The Game Director of Age of Conan have posted a brand new letter where he go over what the plans are for the near future and what they're working on at the moment. He's also explaining some of the reasoning behind many of their choices going forward.
Without further ado, this is what Gaute Godager has to say:
Greetings fellow players.
While it has been some time since I last gave you an update, I wanted to touch base and let you know what we are working on at the moment and where we are going in the times to come. I want this update to focus on what is actually happening to the game now, what we have done, and also some of the reasoning behind our choices going forward.
As you all know we have been live for some seven weeks by now, and what a period it has been! While Conan has sold more and performed better than even we could have hoped for, we also know that there have been things we had to work on. I will not try to hide from this fact, but I hope you have seen our steady stream of improvements and additions, in fact, even more than I would have thought possible! I am definitively proud of the team and what they have done after launch, and I think everyone agrees that we are making Conan better, all the time. We are also keeping almost the entire development team ON the Age of Conan live team for the foreseeable future, meaning we can make exciting new content updates on an ongoing basis. Still, let me underline that our main – main – focus at the moment are bugs, stability and performance! I might not talk very much about the details here, but the frequency of the patches and their contents speak for itself.
While we have been busy evolving the game and services on all levels, we also promised new content to you. Not all of what we mentioned in the June update came as fast we would have liked, and while there are several reasons for this it is the word “quality” which won. As a result, the massive PvP updates took longer than anticipated. It was vital to take a second look at the design, and make it even better prior to moving it to live. I am however very glad to say that we have now deployed the PvP updates to our internal test live server (for an overview of these features, please go here. )
As soon as QA gives the go on the internal quality they will be fully deployed to test live, and then to live. While I would have wished these features to be out already, I am happy to say that the update will be an awesome one, and include all of the things we spoke about, including the fugitive system, PvP levels, PvP rankings, the first wave of PvP item drops as well as other PvP consequences. It also involves several general changes to the PvP part of the game (crowd control, damage against other players and dueling as examples). This is all done to make life as a PvP’er more meaningful, and more fun. These are massive changes to how our PvP will work in the future, and based upon your feedback from test live and live we will naturally continue to hone this important part of the game. When these changes will eventually hit live is up to the quality and balance, but we expect some great feedback from the test live server in the next few weeks, enabling us to get them out during early August. While we spent some extra time on this, I am sure you agree that getting these important features right was more essential than just getting them out. This is always the preferred course of action I think, and this is a focus we aim to keep.
As we mentioned in our June update, we are also working on making some great new dungeons and areas throughout the level ranges. This is not «just» quests (which we are making on a constant basis), but fully fledged areas with hours and hours of new content and entertainment. We have made a tentative live update content plan (when it comes to new locations) for the next year, and while I won’t even start discussing the overall plan, there are a few close enough on the horizon to be worth mentioning. This includes Ymir’s Pass, which is coming as a new big Adventuring Region in the level range 55-60. We are now working hard to ensure it comes out as soon as possible (this summer if the quality is right). Shortly after, we will add another level 80 dungeon in the Thunder River area. At the same time we will also add another dungeon to the same Outdoor Adventuring Region – being a level 80 group instance, with bosses and cool loot. This is a few examples of the many new areas to come, both for solo, groups and raids, and these will all come as part of the live updates.
I am also happy to tell you that after the first start of the massive siege PvP we put some significant resources on improving this part of the game further. There still are improvements we would like to make, including a focus on optimization and resource management (to increase performance and fun factor, respectively), as well as making siege engines, mammoths and other “wall breakers” more balanced. As more and more of you join the sieges we really want your continued feedback on this feature, and I hope you will let us know what you think on the forums.
When it comes to the overall performance of the game I also have some good news. While most players have a great time with the game, we also know that we have ways to go for those with the oldest machines. We have therefore continued to look at our memory handling and how to increase general performance, and updates on this are continously in the works. These will be brought to the live servers as we finish them, and while I won't go into specifics I know that those of you with older machines will notice improved performance in the weeks and months to come. On the other side of this spectrum you have the Direct X 10 part of the engine, which is now being worked on. What features it will have and how it will look will be unveiled at Leipzig in August, and I think those with machines who can run DX10 will be stunned by what we have achieved. We will put this into the live game as soon as the quality is good enough (during the fall).
While all the things we have done, and will do to the game, are essential, we have also gone through how we are organized. Our great success and many players has meant that we have worked around the clock to deliver the best service we can, but even this hasn’t been enough in some cases. Over the last few weeks we have therefore worked incredibly hard on hiring more GMs, customer service reps and people who serve our community, all to deliver a better service. We acknowledge we still have some ways to go before we can say we are truly happy, but we are moving towards a full coverage of our services. In the US we have added one more office building to facilitate more customer service and community people, while in Europe we are establishing a larger office in Zurich, Switzerland. This office will host customer service reps in Spanish, German and French, together with localization staff and our Euro community team. We have started the hiring process for the Zurich office, and in early fall we will have our European-only customer service center established, in addition to our already existing one in the US. We are certain this will further improve your gaming experience.
As a part of the process of adding lots of exciting new content we have also learned some important lessons when it comes to communicating dates, and we will be even more vigilant to keep to the timelines we communicate. While this is a constant nightmare when it comes to games as complex as MMO’s (as things often takes longer than anticipated to get right), it is a tradeoff in many ways. You always want to know what we are making, we want to tell it to you, but this also means that things won’t always end up on live as soon as we want it, because quality must win. As a part of this we have also worked hard on our routines for creating better update notes, so you get to learn about all the changes we implement from Funcom.
I know many of you have also asked about your buddy keys, and we have now come to a level where we are able to activate them. During the next week you will therefore be able to use your buddy keys, inviting friends to the game with you. You should also check out the massive new update we are putting to live, and not the least drop by our test live server to test the new PvP features.
That’s it for this time! I hope you all get a healthy dose of vacation this summer, and that you are enjoying Age of Conan.
Game Director, Age of Conan – Hyborian Adventures