Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Item Stats and Age of Conan

Age of Conan has made an impressive splash in initial subscriptions numbers, but sometimes I just can't help but get the feeling that it's developers are kind of slow on the uptake. Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh or just a sign I'm developing the same kind of love-hate relationship I had with SOE for so many years. In any case, there are just so many flaws in their interface that I can't help but think they designed it to be obtuse on purpose. Things get even worse when you combine it with poorly explained stats and bad itemization. It's like they were trying to design a DIKU based MMO, but didn't feel the need to use any numbers.

The one decision that really puzzles me is that Funcom thought it would be a good idea to dynamically display item stats based on the owner. So if my conqueror is in berzerker stance then any weapon I link to another person shows a huge base damage increase. It's fun to make it seem like I have a god-like 2 hander, but its annoying when I'm trying to see if a drop is an improvement for any of my friends. The entire system basically requires you to have an item in your inventory before you know if its an upgrade for your character. Thank goodness armor is mostly immune from this affect, but it really screws around with weapon shopping.

Age of Conan is still keeping me entertained despite the abundant amount of flaws. I recently started running an arena questline with a friend where we fight increasingly difficult challengers while a NPC crowd cheers on in the background. I can only do this with one friend at the moment since the quest is currently broken and the rest of my small guild can't even get in. They are supposedly fixing it in this week's patch, but most of my friends have probably out leveled the rewards. Actually, I can't really tell if they've out leveled the rewards since we can't really judge the quality of the weapon rewards.

It's not like this is the only problem with item stats either. As I mentioned before itemization is still messed up a bit though Funcom seems to be fixing the issue piecemeal during each patch. I'm still finding green quality weapons from quests which are better then higher level blues. Most of the drops off mobs have been fixed, but it's obvious they still need to go through all the quest rewards. Funcom has a really good game underneath all of the bad interface design and they seem to realize it. The problem of course is that most people expect a better designed game after World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings launched so smoothly. That's not to say WoW didn't have bugs or LOTR didn't have huge content gaps. However, both games had a much better interface and itemization that made sense from the start.

I sometimes think Funcom depended too much on outdated design specs from Anarchy Online when coming up with their interface. It's like they got off the MMO design train circa 2001 and haven't hopped back on until recently. At least they acknowledge they have a problem and seem to be in the middle of a major UI overhaul. Unfortunately, they have already lost a decent amount of subscribers. It's not as bad as Tabula Rasa since even if they lost half their subscribers after the first month they still would have 350,000 players. Still if Funcom doesn't want to lose everyone to Warhammer later in the year they need to get things updated to modern design standards. No more giant black bars that cover the screen when you loot.


Openedge1 said...

Found an addon that removed those black bars. I could even place the text to the left of the screen...
Was very nice.

AoC was not so nice overall. The voodoo mechanics of items, everything looking the same...
I guess old habits die hard.
I want reward for my RPG time.
What makes me even more sad is it is the BEST looking MMO, and the combat was fun for a melee class...

But, the unprofessional attitude of Funcom as a whole just does not work.

Uninstalled for now, and hopefully 3 months will see everything in that should have been in.

Relmstein said...

Yeah I would proabably do the same but I'm still having fun so I'm just putting up with the bugs. I've been enjoying the Catacombs instance lately. Its a small dungeon filled with exploding fire pots. You draw large groups of mobs close to them then attack so they blow up and send everyone flying up into the air.

Definitely going to have to find that addon which removes the black bars.

Scott said...

I'm all for a game where gear isn't the main focus, but I got the impression from AoC that gear was supposed to be a focus yet it had nearly zero actual itemization value implemented yet.

Guild Wars isn't totally gear based, and that's great. Everything has a maximum value which is attained relatively quickly. After that it's how you synergize your gear with your skills.

Spellborn seems to be going for making gear stat-less (I think?) so you still develop your character however you want but your gear has nothing to do with it. Wear whatever you want, look however you want, and you still have the same abilities, which makes FAR more sense than the "OMG must have this armor of +20million awesomeness" and the "Eldritch Sword of Noob-Slaying."

Diablo rewards needn't be the ONLY frickin type of rewards we ever see.

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