Thursday, June 19, 2008

Epic Fail: World First Age of Conan Siege

The news couldn't get worse for Age of Conan (AoC). World first siege, between PFB and LOTD, turns out to be unplayable.
"PFB did the server's first siege (world first?) this morning at 6am EST on LOTD, a few Sinister who were online decided to take the opportunity to see how "polished" siege warfare was. The naysayers were pretty much deadon. It took little time to break down the main gate (max of 4-5 mins), buildings in general go down really fast with the full raid on them. Siege weapons don't work yet, and the mercenary system isn't in (we had to drop our guild for the siege in order to not kill each other even in the same raid). Keeps still have vunerable areas where you can just run past the walls (on the LOTD keep it was on the right side of the outer wall). After breaching the outer wall we ran into the major problem (I guess?) of sieging. LAG. I run a quad core 2.4ghz 2 gig ram and a 8800GT, and I had a solid 2-3fps once we engaged (btw i spent 500 dollars upgrading my pc for this game). Trying to actually fire combos and kill anyone was virtually impossible unless they were rooted."
This wasn't even that many players and AoC is planning to somehow have 150 vs 150 battles? World of Warcraft (WoW) managed 40 vs 40. Most good FPS games max out around 32 vs 32. There was a lot of prior history for Funcom to learn from and set attainable goals. They seem to have disregarded all of it in favor of putting big numbers in their press releases.

I am sick of posting these followups to AoC, highlighting the same problems beta testers were talking about in beta. I'm sick of people telling me I was wrong about AoC. I am sick of people telling me how "fun" AoC is. Games that are not complete, are not fun.

The fact is: Funcom tested NONE of AoC's features outside of leveling, and tested leveling only to the point that it was possible to reach level 80, not whether it was fluid or consistent.

Guild cities? No testing.
PvP sieges? No testing.

I quote a beta tester that participated in the siege:
I'm pretty sick of beta testing the game honestly. I pushed for the last 2 months of beta to get level 80 pvp implemented. I asked for the final month of the beta to have a /80 command so that we could test their endgame/pvp content. Nothing...they didnt do ****. It was a smooth release, but they knew from beta that people would be at endgame content within the first couple of weeks due to their fast leveling curve....yet they continue to push level 30-50 content. ****ing stupid.
A few days of stress testing would have easily shown that neither worked! Something that doesn't work should not be launched for the public to suffer through. That is the old MMO market, not the post-WoW market.

I understand the need for games to launch early. I don't agree with it and I think there is a lot of evidence to show that delaying until finished is very financially viable. However, I must admit that is not how some development houses are run and the need to launch happens. It is just mind-boggling to me that developers don't at least hold major features back that just don't work. Stick with what works, make it really good, and worry about the other stuff later. Most importantly, don't list features on the box that will not make it into the final game or that are unlikely to actually work.

I will compare this situation directly to Pirates of Burning Seas (PotBS). PotBS took a huge delay to put in Avatar Combat. Avatar Combat failed miserably and painfully took away development time from polishing what did work: ship combat and the economy. PotBS could easily be enjoying life as a niche success, but instead the developers are patching in the polish that could of easily been added had Avatar Combat just been ignored until later.

PotBS had huge player numbers at launch, but a few server merges and months later, and it is evident no one stuck around. That is EXACTLY what will happen to AoC. Anyone that doesn't believe me, doesn't understand the power of history to teach the human race.

AoC players better prepare for a long wait, because the siege system is going to require an entire rewrite to become playable. Maybe the rest of the game will hold up and entertain those looking for sieges and epic guild conflict. Maybe, just maybe, Funcom will pull another "Miracle Patch" out of their ass. I doubt it, but I'm going to leave the possibility door open.

We sit here, again, with the long-standing MMO tradition of forcing the player base to test in-game systems after launch. The laundry list of mistakes that AoC has made, is making, and will continue to make is immense. I firmly stand by my position to not play AoC.
Update: 25 June 08 - More commentary here.


  1. Anonymous11:48 AM

    There are city sieges? I was having too much fun in the PvE to notice I guess, but then I didn't buy Conan to participate in PvP.

    When did WoW finally get around to putting in 40 vs 40 matches? 2 years after launch or something?

    Like any other MMO I have played in the last 10 years, if you rush to the level cap you will be disappointed. Take your time and it all seems so much more enjoyable.

  2. "Games that are not complete, are not fun."

    I think even you'd admit in retrospect that writing this was going for impact with quite a bit of exaggeration.

    I think most people can easily think up many situations where this would not be true. Even if we dismiss these imagined possibilities as immaterial because they're imagined, we'd certainly concede that "fun" is subjective. That acceptance alone tends to invalidate the factuality of the (not complete=not fun) assertion.

    I don't point this out for its own sake, but because I think it's really valid in this case. I and my mates are having a lot of fun with AoC right now.

    As an aside, thanks for the blog. It's entertaining.

  3. Funcom:
    We are very serious about our Massive Siege PvP system and we became more aggressive on fixing several issues appearing in that regard. The bulk of the feedback can be summarized within two categories: a) Client performance and b) Content and collision.

    I would like to say that most of you – our players – most likely have some time to go before you reach the stage where Siege Battles become a daily activity. It is unfortunate that some of these issues have arisen, but it will not be felt personally for most of our players as they will be addressed before you participate in Massive Siege. Funcom and I have a clear policy on focusing clearly and honestly on problems. This will give you predictability and the hopefully will be what you, our customers, see us as a company – clear and open.

