Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Age of Conan - Middle Class Performance

Welcome to my report on the Middle Class system. Obama would be proud to own this rig and play him some Age of Conan. Just don't ask for that health care plan and expect to have the system survive the OC'ing I did on this baby...

But, I digress.

This time around we are playing with the middle class system. An e8400 (OC'd to 3.2Ghz), an Nvidia GTX 260 (not OC'd), 4 gigs DDR3 1333FSB and good ole onboard sound. As we have seen about 600-700 bucks will net you this beauty.

Well, lets not wait around any longer, and lets get to the numbers shall we? First we always start with that lovely scene. You know the one. The one that makes you cry as you watch all of your frame quality be cut in more than half...

1360x76 All effects on - 20FPS

Interesting. Now, just a little commentary on this real quick. First off, I have been impressed with Nvidia's drivers as so many optimizations exists in their control panel, that we are not quite sure if this scene is actually being fully rendered. I mean, so much culling of back scene polygons are taking place. As well, we can note a "washed" out effect to these images compared to the ATI. When it comes to IQ, ATI definitely wins. But, Nvidia allows full 16x AA over this scene with not too much slow down. For the cost of this card, it is hard not to like those numbers.

1920x1080 All on - 18.1FPS

Not too much loss there. But still, noting how washed out some of the screens look. This seems odd. I tried adjusting gamma and contrast, colorization...but not with too much luck.
Also of note (which does not show up in the screenshots) is a strange "sparkle" to textures the further out they are. Like I stated earlier, looking like missing polygons being rendered...weird.

How about the Optimized settings? These are noted in my previous ATI 5870 article. We pull back on view, and remove grass, etc.

1920x1080 Optimized - 26FPS

Impressed that the GTX 260 can handle this spot and at such a high framerate. Depending on the card, some feature causes each card to bog a bit (water? snow? lighting?). As you will see in this comparison section.


1360 Nvidia - 34.5FPS

1360 ATI - 58.4FPS (23 frame increase)

1360 Nvidia - 36.5FPS

1360 ATI - 58.5FPS (over 21 FPS increase)

1360 Nvidia - 128.8FPS

1360 ATI - 217.3FPS (over 88 FPS INCREASE)

Something to keep in mind. Drivers for ATI are still beta and not optimized quite yet. I am also running 8x Supersample (16x regular on Nvidia), and this can give a hit in performance in some zones as well. But, there is no doubt that the Nvidia does quite well for it's price...but at a cost of visual quality and some performance quirks

At one point while in Atzels Zone, my frames dipped to about 18, and started to stutter, yet the ATI kept rolling at over 50+ FPS. I actually had to shut down the game and restart after this stutter incident, yet Atzels never seemed to recover in this one section (near the Fortress for those who know the zone).
This was an unexplained quirk to me, and I could not recover for the life of me.

So, it is hard to say what you should do. Save money or hold the cash. If you are on a limited budget, you may wish to go this route. Another option may be to get the computer equipment from the previous kit with the new Intel i5 series, and then get the GTX 260 to tide you over until prices come down on the ATI.
Another option is to start watching prices on the ATI 4890 which is not too much slower than the 5870 and get a good boost here. Prices should start to drop thanks to the 5870. (I will post some benchmarks for that card in this system at a later date).

Thats it for the Middle Class. Next up will be the lower class money saver for those on a "I have to eat ramen noodles to survive" budget.


Age of Conan - Upcoming report - Nvidia

Hey all...before I forget, I am finalizing my report on the next system in class performance for Age of Conan...an Nvidia GTX260, E8400 and 4 gigs DDR3.

Before I do that, here is how this price breakdown occurs on that system. I call it the "Middle Class" system. Affordable for those on decent incomes, but are not into the latest gadgets.


I have not included the power supply, etc...so those are up to you. I suggest the previous power supply linked in my first system (Source).
You can get a smoother frame rate if you use the X-Fi sound card as well, but really not needed.

I will have more on the numbers soon...so keep an eye open.

Age of Conan - Funcom announces layoffs

By way of Twitter and the Hudson grabbing all news as it immediately happens (Mad News Skillz!)...seems Funcom is rolling in a 20% reduction of staff.

This seems to affect Secret World the most, and discussion is that Age of Conan's expansion for Rise of the Godslayer is still on (but my bet is on "live" updates taking a fall...big time...especially when they need them most)

You can read Hudsons quickie post here (which links to Funcom)- SOURCE

I will have more to say on this later based on some conversations I have seen on the Testlive forums and the main forums as well.

Not cool with this, and I am truly saddened (wish I had another game that was worth a crap...)

Age of Conan - Insanity sets in

Well, just a quick post. I will have more on an interview several developers at Funcom gave on the upcoming Iron Tower, Veteran rewards patch.

But, talk about insanity. The Simple Complexities guild (our small family guild) finally hit level 70 (our characters did anyways).
When we went to go about doing crafting for the level 70 quests...we hit a snag.
Seems most of the goods we need to craft must have a guild city in place with Tier 1 bldgs to start.

If we want 4 hour food, new armor, etc., then a Guild City must be created.

Talk about insanity. We decided to go after this goal. My main, Amatheon has become an Architect, and the wife and son, who are both now hitting the Trader and selling goods have begun the cash collection process so we can start building.

Talk about insanity...did I mention insanity?

I will update on this as we progress. But, I mean, we just helped the casual Thursday guild, Creeping Darkness, complete their city (check out that work here)...and now we plan to do it all over again.

Insanity! (But, oh so fun)

Cheers for now...off to the nut house!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Age of Conan - New survey circulating

Age of Conan subscribers, make sure to check your emails.

Seems a survey is coming along asking questions of the players again. I understand their need to do this, but it really is not needed.
The questions are easy to answer...

