When last I played a big brutish warrior (sweaty muscles and all), I was intent on hurling my sword, casting my rain of fire and just generally bent on destruction. No rhyme or reason; just hack and slash and much death. E3 was a first good look at a purpose for all of the mutilation and gore and generally gratuitous violence, aka fun, which will be known as Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures.
Usually, I'm snooty and spend my time with Product Director Jorgen Theraldsen. Jorgen really isn't all that special *grins*; I've just known him longer, and his face is out there. This time, I let him get mobbed by press that needed the acronym MMO explained to them and went to spend time with designer Jason Stone. I did good.
After they showed a really fantastic new trailer, we were ushered in to see gameplay in a camp and a dungeon — the first dungeon showed to the public. Jason was using a necromancer and eight pet skeletal scorpions. Although his character is a caster, his scorpions acted as his melee mechanic.
It seems odd to call them cute, but they really were ... these little bony arachnoid creatures following him like puppies. Each one was worth one pet point, and the necromancer has eight. Depending upon the pets chosen, he could have any number of pets up to the maximum of eight. A pet worth four points would allow him two total and so on. The last event, I'd played a demonologist. How many pets would my demonologist get? One. A succubus or incubus dependent upon the gender of said sorcerer.
The camp they were trying to take was Atzel the Bandit King's, stronghold. It was known that he'd been digging for artifacts as he'd made an alliance Tothamon, not the mostly kindly of people toward Conan and his people. As the party had not been particularly stealthy in their uhh ... storming of the camp, the alarm was sounded, and every bandit in Stygia was on the offense.
Unlike the demonologist I'd played who used primarily offense spells, the necromancer drained life from the surrounding environment and then used the life to heal the party. All the while, his cadaverous little pets were protecting him from attack. Again, I had that feeling of taking "from" and giving "to" that I'd experienced when playing a caster before.
At GDC, Jorgen had indicated that camp spawns would be dynamically generated. The number and aggressive stance of the enemies encountered would be different each time you enter the camp depending upon how many raided the camp and whether you entered under stealth or with swords raised in fury. The frenetic pace of the combat was a pretty good indication that careful wasn't a term being used for this demonstration.
This led me to a question that had plagued me since I'd played only two weeks ago. How the heck were you expected to chat when both hands, your toes and your chin were needed to keep combat moving? Jason said they hadn't quite solved that issue yet but were working on it. Voice chat hasn't been ruled out but hasn't been given a go, either.
Once the camp was subdued, we headed outside to a Sumerian stronghold, where we found a Frost Giant attacking the townspeople and of course, the other members of the group foolish enough to wade in while Jason and I continued talking. Apparently, this particular Frost Giant likes this encampment so much he'll even attack when no players are around to defend. Woe to the villagers on those fateful days! All these men everywhere ...
No female avatars. Grr. Not yet, but there was one in the trailer. Jason agreed that she was exactly what they hoped their females would look like. Me, too.
Finally time to enter a dungeon. Do we call them that anymore? Raid instance? I mean ... they're just personal dungeons now, and we make all this hullabaloo about them. Anyways ...
This particular dungeon allows for 24 players, the maximum. Some will be smaller. Ugh, I hate herding cats, and I hate having multiple characters so that the "right set" can finish off the dungeon. Jason assured me that although there may be optimal groupings (when is there not?), no dungeon is designed with a grouping in mind. Unless you're completely daft and enter without any ability to heal yourself or any ability to enter melee combat, you should be able to complete most dungeons with a varied mix. Yea for me, the uber-gimp!
The Black Ring Citadel. The stronghold of Tothamon. This place is icky and really cool all at the same time. There are molds for creating golems; they sorta pour pieces of human flesh into them; huge cranes that pick the molds up. The golem creatures are nasty rotting flesh things that attack you on site. Gargoyles come to life as you approach (and I want to run). At the same time, the richness of the art that always catches my attention comes through in striking detail.
Jason runs to a wall that has an enormous snake for detail, and the scales don't use black or brown for depth against bronze; they use green. Tables have fuchsia against tan; eyes glow red; lightning isn't just white, but white and blue. The saturation is intense, leaving that ever-present sense of "being alive."
The 40-foot boss that needs to be taken down and is laying waste to everyone in his path lends to this feeling, as well. Remember when bosses were just mean? Now they're huge, too!
At this point, Jason offered to let me drive, which means ... I crashed the game. I do this; it's one of my special talents. Truthfully, I think it was the fact that every single vendor in the hotel was sharing the same bandwidth, but if they want to believe it was me just because I crashed the game two weeks before, I'll let them ...
It was nice to see a purpose behind the combat (and death) I'd so diligently spent several hours experiencing previously. One does not play at death; one experiences it. I loved the dynamically generated camps; the idea of the Frost Giant is fantastic. I do hope the female avatars have the look of the woman in the trailer — she's who I'd want to be in this universe. And chat, pretty please get that figured out? Otherwise, I will have to macro, "Help, I suck!"
My children both play games so I often play them first, getting to know exactly how something may effect my sensitive and easily stimulated older child vs. my stoic and imperturbable younger.
I like games for games; for the pure enjoyment of them and believe that no game is wholly bad, though some are real stinkers.
I also have the dexterity of a camel in mittens so find playing FPSs difficult (and I also don't like the gore) and RTSs at times can stump me. I just can't seem to move quickly enough to keep up with them. Some of my favorite games are arcade games and I'll spend 3-5 years on the same 5-6 levels because I just never get any better. But, I have fun.