Age of Conan: Unchained
|This article may need to be rewritten entirely to comply with Wikipedia's quality standards. (July 2013)|
|Age of Conan: Unchained|
North American cover for Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
|Genre(s)||Sword and sorcery MMORPG, online RPG|
|Distribution||Optical disc, Download|
Age of Conan: Unchained (formerly known as Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures) is a fantasy-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed by a Norwegian computer video game developer company, Funcom, and is published by Eidos Interactive for Microsoft Windows.
The game's pre-release occurred on May 17, 2008, available to those who had pre-ordered the game and registered for early access; the full release and launch of the game was May 20, 2008 in Northern America, and May 23, 2008 for Europe. Although originally announced as being available for the Xbox 360, the console version has now been cancelled. Originally, in order to continuously play Hyborian Adventures, users were required to pay a monthly subscription fee. In May 2011 Funcom announced that a free-to-play (F2P) option would become available later in the year, although customers would still have the option to subscribe. The free version of the game became available in June 2011, offering limited access to game content, while subscribers received 'premium' access to all available game content. A microtransaction system was introduced in summer 2011 to enable players to purchase in-game items via Funcom Points.
Hyborian Adventures is the first installment in the planned Age of Conan series. Age of Conan itself takes place within the continent of the Hyborian kingdoms, a year after the events depicted in Robert E. Howard's Conan novel, The Hour of the Dragon. Hyborian Adventures' release celebrated the 76th anniversary of the Conan franchise.
- 1 Characters
- 2 Combat
- 3 Setting
- 4 Music and sound
- 5 Technology
- 6 Development
- 7 Additional content
- 8 Reception
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Characters in Age of Conan: Unchained are registered to a unique user account on a specific online server, with characters created on one server unable to be played on another. Players are able to create characters which function as their virtual avatars in the online world of Hyboria. During character creation, the player may choose from four playable races. The character is one of four archetypes (in bold) and one of three class selections for each archetype. The Rise of the Godslayer expansion brought on a new race, the Khitan. Earlier only some classes were free to play but on December 13, 2012 all classes were made available in the free model.
Combat comprises striking a target from different angles, such as hacking down against the head, slashing diagonally down from the left or right, and slashing diagonally up from the left or right. These directions are designed to be strung together in combination naturally during combat. Difficult-to-perform combinations cause additional damage and faster strikes.
Funcom has said that their "Real Combat" system, a combat system designed to offer more real-time options than traditional Dungeons & Dragons-inspired "turn-based" combat systems that are more commonly used, will be a prime attraction of Age of Conan: Unchained. This "Real Combat" system is a first-person melée approach in which every enemy has three different areas that players can target. Combinations can be performed by stringing together consecutive attacks in particular directions. Feedback from players has pointed out that this system requires a certain degree of dexterity. Character statistics and item bonuses also play a role in this system, however item bonuses have less effect on a character's power than in comparable games, so that whilst equipment does play a certain role other factors also have an impact, such as the player's skill or their analysis of the scenario. The idea of "Real Combat" is to eliminate the dullness of typical MMO fighting, which often consists of an auto-attack feature.
The "Real Combat" system is used in one-on-one weapon battles, as well as during spell-casting, ranged combat and mounted combat. In some situations however, players will choose to band together and unite their skills to face other bands of players or non-player armies. Players can then work together and build on each other's strengths, for example a character standing in line with a 'Conqueror' when he is running will have a greater resistance to knockback effects.
Players are able to take part in large scale siege operations. Adventurers can cooperate with one another to build cities with walls, towers and catapults that can protect player-owned taverns and merchant facilities.
In July 2011, a Hardcore PvP server was launched for the EU and US servers. This hardcore PvP server removes the guards from the various cities and playfields and re-opened PvP on the instances around the city of Tortage. This hardcore server brings back the basics of MMO PvP combat in that players will have a chance at dropping loot from their inventory when they are killed in player vs player combat. Also, players are only able to have one character on these servers. This was a fresh-start server which doesn't allow any character transfer to it, does not allow the use of offline levels, or free level 50 characters.
Age of Conan is set in a low fantasy pseudo-historical ancient world called the Hyborian Age, created by Robert E. Howard. The warlord Conan has seized the throne of Aquilonia, but ancient evils seek to overthrow him.
The Hyborian Age is like a dark, decadent, twisted and corrupt version of Euro-Asian history. Mix a bit of the Roman Empire, Mongolian culture and Babylonian mysticism with '30s-era myths of undiscovered Africa...
The lead artist Terje Lundberg said that the look and feel of Hyboria was based on the interpretation of the stories written by Robert E. Howard:
- "When you read Howard's work you're immediately drawn into a gritty world of dark and ancient forces, and mighty and decadent civilizations. You feel the great weight of the ages and sense the very history in the crumbling mortar and the ruins. Therefore we've been mindful from the outset to create a world which is true to Howard's writing. There is majesty in Hyboria but it's of a monolithic, brutal and primitive kind – it certainly isn't "high fairie" where everything appears as though it was built only yesterday and is devoid of context."