Content and PvP should be your main concerns. The Sieges which are still borked, need to be fixed. All the little niggles and concerns (floating swords, shields through heads....basically QA) needs to be looked at.

If anything, you only have vets right now until the next expansion. This means make new ENDGAME content...NOW!

The questions in the survey seem to ask the same thing as before...

If you were a game developer for Age of Conan how would you prioritize the need for development in the following areas with 1 being a top priority and 5 meaning this area does not need immediate attention?
  • Class balance PVE
  • Class balance PVP
  • Combat mechanics
  • GUI
  • Tradeskills
  • Sieges
  • Character Customization
  • More items
  • Social activities
  • (emotes, pets, etc)
  • Events
  • Customer Support
  • Bug fixes
  • Griefers/Exploiters
  • New group dungeons
  • New Quests
  • More Levels
  • More Professions/Classes
  • New Raid Dungeons
  • New Siege Dungeons
  • More areas (non dungeons)
  • Travel modes/time
  • Graphics
  • Technical
Forget class balance. You have done it, and you need to stop that mess and get with the program. The classes may get as polished as can be, but you will not have an audience if the players are STILL doing the same things they did 6 or even 12 months ago.
The combat is what we love about this game, and the reason we are here...why mess with that?
Graphics...uh, some of the best in the industry, so please don't even tough them...

Ok...anyways, enough rant today. I do not plan to go to another MMO, but if content dries up for me, I will not be in AoC. Good thing I am still having fun...but, I am almost to the year mark...so, you may want to think about some major stuff to do.


Age of Conan - Community Letter

Craig Morrison's monthly letter on the latest news for Age of Conan is up.

This time he discusses Veteran Rewards and the Iron Tower instance...

"For this month’s letter I want to go into some details on the new veteran reward system that will go live with the next game update. The update is getting ready for the test server (at least when I am writing this, there is every chance the build will already be on the test servers as you read this!)"

Read more at the source

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Age of Conan - ATI 5870 By the Numbers

Ok, so more time has passed and I have had a chance to run some more numbers on this beautiful video card.
Not just that, I have also done some tweaking as well. So, lets not waste any time, and get right to the meat.

First off, yesterday I had a question and realized I did not include this. The screens are running the game at 1360x768. This resolution works best as I use a 42" 1080P LCD TV and play from the couch (and I use an Xbox 360 controller...stick around and let me know if you wish to learn how I do that...ps: Just ask).
This allows me to read the text (and until I find a way to increase text without breaking the UI, I will play at these settings).
Anyways, most people will not run at this resolution, so I made sure to get some 1920x1080 benchmarks as well. Basically, if you run the game at 1280x1024, those numbers I have already run will match what you would get (and actually you would get a frame or two more...or 10...hehe)

First, lets give you the infamous "OMG, there is smoke coming from my video card" location at 1920x1080.

I am hitting about 24+ frames here. Thats right. The loss is next to nil for this card, as it was meant to totally run high resolutions with a minimum of loss. So, even if I play at 1360 or 1920, I will get a smooth game.
Here is an example of two screens...one at 1360 and one at 1920 (after tweaks...and I will post those shortly).

1360x768 Tweaked (40.1FPS)

1920x1080 Tweaked (35.1FPS)

So, again, the loss is minimal (about 10%), and hardly noticeable. Now, these numbers may seem low, but it is because I am purposely choosing "long view" scenes.
The distance in this game is huge and causes massive slowdowns depending on what is in the view (the example here is water. Bogs down the vid card for sure)
I also have everything "cranked" for the card. This is at a full 8x AA, 16x AF, and Supersample AA is on. So, the image quality is incomparable vs the Nvidia and even the 4890 in the household. It truly is mind boggling. And I tell ya...these screenshots do not do it justice.

But, what about in standard situations? Lets look at this comparison.

Entry into the Slaughterhouse.

1360x768 Tweaked (217.3FPS)

1920x1080 Tweaked (162.9FPS)

These numbers are so high, it is hard to tell the difference (now seeing about a 20%+ loss). You will NOT feel any lag...that is for sure. So, playing at a high resolution will be just a minimal sting, and most likely at no cost to you visually.

As to the tweaks I have enabled, here are the images for those.

The tweaking involves these steps.

Hit the "HIGH button on page 1

Page 2. - Change shadows to High (Ultra is borked...but on the 5870 it seems to work ok...just not needed quality wise)
Push all sliders to the 50% mark for view distance, etc.

Disable grass (I actually hate the grass, as it is almost impossible to find the bags sometimes. So, I prefer it off...and it adds frames)

On this final screen not much has changed. As I kept fiddling, I learned I could keep most attributes turned on...and I enjoy the visual quality. Thanks to the 5870, I can keep all of these on..except Screen Space Ambient Occlusion Lighting. That setting is buggy at this time and causes a muddy shimmery effect on anything light colored (snow for example).
As you will learn, the other two systems, the Middle class and the Low class cannot keep some of these features on to keep performance..

Now, I will finish off with a few more "hotspots" in the game that causes hardware to buckle...I even got lucky and grabbed me some "Godrays" (a special setting in AoC for DX10 that allows special lighting with a hint of realism as it shines through trees, clouds, etc.). These are all at 1360 and tweaked.

1360 (58.4FPS)
This spot always bogs due to the fact it is the Trader, and the building is FULL of people.

1360 (58.5FPS)
Long view in Poitain. Always bogs due to the "open view" which causes strain.

1360 (59.3FPS)
As I was taking my shots, the sun peaked out, and gave me some Godrays (also a frame killer...yet notice how my frames went up...lol)

Now...how do these compare to my other equipment? Well, you will have to wait for those. But, I will say this. The numbers in each of these screens may seem low (where is that magical 60FPS?) and I could hit those with more tweaks. But, I want quality now, as I can have it with the 5870.

And when you see what the other hardware does...you will see why these numbers excite me.

