Monthly Development Update - June 2012

Monthly Development Update - June 2012

Welcome to this month's development update, which is really the second, and more interesting, part of the annual summer survey editions - The results!

Thousands of you replied to the survey, and fought through the masses of question to impart your opinion on all things Age of Conan. In fact, the first impressive statistic from the survey was that almost eighty percent of those who started the survey completed it! Considering there were close to seventy questions if you answered everything, we thought that was a mighty effort from all of you! It really is great to get this form of more detailed feedback from our players, and we truly appreciate the effort taken in filling out the survey

Of course there were also some great incentives on offer, and keep your eyes out for news from the community team, who will announce the winners soon. So now, on to the good stuff, let's take a look at what you all had to say!

So who answered?

Over 77% of those who answered had multiple level 80 characters, and a further 10% had one max level character, so it was definitely dedicated players who answered the survey. Then we asked those answering to rank their preferences for content, which came out like this. The score is translated from the rankings, so the lower the score, the more that area was preferred on average.

  • Team based PVE scored 3.3
  • Solo based PVE scored 3.6
  • Raid based PVE scored 3.7
  • Mini-game PVP scored 5.2
  • Open world PVP scored 5.7
  • Crafting scored 5.7
  • Guild based PVP scored 6.2
  • Roleplaying scored 6.8

Overall 70% of responders listed one form of PVE as their primary interest, with the remaining 30% listing a form of PVP.

Content Opinions

Current opinion on all the PVE areas was positive, with all the different sections receiving  the bulk of their votes in the 'Enjoyable' or 'Excellent' categories, and the big winner was the team instances, where over 82% of you scored them in those positive categories, and only 3% offering a negative opinion.

All of the raid tiers also scored well, with none of them receiving more than 10% of negative opinions. Tier three was the most popular of the raid tiers, with over 70% choosing the positive categories, closely followed  by tier four (68%), then tier two (66%), and finally tier one (62%). The raid tiers were marked by very few votes for the 'average' option, the majority seem to really enjoy the content.

Of the instances you would most want to see converted into a max level experience, there were three clear winners: the Sanctum of the Burning Souls, the Black Castle, and the Amphitheatre of Karutonia.

In terms of which dungeons you would like to see revamped, the Onyx Chambers was a clear winner, although both the Sanctum and the Black Castle also featured prominently here.

We asked for your preferences when it came to how we approached content, and the results were as follows. This was a ranked question, so again, the lower score indicates that the option was more heavily favored.

  • Adding more solo max level instances scored 3.0
  • Adding more team max level instances scored 3.3
  • Adding more solo dynamic instances scored 3.6
  • Adding more team dynamic instances scored 4.1
  • Adding hard modes to existing instances scored 4.4
  • Converting existing team instances into solo instances scored 4.6
  • Revamping existing instances scored 5.0

You also seem to have really enjoyed the community based puzzle and challenges as seen in House of Crom, with over 75% saying they would like to see more content like that.

The most popular duration for an instance was the thirty to forty-five minute option, closely followed by the forty-five minutes to an hour option.

Unsurprisingly, the most popular reason for doing instances was the rewards, scoring 48%, although fun factor stole a solid 33% of the vote there too.

Interestingly, the questions on risk vs. reward on both the normal and hard modes showed that you really do covet your rewards, and were happier with the hard mode versions. Every single hard mode dungeon scored less than 15% in negative opinions on this subject (and in the normal mode only the Oynx Chambers at a mere 22% broke that trend). So overall you are pretty satisfied with the rewards on offer.

Those instances considered to have the best rewards were the Palace of Yun Rau, the Kang Pagoda and the Celestial Necropolis. The least popular on that front were the two Paikang Districts, although, as above, even those were largely seen as satisfactory. The opinions never strayed over into a negative overall opinion of the rewards. That said, it is good for us to know which instances people feel aren't as good as 'the best' as that is usually what drives participation.

Your favorite group instances were Atzel's Fortress, Xibaluku, the Enigmata of Yag, and Fort Ardashir, with the Cavern of Malice being the least popular.

Your favorite solo instance was the Isle of Iron Statues, closely followed by the Refuge of the Apostate.

