Age of Conan Beta Falls Flat on Its Face

Not to say the game isn’t any fun, but, rather, I wouldn’t know if the game is any fun or not. You see, I was able to get into the “open beta” because I am a fileplanet subscriber. Needless to say, I was very excited that I was going to be able to play one of the most anticipated MMORPGs ever (with over 500,000 beta applications). Hell, the only thing that would have made me more excited was a beta invite to either WAR or the Chronicles of Spellborn. In a rush to play the game, I immediately downloaded and patched the game (12gb download, 2+ hours worth of patching). Finally, after a day or so of downloading I was ready to begin. Just a quick double click and I was going to be playing Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures… or so I thought.

After creating my account and pushing the ever so delightful “Play” button on the patcher I was greeted with none other than a black screen and nothing else. No sound. No intro. No logos of any kind, just black. I was fine with this though. I have been in many betas in my lifetime and I knew what to expect. Games not loading properly are a common occurrence in many betas. So off to the forums I went!

Upon reaching the forums and doing a number of searches to find others who had my same problem I was greeted with these solutions:

  1. Change the resolution to the lowest possible setting.
  2. Repeatedly mash the escape button.
  3. Play in windowed mode.
  4. Turn DX10 on.
  5. Turn DX9 on.
  6. Be patient and wait…

So I changed my resolution, messed with the options, and even tried it in windowed mode. Nothing changed. I was finally left with only the last option to wait and wait I did. For 21 minutes I sat there in front of that black screen. Dismayed and exhausted, I was about to give up when I heard something. A faint sound, but a sound nonetheless. Alas! Thirty seconds later I was greeted with a giant pink FunCom logo, followed by all the usual screens that one would expect to follow.

Glorious in my victory and ready to start my own “Conan” adventure I proceeded, quite hastily, through the character creation. I decided to make a necromancer as I knew everybody else would want to play a combat character to test out the fighting scheme FunCom had created. After deciding upon a name, Blackgem, I clicked the glorious little button that sent me swirling into the world. Or so I thought…

After hours of work and getting to create my character, I am now unable to actually get into the game as I am faced with a loading bar that refuses to load fully. The background music plays, but the game never loads. Attempting to see if my old tricks would work I waited…

10 minutes…

15 minutes…

30 minutes…

60 minutes…

Nothing happened. Desperate to play I attempted to mess around with the more advanced graphics options. Nothing changed. So here I am, unable to play Age of Conan with hours of time vested into just getting into the actual game. My only respite is knowing that I am not the only one as a quick look at the official forums notes that problems like mine are rampant.

So that’s my experience with Age of Conan thus far. While I’d love to regale you with stories of my adventures in Age of Conan, I simply can’t. Hopefully they’ll work out these problems soon as I would very much like to be able to play before the game actually releases in less than three weeks. An alarming situation for FunCom considering their first MMO, Anarchy Online, suffered through one of the worst launches in MMO history…

EDIT: Changed title to better represent this is for the BETA not the retail version of the game.


  1. I am having a blast with it so far. I had the same issues as you the first three times I tried making a character on beta 3 server. I changed no settings at all and the third time was a charm.

    First attempt was a 20 minute wait second time was 10 minutes third time I killed the process as soon as the screen went black. Was kind of annoying but I had three people over to check it out.

    Once I was in I loved it! I don’t want to ruin it as discovery is part of the fun but don’t give up!

  2. Drama much? As has been said many times over, you’re testing an open beta with severely stressed servers, what do you expect? You’re language in your blog post makes it sound like the retail game itself is a failure.

  3. No way I am giving up! I have gone this far I am getting into that beta come hell or high water! I just wish it wasn’t such a headache. :(

  4. @Scott

    You certainly sound like a fan boy to me.
    Perhaps you are just new to MMOGs.

    The game releases this month. What you see now is what you’ll see then.
    They may fix a few bugs by then, maybe stabilize the servers a tiny bit, but for the most part, this is it.

    I think anyone who has been around MMOGs for the past few years knows this to be true. Since you still have rose colored goggles on, you must be new here :)

  5. @Scott

    The game is 16 days away from retail… While I remain optimistic, as always, that FunCom will either delay the game a month or two or get some serious fixing done, I can’t help but feel like neither will be done. These are widespread issues and no matter how fun the game might be, buggy gameplay will severely hamper the game’s sales and subscriptions. Which in turn will make the game a failure…

    I’m not saying the game is bad, by the way… but it is buggy.

  6. Hardly, I’ve been playing online since BBS, Genie, Compuserve, etc, through Ultima Online to present.

    I’ve been through many horrible beta to launches such as SWG, yes even Anarchy Online as a beta tester.

    Beta complaints get old really fast, expecially when they’re poorly written to give the impression it represent the full retail title, and only repesentative of getting a game client running during a public stress test.

    Its amusing that you think you’re giving AoC a fair shake here.

  7. I had the blackscreen issue as well, all I did was defrag my drive and tick off full-screen (so play in window mode) and it worked perfectly. Although right now full-screen is ticked on and it works just fine too, it was probably just the defragging that did the trick.

    I’ve run into zero problems since. Creating a character was a breeze (and originally done) and I got into the game world just fine. It does take a looong time to load up when you first enter the gameworld (particularly the final 10%), but after that loading times grow increasingly shorter. I’m sure they’ll do something about that before the game goes live.