That is all for now. Next up is the middle class system. I will also show you comparison shots with the 5870.

Cheers folks

Friday, September 25, 2009

Age of Conan - 5870 Preliminaries

So, last night after trying to search down the Fedex office (hidden on a side road) after they decided NOT to honor my signature on file anymore, and took my package back to their offices...

I got the 5870 installed.


First off. It is a pretty big card. There are some screenies out there, and even a video showing just how big it is. Luckily the case I have can more than accommodate it. (The NZXT Hush series...padded for sound proofing as well...sweet case.)
I will let you find out all you need to know from the web about this beast of a card.

Suffice it to say, I have it with one goal in mind...Age of Conan frames.

Now, I got her installed, all excited about what this bad boy can do...then the first thing I notice after loading up, and leaving my settings as they were (Using 2x AA for example)...I had this happen...

Seems the lowest AA settings did not work. Now, of course, the drivers are pre-release, so this could explain the problem.
As well, any benchmarks will be suspect.
But, when I saw this...I got scared. Did I get a bad card? I decided to go ahead and play around and changed to 8x AA though, then all was good.

It seems that as part of ATI's new AA features, they have introduced a feature that Nvidia has had for a while..Super-Sample AA.

Now, lets not get too overloaded on jargon here, but let me say this...Super-Sample basically runs the card to supply AA multiple times to pixels to reduce shiny sparkles on edges when using AA (something Nvidia has to defeat...and believe me, sparkly textures can be just weird). And for those who do not know, AA just attempts to reduce jagged edges on objects in a game. Most normal players and gamers (my wife for example who nodded her head very nicely as I kept saying.."Look at the SMOKE from those chimneys")...well, they just don't get it.
Thats ok...this here stuff is for the geeks (and geekesses...all nice in their glasses and short skirts...WHA!! ...whew day dreaming...sorry).

ATI's goal with the new cards was to offer a "Maxxed" out experience for settings with minimal to no change in Framerates. Quality visual is key here while keeping performance.

So, how did that go? Lets get to the MEAT here.

Ready to see what this bad boy does?

First stop...Danger zone. Who remembers this from yesterday? 15.1 frames per second...OUCH.

Ok...now lets crank everything...all features on...and now what do we get?

26.6 FPS. We added over 11.5 FPS alone (and this is stock, with a few minor adjustments, UPWARDS even...using the super-sample)

So basically I can have ALL my features on (yes, even ones I have been turning off) and get some decent frames in one of the most harsh views in the game. (Still unimpressed that this area has such a low benchmark though)

I am close to the magic 30FPS here at least.

30FPS is really the bare minimum we wish to see in game, as this still allows a modicum of visual quality in movement and animation. Standard TV for example runs at 30FPS (not anymore thanks to HDTV...oh and before the super geeks come here and start quoting exacts...I know it is 27 something...but for arguments sake, we are sticking with the standard of 30 as is mostly quoted to be general.)

Now, I plan to do more testing and will be sharing the next two systems (the Medium and the Low End unit) and their specs along with performance. Then we will get into "tweaking"...but this is a good starting spot for those who are desperate for info.

So...a verdict. How do I feel so far about the ATI 5870? Well, this is kinda how I feel ...

Yes Virginia...that IS 259+ frames per second...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Age of Conan - System one!

Well, it is a go. System one will be complete come tomorrow. So, I wanted to stop in real quick and set ya up for what it would cost to make this monster machine...

650 Watt Power Supply- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817339024 (spend a few bucks more and get a name brand...but this one is working great for me)

X-Fi - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102017&Tpk=sb%20x-fi (for those extra few frames and of course, better sound quality)

$1026.00 (averaged out...oh and fixed dollar amount. Missed stuff I already owned...lol)

(Add tower case and DVD for about $100 more...so worth it)

So, as you can see, to get the most bang for the buck with minimal to no cost...this is the way to go.

I have spent a $1000 bucks, and I am at the top of my game short of going for Dual Video cards.
Some people mention the need for an i7, but I felt the cost/performance ratio to loss really added up.

Now, once I get my video card installed, I will start pulling some numbers for this setup, and then we will start working on changes to settings, the .ini file and more..


Age of Conan - This is a ..uh ..setup

Ah ...who am I kidding. Titles like that above will get me shot for sure. (Setup / Stickup...get it?...haha...yea)

Anyways, today is the first part of my series on performance, hardware and bang for buck when playing Age of Conan.

Since it's release, AoC has become the game most likely to fry your computer system (and I still remember the forum posts from those who said it actually did...hehe).
The capabilities, especially in DX10 of Conan shows that it is trying to be on par with First Person Shooter's in graphic details. This does not always bode well for an MMO though.
When speed is everything, and staying logged in and not blue screening or crashing is the foremost thought on the players mind...we need to make sure that we have the PC guts to keep it together.
Luckily, since launch, changes have been made to the code, and it does run smoother. That is...until you find the "hardcore" spots.

No matter the power of your system, if you have certain features turned on...be prepared to lose over 3/4 of your frame rate.

Here she is

This will be my test spot as I try to find the right settings using the right components and then comparing price points to see what you can get for the cash.
BTW, zoom in on that pic. Yes...you would see that the FPS in the upper left is...15.1.
I will post other comparison spots later as this series continues to show how the framerates normally run.
As one example, I can hit over 120FPS in some spots, and usually hover between 60-80 on a good outing.

Now, to make sure we understand what my test motives will be, I first of all cranked everything for the above picture. That is the sweet spot. Then I will slowly turn off features and go through settings adjusting to see what works best.

The above picture was done on my new i5-750 system with a 4890 and 4 gigs of DDR3 1600.

Here are the settings I used in game.

