Archive for the ‘Age of Conan’ Category

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The Game Plan

July 21, 2010

My whole life, I’ve never had a desktop computer to call my own. I got my first PC at 17, a Sony laptop that was to go away with me across the ocean when I went to college. Then with the switching of residences, going to grad school, moving around the city in general, I figured buying laptops just made sense for someone like me with my nomadic life. But now that I’ve finally settled down, I thought maybe investing in a  good desktop may be in order, so I can finally enjoy the luxuries of having a nice big screen, and more importantly, be able to do my graphics work on a computer without worrying about it scorching the skin off my legs.

It’s not going to be all about work, obviously; I also made sure the new machine will be a decent gaming rig. The parts won’t be here for a while yet, but I’m already looking forward to setting it up and have been thinking about what MMOs I’ll be putting on it and also my gaming plans for the rest of 2010. World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online, the two games on my “Currently Playing” list, will definitely get installed, but then so might these:

1. Star Trek Online

I  chose to sign up for my Twitter account right around the time the Season 2 Update started on the test server Tribble, so everyday I’ve been inundated with tweets from my fellow bloggers about how great it is. New additions to the game include diplomacy, mini-games, a level cap increase, and much more — it’s enough to bring me back to the game and I think I’m going to reactivate my subscription as soon as the update goes live on Holodeck…or maybe even sooner. It’ll make more sense to give myself some time to re-familiarize with the game controls, lest I get blown to bits by the Undine the first time I venture into their native fluidic space.

Seeing as STO is my perfect casual game, unless there will be a whole slew of new content available, I’ll probably only maintain an active account for a month or two and take a break from it again come fall.

By the way, is the Federation News Service fleet still there? Please say it is so.

2. Age of Conan

I haven’t been playing  this game lately, mostly because of the number of technical problems I’ve encountered with the new Rise of the Godslayer expansion. Most of the issues are Funcom’s, but admittedly, some are mine. I had no problems playing my lower level characters, but memory leaks caused the client to crash to desktop as soon as my level 80 Priest of Mitra entered the new Khitai lands. Much of the expansion’s new features are tied up in the post-level cap content, so everything I had wanted to do, like explore the Alternate Advancement system or grind reputation with the new factions to get my Tiger or Wolf mount/pet, had to be put on hold.

Raids were also out of the question. My poor gaming laptop, which is a few years old, can run this game smoothly when I’m playing solo or in a six-man team, but big groups made my frame rates plummet. And when you’re the healer, that’s always bad news. I’m hoping the new computer will alleviate a lot of these problems, and that I’ll finally get to do all that I’d ever wanted in AoC. Now that I think about it, I might even have racked up enough offline levels by now to give to my Bear Shaman to make her my second level 80.

3. Final Fantasy XIV

Another game with beautiful graphics that I’m hoping the new computer will run more smoothly. To be honest, I was quite shocked to hear that FFXIV will be coming out this year, at the end of September, no less. I’ll probably end up giving this a try this fall, even though I haven’t really been buying into the hype. I’ve never been a rabid FF fan, never played FFXI, but I’m still quite interested in this, at least enough to keep a distant eye on the news coming out. This can either be a hit or miss for me, I really can’t tell yet.

4. DC Universe Online

If and only if FFXIV doesn’t work out, I’ll most likely be giving DCUO a look come winter. I like the DC universe okay, nowhere near as much as I love Marvel, but some of my all-time favorite comic book characters belong to DC (like Harley Quinn) and I know the heroes, the villains and the stories well enough to make me ooh and ahh over what I’ve seen so far. Looks like it’s been slated for a November release, but I might give it a month or so to see what others are saying about it before I take the plunge for myself (if it comes to that). By then, LOTRO should also have gone F2P, so I won’t have to juggle more than 2-3 subscriptions.

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Rise Of The Godslayer Soundtrack

June 9, 2010

June 13th update: Info is now out on soundtrack package, go here.

Well, it seems that the day I was eagerly awaiting has already come and passed.

I just found out that the beautifully composed soundtrack for Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer was actually released earlier last week…at least on iTunes anyway. As an iPod user who generally prefers to buy music in digital format (I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD) and who already has the program installed, this isn’t a problem for me. Those wondering when a hard copy of the album will be made available for sale, however, will have to wait a while longer. I can’t find information about that on Amazon or any other website.