    So yeah, I’ve played for a couple of hours now and I have to say I’m impressed. Playing with all the settings at High you can’t help but be impressed with the gorgeous landscapes, smooth animations and phenomenal sound. The gameplay does take some getting used to, but it’s fun. I like the combo’s, although it’d be nice to hit a few more fatalities in combat ;)

    Now if only I could find a shield for my Guardian…

  8. @Scott
    I see what you are getting at. I changed the title to better represent that this is for the beta… not the full retail version of the game. Other than that you are just going to have to deal with the post.
    I chose to write about this specific topic, not because it is affecting me, but because it is affecting a decent sized population of the game, amongst other bugs.

  9. @Droniac
    Defragging the hard drive eh? I’ll give that a shot when I get home later today! :D

  10. I had the (now) infamous account issue where I made the mistake of assuming that my existing Funcom account was useful. A friend of mine lucked into just creating a new Funcom account to register the day and I was off to the races.
    I don’t know if I’d say that the beta is a failure, but Funcom really needs some work on their support skills. Users are using an existing forum from years ago to post issues because there isn’t one exclusive to the beta. Some issues don’t seem to get a response from a Funcom employee at all. Nor have I seen any Funcom GMs in the beta answering any questions. So, I’m sure that they’re missing out on all of that fun, “how do I climb?” chat. That’s an issue that could easily be fixed by editing the field manual, but I sort of wonder if it will.
    But I think what bugs me the most is that if the game does crash, you’re presented with a bug submission form that you can’t opt out of, and seems to hang on my system when I try to submit. A common problem, I’m reading.
    It’s a beta build and there is apparently some debug layers running behind the client, so I’m giving them some leeway before I say the beta sucks. I’m actually having alot of fun playing the game.
    But I’m really hoping that the, “gold” version that I spent most of a hundred dollar bill on, gets some needed improvements.

  11. Calous, you’re a brave dude posting this with all the fanbois out there.

    I completely agree, the game is too buggy, too far from ready. I cancelled my pre-order and I’ll check back in a year. It might be ready then. I’m not going to pay to beta it for them they next year.

    Long load screes, clunky and unintuitive UI. I’m sure it has it’s niche audience and will keep it. But there’s no way in hell it will steal many from WoW or keep many once Warhammer Online comes out. Personally I think they went so far out of their way to be different from the other MMO’s that they’ll alienate most people.

  12. I also found the game erratic at times.
    I did a study with multiple systems…

    And posted on forums here

    What was of note is only one system had the horrible load issues, black screen, etc…
    It was an Intel e6850, 3 gigs of ram, ATI 3870 and onboard sound…
    One of the components is causing a problem, and I am out to figure out the problem..
    But…2 other systems had better luck loading and playing…and they were Nvidia cards…

    Could you maybe share your specs?

  13. My understanding of beta is that it is to test servers and work final kinks out of program. Why would you go into it expecting it to work for everyone? The whole point of beta was to help them test, they said that when you signed up for beta, in order to help them find bugs and such.

    Furthermore, it is clear from player reports that they have included additional components, such as a debugger that won’t be there in the release to mess things up. And, if we are to believe it, they claim the open beta client is to some extent an older version than the closed beta. They had their reasons for including buggy code there.

    Besides official forum moderators confirming this, as well as many people who have access to both open and close beta versions confirming this, the creators have also stated this and more, explaining that this is beta, its point is to find bugs:

    Talk with developer:

    To me I just can’t understand how all these beta players can go into the beta thinking it’s going to be like the retail version. They signed up to help find bugs, and then guess what, when they actually do encounter bugs, they become upset and complain! “How could this happen! I can’t believe I ran into bugs!”

  14. As someone as already pointed out, we are 12 days now from the game going live and yesterday I spent 1 hour out of the two I dedicated to AoC simply staring at an awfully slow filling loading screen…
    I thought that it was because of “first load texture decompression and optimization” (like the “shader optimization in the Battlefield franchise) but after a 15 minutes load for entering the third time in the noob city i simply gave up with the loading bar @ 75%…

    The game is already went gold so there are very few chances that this problem will be fixed in a short…

  15. You’re not so far away from the real reason Belfagor.

    The last 10% of your loading bar are actually Shaders compiling on your GPU and being saved to the hard drive. Next time you enter that particular Area, it won’t do that again unless your client crashed and couldn’t save the cache file.

    In Retail the game will include an exhaustive pre-compiled cache for these shaders for all popular GPU.

    I’ve seen nothing unusual for a beta and compared to past MMOG “Open Betas” or even launches, this one is pretty smooth.

  16. Actually I’m having similar problems in the early access (which I payed for), in addition to the same problems in the open beta. I get a black screen, sound, and can see the mouse cursor. At the log in screen I get some messed up graphics; and that’s it. Unplayable.

    I’ve tried to contact several times now (in the open beta as well as recently), with no response! What horrendous service eh. Think I might just try to contact them the 4th time (weeks since my first try)…. I’m using an ATI X800 card, and otherwise meeting the minimum system reqs.

    Strangely enough though I was able to play the open beta for a while, it all changed after the latest open beta patch, and then clicking the predfined “low” grpahics settings in the client. After that I’ve been unable to play the game in two different windows installations; I even did a defrag and reinstalled XP, updated drivers; still can’t play. Friggin’ strange….

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