Now, I will note, I will NOT be using DX9 for this report. AoC has next gen capabilities in the software, and I see no reason to step back.
Lets look to the future.
Age of Conan is the ONLY MMO on the market that is 100% DX10 compliant (note: uses all features...DDO does not, LOTRO does not...not even EvE). And yet, it is still in "test" mode (lol). But, all reports point to the fact that the DX10 implementation is fully realized, thus lets see how it makes our systems work.

Moving on, for the cards I am using (ATI and Nvidia) these are the settings used in the respective control panels.

So, we see both ATI and Nvidia each have specific settings which can enhance the game, or help the game be faster...and ATI even allows me total clock control (for OC'ing, which I will be doing in this series.)

Finally, today is the day...my new ATI 5870 will be arriving. This card is suppose to be a beast...but will it have any effect on Age of Conan? Only time will tell.

Tomorrow I will pull together my complete system listings and show you how much each cost.

Stay tuned as it will be [bump] mappy...(ARGH...end jokes /now)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Age of Conan - Performance and what it will cost ya

Recently I have made several shifts in hardware on my PC for Age of Conan gaming.

Installed currently I have the following gear as my main PC...

  • i5-720 OC'd to 3.6GHz on air
  • ATI 4890 1GB model video card
  • 4 GB DDR3-1600
  • Western Digital 32mb Cache 640GB 2 platter hard drives (2)
  • SB X-Fi PCI-Express sound card

As well, in the house I have...
  • E8400 OC'd to 3.2
  • Nvidia GTX 260 896mb
  • 4 Gigs DDR3 1333
  • E7300 2.66Ghz
  • ATI 4870 512mb
  • 4 Gigs DDR2 1066
So, a variety of systems.

As we all know, Age of Conan really runs like a dog at times, and at other times runs very well. My plan is to find out what sweet spots for settings work for each of these PC's. Several use different resolutions due to monitors (system 1 is on a 42" TV at 1360x768, 2nd system at 1650x1200 and 3rd at 1440x900), so I will also take that into account as well as drivers and more.

As a final note, released today, is the new ATI 5870 1GB card, and I have one on order. This may change the layout here a bit, so only time will tell in that respect...but, overall I wish to see how performance goes at various settings with that unit as well. Does the GPU make a difference?
The CPU does for sure...
(As a side note, here is a listing of how the various video cards are ranking with specs on the 5870 in comparison to other cards..and WOW it is nice..(Source)

I have found several "harsh" spots of the game that bring the framerates to their knees (and believe it or not...it is NOT in raids.) and I will be using those for my comparisons. Over the next few days I will post screens of FPS counters in game and what settings we are using here.

As a last bit of info, I want to also track how much these systems would cost for the regular player. I will be back with a post on how much these parts can be obtained for so that you can track if it is really worth it to purchase new parts and what you would need to be satisfied with AoC performance.

Hold tight as this will get interesting.

Aion - Really?

As one twitterer proclaims "Aion is the best MMO EVAH", I cannot help but shake my head.

Bear with me, as I take a moment to discuss this game.

As we can probably see based on Xfire, box and digital sales and the god awful queue systems, Aion is a hit.



As I played the beta and saw what to me looked to be an un-cartoony WoW (ok...somewhat...I mean...what is up with those mobs in the starting zones?), I tried to find this most awesome game...

Polished? yep. Runs well when logged in? yep. Streamlined quest system and directions system? check. Great character models and ooo..wings? You got it.

Yet, here I was whacking away at mobs for almost a minute to kill just one. Get two or three on me, and I would start to suffer. As I went from one kill 10x quests to the next, I wanted to rip my hair out. As I ran down the path and other players ran right through me, I would cringe.
Why are people paying NCSoft for a game that just denotes that we as players do not want any change to the WoW systems.

Want unique gameplay? NOT HERE.

I think Tipa made a remark once that it is "familiarity" that is key to Aion's sales...and she is right. It is 100% familiar to me, and may be why I just do not want to be there.

All I have to say though is..."Thanks sheeples" as you have made it possible for NCSoft to now finish up Guild Wars 2 and really put some polish in. I can go back to Age of Conan and enjoy just a little more in regards to unique gameplay. And eventually we will see players go back to WoW...but for now, and the forseeable future, we do have another MMO hit....

It just happens to be the same as the old one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Age of Conan - Is she dying??

As we roll into Fall and see the release of several more MMO's on the horizon, I want to discuss how things look for Age of Conan.

First off, as we have all done in the past, we look over various sources of info which may reflect how the game is doing on the markets.

  • Sales of boxes and subs.

Box sales we cannot know for sure. But, we DO know the game has been available VERY cheaply from differing sources. I have seen multiple places with the game for 5 bucks.
I even took the plunge and found a Collectors Edition for only 7.99 (awesome soundtrack, art book, in game items...way cool).

But, the game IS available still for purchase. So, that is a plus.

Subscriber wise we have nothing. Funcom does not share this data, and we cannot tell by server listings (they have all been "Medium" since launch on the servers list...).
We can look at Xfire and see that it is back down into the 50's...but it has been holding steady there. Of note, in comparison, Warhammer Online has been at times in the 10's then the 20's, then the 30's. Now that Aion has launched...Warhammer is in the 50's. So, how is THAT for a comparison.

  • The naked eye.

As a player, I am on two servers now. The wife and myself will be starting on Wiccana, and we already have higher levels on SET.
For this conclusion of populace I use several features.
Sales of items on the trader, Raids being formed, Groups being formed, and visual.

Sales of items
Through various times of the day, the wife has a market on the trader. She continues a buy/sell system of various product that people want. We constantly see how these items are doing; Gems, Certain Resources, Rares (usually resources), and Blue BoE items.
We then compare this to how many are selling, prices and also variation in names.
The only difficulty here is we do not know how many of these are alts selling the same product. But, we CAN tell when someone is new (for example: Items sells for 5-7 silver and someone comes in and sells it for 2-3 coppers...NEWB!!).