This strikes me as a little odd. You’d think there’s a market here, given the popularity of the music from the original game. I mean, I know people who don’t even play AoC but have gotten the soundtrack because they love what they’ve heard from Hyborian Adventures. The music from RotGs is different given the Asian theme of the expansion, but it’s no less spectacular or impressive. I thought for sure Funcom would be publicizing the the release of the soundtrack, or at least, you know, marketing it just a little bit. I can only assume that the CD version won’t be too far behind.

Oh, according to the press releases, the soundtrack should also include a key that will unlock a special in-game item, a bone flute. My guess is that it’s going to be purely cosmetic, but I don’t care, I wants me a flute-o’-bone! Unfortunately, can’t find further info on that either, from Funcom or iTunes.

Anyway, cycling through the previews for the RotGs tracks on iTunes, I can’t help but wonder if Knut Avenstroup Haugen ever drew inspiration from Asian soap operas when composing the score to this expansion. Some of these songs are strangely reminiscent of the main themes in those Tang Dynasty period dramas my mother and cousins used to love to watch. The shows themselves were god-awful and corny, but the music was always nice to listen to (and there’s something especially enchanting about the sound of an erhu).

My favorite track from the RotGs soundtrack is definitely Villages of Khitai, and I wish I could share it here but I can’t find it anywhere online. As I recall, however, you can actually hear it in the background in this video presentation by Game Director Craig Morrison at GDC10. With all due respect to the very talented Mr. Morrison, I can remember watching this wishing he would stop talking for just a second so I could listen to the damn song.

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Hi, My Name Is GeeCee, And I’m A Screenshot Junkie

June 7, 2010

Last week I was cleaning out my hard drive, uninstalling games I won’t be playing anymore or in the next little while. Today, I took that a little it further and decided to clear out and back up my in-game screenshots as well. After all, nothing pisses me off more than losing all my folders including my captures when uninstalling or when a game makes you re-install (Age of Conan, I’m looking at you).

I’m big on screenshots if you haven’t noticed already, and I often joke that I’m a screenshot whore, but until I started transferring the image files over to my external hard drive, I had no idea just how out-of-hand I’ve gotten with my Prnt-Scrn-pushing habits. This morning, I moved over 2.65 GB worth of screenshots, about 3000+ images taken over the last couple of months across various games. I know I share a lot of them here to go along with my posts, but to be honest, I don’t think my blog has much to do with my obsession with screenies.

I’m just a complete shutterbug, and like taking pictures for lots of reasons. Maybe too many reasons. As a result, I end up taking screenshots of everything — stunning landscapes, cool poses, epic fights, special feats, peculiar sights, first kills, bugs and glitches, guild events, silly moments, serious moments, shocking moments, cute moments, fashion crimes and the list goes on and on and on. As you can see, it doesn’t take much to inspire me.

Obviously, not all of my thousands of screenshots are good enough to share. Occasionally, I’ll prune my folders to get rid of duds, but in general I do tend to keep them all even though it’s highly unlikely anyone I know outside the gaming community will have any interest in them, ever. But it’s worth it — every now and then, I look back at these frozen moments of game time, these little tokens of my trips through MMO worlds, and let the memories come flooding back…comparable to looking at albums of past vacations to exotic places.

Okay, I like a visual record of everything. I’m either overly sentimental, or it’s a manifestation of my mild obsessive compulsive disorder.

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/Gawk – The Hills Of Khitai Ring With The Sounds Of My Lamentation

June 2, 2010

With every Age of Conan patch since the launch of Rise of the Godslayer, Khitai Proper seems more playable for my Priest of Mitra. However, last night I was still hit twice by the dreaded “Out of memory” message after the game so unceremoniously crashed me to desktop. Ironically, I don’t get the memory leak problem when running AoC on DX10. Instead, I get a whole host of other problems, ranging from atrocious FPS values to crumbling environments and other graphical glitches.

Thus far, still no problems in AoC’s “old world” nor in the Gateway to Khitai. Good news for my new Khitan toon as well as my Bear Shaman alt, but as for my level-capped PoM  she’s SOL (save me, Funcom!) I’m able to do some light questing and exploring on her for the time being, but forget rep grinding or anything else that requires exuberant fighting. That means a little while longer to wait for my tiger mount, but I was still able to take some nice screenshots from beyond the Long Wall.