    Client Performance

    The client performance seems to be the biggest issue. Luckily we already had several improvements of performance styled directly towards the siege battles in the pipeline when we got this feedback. We are confident that we will be able to get these update s to you within a short time. (We hope to get some out as early as on the Monday down-time!)

    The improvements will include: a) ways to remove / hide performance impacting particles and sound, b) a more stylized view-distance (shorter and more pvp fitting) in the battle areas to increase framerate c) changes to how certain abilities and spells are being propagated. We are also confident that this fixes will greatly improve the framerate and overall client performance in the Siege Battles.

    We will not stop optimizing this until we get to a stage where we are happy that all clients can host / participate in Siege PvP.

    Content and collision

    There were other problems with the siege battles as well. Luckily these are less severe in scope and it should be doable to address them all. We already have collision bug fixes for the dynamic collision in these areas on their way.

    I hope you understand we do not take this lightly and that we are doing a strong push to address all issues immediately.

    Gaute Godager
    Game Director

  4. Heh, I don't even need to talk anymore. The AoC developers do plenty of "oh, yeah, that thing. yeah it doesn't really work, but have no fear, we'll get around to it."


    I agree. You rush to the level cap and you'll be disappointed.

    However, I think developers should of learned by now that players are going to hit the end fast. Early adopters are everything for word of mouth, and if when the first people get to the end and it doesn't work, not many are going to follow behind.

    This is just a first report. What happens when the first patch comes to fix sieges and they still don't work?

    What happens when you are doing killing your ten rats (aka done with the PvE), and find nothing else in the game works correctly?

    Chances are you aren't going to stick around and all you'll be able to say is "it was fun for a bit". So there, I admit it, some people will find fun in AoC.

  5. "but then I didn't buy Conan to participate in PvP"

    So much for your end game then because that is the major selling point.

    That would be like playing Warhammer and saying "i didnt buy this to participate in RVR content!"

    I keep seeing MMO companies doing a stall tactic when they release unfinished games, and the one it bit in the ass the most was Tabula Rasa. Which is a shame because I wanted it to do so well, we NEED a good sci fi game

  6. *cough* KOTORO *cough*

    Yes, I'm getting me early fanboism out of the way for KOTORO.

  7. Still having fun in Age of Conan but I'm only level 48. I do notice some horrible bugs in boss AI but I haven't had anything wreck the game for me. In all honesty as long as I can chop heads off and steal treasure from evil Set worshippers I'm good.

  8. Anonymous9:18 PM

    The hard core gamers that rush to the end and quit are a catch-22 for me. They are the early adopters and vocal minority and they have a large impact on the general opinion of a game's status. However, I'd like them to burn through the game, point out the bugs and move along leaving the game to people like me to enjoy the fixes that they held a glaring light onto.

    Will I play it a long time? I don't play any MMO a long time any more. I play while they are fun and then I quit. Heck, I only made it to level 40 in WoW before I got bored.

  9. Anonymous9:49 PM

    The thing is... no one has to rush to hit the level cap in AoC. On DAY FIVE of release I was almost level 40 and I had no idea where to go and what to kill; I was a noob and those who knew what they were doing leveled even faster. People who were playing with me that continued playing hit level 80 within 2 weeks of casual playing.

    The "end-game" of AoC IS PvP sieges. That's where Funcom placed their chips for AoC's longevity. The recent address they made basically says "Hrmm, you noticed that? Crap".

    Anyone who didn't see this coming obviously had their eyes closed. I have to side with Heartless_ on this one.

  10. Anonymous1:10 AM

    how did BLizzard managed to launch World of Warcraft in such complete way with lot of content (eg different starting area for diff races) and lot of stuff to do beside levelign (eg exploring, crafting)

    how did Turbine manage to launch LOTRO so smoothy ? albeit they just cloned WOW. but still it feels very smooth and polished.

    how did these 2 companies manage to avoid mistakes that vanguard, aoc, tabularasa, potbs and autoassault made ??

  11. Looks like their second siege did much better
    Complete with video

    Deathwhisper Siege

  12. As much as I'm having fun with AoC, this is pretty depressing.

    I'll just leave it at that and thank Jeebus I'm only 45 in-game.

  13. Anonymous2:59 PM


    hardcore players gtfo!

  14. Heartless is right on with this post. My comments had gotten so long that I decided to copy/paste them out of here into my own post lol. Funcom is at a crossroads yet again, fix this stuff immediately or watch the mass exodus...that's my summary.

  15. Spot on as usual heartless. Just another round of marketing bullshit with little to no beta testing.

    I'm having fun with AOC, but thats only because I'm not playing it like I did WOW 12+ hours per day for a month. If I did, I would probably cancel my sub, flame the forums, and never buy another funcom product again.

    They knew this shit was going to happen, but I think they just chalked all the problems up to the price of being hardcore.

  16. Anonymous11:31 AM

    I think your Fps problem is also your 2GB ram, for aoc with 40+ people on screen its just for 1-2 fps :). In wow if we rushed IF as 2*40 raid horde we managed to crash the kalimdor server, but it was not a fps problem just lag. They will need some serious hardware for siege wars.


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