So far, the market is STILL thriving, with the wife averaging 2-4 gold IN A DAY! Now, this is just SET. When we start on Wiccana, we will be able to see how their market is.

Next, we test the waters and see how many "crafted" pieces are for sale. We have several level of characters, and we can see if the items we "need" are for sale, and for how much. As we level, we also search each of the earmark levels (40, 50, 60, 70 and 80) and see just how many pieces exists.
SET has been slightly flat. Especially with the "high end" culture pieces.
These are special recipes for gear for specific classes (even though this has changed...but, we can tell what is for who...like if it has more INT., STR. etc...)
But, on Wiccana, there is a LOT more of the crafted pieces for sale based on a cursory view from a character I quick leveled there.
This leads me to believe there are MORE players on Wiccana than SET...but, for what level ranges?

For level ranges we can look at...

Through this method, we can view how many players at various level ranges are needing assistance.
First I will touch on Wiccana, since I have not had too much time there yet to look over the population. But, from the time I did log in, one thing was abundantly clear.
Lots of mid level stuff. Lots of Guild Recruiting, and lots of RP guilds (good deal). Several raids were going, and this was not prime time either. Also discussions were plenty (and not hateful...just chatting about game stuff).

SET on the other hand has a majority of Raids and most raids seem to need at least 6-8 people on average. This tells me (1) Guilds doing raids are not quite "full" (2) There are more higher levels than lower levels running on SET.
Also of note. Only large and notable guilds were recruiting on SET. Never saw any "new" names (Bloodline, Prophets, etc..all old standbys).

Something of interest on SET is a TON of PvP minis. Especially a new format.

12 man raid PvP, higher level...

Basically a group of 12 in a raid formation is set up. Then they all enter PvP at once. The system then splits this group up into the best team formats of 6vs6. So, there is not any "majority rules" class taking over the PvP.

This seems like a really cool idea and I hope it takes off.

How does she look Captain....?
We all know this is very subjective. I can only state what I see. Others may have varying viewpoints.
We all know we will never see launch day / Aion like numbers of people running around. But, what I want to know is DO I see anyone, and can I get groupings.
This weekend the wife and I headed out into a level 60+ zone and had several group based quests. We could not get anyone using the LFG method, so switched to using the built in tools and sending tells. We gained two people in our group this way. We also saw maybe 10 players in our particular zone using this tool. So, this is not good.
But, upon arrival back to the trader, we saw all of the traders full of players probably checking items, and what not.
As to Wiccana, since I was new, I could only see what was going on in Tortage...and it was bustling...whether from old players or new...who knows.

But, it was busy.

So for now, even though we have the launch of Aion, and even had Champions and Fallen Earth...it seems the population is not falling too much.

So, will it die? Hard to say.

Certainly not by year end. Discussion of new content and veteran rewards is coming down the pike (Craig has even said some stuff will be on Testlive this week).
My sub dies this coming Sunday. It looks like the wife and I are not done yet with the game, and I plan to reup again for another two months.

Maybe I am a glutton for punishment?

Naw, just the most fun I have had in an MMO in a LONGGGGG time.

Now...as a side note. I am still up in the air how much I will blog. But, I have had some questions about Dungeons (yes...for you Longasc)..so, I plan to tour some of these and discuss how they are working, etc.
Hopefully more on that as time permits.

Cheers all

Friday, September 18, 2009

Age of Conan - Podcast? Hmm

So, in discussing a return to blogging form, quite a few people noted they were interested in a podcast for Age of Conan.

It is true that not one single podcast exists for AoC, and I would be the first (lets edit this--I MEAN, I would be the ONLY one right now)

What interests me is maybe discussing some of the things going on in game. For example, economy and what is selling, not selling and maybe selling prices (a very harsh point right now, as due to some stupidities, some players continue to crash the market..). Maybe a discussion on some of the main quest lines or dungeons as well. Then finally do some of the news there.

I will have to think about it, and maybe listen to some game specific podcasts to get an idea of formats. But, I will put it on my list and see how it feels and maybe do a test run or two.

So far, I would be looking at a two week window for these. This way, I can compile some of the data from my news and what is happening in game.

Anyways, I better roll...some reason I am not feeling well today, and need to relax.

Later all.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

May return? Discuss

So...lately, I have felt an urge to blog again. I have been very quiet, and only reporting news. But, I am thinking some commentary is in order.

I really got flustered about a month ago over the MMO industry as a whole. I just could not see any reason to discuss these games, as the developers and the people who talk about these games all really turned into idiots.

Recently though, I have noticed that as I think about taking a break from Age of Conan (as my son will be going off to play Halo:ODST, and we will lose the super team of Wife, Hubby and Son)...I actually...

Do not want to.

I still am enjoying myself, and just cannot get myself to think about letting my scrip expire.

I have really not found anything at this point that inspires me to play. Champions Online was a bust, DDO, though free, bores me...Aion...well, I do not need another Lineage 2 / WoW clone.

So, I will continue to play, and will discuss some of what has happened over the last month I have been gone.

I may not post like I use to, and I still like the idea of a news outlet for AoC information...but, I will try my best to keep you guys up to date.

Anyways...this is just an inkling, and may soon go away again. We will see.

Later all...thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Age of Conan - Conqueror Revamp

Today marks what is believed to be the final revamps for the classes in Age of Conan. The Conqueror got their due, with a ton of changes in playability.

There is a lot of changes here from banners, to feats, to skills. It is massive.

Here are todays patch notes for more info. Better get reading!

  • Fixed an issue where you could get soul fragments from Sprit of Nightfall while in poison stance.

  • Fixed an issue where you could not use Manifestation of Spirit until you were level 17.


