Well, Mike left Age of Conan, but I’m still, grimly, hanging in there.
I guess the first thing I want to say is that AoC is definitely a work in progress. This is curious because the game was held up twice, if memory serves, as the developers promised launch dates that ended up whooshing by as the company became obsessive about launching a game that was as good as it could be from day one.
The source of this obsession obviously stems from the balls-up of Anarchy Online which subsequently hung around Funcom’s neck for years, like some kind of weird electronic albatross. The devs lived in fear of a similar scenario, so it’s quite weird that the game should have launched with so many things still feeling half-finished or not quite polished enough. I shake my head in particular when I think of all the bugs and other little things that the devs have been working on like maniacs since the launch date… things that should have been picked up within a few days of beta testing instead of now.
I guess it just goes to prove my theory that people don’t beta test anymore; they just see beta as a way to play a game first, and for free. No one, it would appear, seems to bug check – otherwise a lot of these issues would have been discovered from the start. Of course, there’s also an argument that suggests with the beta testing limited to Level 15, the newbie Tortage section of the game was quite polished, and the rest of the game was allowed to go to hell in a handbasket, seemingly with the devs thinking that the opening months of gaming would provide the beta test for Levels 16 – 80.
Obviously that’s a poor attitude and a lot of people have packed up their sword and gone home, unlikely to return. Mike’s just one of many, many, many people I’ve seen voice their anger and leave, via the Funcom forums. It’s actually reached the stage where moderators are actively removing such “I quit” postings from the forums. It must be really bothering the company to have reached that stage.
So why am I staying in AoC, despite being fully aware that I’m basically in a paid-for beta test and just a bit annoyed about what’s going on? Primarily because I think Age of Conan is the ultimate antidote to all the high-fantasy games doing the rounds at present. Whether we’re talking WoW or EQ2 or LotRO or even the upcoming WAR, all of the big MMOs these days are high-fantasy. You know, with Elves and shit. AoC is the complete opposite, with its whole low-fantasy, gritty vibe. Until we get a really great sci-fi MMO – something I’m currently pinning on the boys from Bioware – we’re stuck with the fantasy genre and this gritty, bloody, nasty low-fantasy is a relatively new and sexy thing compared to running around as Elves and Dwarves and all that kind of nonsense.
I’m also in a great guild which helps my game time immeasurably. Even if I’m quest grinding or just gathering materials for crafting, and not particularly enjoying myself, the in-game chatter and socialising makes the experience worthwhile and gets me through each session. I think a good guild can make any mediocre (or even just plain bad) game a lot more palatable. So thankyou to those guys and gals.
How long will I stay in AoC? That’s a great question. I think unless the game starts to make some serious improvements, I could be gone within another two to three billing cycles. Yes, I’m far more forgiving than some people, but I’m not going to offer Funcom my coin forever if the game remains in its current state and updates continue to break more than they fix. Funcom, you’re on notice.