Category Archives: age of conan

Hat News Now Today: The Wilderness Years

Badadadadada dum dum dum dadada daa daaa dum dum daaaaaaaaa! Welcome back to Hat News Now Today, Today’s source Now of Hat News, Now, Today.

After a slightly disappointing hat collection amassed in Tortage, your Hat News correspondent performed some heroic and world changing act of some kind involving a volcano or something (no particularly exciting hats were involved, so it wasn’t worth recording in detail) and moved on to explore some of the rest of Hyboria.

The bad news is, bowls on the head with nosepieces are still very in. Leather, hide, iron, steel, copper, strontium, they all rather blur into each other after a while, and the photographer dozed off before being able to catch all the nuances of the leather helm with iron banding versus the iron helm with leather bindings.

On the plus side, new sets of enemies bring new opportunities for mass killing sprees in the search of a new hat! If you’re looking for something a bit cold, a bit Viking, something that would let you get a bit part in an advert for Skol lager, then you’ll want to hunt down the Vanir, and maybe steal one of these helmets.

If, on the other hand, you’re after something a bit more classical, something that says “yes, I could take you on in a fight, but afterwards I could also find the length of the longest side of a right angle triangle and write an epic poem about it”, then perhaps one of these, wrenched from a Nemedian, is more your scene.

Or finally, there’s always one group you can rely on to take the approach of “working metal is a bit tricky, I know, lets just grab the nearest animal and stick it on our heads!” Yes, it’s those crazy Picts again.

So there we have it; something of an improvement, but still not exactly a vast and thrilling range of headgear options. Rest assured, though, your Hat News Now Today team will work tirelessly to perform their mission: to explore strange new hats, to seek out new headgear and new headwear, to boldly place bits of animal on their head that no man has placed before (and for very good reason in most cases). B-bye!

Cry havoc, and let… oh, wait, never mind

I’ve never really seen the fuss about “nerfs”. I’m sure there are some examples of game adjustments that resulted in previously perfectly balanced, non-overpowered characters becoming much less viable, but the vast majority of “nerfs” I’ve seen forums explode over have fallen into one of two categories.

Firstly there are the tweaks made almost constantly in most MMOGs; balancing adjustments, fixing of minor bugs, generally making things work As Intended. Half the time you’d be pushed to notice the difference in play if you hadn’t been told a rounding error in the code had been corrected, resulting in your Pokey Sword Death attack doing 22.40 points of damage instead of 22.50. Not that this stops someone on the forums producing an incredibly detailed spreadsheet conclusively demonstrating that this utterly ruins the viability of the class, will stop them ever being invited to groups, and note Graph C in subsection 4.1.2 with a significant increase on the “Slap In The Face” axis following the change. Even better, if multiple attributes of a power are adjusted (say the Pokey Sword Circle AoE attack is slightly increased in damage, but affects a slightly smaller area), not only will there be spreadsheets proclaiming The End Of The Class As We Know It, but rival spreadsheets will clearly demonstrate this is a ludicrous, unjustified buff that will result in raids consisting of nothing but that class. It’s just a bit extra noise, though, in the eternal chorus of “Class X is broken”, “Class X is overpowered”, “Class X is riddocqueuelessss”.

Then there’s fixing of big mistakes. These are much less common, but tend to result in really major explosions, even by usual MMOG forum labour-pain numbing standards. Maybe a decimal point error resulted in the Armour of Anti-Poking ability of the Barbassassin class granting 95% damage reduction instead of 9.5%. It gets fixed. Some poor Barbassassins who never knew any different are a bit surprised when they keep dying, but adjust after a while, as the rest of the class abilities are still fine. Some players who knew perfectly well it was a ludicrously overpowered ability grumble a bit and get on with it (or reroll to the next flavour of the month, until they get fixed). Some, though, can’t let it go. They refuse to believe that anything less than 95% damage reduction is in any way acceptable. They threaten to quit the game, organise protests and boycotts, retain lawyers to sue the games company, contact the European Court of Human Rights wanting to know what’s going to be done about this heinous infringement of their civil liberty and start constructing small thermonuclear devices in their garages to hold the world to ransom until their demands are met. Eventually the storm blows over, though a few holdouts will lurk for years in forums, like Japanese soldiers stuck on isolated islands not knowing the war is over, occasionally pouncing on a passing developer to bemoan the loss of their beloved Armour of Anti-Poking…