The Conqueror buff system of Auras, Battle Cries, Formations, Orders and Commands has been streamlined and improved. Players now have 6 team abilities divided into two types of buffs: Disciplines and Formations. Players have 3 Disciplines and 3 Formations to choose from, and may have 1 discipline and 1 formation active at any time. During the course of a battle, a conqueror has the choice of either temporarily replacing his active formation with an aoe/team-effect banner, or replacing his active discipline with a more powerful solo buff. These actions may be achieved through new abilities granted to all Conquerors called "Plant Banner" and "Grant Technique." After the temporary effect has expired, the original buff which was replaced is reapplied.

Team Effects:
  • Discipline: Retribution - grants melee and magic retribution damage.
  • Discipline: Hoarfrost - grants armor and spell penetration.
  • Discipline: Precision - grants hit rating.
  • Formation: Fire Weave - grants fire combat rating and a fire damage proc.
  • Formation: Skirmish - grants mana/stamina regeneration and bonus weapon damage.
  • Formation: Thunderhead - grants evade and critical damage bonus increase.

Temporary Solo Effects (replaces the corresponding Discipline)
  • Technique: Retribution - grants an absorb shield (scaling with your level, up to 750 points at level 80), while granting half the normal amount of armor, protection and retributive damage. There is also a particle effect for as long as the absorb shield lasts.
  • Technique: Hoarfrost - grants critical rating and gives your attacks a chance to stack up both the Physical and Elemental Torment debuffs.
  • Technique: Precision - grants increased weapon damage.

Team/Aoe Banners (replaces the corresponding Formation)
  • Fire Weave Banner - inflicts fire damage to all enemies around the banner.
  • Skirmish Banner - provides mana/stamina regeneration and a half-power "green" heal to all allies around the banner. This secondary heal follows the normal rule of ordinary team heals (maximum 2 "green" heals active on a target).
  • Thunderhead Banner - provides bonus immunity chance and a reactive mana burn effect (triggered from being hit by a hostile spell) to all allies around the banner.
  • All three banners have some obvious particle effect so you can see the area size.

Feat Changes
  • Improved Inspire feat changed name to 'Resolute Advance.' This feat gives 10/20/30% root resistance, and when rooted the conqueror can use his charge to break the root effect and apply a 2/4/6 second root immunity.
  • Whirlwind will now place Deep Wounds on targets it hits, if you have Deep Wounds trained.
  • When consuming a Furious Inspiration stack of 10 with bladeweave, you will also get a critical increase.
  • The Burst of Aggression knockback will now affect all enemies hit by that swing, not just one target.
  • Power Counterstrike has changed position in the feat tree to where Improved Furious Inspiration used to be. This feat has been renamed 'Improved Retaliation' and now increases the retributive damage and duration of the Retaliation buff. It has a dependency link to Retaliation.
  • Improved Furious Inspiration has been moved to row 6. It now also increases the critical chance of the Guard of Dancing Steel reactive damage hits by 2/4/6/8/10%.
  • Angel of Fury has been augmented. In addition to its current effect, when you perform a physical critical hit, you have a 50% chance of triggering a Furious Inspiration gain. You gain an additional +10% chance for each point in Improved Furious Inspiration, up to a 100% total chance.
  • The Frostbite feat has been replaced with Scourge. This causes the reactive damage proc gained from Guard of Dancing Steel a 33% base chance of inflicting damage on enemies casting hostile spells on you. This chance gets increased by the Improved Dancing Steel feat. Scourge has moved down 1 tier and has no pre-requisite
  • Guardsmans Feint has been renamed to Blessed Blade and is now a 20/40/60/80/100% chance of obtaining a buff when executing Hail of Furious Strikes or Bloody Hack that heals you by 1% the next 3 attacks.
  • Cold Steel Feat renamed to Furious Strikes. This feat decreases reuse time on Hail of furious strikes comboline by 0.8 seconds per point up to a total of 4 seconds. In addition it also enhances the improved feint and feint combo line by increasing critical rating by 1.5/3/4.5/6/7.5% when used.
  • Art of war now gives the Conqueror a stacking combat rating buff every time he inflicts critical damage.
  • Tactical Mastery feat has been renamed to Hemorrhage, and increases damage from Bloodbath, Deep Wounds, Lacerate and Rend Flesh by 7.5/15% while Art of war is running.
  • Quick Vengeance has been removed and replaced with Grievous Wounds. This new feat swaps positions with Lightning Steel. Grievous Wounds grants you 1/2/3/4/5% increased critical damage. Additionally, it causes the stamina cost of Rend Flesh procs to be decreased by 5/10/15/20/25% per target currently affected by your Bloodbath dot; affecting enough targets will cause Rend Flesh to cause you to gain stamina per proc rather than lose it.
  • Bloodlust now enhances the Breach combos by granting a buff after use that increases the damage of your next combo finisher by 25%
  • Improved Dancing Steel has been buffed to increase the reactive proc by 8/16/24/32/40% from 2/4/6/8/10%
  • Improved Vitalize feat renamed "Improved Throat Slash" and moved position to row 6, column 1. This feat now extends the silence effect from throat slash by 1/2/3 seconds. The Improved Throat Slash also increases the critical damage bonus of the Guard of Dancing Steel reactive damage hits by 33/66/100%.
  • The reactive damage from Guard of Dancing Steel is now able to critically hit.
  • Bladeweave has swapped positions with Crippling Bloody Hack feat in the Brute tree.
  • Steel Discipline changed name to Impervious Defense, and now grants 3/6% bonus armor.
  • Lingering Fire weave now increases the critical chance of the fire weave proc by 5%
  • Devastate has changed position in the feat tree, on same tier (cosmetic change).
  • At Death's Door changed to give the conqueror 6/12/18% damage deflection if health drops below 25%. This buff can only be obtained once per minute.
  • Moved At Death's Door to row 8, column 4.
  • Lacerate has been changed to only tick every third second, to give bigger numbers. The overall damage of Lacerate has been slightly increased.
  • When using Flashing Defense, Overcome the Odds, or Blessed Conquest you will now have a blocking buff cast on you, stopping you from using another of these abilities for 30 seconds.
  • Mocking Sneer's hate increase on combo starters has been boosted significantly. Each feat point should now add 10% hate on combo starters in defensive stance.
  • Improved Shield of Retribution has been renamed to Improved Retribution. It now increases the armor, protection, and retributive damage that you receive when using running Discipline: Retribution, and Technique: Retribution.
  • Remorseless Aggression has changed to clear the Burst of Aggression cooldown when you or your group get a killing blow. It now has Burst of Aggression as a pre-requisite.
  • The hate buff you get after using Burst of Aggression is now a friendly buff and not a hostile buff.
  • Changed Lingering fireweave to increase the Critical chance of the fireweave proc by 5%
  • The Ability - Cunning feat has changed. It is now 2 feats rather than 3. It now grants an ability that gives you -2%/-5% hate while active. It is now a "stance" toggle effect so can be turned on and off rather than needing to be used constantly. This feat now also passively increases the critical chance of the Lacerate, Deep Wounds, Rend Flesh and Improved Rend effects by 1%/2%, regardless of whether you have the Cunning buff running or not.
  • The Fleet of Foot feat has been redesigned. It will now clear the cooldown on your Charge ability whenever you or someone in your team makes a kill.
  • The Combo - Flashing Defense feat has been changed to Ability - Flashing Defense. This no longer grants you a combo, but instead grants you a new ability that gives you +100% evade chance for 8 seconds.
  • Whirlwind now has a 10 seconds cooldown. When you use the Whirlwind combo, you will gain a stacking buff that increases your Whirlwind damage by 1% and Bloodbath damage-over-time damage by 2%. This effect can stack up to 5 times.
  • Rend Flesh and Improved Rend can now critically hit. The Rend Flesh debuff name will no longer change as the stack builds up (it will always appear as Rend Flesh).
  • The Lightning Steel feat has been augmented. In addition to its current ability, when you have the Lightning Steel buff effect active, your successful offhand attacks have a 5/10/15/20/25% chance to refresh the duration of your current Bladeweave effect.
  • Bladeweave is no longer marked as a hostile debuff, and will now appear in your buff bar.
  • Deep Wounds has been moved into the Carnage tree, and received a number of changes. The tick interval has been increased to 4 seconds, the overall damage increased, and it now has the normal chance to crit. This DOT can now also be applied from offhand attacks, not just primary hand attacks. The proc rate has been increased from 5 to 6 proc-per-minute. Each conqueror can now have their own Deep Wounds stack on the target, rather than there just being one. The way the damage is calculated has been changed and will now improve based on your weapon dps and strength. The DOT applied is now always called Deep Wounds, rather than changing per rank.
  • Overcome the Odds has been redesigned. When used, it debuffs nearby enemies into healing you as they physically attack you. Additionally, it clears the cooldown of Retaliation when used.
  • The War Lord's March feat has been removed. The War Lord feat will now additionally grant 6% out of combat movement speed in addition to its existing effects.
  • Berserk Inspiration has been changed slightly. It now has an independent change to increment the Furious Inspiration stack from offhand attacks, at a significantly higher rate.
  • Improved Furious Inspiration now also increases the health/stamina/mana the resurrected target spawns with by 18% per feat point, up to 100% with all 5 feat points trained.
  • Some issues with Lacerate have been fixed. Lacerate now has the normal chance to critically hit. The name of Lacerate will no longer change based on the stack count. Multiple conquerors now generate multiple stacks (one per conqueror) of Lacerate, rather than a single stack.
  • Reaping Blade feat now increases damage by "Bloodbath, Lacerate and Deep Wounds" by 5%.
  • Both end tier feats in the Carnage tree now reduces the recast time of Rend Flesh by 5 seconds, for a total of 10 seconds reduction if both feats are trained.

