the biggest woes of ROGS at launch was that leveling faction ranks was nightmarish experience. The questing changes also addressed that by granting more faction rep for each quest. Furthermore old and new solo dungeons now grant quite sizable box filled with faction insignias that can be traded via faction NPC for reputation. Don't want to re-do some quest? You can now skip them simply by spending your insignia. I know that it always worked like that, but now you have viable means of getting those insignias through solo game play. So how big are those changes? Let just say that previously gaining rank 4 was taking weeks and now it's something like 10 days or so of focused game play that is with about 1h long gaming sessions. No, really it is super smooth now, you can easily rank 4 with all of your characters.  The game got "alt friendly" in a BIG WAY. It is still challening for freshly dinged characters, but veterans can burn through faction content if they are simply re-doing them to switch their alliances.

Gearing Up
Another woe of ROGS was the problem with gearing up. Old world gear is not really viable in Khitai because it lacks the ciritigation stat. People needed to run the Hard Modes in order to gear up in Khitai epics. Don't have Khitai gear already? Then you can't get into Hard Mode groups. But wait, can't get into Hard Mode groups? Sorry, no Khitai gear for you. It's the catch 22 of land of the 999,999 gods. Funcom addressed this problem from several angels. First the Khitai epics that you can buy from NPC got their gold price reduced and since getting MOAs got a lot easier the first NPC bought epics are within everyone's reach. Seriously: hands and boots are two easiest epics you will ever get. You can now also get rare tokens (needed to pay for your epic gear) from solo instances:  Refuge of Apostate (daily 2-3 tokens) and Lost City (daily 1 token). If you do own Savage Coast of Turan you can also try doing Isle of Iron Statues (daily 4-5 tokens) and Dead Man's Hand (daily 3 tokens). If that wasn't enough you will always get rare token for doing the Khitai instances in normal mode, so if you want to you can gear up so eventually you can run Hard Modes. While all this solo stuff might sound like Khitai epics got turned into "welfare" epic but let me assure that it is still challenging  enough to gear your character. The only word that comes to mind is "reasonable": you will get your items soon enough but it won't be walk in the park. I like that.
AA system 
To put it in few words: quests give more mastery and solo instances grant mastery pots so you can smoothly progress with your AAs. For my character it takes around 2 days of 1 hour sessions to ding full mastery level. Mind you this optimization is available for my character through a lot of gear and AAs, but it shows that at some point you will be able to gain power very quickly. If any thing the changes allow people to "catch up" if they have been on a break or just started their journey through Khitai. 

To sum it up: I do recommend to give ROGS another shot if you got turned off by the endless grind because that has been fixed. On the other hand if you quit AOC simply to try other games then now is the time to go back, it's better than ever.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In Search of Lost Time (a.k.a PvP Content)

Oh Bori...what happened to you? You used to be cool....Wait a minute! No you didn't, you lazy bastard, you were never cool!! I knew that this day would come eventually so I have decided to fully embrace it. I am minigame-leveled pvp lvl 10 wearing minigame pvp lvl8 armor and digging rocks in Cimmerian lands. Go figure. At this point I am pretty much without any goal when it comes to Age of Conan since I have beaten all the content that interests me and got every single bit of gear that I wanted. Took me 2 years mind you, but yeah, at this point I am DONE. I don't want to be done with the game, but I am not going to lie: just roaming random minigames ain't going to cut it. Mining rocks in Boredom Kingdom might not be the greatest goal of all times, but it is A GOAL and that seems like enough. I want to get the Bori armor (aka pvp lvl 10), but mostly for vanity reasons since the stats upgrade will be marginal. I really like how the pvp lvl 10 armor has face covered ninja-style and in that regard pvp lvl 8, although with cool black color, is sorely lacking. 

So how is Bori in 3.5 reality? I wish, how I wish I could write you a report saying: it is totally different experience than what I despised 2 years ago. Sadly, no, no it is not. Same old same old. The only noticeable difference is that the zone is pretty much unmolested during off-peak hours. Sure, there will be some gank-squads popping in and out from time to time, but those are not what they used to be. Since I am soley interested in obtaining tokens in a most speedy and efficient matter I get really annoyed, by people coming to Boredom Kingdom to......*gasp*....PVP!!! That is the real curse of Bori: it discourages PVP. I knew that a while back, but it became painfully evident during those last couple of days when I have made up my mind about "seriously farming that nodes for armor". There are no winners in those scenarios when others come to disturb the farming process. People farming the nodes are interested only in farming them and getting out. People coming in are interested in PVP, but they are not getting it from people preoccupied with farming. It is hilarious to see people in Bori armor "trying" to prevent others from getting same armor...through same means as their "hardcore pvpers" did...farming nodes. I don't think that Bori will ever be fixed and most likely be left as it is. If we ever get new pvp content then Funcom will address the Bori issue in most simplistic way: by introducing third type of pvp token and by doing that FC will insure that merely farming nodes furiously won't cut it. I firmly believe also that we won't see level cap raised anytime soon but rather additional armors. Time, as always, will tell. 

Since I am writing this post in small batches over last couple of days at this point I am having slightly altered opinion: I don't think I can go through with this. I have managed to gather around 1.000 tokens and I am DREADING the very thought of logging into Age of Conan. This is my cut off point: if it is not fun then don't do it. I am sure that I would have had motivation to "keep on keeping on" with the farm if not for having my minigame gear. Seriously, I find it hard in my head to justify hours upon hours of mindless farming just to take "advantage" of mildly better stats with marginal impact on my pvp performance. Should I skip the Bori armor? All signs points to yes, but in the land of Hyboria, where pvp content is rare and good pvp content is an unicorn, one can never be too sure.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This Week in Hyboria #1

Recently I have been browsing forums and noticing how many people are asking questions that were already answered over twitter by Game Director. This gave me an idea to do TWIH packed with short and punchy news for those that are not obsessive-compulsive about following every type of media to learn every bit of news there if about Age of Conan. I do that. So this is first, very rough version of TWIH as I am not entirely sure which segments are going to be appearing on a regular basis. Obviously I don't want just to re-post official news because that is garbage.