Lundberg said the game at launch will contain three countries, Cimmeria, a northern country with snow and highlands, Aquilonia, which contains "green hills, lush riverbeds, and the marvelous city of Tarantia", and Stygia, which consists mostly of deserts and "some beautiful cities" — as well as the island of Tortage which "has a diverse geography ranging from jungle to harbors".
Music and sound
Five principal individuals worked on the music and audio for Age of Conan: Unchained. The Audio Director is Morten Sørlie, who created the soundtrack for Anarchy Online – Shadowlands. Simon Poole (Lead Sound designer on "Dreamfall – The Longest Journey") took over as Audio Director in May 2007, and saw the project through to completion. The sound designers are Tord D. Nikolaisen and Fredrik Martol. Composer Knut Avenstroup Haugen wrote the musical score for the game. To create a musical score for the Hyborian universe, Haugen turned to many different sources: For the music of the different ethnic groups, Haugen studied traditional music from relevant parts of the world. For the overall sound of the Hyborian Age, Haugen studied ancient and medieval music as well as the romantic orchestra repertoire and film scores, while avoiding conventions that connect too closely to specific historical periods.
The female vocalist heard in the score is Norwegian singer Helene Bøksle. The lyrics of the music is in the Old Norwegian language and comes from the Völuspá, the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda.
Knut Avenstroup Haugen won the IFMCA award for Best Original Score for a Video Game or Interactive Media for his score.
Music used in video by Norwegian Breivik
The music accompanying the propaganda video which the perpetrator of the 2011 Norway attacks, Anders Behring Breivik uploaded to video sharing sites including YouTube at the same time that he published his manifesto, comes from the Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures soundtrack. Breivik writes of Bøksle's voice that it is the perfect sound to listen to when one commits acts of martyrdom. During his trial he also testified that he uses this music, particularly the song "Ere the World Crumbles" when he meditates, as he did in preparation for his terrorist acts on 22 July 2011. Bøksle said in a press release in the week following the attacks that she distanced herself from Breivik's use of the music. The music's composer, Knut Avenstroup Haugen, has done the same.
The game makes use of following technologies:
- 'Cheetah'. Shader-oriented proprietary render engine re-written from scratch by Funcom featuring a Phong per pixel lighting system. This engine allows for improved graphics and ambience. This is coupled with a trapezoidal shadow system, an in-house system developed by Funcom that allows all objects to cast shadows onto everything.
- 'Perlin noise-based cloud generating system'. Five-layered procedural system that enables multiple layers of dynamic clouds; thus, visually realistic cloud behavior.
- 'SpeedTree'. Programming package that aims to produce high-quality virtual foliage in real time.
- 'DreamWorld'. The graphics engine has been developed by Funcom circa 2000. When Funcom began developing Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, the company reviewed its existing technology base and decided to focus on the further evolution of their proprietary DreamWorld engine as opposed to licensing a third-party engine as many online RPG companies do. As such, Funcom began to retool their engine with the overall design. Pipeline and implementation process was taken into account. In light of these changes, the DreamWorld engine has been rebuilt for Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures with new features, special effects, and optimizations.
- 'DirectX 10'. A major update of DirectX API. Although advertised on the gamebox, the game did not include support for DirectX 10 at the time of launch. The DX10 client was finally released for all live servers late March 2009.
- 'Umbra'. Umbra is GPU-accelerated occlusion culling software developed by Umbra software Ltd. Umbra's aim is to speed up the rendering of large worlds with a lot of overdraw.
Funcom delayed Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures on January 21, 2008 and again on March 24, 2008. The delays were widely reported by online game magazines such as IGN. Once released, the game sold over 500,000 copies worldwide by June 1, 2008. Six days later one million copies had been shipped in total.
Between March 2005 and January 2006, Funcom periodically revealed concept art and screenshots from Age of Conan. The Art Director for the Conan project is Didrik Tollefsen, known for such classics as The Longest Journey and Anarchy Online – Shadowlands, which won the Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction award in 2003.
On January 24, 2006, Funcom unveiled the community portal for Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures. By this time, much of the pre-launch community had gathered around the forums and IRC chat of the official Age of Conan website. There were informal events such as IRC chats with the developers and, in summer 2006, community contests.
In April 2006, Funcom created a forum for guild recruitment entitled the Guild Hall for its pre-launch community, allowing forum members began organizing their player guilds.
In January 2007, several important updates were announced regarding the expected launch window for the game. Also on January 12, 2007, Funcom announced the original twenty-three classes had been merged down to fourteen classes to avoid the lack of diversity between them.
On February 7, 2008, Funcom and Eidos announced that over 500,000 people had signed up for the Beta Testing of Age of Conan.
On May 19, 2008, GameZone.com presented a series of original fictional stories by Michael Lafferty, stemming from the massively multiplayer online world of Age of Conan – Hyborian Adventures. The stories were written with the permission and cooperation of Funcom. The tales explore the world, the characters and the lore involved in Hyboria.