Ability changes
  • The Furious Resurgence resurrection ability has been split up and you will now receive an additional ability called Resurgence. Resurgence can only be used when you are out of combat, while Furious Resurgence can be used in combat, as before.An additional check has been added to both to see that your target is actually dead before using the ability, so that the ability will not allow itself to be used (and hence not go on cooldown) if you have a target selected which is not yet dead.

PLEASE NOTE : You will need to recast Soul Barrier and/or Pact of Malacador after the update if you logged out with those active.
  • Fixed the effect on the Dark Templar combo line Leech Life so the skull correctly appears above the head of the Dark Templar.
  • The Dread Shadow pet will no longer lose life before despawning.
  • The old Soul Barrier and Pact of Malacodor spells should no longer show in your spellbook, and only appear in your Abilities tab.
  • When you use the Pact of Malacodor ability to remove the active buff, it will correctly go on a 5 second cooldown.
  • Fixed some issues with Swapping Covenants.

  • Fixed an issue that made Inferno of Amher to never critically hit.


  • Atzel's Approach
  • Vaskeque will no longer offer the quest ‘Against the Larva Matrons’ and ‘Worm Holes’ to players who already have them.
  • Rulvio will no longer try to offer ‘The Killing Zone’ quest to players who already have it.
  • ‘The agents of Thoth-Amon are no more’ will no longer show up unless you are handing in the quest ‘The Killing Zone’.
  • The quest marker over Prosco's head should now be gone when he doesn't have any more quests for you.

  • Using the rest ability while swimming or climbing will no longer result in the ability going on cooldown.
  • Fixed an issue where players could hit through Shield of the Risen, forcing your procs to hit back and the Shield to despawn.
  • Ranged attacks without target should now work properly again.
  • When NPCs that run after you give up and return to their spawn point, you should not be stuck in combat mode anymore.

