Thursday, May 22, 2008

Age of Conan, Day 2

Today Matt G and I spent about two hours running around Tortegu Island (I will have this name figured out at some point) attempting to group. I'd gotten two pirate-sweeping quests done when I found Matt, and after figuring out that we were in different instances we hooked up and got some questing done. Perhaps because I was helping, I only went up a single level over the time we spent, although we killed a *lot* of snakes and scorps while hunting Flesheaters. 

Some more comments on the MMO:

  • Things are still a little slow and clunky. I plan to take some of the advice on tailoring your machine for better performance, just as soon as they let me into the forums. 
  • I've gotten so that I just hit the '1' key repeatedly if I want a quest but don't want to have an entire conversation with a quest giver. They need a key to let you do this quickly, especially if you've got an alt and have been through this whole thing 20 times already. New newbie areas, please!
  • Shadows Over Tartuga - At one point, everyone and everything's shadows became detached from their bodies. It was tres freaky, let me tell you. All of these shadows walking around by themselves! 
  • Grouping - we had quite a bit of trouble staying grouped. At one point, I still had my group window up but whatever I typed wouldn't show up. Turned out I'd been bounced out of the group while Matt was still in it. It had happened before, but to Matt and I still got his messages. 
  • Interface - I have a horrible time finding how to do simple things in this interface. There is no "system" button, a la WoW, that lets you quit, fiddle with settings, etc. Finally figured out it was the ESC button (or F1, hard to tell as sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't). Figuring out how to generate a group chat window was a pain too, and typing '/' to get the cursor into the chat window didn't work - I had to click on it. I expect a lot of interface improvements over the coming weeks, but for now the delta between this game and WoW will slow me down on a regular basis. 
One thing that I'm finding to be disconcerting is the whole day/night paradigm. If you want to do solo quests in your own instance of the city, you tell the bartender and off you go. If you want to play multi-player, same thing. You can't do both sets of quests at once. Fortunately, the night quests seem to be class-specific, so you're less likely to want to group for them. I guess that once you get out of the initial area the diurnal cycle is set to game time rather than the player's request, and I'm not sure that's going to be a good thing. Imagine going to a new area planning to do quests there, logging out for the day, and coming back later and finding out that you can't do those quests. Maybe I have this wrong, but it strikes me as a bit dunderheaded out of the gate. Especially as right now I have a single night quest that's a little high for me right now, so I need the daytime quests just to play. 

One good thing about the various problems is that I'm not itching to play for eight hour stretches, but rather for two to four hours at a time (probably around two in the future) until things stabilize. I hear that you can solo all the way up to around 40 without any problem, too, although I'm concerned that there will be a lot of friend's characters that arrive at that point at a wide variety of times, making it hard to group. Time will tell, as the single newb area is definitely going to limit the number of characters I generate if all I do is run them through the same freakin' zone again and again. Hopefully Funcom will have additional starting areas as the game matures.

One last thing - I'm having trouble figuring out when I'm in an instance and when I'm not. Matt and I couldn't find each other for about five minutes until we figured out that the city itself had several instances. We could still communicate, and it was easy to get to the new instance (assuming you don't mind respawning outside the city). Just more confusion, I guess. 

I don't mean to sound like I'm down on the game, I'm just used to WoW and it's extremely mature and stable world. Finding the delta between the two games will be an interesting experience, and will give me a strong sense of whether or not I want to be involved in an immature MMO in the future. So far I haven't minded too much, and I'm much more into this game than I was with either CoH or GW. Regardless, my WoW account isn't going to go cold in the meantime - I'm still enjoying it quite a bit, although Leo is getting bored with the daily quests and has 23 group/dungeon quests that he needs people to play with to finish. 


dave said...

ESC for system menu is standard for PC games.

Based on the difficulties you encountered, the group experience sounds like Guild Wars. Things that become second nature within a week never bother me up front.

Dug said...

sI've been asked to go over even small things as I report on AoC, so I'm giving my opinion as I go. As I said, I expect that I'll get used to things over time, and that the interface will improve as well.

The whole ESC thing sounds like a holdover from the DOS days. Mac programs are expected to conform to a Human Interface standard from the early days where everything was accessible in some way shape or form from an obvious icon or menu item, so I'm clearly unused to a method that everyone else has been putting up with for years. Regardless, the ESC key worked for me about every three times I tried pressing it. Perhaps it needs three seconds, mentioned in the Windows for Gamers manual I wasn't issued.

As for figuring out the Group chat in the comm window, there was no Group tab when I joined a group, which seems like an obvious piece of functionality. WoW has no tabs at all, the various chats are going on in different colors and with different headers. That wasn't a big deal, although different, but having to figure out that there is a * character on one of the tabs (and hard to make out as it's not far off from the background color) and that I need to enable Group chat strikes me as a bit lame. I'd also expect an easy way to reply to whoever last contacted me, whether via Guild, group, or tell.

I'm not saying WoW is the be all and end all of interfaces, it's just that they do quite a few things right and AoC doesn't. Yet. Perhaps there's been a conscious effort to not make it look too much like any other MMOs, sort of like Windows trying to look like the Mac but making enough different *just* to avoid copyright infringement. Ooops, there I go again.

Did I mention that I *really* wish they'd done a Mac version? Just so that I could read my e-mail (I can get a browser up just fine). Guess I'll use my iPhone instead when I'm playing.

While I'm at it, the whole "one active quest" thing needs to be fixed as well. Every time I get a new quest, I have to go into the log to find the old quest I wanted to track - it would be nice to not have the focus shifted to the new one, or at least an option for it not to change unless selected by the player.

I'm unlikely to play a lot on Friday, as I've got a rehearsal that evening and need to do some prep work. Sunday is the gig, so the same goes there. I will be playing on Saturday, so if you're on the Wiccana server please give me a shout out (Basti) if you think to.

BTW, the character creation software seems to be pretty cool. You can get into a really involved process if you want to, at least appearance-wise, but can just go with a standard set of options (that still allow a good deal of customization). That's the sort of excellent choices I really like in an MMO, and one thing I wish WoW allowed you to do.