A lot of people seem to be upset about itemization when it comes to using PVE weapons in PVP (what? PvPers upset? Impossible!). Game Director replies:

@Slith_hideout The team will be looking at that itemization in detail alongside the crafting revamp and the adventure pack items for sure

source: twitter

Dungeon lockouts and UI

This is hot topic as latest patch removed the UI element that was showing which dungeons are not restarted. Lucky TL server has been already patched with new tab to display locked dungeons.

source: TL forums

New Adventure Pack
Funcom has been very secretive of new add-on and only tidbits of information were made public. Game Director hints at when we can expect more expansion related news:

@Skeloss the guys are making good progress there. We will probably show more of the adventure pack once the TSW launch period is over

source: twitter

Putting "group" back into group PVP

It is pretty much written in stone that the minigames system won't be rolled back into it's previous incarnation. However we can look forward to having at least 1 team mate signing up with us and ending up in same team:

@Slith_hideout I definitely want to be able to allow that once we have the single server tech up and in place

source: twitter

Stamina revamp

First rough version of stamina revamp is now on TL. Check out the video for details.


Hyborian Rage blog has put out guide for the Forgoten City.

Meanwhile Cynara of "cynara's Age of Conan blog" has written another article. This time it deals with HP of mobs in Khitai. Mobs in Khitai are stronger and this piece covers why.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Good times --> this way

Finally things are looking up for Age of Conan. And I mean it. The patch 3.5 turned out to be, after two downtimes for hot fixes, a pretty great one. Let's briefly go over the improvements to the game:

Multispecc system

This is a game changer. For the first time in four years I have ran pvp minigame, group HM in Khitai and a raid with a dedicated specc for each. Delicious! The system allows you to set up 2 pre-defined speccs (3 if you have bought extra specc slot for 500 FC points - which I did) and switch between then at will. There are just three limitations: it has 10 minutes cooldown between switches, you have to be out of combat and only NPC can reset the trees (this hasn't changed). Furthermore anything you put on your bar (feats & perks) is saved. If anything this system encourages varied gameplay and makes transition between different activities silky smooth.Funcom will expand this system and add more features in the near future (like sharing the builds via links).
Multispecc - works like a charm

Into the Breach (group version)

Yes, once more we go into the breach. While it is still unknown whether this instance has Hard Mode or not it is good at what it supposed to be delivering: fast & fun gameplay. This dungeon is ultra quick while mantaining some level of difficulty: this is not pure stomp. If automatic LFG system/group maker makes into AOC this year then I can totally see myself jumping in for a quick "Into the Breach". As it is now ITB makes a great dungeon for fresh lvl80s (challenging even). The bosses mechanic are interesting while not making overall experience unnecessarly complicated. Certainly this is not a "solid, long lasting content", but leaving ITB being just solo experience would have been a waste.

interesting mechanics
the visuals are amazing
very fun boss fight - watch out for land mines!
rewards ...lets hope there is a hard mode
Lost City with more bling-bling rewards!

Dead Man's Hand & Lost City + reward revamps
Funcom again upgraded the game for the solo experience. Just like ITB both Dead Man's and Lost City were great visually, but there we lacking two essential elements: challenge and rewards. For an advanced lvl80 player going into DM and LC was a waste of time since the mobs were dieing absurdly easily and the rewards were...let's just say I would enjoy finding turd in the loot box more than those damn green trader-trash items. Dead Man's can be played in two ways: you can use it as a source of Hard Mode tokens by doing the main quest of finding and killing the traitor. This way you will get 3 tokens, over 100k mastery and some social drops. All this will take roughly 12-15 minutes which makes great addition to your daily rotation on solo dungeons. The second way of playing DM is actually doing all the side quests located around the Island. Those quest won't give you any upgraded rewards but the mobs are challenging and they can now drop bags that actually might have something worthwhile in them. DM might be slightly harder than Apostate, but easier than Iron Statues hard mode. LC remains an easier dungeon, one that should accommodate people that have just entered Khitai and are looking for something different to do. LC gives 1 rare token, mastery and insignias. For my assassin this dungeon was still slightly too easy, but would have been perfect when I have first set my foot in land of 999,999 gods. Funcom went ahead and also upgraded existing rewards in other solo dungeons. For example Refuge of Apostate is now providing brave adventurers with mastery pots (last Boss drops blue pot with 50k mastery). There are other changes that make progression in Khitai more smooth: you can now buy faction leg armor (previously only dropped in Enigmata dungeon) and the cost of epic pots is reduced (15 rares = 1 AA point). I cannot help but wonder that Funcom wants to prepare us for the next add-on by "helping" players to progress through Khitai faster.
New, reduced prices (still damn high imo)

Blue mastery pots are now common
aaaaaaaand some social pets....not my cup of tea

Stamina/sprint revamp is coming!
The first version of long awaited revamp is already on TL. Since it is pretty hard to do it justice with just words and pictures I am including a short video from TL. Its about time we got this change in!
Ignore end credits in the vid, I have messed up real bad :D
To sum it up: great patch and more good things are on the horizon.
thats right, there is no reason to put this screenshot in here...but its badassery!