  • If you sheathe your weapon in the middle of performing a multi-button combo, the combo will now correctly cancel. You should no longer see yourself doing a combo with no weapons in hand.
  • Weapons are now placed correctly in your hands again if you attack while sheathing your weapons.

  • Capture the skull: If no skulls are captured the game will now end in a tie.
  • Fixed an issue with invisible objects/characters when teleporting out of a minigame.

Age of Conan - To be "Enlightened"

Funcom purchases new technology for use in Age of Conan and The Secret World.

The new technology, called Enlighten, will shape a new visual look for Age of Conan and will be in the new expansion, Rise of the Godslayer.

The new look of "Age of Conan", with Enlighten technology incorporated, was first demonstrated publicly at GDC Europe and Gamescom in Cologne. The demo drew crowds of admiring attendees at both exhibitions who were amazed by the visual quality of the demonstration.

Gary Lewis, CEO Geomerics commented, “To work with a partner of the calibre of Funcom has been a real privilege. We will continue to work closely with them to support their ambition and vision and give their artists the exceptional tools they need to create some of the most visually compelling games ever seen – certainly the reaction from both consumers and press is confirming our conviction that Enlighten is achieving this.”

Rui Caisas, CTO Funcom added, “Working with Geomerics has been a pleasure for us. Their technology is unique in the industry and with their help and support we have been able to integrate it into our tools and pipeline. It’s truly exciting to use Enlighten and keep on pushing the envelope of graphical immersion in MMO-gaming by creating heart-pounding and stunningly realistic experiences for our gamers. Enlighten is now part of our core proprietary engine Dreamworld, and we look forward to further utilizing its possibilities with our next title “The Secret World”.

Hopefully we will see some screenshots soon for the differences in the tech. The fact Funcom continues to purchase new code shows a commitment to Age of Conan as well as their upcoming title "The Secret World".

More news as it happens

Monday, September 14, 2009

Age of Conan - Conquerors revamp patch Tuesday

The US servers for Age of Conan will come down for an update on Tuesday, September 15th at 11 am GMT / 7 am EDT. The downtime is scheduled to last around 6 hours.

This update will also include changes to the Conqueror class. Characters who are Conquerors will also receive a free reset

We will publish the patch notes here once they are available.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Age of Conan - Massively discusses RoG

Rise of the Godslayer, the new expansion for Age of Conan was discussed in detail on Massively (Source).

It does look like some clarification is needed though, as the article mentions one point.

"Interestingly, the Gateway to Khitai, which is part of a 20-to-40 area, is the only new area being added with the expansion. The vibe we got was that Funcom wants to flesh out the less potent part of the game world's content and this level spread was the weakest link -- at least until now."

This proves to be a conundrum when information like this is stated, when in fact Craig has gone on record at one point discussing new "Level 80" content.

"The steppes of the Gateway to Khitai provide level 20-40 adventuring, and lead players up to the Great Wall. But not beyond it.
'Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer' Screenshot 2

Lots of sheer cliffs, lots of rope bridges; some areas have a Thousand Needles vibe.

To get beyond the Wall and into Khitai proper, you'll need a high-level character"(Source)


Hopefully this will be rectified
In the mean time, there is still some good information there, so please give it a read.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Age of Conan - Silirrion on new starting location

Craig Morrison stopped by the forums due to some questions and concerns about the starting zone of Tortage.

He had this to say...

"It's unlikely we will introduce a different new player area anytime soon. Tortage works very well for new players and is part of the game that consistently gets very good feedback. This means it is not an area of the game that we consider needs any major changes or additions as it suits its purpose very well and is effective.

New player areas primary purpose aren't for veteran players, they are for new players, and there I think the current area really works.

In terms of possibly allowing veteran players to 'skip' Tortage in some manner (maybe once they have done all four archetypes or something like that) that is something we probably will consider at some stage."


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Age of Conan - Photos from Dragon-Con

Looks like lots of partying and Cosplay await you at the photo page for Funcom's Dragon-Con 2009 appearance for Age of Conan.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Age of Conan - Exclusive Godslayer footage

Ten Ton Hammer has some exclusive in game footage of the "Rise of the Godslayer", the new expansion for Age of Conan, for our perusal.

We see in this video a walk around a village at the base of the Great Wall. Ten Ton also notes that players enter Khitai at level 20, thus giving a new experience for the levels 20-40 (as well as additions to endgame).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Age of Conan - Khitai lore

Over at the Cimmerian blog is a 3 part series as it relates to the Khitai.

The Khitai are the new race being introduced in the Age of Conan expansion "Rise of the Godslayer".
The posts deal with an in depth look at various culture reference, lore and what has been noted by Funcom so far.

This first part of the series deals with Geography and Ecology

The second deals with Religion and Culture

The third is based on the Peoples and Trade.

If you are like me, and enjoy how the lore works in Age of Conan, how Funcom strictly stick to guidelines and how the world in AoC matches the books, this is a great read.
Craig Morrison has stated that a lot of research has went into studying Asian culture, buildings, etc. So, hopefully a lot of what we see on these posts will be integrated.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Age of Conan - Upcoming PAX coverage

This weekend marks the second entry in information on Rise of the Godslayer for Funcom.

PAX is underway in Seattle with Craig Morrison.
There also is some presence at Dragon-Con as well, with The Famine leading the charge.
Age of Conan will of course be overwhelmed by the news of the Secret World being announced. We won't let that stop us here, and we will share news as soon as it arrives.

Stay tuned for more coverage as it comes in.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Age of Conan - Funcom opens Canadian offices

It has recently been anounced that Funcom will be opening a new studio in Montreal. This particular office will be focused on Age of Conan and the upcoming title "The Secret World".

You can read more information on this bit of news here

"Norwegian developer and publisher Funcom, which focuses heavily on massively multiplayer online games, will be opening a new studio in Montreal, Quebec, assisted by Investisseement Quebec, the company announced today."