So the sound and fury on forums about nerfs normally signifies nothing, and I tend to discount it all as groundless whinging. Genuine issues get overlooked like the boy who cried “wolf!”; actually, more like a vast horde of boys, some crying “wolf!”, others saying “I think it’s probably a wolf”, and some strident factions utterly adamant it’s a whole pack of wolves, or tigers, or elephants, or possibly giraffes (which might not sound so bad, but they’re giraffes with machine guns). Yesterday, though, in Age of Conan, I suddenly got an insight into their pain. I realised the gross, heinous injustice of unwarranted game changes. My character was ruined. Playing him wasn’t fun any more. The Tony Harrison outrage-o-meter was off the scale, and the forums would hear of it.

No, I don’t play a Demonologist (no idea what impact the patch note “Fixed an exploit with Demonologists (infinite stacking of certain spells)” has, and I’m not touching the Demonologist forums with a ten foot pole strapped to a particularly long barge pole to find out). I went to do /emote hugefish_m last night, and… nothing! Funcom had taken it out! I was just putting the finishing touches on a petition to the government, detailing how such a change was tantamount to a declaration of war by Norway and that firm military action was the only possible response, when I thought I’d double check the emote list, and found they’d simply removed the _m suffix to make the command /emote hugefish. Phew. That was a close one.

Hat News Now Today visits Tortage

Badadadadada dum dum dum dadada daa daaa dum dum daaaaaaaaa![1] Welcome to Hat News Now Today, Today’s source of Hat News, Now.

Much has been written of Age of Conan, Funcom’s new MMORPG, but for the avid Hatter, one question remains unanswered: why did Rudolf Hess fly to Scotland in May 1941? Hat News Now Today has no idea. But we have sent our correspondents to Tortage, the starting area of Age of Conan, to see what sort of hats are on offer.

The most prevalent headgear is the sturdy padded leather helm, favoured by melee combatants.

Then there’s the helm that’s leather, and padded. Iron nose pieces are in this year.

For those wanting something lighter, there’s the leather helm with ever so slightly less padding.

Yes, as far as helms go, the key words this season are “leather” and “padded”. The iron nose piece is ubiquitous, the major stylistic war rages over Flappy Bit Hanging Over The Neck: Yes or No? (Your correspondent apologises to eagle-eyed viewers who might’ve noticed all the illustrated hats are actually the same, but he couldn’t be bothered to catalogue the minimal differences. Also Tortage is a bit dark, and flash photography won’t be invented for a few millenia, so the pictures are a bit murky).

Still, all is not lost for the hat aficionado. Hat News Now Today would suggest that those seeking more exciting millinery opt for a more mystical light or cloth armour wearing class, which opens up options such as the hood:

Perfect for reapers (of the grim variety), monks, mysterious strangers, and petty criminals trying to avoiding having their face shown in Closed Circuit Artist’s Etchings.

The really exciting hat developments come from the Picts, though:

Here, Arthur “Two Skulls” Jackson shows that skulls aren’t just for inside the head!

And finally, the perfect headgear for anyone who’s ever wanted to hide behind a wall, then pop up shouting “argh, I’m being eaten by a giant snake!”

So there we have it. Today’s Hat News, Now from Tortage is mostly padded and leather, but don’t forget to head out to White Sands to see what those crazy Picts are up to. Next time out we’ll be off to Stygia, to see if anyone has had the bright idea of making stuff out of metal yet. B-bye!

[1] I would have added a sound file to this post of dramatic current affairs theme music, a la Panorama (or more probably The Day Today), but I’m afraid I couldn’t be bothered so you’ll just have to hum it yourself. Still, it would’ve been a dead giveaway if you were trying to read this at work or somewhere, so probably for the best. Unless you just hummed it, which would also have been a dead giveaway… Quick! Tell your boss you were reading important company announcements, and adding theme music gives them greater impact. You never know, you might start a trend.

