Age of Conan, Initial Impressions (Part 1)

Age of Conan, as you probably know, is a new MMORPG published the company Funcom which brought you Anarchy Online; which is pretty much their only title worth mentioning. Now before I go into a review of the game itself, I want to talk about my thoughts going into the game, before actually having played it.

I am very weary of Funcom. It is not a company with much of a reputation, good or bad, but I am weary of their experience with, and ability to support, such a lofty endeavor. I have played a few other MMO’s, namely World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment) and Everquest 2 (Sony Online Entertainment) to a very high degree, and I know what I can come to expect from these games. I started playing WoW the week it was released, and I can say their release didn’t go quite so smoothly either. This tells me that if a company who I respect so highly like Blizzard can’t make a release go smoothly, then Funcom certainly won’t be able to.

So, as expected, Funcom’s release hasn’t gone entirely smootly. Let me try to sum up why.

  1. Early Access: I was one of the lucky people who pre-ordered the game and actually got into their Early Access program. Why do I say actually ? Well, because apparently, even though everyone who pre-ordered was supposed to get early access, Funcom “ran out of supplies”. Now, this is actually understandable, and probably responsible on their part not to oversell their capacity, but this really pissed off the community, before the game even came out. Big no-no in my book. On top of that, during the supposed 3-days of early access, I got maybe 8 hours of play time in. This is partially due to having to work, and being otherwise busy, which is not Funcoms fault, but it is also largely due to them.Early Access was supposed to start on Saturday May 17th at 1pm Eastern. Due to whatever problems they were having at the time, it actually started closer to 6pm Eastern. After that, they had a series of long server maintenance outages, the biggest being one that started around 4pm Eastern and ended at 2am. This is essentially the entire window I have to play the game during the work week. Okay, so I didn’t get to play that much during Early Access, boo-hoo, lets move on.
  2. Learn to Plan an Outage: I work in the IT field, and I have to plan and coordinate server outages on an almost daily basis. Its not that hard. Aside from the aforementioned server outages since yesterday, heh, when the game came out officially to everyone, there has been yet another outage. Okay, so they are trying to fix bugs, thats great, but they need to plan these things better. So far of the four outages I can recall, they have all happened during what I would call “Prime Time”. This is, between about 3pm and 11pm in whatever time-zone you are in. Every outage has occurred within these hours. EVERY one. Not only that, but every outage has gone largely unannounced, with very few updates regarding their progress. They also seem to have this issue with estimating the time things take. All of the outages so far have gone something to the effect of…

    Maintenance will being at 22:00, we expect it will last 2 hours.

    QA Team Needs an Additional Hour.

    Server Team has identified a few more issues which should take an additional 2 hours to complete

    We are now finalizing all changes and doing some internal testing, the servers should be back online in 3 hours.

    Basically turning what was to be a 2 hour outage into an 8 hour outage. This is just highly unprofessional. At least Blizzard made it a habit of overestimating the outage time and usually the servers would be up sooner then you expected them to be.

  3. Published System Requirements: I really don’t know what to say to this except that they seem to have grossly underestimated the requirements to play their game. I know a handful of people who went and bought it who have systems which meet or exceed the requirements but cannot play it. Basically, the minimum requirements are a decent computer with an nVidia 6600GT video card, and the recommended requirements are, a pretty new computer with an nVidia 7950GT video card. The minimum sounds a little underestimated to me, and it is. I know at least one person who has a very decent system with an older video card being the weak point, an nVidia 6800 Ultra, which is vastly superior to a 6600GT, and he had to turn every setting down to the absolute minimum, just to get roughly 20 frames per second. I highly doubt a 6600GT could even make the game remotely playable. Conversely, I myself exceed the recommended requirements (which I feel should constitute being able to play on high, if not max settings), and I myself can barely break 40 frames per second on anything higher then medium quality. This is unacceptable. They basically tricked people into buying the game who wont even be able to play it, and left the rest of us wanting to upgrade our pc’s just so we can play it with decent frame rates.

So now that I am done ragging on some of the BS Funcom has pulled over the last few days, I am going to see how it goes tonight and try to play a bit.  Stay tuned tomorrow for a more in-depth review of the game itself.

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