Thursday, June 19, 2008

Event Instances in Age of Conan

In my experiences instancing is generally used for only two purposes. One is to create a private dungeon for a group of players and the other is to control zone overcrowding. Over the years its become standard for almost all dungeons to be private instances and no one is really surprised by that application. More controversial is the use of instancing to limit the player population in a specific zone. Most players are willing to admit that this is useful in creating balanced PvP areas but that it shouldn't be used in general purpose questing areas. While it prevents a lot of player confrontation over mobs spawns and quest objectives it also segments the overall community.

What's interesting to me is that I've seemed to stumbled onto a sub species of instancing which I haven't come across before. During the last year and a half I've been trying out some of the newer MMO releases and I haven't run into anything like the event instances I've seen in Age of Conan. Their design seems short and sweet in that they mirror a single boss encounter with maybe a little bit of trash clearing. The itemization in Age of Conan is still unstable but in general from what I've seen the rewards are rare quality, but not as good as those dropped from bosses in a full dungeon. It seems to be the perfect solution for people who like group content and might only be on for a short period of time.

Treasury of the Ancients
This is the newly renovated event instance which seems to be working quite well though I hear you can bug it if your party repeatedly wipes. On normal mode it's fairly easy and is used for completing several quests. On Epic mode though it makes the mobs elite and the final boss drops two blue items around level 39. The zone is basically a long hallway with statues on each side with a treasure chamber at the end. When you get to the end of the hallway it becomes blocked off by statues and then they starting coming alive two at a time. After defeating all the statues you can go into the chamber and fight a big boss statue that has a heal over time and spits out smaller ones. It reminds me of the last boss in Uldamann except you don't have to go a horribly designed dungeon first to fight him.

The Armsman Tavern Arena
There is a small underground arena under the tavern in the Tortania Noble district. The quest leading to it was bugged for some people but apparently its been fixed now so everyone can get access. Inside is a rez point and a fight promoter who you talk to before each fight. You can talk to him and get a chance to "spill blood" or if you came in with a group you can ask for "a challenge". Both options will make it so you can enter the arena at which point the gates will close and your opponent will come out. On the "spill blood" fights there are some nice green rewards and your opponents tend to be animals with lots of knock-back effects. On the challenge mode you'll run into some decent elite opponents which allow you to earn some blue rewards.

Both of these instances are small and required less development work then a full dungeon but seem to be very popular. They have a lot of the artistic detail and atmosphere that really fun dungeons have. In the Treasury of the Ancients all the statues will move slightly and turn their heads to look at you and its easy to be surprised by the ones that actually come to life. In the arena there are a crowd of nobles in the stands and you can see them cheering or booing you as you fight. Overall I'm pleasantly surprised with how both instances turned out even though the idea of an instance with a single boss sounded stupid to me at first.

I've heard in Wrath of the Lich King that every single group dungeon is going to be multi-winged with each part designed to only take an hour to complete. While sometimes I don't have a lot of time to play and want something quick, I also like the option for a more complex dungeons. The multi-wing approach is convenient but every instance in them tends to be too linear and streamlined for me. I wonder if it wouldn't be a better idea to make some of the instances in multi-wing dungeon more complex, but intersperse a couple of short event instances into the mix.

Actually if you look at event instances in Age of Conan you'll realize that Funcom simply took raid encounters like Onyxia and Gruul and scaled them down to make them more accessible. It's a great idea since raid fights in MMOs are often some of the best parts of the game. Its just that most people don't have the time to jump through the hoops that large raiding guilds often require. Anyways I hope to see more of these event instances or mini raid encounters in Age of Conan as I level and that other games pick up the trend.


Openedge1 said...

We can't forget the Villa's also.
Each has an objective. Takes about 30 minutes to an hour to complete.
Lots of fighting and money to be had, and repeatable.

Man if Funcom could fix their issues, this game has some of the best setups for solo and group play I have done yet, as I am one of the Casuals who has very little time to play, and I love this stuff.