You should’ve seen the one that got away…

There comes a time in every new MMOG when you’ve created your character, deleted them, re-created them again with slightly different facial tattoos, run through the tutorial, gone back and re-rolled a different character class, run through the tutorial again with them, decided you preferred the first character, re-logged back in to them, got out of the initial single player tutorial area, found the /friend command (hint: for Age of Conan, it’s (obviously) /cc addbuddy , or there is an “Add by name” button, but it’s in the Players/Groups window rather than the Friends window), sent a message to your friend, found out where they are, found out where you are, managed to negotiate yourselves to the same location, in the same instance, and then it’s time for the traditional MMOG greeting: trying out every funny-sounding emote in the list (starting with /hi, /hail, /wave etc., and building up to anything vaguely insulting).

Age of Conan is slightly finicky to start with, needing you to type /emote greet rather than just /greet (I think, unless anyone knows of any shortcuts). Usefully, tab completion works with slash commands, so /em (tab) (tab) completes the emote command, then pulls up a full list of available emotes. One curious aspect is some emotes are appended with _m and _f, which seems to indicate they’re only available to male or female characters; if that’s the case, there’s no dancing for hulking (male) barbarians, or flirting, or clapping excitedly, whereas females don’t get to cheer, scratch their arm, or be apprehensive.

Anyway, bumping into Melmoth the other night, after a quick /emote greet, it was on to the fun stuff. /emote vomit naturally provided hours of enterainment, as did /emote bearhug and /emote embrace, particularly trying to get the aim right. The epic jewel slotted in the crown of Conan emotes, though, are the fish series of /emote smallfish, /emote mediumfish_m and /emote hugefish_m. These, as you could possibly deduce, cause your character to hold up their hands indicating the size of a small, medium, or indeed huge fish, the latter being particularly impressive as you fling your arms wide to convey just how huge the fish was. Frankly, there wasn’t any need to proceed further through the list, as there is literally (in the Kermodean sense, which is “not literally, actually the opposite of literally”) no situation for which /emote hugefish_m is not perfect. Greeting the rest of your party? /emote hugefish_m! Celebrating a victory? /emote hugefish_m! Roleplaying entering an inn, being wary of those around yet confident of your own abilities? /emote hugefish_m!

There is, of course, one exception to the rule, left as an exercise for the reader to work out; suffice to say it involves griefers or other malcontents, an estimation of certain lengths and the /emote smallfish command (note to Funcom: tinyfish could be handy if you’re ever adding more…)

Postcard from Tortage.

Hello dear readers. Greetings from Tortage, where I am currently enjoying sun, sea and slaughter. The locals are very accommodating: they’ve all accepted my two-handed hammer against their noggins with nary a complaint. There is a whole abundance of wildlife on the nearby islands, fascinating creatures with the most amazing pelts, all of which are now hanging on the wall of my room in the Thirsty Dog Inn. I’ve met all manner of colourful members of the local villain underground, although they were all a rather a sanguinous colour after I’d finished visiting with them. Many of the natives have never seen a bear shaman before it would seem, as they are all very keen to rush up to me and greet me in their traditional way: sword waving about their heads and screaming. Still, my trusty war-hammer Gunhilde was happy to greet them in the equally traditional manner of the bear shaman: whistling and singing as she swings through the air and then vibrating with pleasure as she makes contact with these new peoples of the world. Anyway, must dash, we’re continuing our tour over to the White Sands, where apparently there are some ancient ruins that are worth visiting. Something about ancient treasures and demonic lords of the underworld; I must remember to take my camera. Hope you are all well, don’t forget to feed the plants while I’m gone.

Otherwise Gunhilde will be having words when I get back.

Love Gunnbjorn.

(outr)Age of Conan

The Early Access to Age of Conan has kicked off; a few hours late, which wasn’t really a problem (Doctor Who was on anyway), and with a minor glitch when the patcher failed to update itself properly (Quis patcheriet ipsos patcheres?), but once those were sorted out it’s been pretty smooth. I’ve been running around the rather pretty starter area, administering much pointy-stick based justice; it’s busy, but not to the “please take a numbered ticket, you’ll be called when we have a mob for you to kill” levels of some other games at launch. All in all, on the Tony Harrison scale of outrage, it’s not even at “getting lost on a flying carpet”, let alone “being used as a volleyball”.

Aug ‘ur? I hardly know ‘er!