Your favorite raid instances were in Thoth Amon's Stronghold, followed by the Black Ring Citadel and the Jade Citadel. Yakhmar was the least popular spot.

Players were also happy with the balance of the new raid encounters, with all the raids scoring strongly in the 'just right' category, and none of them being considered too easy.

You all also made our quest designers very happy, with very strong agreement about  the core tenants of our quest design. Strong majorities favored strong storytelling, random elements in repeatable quests, multi-step quests, small goals, quest markers being present, and of course, again confirmed that the reward is very important to all of you.

You feel that there are good travel options in the game right now, with 42% feeling that is perfect as it is, and a further 40% saying that is good at the moment, but maybe they would like to see a few more teleportation locations.

PVP Opinions

Here we again saw the many diverse opinions that exist about PVP. As we have seen in the surveys in previous years, there was no straightforward or easily identifiable 'favorite' option amongst players, although overall, mini-games again won out, both in terms of overall opinion, and when filtered for those who expressed that PVP was their priority.

So you all ranked the forms of PVP as follows, the first score is from all the responders, the second adjusted for those who listed PVP as their priority.

  • Instanced mini-games scored 1.98 overall, 2.12 adjusted
  • Sieges scored 2.57 overall, 2.51 adjusted
  • General Outdoor PVP scored 2.64 overall, 2.52 adjusted
  • Persistent outdoor PVP Goals scored 2.81 overall, 2.88 adjusted

Then we asked what you would most like to see added to the game, with the following results, which again, showed a broad range of opinions. Interestingly, the results when ranked were identical for both groups. So whether you expressed a preference for PVP or PVE, the overall ranking of these results was identical, with minor percentage differences.

  • Adding new mini-games 21.8% (22.1%)
  • Adding a new persistent multi-faction playfield 21.5% (21.4%)
  • Adding a ranked arena system 19.2% (19.6%)
  • Revamping Sieges 13.7% (14.0%)
  • Adding a faction system for outdoor PVP 10.7% (10.2%)
  • Adding new outdoor structures to own 8.8% (8.3%)
  • Revamp the consequence system 4.1% (3.9%)

On the other questions, a firm majority of 75% agreed that they would accept a lower population cap in sieges if the content performed better. Players were undecided on whether sieges could be unlinked from guild cities and become more of an instanced experience, however, with over 50% saying they would need more information before offering an opinion.

On the possibly contentious subject of RPG progression power in PVP we had some somewhat surprising results. Perhaps the question is not as contentious as forum chatter might suggest some days! We asked 'At a fundamental level, do you agree that gear and progression in the RPG system should increase power in PVP?' and a clear majority of 66% of you said yes. Most interestingly, the percentage was actually marginally higher when adjusted to take into account those who expressed an interest in PVP as their priority, where the yes vote scored just over 67%.

As an extension of that, 49% of players felt that the current balance of progression power was 'about right' with 21% claiming it didn't give enough power, and 30% saying it gave too much. Again there was very little difference in the results based on the different play style preferences. It was consistent regardless of your preferences.

Likewise, when asked about AA progression, 50% of you said that it was fine as it was, and that veterans should have an edge. Just under 30% of you said that they should have an edge, but it was slightly too much at the moment, and just over 20% said it needed to be significantly reduced. Even for those who considered it an issue that needed resolving, opinion was also almost perfectly divided on how best to resolve the issue. None of the options presented won a clear majority and there were splitting opinions across the board.

70% favored a system of PVP flagging that would allow duels or other purely consensual PVP, and this is a system that we are strongly considering for the single server deployments once we start to roll that technology out.

Lastly, there was no clear winner in the question on preferred size of mini-games with 6v6 and 12v12 each receiving a virtually exact split of the votes. Literally! It was spookily close, almost an exact 50/50 split.

Of course, then there is the question of PVP class balance ... so what did you all have to say there?

Balance and all that

This one is always interesting, and also highlights one of the really interesting challenges that systems designers face in a class based game system. Designers will usually lament that feedback is hard to translate due to an inherent bias players seem to have towards their favorite, or most played, class. Thus it is very interesting when we see this directly translated into neat statistical results from the most dedicated of our players.

