Monthly Development Update - February 2011

Monthly Development Update - February 2011

While the Dreamworld update has been our focus internally, and it now has a target launch date at the start of March, I wanted to change subjects for this month's update and talk about something that we have been playing for a while internally, and are now ready to reveal to you all.

While the Dreamworld update has been our focus internally, and it now has a target launch date at the start of March, I wanted to change subjects for this month's update and talk about something that we have been playing for a while internally, and are now ready to reveal to you all.

There is lots of talk amongst players, and MMO veterans in particular about how they often feel a little neglected by an industry that now has much more mainstream appeal. It is certainly true that when developing MMO titles these days we definitely are trying to appeal to as wide a demographic as possible. Sometimes the real desires of the hardcore minority of players have been mutually exclusive of the changes we think are needed to maintain the broad appeal that games on this scale require.

However that means that sometimes we don't get to focus on niche ideas, even when those ideas might indeed have a strong following, and while an idea may not have the support of a majority of players, it may still be a perfectly capable of supporting an idea. This we hope is one such idea.

The problem we faced previously with something like this was that some of the things we will discuss today are indeed mutually exclusive of the experience that we need to maintain on the live servers. Previously we have stayed away from the idea of having different rulesets for different servers, as it does increase maintenance overheads and such. However, as we have gone on we see that there is clearly a very dedicated, and very loyal, group of players who long for a more brutal and demanding PVP environment. It has become increasingly apparent that the desires of that section of our playerbase simply want something a little bit further away from the experience that the mainstream majority are comfortable with.

Thus we have now decided to create a completely new server ruleset to provide a world that those players will also find interesting. We will then deploy one of these servers to each of the EU and US territories. So what exactly are we aiming for?

The Blood and Glory server ruleset

The idea for this server type, which we shall call the 'Blood and Glory' servers for now, is to provide a more 'old school' PVP environment. This will be a server where your reputation and skill will mean something, and surviving will require you to keep your wits about you, and make good friends. It will, in effect, be intentionally uncompromising. This will very much be a 'live by the sword, die by the sword' type of server.

The Rules

So, let's take a look at the variations that we are looking at for this server, with the usual disclaimer of course that some or all of these may get tweaked, changed or adjusted based on testing and community feedback.

  • This will be a fresh start server, no transfers.
  • You will only be allowed one character on this server. Your reputation will mean something on this server!
  • There will be no guards on this server. Your only protection from other players will be your allies, and your own wits and skills.
  • PVP will be re-enabled in the early optional Tortage areas.
  • There will be a player looting system from PVP. We haven't decided on the details here, and it probably won’t be looting from a players equipped inventory, but may include some combination of items from their regular inventory and ‘generated’ loot.
  • We may amend other PVP related systems as we see fit, pending testing.

So as you can see, this rule-set will not be for the faint of heart. It is a PVP server for the people who really want to experience a more demanding competitive environment. We wanted to provide something for those PVP fans, and Conan fans who felt the world of Howard’s Hyboria deserved a more brutal and bloody re-imagining.

Naming the servers

We will be allowing the players to suggest names for the new servers, and the best suggestions will then be voted on to decide the final name. The community team will announce more details on this as we move forward.

When? When?

We hope to have the new rule-set ready to roll out in early May, but we will hopefully deploy a version to the PVP test dimension prior to that for some public testing. Keep your eyes on the weekly community updates for more information as to when that will happen.

This change will also mean we move around the existing PVP servers. The current thought is that we will most likely merge the other existing PVP servers, so that a good workable community remains there too, and effectively have the choice for people between the regular PVP server and the new Blood and Glory PVP server, which will be clearly labelled on the character creation screens. So hopefully this will allow both communities to exist side by side, and everyone gets to experience their preference for PVP. This is something we will continue to assess as we get closer to the launch of the server, but we will be making sure that we maximise the ease with which people can choose which of the PVP variants they play on.

Wrapping up

We are quite excited to get the chance to try something like this, and try and also provide something that is focused on a specific niche of players who have a slightly different taste for PVP. It has long been one of our challenges with a title like Age of Conan, and this is the result of a lot of hard thinking about how we can better appeal to both sets of players, without compromising the desires of both too heavily.

Having a separate rule-set was eventually the choice that made logical sense given the clear split in PVP tastes amongst our community and there is something suitably 'Conan-esque' about this proposal. I think the great barbarian would approve of this world where your survival will be dictated by your wits and skill alone.

So that's it for this month, I am sure this one will generate some discussion, so we will be reading along with interest! As you read this we will hopefully be getting ready to deploy the Dreamworld technology update, so there are definitely exciting times ahead!