Age of Conan, part two
19th Feb 2007 | 09:30
We've been speaking to Funcom about its forthcoming PC and Xbox 360 MMORPG Age of Conan: Hyborian adventures, and yesterday we brought you part one of the resulting interview. Today - guess what? - we're bringing you the second and concluding part of our chat with product manager Erling Ellingsen...
What occurs in the single-player section of the game, and when that's completed is it a traditional MMORPG that we move into?
Erling Ellingsen: The single-player feature has changed much since we started designing Age of Conan, mostly due to feedback from the testers in the closed beta. Originally it was designed to be an entire single-player game before you stepped into the massive world, but we've scaled this down somewhat because people generally wanted to be able to interact with other players much sooner.
Still, when you first start out in Age of Conan, you'll spend the first limited part of the game where you are the only player. You learn the basics of the game as you progress through what resembles the story of a single-player game, and we're able to give players an introduction to the game which is much more heavily based on storytelling. When the players reach the village of Tortage, they will start seeing a limited amount of other players.
But at this stage during the game they are able to switch between day and night by sleeping at the local inn, and at night the player will always be in their own universe and will at that point be able to play through more single-player aspects of the game. After some hours when the player leaves the island of Tortage and set sail for the mainland, they will step into the more traditional MMO world with thousands of other players.
What are your plans for PvP and end-game content?
Erling Ellingsen: One of the key features of Age of Conan is the player-versus-player content. There are basically three types of PvP combat in the game, varying from what's really simple to get into and that have no strings attached, to the more large-scale challenges that requires more involvement. At the bottom is the drunken brawling, a feature that allow players to get drunk in a tavern and fight with other players - regardless of level or equipment. How much damage you do and how well you fight is determined only by what you drink! There are no penalties.
Then you have the arena combat where much more is on the line, and the result of each battle is determined by your skill and the abilities of your character.
At the top of all this is the siege warfare. Guilds will be able to construct entire battlekeeps in what we call the Border Kingdoms, and other guilds will be able to fight to conquer these. Imagine large-scale battles with huge amounts of players mounted on horses and pushing catapults! This is a large part of the end-game content, but we're also gearing up for epic dungeon crawls and raid encounters that will keep players busy for a long time to come.
In what ways does DirectX 10 enhance and impact the gameplay experience?
Erling Ellingsen: Actually, DirectX 10 offers mostly a visual improvement. The graphics become much more detailed, and we're able to push much more content into each scene that we were ever able to do with DirectX 9. You have improved features like parallax mapping that looks absolutely incredible with DirectX 10. With this technology you can, for instance, see the roots around a tree extrude from the ground. It looks amazing! There are also improved shadows and lightning, sharper textures, more realistic particle effects and a lot of other good stuff. There are also opportunities for better framerates with DirectX 10, something that will, of course, have a positive impact on the user's experience, but other than that the two DirectX versions will be identical in terms of game play.
You recently announced development of an Xbox 360 version of Age of Conan had been green-lighted. What's the status of that version, and when are you expecting to have it released?
Erling Ellingsen: The development of the Xbox 360 is steadily on the way, and we've put together a separate team with a separate Game Director to work on this version. So it's getting all the attention it needs. We have just as high hopes for this version of the game, and we're confident in its success because of how well it sits with the action-oriented audience. Combat in Age of Conan is dynamic, real-time and hands-on - something that will make it work much better on a console than what has been possible with other MMOs. We can't really say anything about the release date of this version yet, but I can confirm that it will be after the release of the PC version.
It's important to note that this is not going to be just a port from the PC, but we're actually going to great lengths to make a tailored version for the Xbox 360.
How are you tackling the user interface and user input issues that one might associate with an MMORPG on console?
Erling Ellingsen: It's a bit early to say at this point, but with an entire team dedicated to this project, I'm confident that we'll be able to present a very user-friendly interface on the Xbox 360 version. There are, of course, a lot of issues that have to be addressed when it comes to putting an MMO on a console. We're working on these challenges right now, and we hope to be able to reveal details on this in the not-so-distant future.
One thing we're wondering is whether PC gamers will be able to play with/against Xbox 360 owners - what's the story here?
Erling Ellingsen: There are several issues with mixing people on the same server. Will they be able to communicate well enough with each other? Will the console users be less responsive than the PC users? There are many issues that must be addressed. We're toying around with many different solutions to this, and one is having some shared servers and some servers that are not shared - simply to give players the freedom of choice. What solution we actually do end up with is something we will have to reveal later.