Let it never be said that the business of MMOs is not a volatile one. Each day I log into the Age of Conan forums to see the fire storm of angry players complaining about everything under the sun. To be honest, I think they are an exceedingly vocal minority. There are a large group of players who are generally happy. That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t a lot of room for improvement.
Age of Conan is a wonderful game despite all the issues it does have. It contains some fairly cutting edge features that have not been done well in any previous MMO. If you’re playing a melee class, combat requires thought and attention to detail, healing is no longer a “cower behind and play whack a mole” profession and the standard class dynamic has been set on its ear. Everything is not a black and white “tank and spank” these days. All of those features are wonderful.
Where the Funcom team needs the most improvement, however, is on basic features. It is shocking to me what the average player gets in Frames Per Second (FPS). It blows my mind that features that consumers would consider requisite and expected are missing. Most of all, however, I am surprised by the lack of a robust guild system in a game that basically mandates guild participation.
Are you interesting in being a craftsman? You must join a guild. Do you want to join in a large group to defeat raid encounters? You should probably join a guild. Would you like to siege or defend a battle keep? Join a guild already! It seems abundantly clear, to me anyway, that everything in this game revolves around guilds. To that I say, “It is about time.”
I am tired of the WoW mentality that nearly everything should be able to be done solo. I miss the traditional EverQuest model where after a certain point being social was required to succeed. In my mind, if you play MMOs to be a lone wolf, you’re wasting your money. I am getting to a point here, I swear.
In a game where guild membership is not just a benefit but a requirement for certain functions why are they supported so poorly? Here is a list of basic features that Conan guilds need and need soon to help support the players who’re passionate about progressing forwards. Many of you may be shocked to find that these things aren’t in game at the time of writing.
I. An in game pane dedicated to the guild. At this time your guild members are mixed into your friends list. The information on where they are rarely works and you don’t have the option to sort everyone on and offline together. You get two separate lists.
II. There isn’t a supported officer chat channel nor can you create one. You simply must handle all officer business in tells or via some method external to the game. Anyone in a large guild or a guild that is very active knows how important this channel is.
III. Guild customization is lacking for the most part. Many of us consider it a basic feature to be able to rename your ranks even if you can’t add more. AoC does not offer the ability to rename, add or delete ranks, or even set permissions for them. By default, you must be a senior officer to remove anything from the guild bank. This is clearly a problem.
IV. Officer notes for members are non-existent. No information can be placed in game. Again guild officers must use an out of game system to achieve this.
V. The guild system also lacks a bank log. Anything anyone puts in is anonymous. As you can imagine, anything anyone takes out is also anonymous. This can be a pretty sticky situation.
That covers the basics that were missing. I would like to say that that is the sum of it but unfortunately it is not. Age of Conan also takes MMO guilds in another direction by giving them the option to build cities. There are issues here as well. Guild cities were designed for the PVE environment. They require a huge time and in game gold commitment. There is nothing cheap about them and almost all their features do not function. Let’s cover a few of those as well.
I. Taxes were a feature that was promised in beta and in release documentation. Essentially the guild leader could levy a tax on all members. This is an imperative feature. Any guild leader out there can tell you that getting gold from members is hard. They see it as directly hitting their bank account. If they simply never got a few percent of their coin, they wouldn’t notice. This also ensures a fair distribution of the financial burden.
II. Guild cities were to be the target of NPC attacks. Cities, at the moment, can have massive defensive structures raised to protect them. These are expensive and add to the time requirement exponentially. They are also without use. Why should a guild leader request materials to construct them when the scripts for the attacks are not yet in place? When these attacks do occur, what will the reward be for defeating them? If the city offers little benefit and is constantly under siege it will be counter productive.
III. Each building in a guild’s city is intended to provide a benefit to the guild members. In the tool tip a few benefits are listed but it is unclear as to if they actually effect members at this time. In addition to that the effect is so minor you would barely notice it. Other buildings, such as the trade post, don’t really offer any upgrade when you build higher tier versions. Taking this step should have some effect: a better deal on the market place, harvesting is easier or something along those lines.
IV. Guild cities are rather barren and lifeless places. They should be the hub of guild activity. Adding NPC merchants, guards, wayfarers, and peasants would be a great addition. Funcom could even charge in game gold to purchase and place these amenities. Doing so would draw larger guilds away from primary cities and reduce lag and the load there.
V. My final criticism is that the cities lack character completely. There is nothing to distinguish one from the next other than progress. At the bare minimum there should be customizable banners that can be hung from the guild’s walls or at least a little sign that says “This place belongs to X.”
That pretty much sums up what I would like to see in the near future. Most of these features aren’t something that should be in an expansion. With any luck we’ll hear from Funcom about whether any of this is intended or not. All I’m asking for is acknowledgment of the issue. I am a very patient fellow after all.