Players were asked to rate the balance of each class. With two underpowered options, a neutral one, 'balanced' and two overpowered options.

The first interesting result was that players overwhelmingly consider their own class to be balanced. When the results were filtered by the class the responder identified as their primary class, we saw that over 85% of the responses were for the middle option ('balanced') when asked about their own class!

Then taking the raw unfiltered results we also saw that all the classes scored relatively close to the balanced mark, and all of the classes scored above balanced on average. That is to say that overall, players considered every class to be balanced, and at least slightly overpowered. Which when taken together interestingly means that on average players tend to inherently see all the other classes as more powerful than their own.

So how did the classes rank overall? Here is the breakdown you all provided, with a translated average score on a scale of 1-5

  • Ranger scored 3.8
  • Assassin scored 3.7
  • Dark Templar scored 3.6
  • Demonologist scored 3.6
  • Guardian scored 3.5
  • Necromancer scored 3.4
  • Bear Shaman scored 3.4
  • Tempest of Set scored 3.1
  • Priest of Mitra scored 3.1
  • Barbarian scored 3.0
  • Conqueror scored  2.9
  • Herald of Xotli scored 2.8

Being perfectly honest we hadn't expected all of the classes to score quite so evenly. Overall, there was a much smaller variance between the class considered the most overpowered, and the least, than we expected.

Thus none of the classes were considered especially 'underpowered' overall. We're not sure what that says of people's perceptions of PVP balance. Some classes for example are lower on the list because they really nailed landing in the middle of the vote. For example the Barbarian was the class which received the most raw votes for 'balanced' with almost 70% of those answering saying the class was spot on balance wise. This was also true for the Priest of Mitra and the Tempest of Set. Those above them slanted slightly more to overpowered, and those below them a little more to underpowered.

So the tendency seems to be to look enviously at all other classes, while considering your own pretty balanced. Only the Herald of Xotli and Conqueror really lost out on the 'overpowered' votes, and the systems team already have some thoughts there, and those are two of the classes that will see PVP centric changes in the future.

The section was very interesting for the systems team, and it's a great platform to work from, it's also interesting to observe how, overall, players voted pretty unerringly along class lines.

Setting Priorities

One of the most interesting sections was where we asked users to rank the importance of additions to the game, starting with the most important for them. This is perhaps the question the team are always the most interested in and the results are as follows.

This was a ranked question, so again the lower score means the options was more heavily favored. This was the overall result from all responders. This overall ranking obviously slanted towards the PVE side of things given that around 70% of those answering preferred PVE options as their main priority. It is, however, interesting that content clearly trumps systems when it comes to what you desire to be added.

  • Adding new team content 4.63
  • Adding new solo content 4.65
  • Adding new raid content 5.45
  • Adding a group finder system 6.16
  • Adding an achievement system 6.17
  • Adding player housing 6.25
  • Adding new guild content 6.6
  • Adding new instance mini-games 7.24
  • Adding new PVP systems (factions etc) 7.49
  • Adding a ranked arena system 7.53
  • Adding new outdoor PVP content 7.71
  • Adding new roleplaying content 8.10

So there you have it, an interesting and insightful look into the minds of your fellow players. Thanks again for all the feedback, it truly does help as an extra tool for the developers. Results like this don't dictate the answer to every question, but they do inform and educate, and help us to understand the needs and desires of our most loyal players.

Until next month

This letter ended up far longer than planned, but we felt it was worthwhile since there were so many fascinating insights to share with the survey results, and we wanted to show you all as many of the results as possible.

We have been delighted to see how well received the latest major updates have been. The new multi-specification system has proved really popular, and players seem to be enjoying the new dungeon versions. As we move into June, the team is hard at work on the new adventure pack content. The summer month will of course also see most take some much needed R&R for their summer vacations, and recharge the batteries as we work towards a release at the end of the year for the adventure pack.

We are really looking forward to being able to reveal the location, and show some of the cool stuff that is coming together for this pack. Obviously the launch of The Secret World is keeping our PR folks very busy this month, as the game launches this week (or has already depending on when and where you read this!) but we expect that we will be able to reveal more about the adventure pack very soon.

In the meantime we will leave you with another small teaser from the art team ...


See you on the battlefield!