The Northern Grasslands Province

The mood changes as soon as you cross through the Gateway from Hyrkania and step foot in Khitai. Everything feels more imperial. Towering pagodas and crimson banners are everywhere, troops practice maneuvers in the courtyard as cavalrymen patrol back and forth. From this side, you can also see the wall stretch onwards towards the distant mountains.

Ride a little further and you’ll see the reason for the region’s name — the plains roll on as far as the eye can see. Right near the gate is also a shallow, slow-running river. I captured a screenshot of a player in the distance, running into the water chasing the herds of wild horses. The idyllic scene is deceptive, however. I left my character for about five minutes and came back to see her lying dead in the middle of the road. I think a bear was what got me.

I took a break in the village near the eastern border of the Grasslands before pressing on, to turn in some quests as well as allow the client some time to stabilize. I liked how a late afternoon sunbeam was spilling over the roof in this picture. The graphics in this game really are quite gorgeous, when they’re not acting up, that is.

The Province of Chosain

A giant statue sits at the entrance of Chosain province. It can only be Yag-Kosha, the cosmic being with an elephant-like head that Conan mercy-killed in the story The Tower of the Elephant, whom the people in the jungles of Khitai venerated as a god.

I’m not sure if I like the way Chosain Province looks. Its forests seem to be in a perpetual state of autumn, and while I admit the intense fiery colors of the foliage make for a striking first impression, after a while it just comes off as a little bit artificial and tacky.

Paikang

Ten thousand miles from Tortage is the region of Paikang. Here, I finally see a little bit of the much acclaimed “jungles of Khitai.”

Beyond the old forests are the misty terraced rice fields. No one appears to be farming though. Venturing onto the paddies proved to be a bad idea — they’re crawling with crazed mobs that attack you on sight, with the guards standing nearby doing nothing about it.

The beauty of this region is the most distracting of all (for example, in the following screenshot I was so busy ogling the rocky range and waterfall in front of me, that I was running straight into a group of giant spiders without realizing it), and I haven’t even been to the coast yet.

Alas, I didn’t have time (or the patience with the game client) to explore the final zone of Kara Korum. In due course, I suppose.

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Try New Things

May 28, 2010

As I’ve reiterated so many times before on this blog, I’ve just started playing World of Warcraft again after a long period of being away. But I realized I never really explained why I took my break. Yes, I was a little tired of the raiding, the heroics, the dailies, the treadmill and all that jazz, but the ultimate reason was much more than just plain old burnout. You see, back then I was mostly just playing WoW. Meanwhile, as the market expanded, new games were popping up left and right. All of a sudden, I felt like I was missing out on these other great titles because I was too focused on just one game.

I also want to take this opportunity to talk about a disturbing trend I’ve been noticing. Certain segments of the MMO community seem to treat WoW like a disease, don’t you think? That’s nothing new; people can say what they want about a game and it doesn’t bother me. No, instead, what really irks me these days is the ostracizing and belittling of all the game’s players like they’re mentally handicapped or that their opinions don’t count or matter if they “only play WoW”.

Well, I think dismissing people solely based on their game of choice is a bit elitist and unfair. But then I’m also going to play devil’s advocate here and say that if you look past the insults and attitude there’s a smidgen of logic there, even if it’s just barely. If your only focus is on one game, whether it’s WoW or some other MMO, you’re limited to a very narrow view of the genre.

So with this post, I want to talk about the matter of playing one game versus many games, and the notion of branching out and trying new things. Now, I don’t think it’s a bad thing if a player only sticks to just one game, because what it really comes down to what you enjoy. In the end, you should play the games you want to play, not because of what anyone else thinks. Yes, I used to only play WoW…and am currently playing it again along with a few other MMOs. Its critics can crap on the game all they want and I don’t care; they’re entitled to their opinion and the only thing that matters to me is whether or not I’m having fun. Sometime last year, however, I made the decision to experience more MMOs and broaden my horizons. It was my own personal choice, and it had nothing to do with anyone or anything else.

For me, my hiatus from WoW availed me to try many other MMOs out there and I don’t regret any of them at all. Especially now that I have this blog, I find it easier these days to engage in meaningful discourse with other gamers like the ones on my blogroll. Whether or not I agree with a certain point of view, I feel more informed and thus more comfortable now with piping up on many MMO topics than I ever did before. It’s wonderful when I find that I actually “get it” when I read about someone’s unique take on things, or their thoughts on certain playing styles. Even when they talk about a game I’ve never played before, at least I feel I can add to the discussion by drawing parallels or giving examples.

