It's only been two days now since we visited Funcom in Oslo, Norway to chat about and check out Age of Conan at their homely design studio. This is part three of our article series covering all of the information shared, and it contains details on armor graphics, animations, sound and mounted combat.
One quick piece of information to pass along before getting started is that female character models will be in the beta very soon -- probably the next build -- so players will be able to create a female version of their class if they so choose. Funcom was adamant about wanting to do the Conan era female justice, and felt that players experiencing anything else would dampen the enjoyment of the game. They feel they've reached that point now, so they're prepared to unveil them to the beta populace.
In recent years, there have been MMOs released that lacked visual quantity -- keeping the number of unique armor graphics low and simply tinting them a different color. This is luckily not the case with Age of Conan.
During our tour of the office on January 18th, we were shown some of the different pieces of armor in the game. Many of these armor pieces are designed to fit in with pieces from other slots, to give the look of wearing a matching set of armor.
In total, there are over 1500 unique armor piece graphics in the game to-date, many of which are stylized to specific regions of the world, giving them flavor and ensuring that a Stygian will look different from an Aquilonian. Of course, female armor is being created to look different from male armor, too -- adding even more to the uniqueness in character looks, based on your gender choice.
In a similar vein to armor graphics, we had the chance to meet the team that does all of the motion capture work for Age of Conan and then turns that into the animations you see in the game. Over 8,000 animations have been captured in the Funcom Motion Capture Studio, located within the Funcom office building. All of these animations have then been put through their paces and converted into something that looks good in-game; the typical animation can take anywhere from several hours to a couple days to implement, depending on its complexity.
Each class will be receiving their own unique fatality animations, too. And for those concerned with the run animation, Funcom agrees that it needs work, so they've been optimizing and capturing the run animation again recently, to hopefully improve upon it and make it seem like something more natural than it currently does.
While motion capture animations add to realism, there are of course instances where it's simply not possible to motion capture something -- like the mammoth mount, or many of the boss encounters in the game. When's the last time you've seen a blood fiend running around? Yeah, I haven't either!
In the case of the mammoth, Funcom did some tricky manipulation of available animations to make it fit with the model, and in the case of many of the bosses, their animations have been hand-created.
The tour also lead us into the sound room where Funcom creates all of the sounds for Age of Conan. Players can expect to be overwhelmed with music in the game -- over three hours worth has been recorded so far, and there's still work yet to be done prior to the game's launch.
Conan's sound is in Dolby 5.1, meaning it supports surround sound; great for those times when you want your neighbors to hear you decapitating your foe! It doesn't stop at 5.1 sound, though -- there are also three distinct sound source options: from the character, from the camera -- giving more of a cinematic feel, and experimental. Age of Conan's Sound Director explained that experimental was created for those cases where players don't want to hear sound from a specific source each time it's played. Instead, the game will choose which best fits the situation and play the sound from the appropriate source.
Finally, a bit of information on mounted combat was shared with us. We met the folks in charge of designing mounted combat in Conan, and they gave us some juicy details on why you'd want to ride a mount around.
First and foremost, mounting a horse, rhino, or mammoth -- the three mounts that will be available in the game at launch -- gives you unique opportunities to use the mount in combat, not just fight from it. Your horse, for example, can be controlled to kick with its front or hind legs. A mammoth on the other hand can be used to slam something with its tusks, be it a ground unit, or buildings.
Additionally, mounts will grant you bonuses to health, armor, etc. You can consider them an addition to your character; while the mount can't be killed separately from you, they do require to be killed along with you. Examples of buffs given were an armored horse that might increase your health slightly, while also increasing your armor. Mammoths, since they don't wear armor, would give fairly substantial health boosts, but very minimal or no armor boosts.
That said, there are also disadvantages of mounting, which is honestly a good thing since it will provide strategical reasons for using certain mounts in PvP, and ensures you won't run around seeing everyone riding a horse. The primary disadvantages for the horse is that you cannot use melee combos; you'll also be at a disadvantage terrain-wise in PvP battles when obstacles that a ground unit can pass through exist, as your horse may prevent you from doing so -- forcing you to go around the obstacle while you take fire from rangers and casters.
Mammoths on the other hand are slow-moving, poor-cornering beasts that are primarily useful for sieging, so don't expect to run around dominating in open field PvP with one. You also lose the ability to attack completely with a weapon, though casters will still be able to cast their spells (NOTE: You can either cast or attack with the mammoth, you can't do both simultaneously). Because the mammoth turns so slow, you'll be completely defenseless on your sides and rear -- adding to the strategical value of flanking players who choose this as their mount, performing "hit-and-run" tactics on them.
Funcom's mount system is set up to allow for very dynamic, unique mount options in the future. While the game will ship with three to make sure they're complete and polished, they're considering introducing a camel mount for Stygian players, and other possibilities for creatures to be used as mounts are there as well. The sky is essentially the limit, as Funcom can easily customize a mount's attributes to give it a specific role in gameplay.