In September 2008, Gaute Godager, the Producer and Game Director resigned from his role in Age of Conan and from Funcom, a company he had been involved in for over 16 years. In his press release, he revealed that he was not happy with elements in the game's development since release. He was succeeded by Craig Morrison, previously live Game Director of Anarchy Online, and community manager for various Funcom community forums.
On August 18, 2009, Funcom launched a website showcasing the upcoming expansion, Rise of the Godslayer. Set in the mythical land of Khitai, it features a new Eastern theme. The expansion was released on May 11, 2010.
On June 30, 2011, Funcom began marketing the game with the new title, Age of Conan: Unchained (as opposed to Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures), and altered the subscription model to a hybrid one. A hybrid model incorporates free-to-play (no monthly fee is charged) and premium plans. Premium players may choose from 1-, 3-, 6-, and 12-month recurring payment, while free-to-play players have limited access to characters, features, and areas. Some of the limitations can be removed with the use of the new "Item Shop" (available only in the game), where items can be bought with the help of Funcom Points. Funcom Points can be earned either by subscribing or by buying them with real cash.
On August 31, 2011, Funcom released the Savage Coast of Turan adventure pack as a promotion for the upcoming 2011 Conan film Conan the Barbarian.
From June 2012 to May 2013, the game has undergone several changes, catering to less sophisticated people and fitting it into more casual brackets of the genre; causing ambiguous sentiments among the population. This was especially prominent with coming of Joel Bylos, a new game director.
In his monthly letter for August 2013, Joel Byos revealed a new major PvP event titled The Great Hyborian Race. A new server called the Blood and Glory ruleset server which will be started specifically for this event. The players will have to create a new character on this server in order to participate in this event. The objective is to reach level 80 in all classes by joining a guild or by going it alone. Those first to reach the level will be awarded special prizes. Those who reach a certain threshold of PvP experience within a given timeframe will be given bonus rewards. For the duration of the event, participants will be unable to use offline levels and restrictions will be placed on XP potions. Players have to earn experience through PvE and PvP fights. The developers are aiming to start the event after the server merge which was delayed due to office move by Funcom.
Rise of the Godslayer
The first expansion titled Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer was released on May 11, 2010 and provides new areas for medium-level characters in the form of a home zone for the new playable race, the Khitans; and four additional regions for high-level characters. The new content also includes new companions that can be trained for use as combat pets, or as mounts. A faction system was introduced in order to add variety and re-playability to the new zones. Through new quests, group instances, and raids, players are able to gather tokens to buy new armour sets. An additional incentive is the Alternative Advancement system; a new tree of character feats or perks that are acquired by means of a dedicated point system. It also expanded the raiding in the game to add Tier 4.
The Savage Coast Of Turan
On August 31, 2011, Funcom released "The Savage Coast of Turan" adventure pack, which can be bought for Funcom Points from the item shop by all players. The pack includes a new playfield known as "Coast of Ardashir", two new solo instances, a group instance, a new 24-man raid instance called "Temple of Erlik" and a new combat pet. The new content was aimed to launch along with the 2011 film Conan the Barbarian, so that players had the chance to see some of the characters, armor, and weapons from the film.
Secrets of Dragon's Spine
On September 3, 2012 Funcom announced that it is planning a new adventure pack called "Secrets of Dragon's Spine" which will be released in a series of updates. The pack introduces a new zone called Dragon's Spine, a row of small peaks in the southern wastes of Stygia. It will feature new quests, dungeons, challenges, a new mount type, a new raid instance and a new PvP area. The first update was released on live servers on January 10, 2013. On August 13, 2013 a new dungeon which also contains a city of the Serpent Men was added in the Dragon's Spine.
The game received "generally favorable reviews" according to Metacritic. The game was "very inviting and plays well" according to VariableGHz. Player reactions were overwhelmingly negative in the months following the release, as the game was plagued by a vast number of bugs, missing zones, broken encounters and total lack of end-game content. Since release, Funcom has made improvements to performance and changes and additions to the game which were not ready in time for launch, as well as in response to feedback from players. Additions have included new adventuring zones, and revamps of existing dungeons.
Giuseppe Nelva of DualShockers.com wrote an updated review of the game in September 2011, praising the improved state of the game and awarding Age of Conan a 9/10, while writing:
- "With the arrival of the new game director Craig Morrison, and years of hard work behind the scenes, not only Funcom managed to straighten the many things that didn’t work in the game and polish it considerably, but they completely turned the tables, creating one of the most enjoyable, innovative and beautiful looking and sounding MMORPGs in the market. It’s not yet perfect, and some old flaws still occasionally resurface, but whether you are an old player that quit long ago, but is still hearing the wild call of Hyboria, or you’re looking for a new MMORPG to enjoy, Age of Conan is an extremely solid offering, that together with one of the best low-fantasy settings ever written, graphics of jaw-dropping quality and the innovative battle system, creates a game that every fan of the MMORPG genre should try."
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