My time away from WoW has also taught me a lot about my own gaming habits. I look at the games I’ve played over the last couple of years, and see all these titles I’ve tried (EvE Online, Champions Online, etc.), subscribed to and dropped for good (Warhammer, Aion, etc.), or canceled only to be picked up again (Age of Conan, Lord of the Rings Online, etc.) Regardless of the result, I think each game was a valuable experience. It made me realize what I liked, or what I didn’t like.

For example, while it’s arguably one of the most polished MMOs on the market, WoW isn’t perfect. I knew that before, of course, but it was hard to pinpoint exactly why. But now that I’ve seen some of what’s out there, I am more aware of the various mechanics, features, systems and other things related to gameplay. I think to myself, I love this from Game X or that from Game Y, or I think such-and-such in game Z isn’t as well executed compared to Game A, B, or C, etc.

Playing more MMOs has also given me a new perspective on how their developers operate. Obviously, not every company has the resources Blizzard has,  and it’s interesting to see how different teams tackle the same challenges. I’ve come to recognize that while a certain solution might work for one game, it doesn’t automatically mean it can work for others. Instead of making me go, “Well, Blizzard can do it, so why can’t they?” it’s actually made me a lot more open-minded and sympathetic.

So speaking of which, if I seem overly positive in some of my articles, it might also be due to the fact that many things are still so new and fresh to me. After all, I’ve only been playing MMOs for about four years, and for more than half that time I was only playing WoW. So admittedly I’m a noob compared to some of the MMO veterans out there, but just give me another ten or so years and a few dozen more MMOs! Who knows, you may make a cynical and jaded gamer out of me yet!

All joking aside though, I thought I knew what things were like until I took a break to try new things. Some MMOs have pleasantly surprised me, others have lead to disappointment. Regardless, I’m still having fun and my eyes have been opened ever since I started giving more games a chance.

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They Were All Out Of My Size

May 26, 2010

I played some Age of Conan tonight, and was able to gain a couple more levels. Now that I’m almost level 30, I’ve collected almost a full set of Khitan armor. So, I put it all on. Hmm. Feels a little…loose.

Fellow blogger and guildie Thac0 (Minjee) asked me, “The belt makes more sense now, doesn’t it?” He was, of course, referring to my ginormous hula-hoop belt that I complained about last week.

Just kidding, Minjee. Love you! -- Having some fun before server lag crit them both for 5000 ms.

In answer to his question…well, yes and no. The other day I was walking down the street and I saw this huge ad for a major fashion chain. I can’t remember what it said exactly, but it was something along the lines of “It is not the jacket that is oversized but it is the model that is undersized. In the end, the effect is the same.” Whatever, fashion ads and their slogans never make much sense anyway, but looking at my character tonight, I couldn’t help but remember those words and chuckle to myself.

So maybe that’s it, eh? It’s not the armor that’s freakishly large, I just made my character too darn small!

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The Bestest Loading Screen Ever

May 23, 2010

Loading screens are a real pain in the butt, especially when they seem to chug along at a snail’s pace. But at least in Age of Conan, you get to look at some nice artwork. I am obsessed with this particular piece:

First of all, it’s a gorgeous piece of work and whoever painted it has got some real talent, but that’s not the only reason I like it. Every time it pops up, it makes me wonder just what the hell is going on. Okay, at first glance, a drunken brawl seems to be taking place. But then you’ve got these long, slim legs dancing on the table, and a guy sitting across from me pimping it up with a couple of wenches. They don’t seem to care all that much about the chaos happening around them, or notice that a hulking patron behind them is about to hurl a man at their heads.

Speaking of which, I love that look beardo’s giving me. I generally dislike scruffy-ness, and judging by the state of his matted hair I’m going to guess he hasn’t bathed in days — yet he still manages to look magnificently delicious. It’s gotta be the abs. But then, I’m also going to assume as the viewer I’m male here because that’s definitely a man-hand grasping that cup in the foreground…which begs the question, why is  it ME he’s undressing with those eyes when he’s surrounded by two scantily-clad women and a pair of sexy legs?

The REAL reason I love this image though, is the bar-stool-wielding woman on the left, whose enthusiasm I find both brassy and delightful. She is EXACTLY the kind of person I want my AoC character to be — a WWE wench.

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