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.