Another month has flown by and the next month will see a series of important and exciting developments for Age of Conan so this is the perfect opportunity to give you all an update on what’s coming your way.

All things GDC…

Last week some of us were at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and while members of the team were busying themselves learning at the various panels, lectures and roundtables I took some time out to spend a day with members of the press talking a little about the past present and future of Age of Conan. It was a great opportunity to chat about everything that has changed in the game since launch and to highlight the work that the team has been doing to improve your experience in the game.

When you actually sit down and start to list all the improvements, changes and additions to the game it does serve as a good measure of how far we have come, and how far we still plan to take things. I found that summarizing everything that has been updating in the space of short interview sessions was actually quite a challenge, I usually ended up thinking ‘and I forgot to mention that!’ as we drew near the end of each session. Keep your eyes peeled for the various interviews and updates from the show as they get released.

Spreading the word…

Another good reason to take the opportunity to speak to the press about the status of the game right now is that we are working on getting a free trial campaign out there for Age of Conan. This marks an important milestone for the team as we get to show the game to a wider audience and allow more people to explore Hyboria and enjoy the game. Personally I am really looking forward to seeing people try the game for themselves, at the end of the day I can speak to journalists and do interviews or articles like this as much as I want, and tell you all how hard we are working on the game, but nothing beats actually being able to log in and try for yourself.

One of the journalists who interviewed me last week was a little bemused when he asked the question ‘What would you tell people interested in Age of Conan?’ and I answered with ‘Don’t listen to what I say!’ the extension of that is for people to listen to you guys, the people playing the game, because the true test is in your own experiences in Hyboria, Our aim is to make sure you guys are having fun and enjoying the game so when your friends ask you that very same question you can tell them that you enjoy the game, and how it has developed and that they should try it. Nothing I say can possibly beat that recommendation from a friend!

Updates, Updates, Updates

My last letter dealt with the upcoming update to the game and I am very glad to report that you will be seeing the update hit the public test servers over the next week (hopefully at least, as I write this the testing is looking good and it’s ready for the public testing stages). When the update goes to the public test servers there will be a number of related articles posted that explain the new systems, what has changed, and what the considerations are, alongside the full preliminary update notes.

This will be quite a lot of information, and include a full run-down of the new gem crafting system, and it will be quite a lot to take in. So the first thing I will ask of everyone when the information goes out is to read through it all first before starting to formulate your inevitable questions. In isolation some of the changes, in particular those relating to the classes, might not all make sense unless you have read the release information and know the context of all the changes.

So please take the time out to read through the release information when it comes. We are trying to ensure that everything is clearly communicated so you will be able to see and understand the context of all the changes. The player feedback cycle is an important, and indeed vital, part of this process. The versions through this public testing cycle will almost certainly evolve and allow us to tweak the new values appropriately for both balance and game-play considerations so it’s important that those who wish to give feedback understand how it all fits together.

I’m not going to go into any detail here as you’ll get the information overload very shortly when the test servers are updated.

Lastly I wanted to mention something here that came up when we were preparing for the press last week, and that’s the goals and ambitions we have set for the team this year. During the development of the game the key phrase that was used to establish the goals of the project was ‘Combat, Combat, Combat’ and I think that goal was perfectly realized in our combat system, and element of the game that continues to be a key feature and unique element players enjoy with our game. When we set out to define the goals for the development team for the ongoing production we decided to keep with the ‘C’ theme, so the goals of the team are to focus on ‘Content, Conflict, Character and Community’

Content – Our continued desire to keep providing exciting and engaging new content for players

Conflict – Build on the game’s strong PVP elements and continue to expand on the brutal world of Hyboria

Character – Strive to provide better options for character development, something that is obviously the key focus at the moment with our impending revamp of items and statistics in the next major game update.

Community – One of the key goals for the next year will be improving upon the community and guild functionality in the game to give the players more tools to craft their own space and identity in the world of Hyboria. You’ll get to hear more on this once the items and statistics update is live.

Given these are the cornerstones that we are building your game experience on I wanted to share them with you here. These aren’t just the buzzwords used by marketing to make for good sound-bites (although I think the ‘C’ theme does serve to make it easy to remember, which is also important for reminding the team!) but the focus areas we have for continuing to expand and build the Age of Conan experience. So I hope that you will all continue to appreciate the development of the game as we start to welcome newcomers to that experience!