By Balin’s braided beards! A calf was born with two tails last night. A grey fox crossed my path. The auguries are ill indeed for the dawning of Age of Conan. Thirteen rooks were perched in a tree. Thirteen! Worst of all, though, worse still than all those, the head start requires a 13Gb download, the Funcom patcher manages to stumble along at about 50k/s (possibly because it’s torrent-based and swamping the upload, even with an upload limit set) giving an estimated time to completion of “when the moons of Voron align with the twin towers of the temple of Veerun (or about two of your earth weeks)”, so, leaving it downloading overnight, I come down in the morning to check how many nanometres the progress bar has shifted to find the devil himself has kicked me square in the nuts through his earthly emissaries of Microsoft. I’m *sure* I have XP set to “Download your myriad security patches (if you really must) but don’t bloody apply them until I say so”, but the PC was sitting there with a smug just-rebooted expression, and sure enough the event log shows it applied an update and rebooted around 3am. I’ll leave it running the next couple of nights, but unless the patcher pulls its finger out (and Micro-bleedin’-soft can refrain from rebooting the PC) I suspect the client won’t be ready for THE VERY INSTANT the head-start servers are up, which is clearly an outrage of Tony Harrison proportions, but not to worry, who wants to be cooped up when it’s such a lovely weekend in prospect? What’s that, you say? Thunderstorms forecast for Saturday? Oh.

Course, I’m a fool for being in such a rush anyway. A wise man would give any MMOG six months or so to get early kinks worked out, let the population distribute itself over the whole gameworld rather than everyone being crammed into the starter zones like an episode of Mythbusters testing that “entire population of the whole world could fit onto the Isle of Wight” theory, and allow the developers to release an update or two so it finally has all the features they really wanted to get in for launch but didn’t quite have time for (like an end game, player housing, different character classes, combat, graphics instead of the interface being a text parser, that sort of thing). Unfortunately I’m not a wise man, I’m a rash impetuous fool, and worse still a rash impetuous fool with a credit card who’s easily swayed by shiny baubles like a three day head start, so I’ve brought this all on myself. Oh well, I’m off to see what a sheep’s entrails say the coming week holds…

Note: no sheep will actually be harmed in the fulfilling of this post, unless the forecasts are totally wrong and it is a lovely weekend, in which case some minted lamb chops might get barbecued.

We read to know we are not alone.

Zoso wrote to me at work this morning – I’m offline in the evening at the moment for reasons that I’m sure I’ll go into in a meandering and flannelling fashion sometime soon – huzzahing the fact that we’re both set for a rhino riding rampage in Age of Conan should we ever reach the heady level of the forties in said game. He also mentioned, however, that we would at least have our bonus order belts for extra carrying capacity in the meantime; apparently you get a free belt in lieu of the mount which you can’t use until level forty. This was news to me, and I realised that I’d not fully read the deal before making my order for the game, I’d just skimmed it and hit purchase.

And now I worry that I’m speed reading various things in real life as though they were quest texts, and I wonder what sort of trouble that could get me into in the future:

You are purchasing blah blah blah Conan blah blah rhino blah blah blah blah blah early access blah blah. Blah blah blah 24 pounds blah. Blah. Blah blah blah.

Yes, yes, yes. Whatever. 24 pounds, rhino, early access. It’s all there, just let me purchase the thing already. Click. Click. Done.

<Two months later>

%ding dong%

Me: “Hello?”

Delivery Man: “Good morning sir, a delivery for you.”

Me: <Looks at delivery note> “Hmm, there seems to have been sort of mistake.”

Delivery Man: “Sir?”

Me: “Well, it’s just that this seems to be a delivery note for a female African black rhino implausibly called Conan, an artificial insemination kit and twenty four pounds of black rhino semen.”

Delivery Man: “That’s right, sir. One rhino and an ‘early access’ insemination kit. Starting a breeding program are we sir?”

Me: “I… really didn’t read that order properly, did I?”

<Another delivery man arrives>

Delivery Man 2: “Morning, sir. Just sign here for your order of a warhammer on a line, an aged Nganasan shaman and twelve dismembered heads.”

Me: “Oh dear.”

I don’t think that it’s necessarily conditioning on the part of MMOs that has caused this, because I understand that there are plenty of people out there who play MMOs and read the quest text in full, and that these people are still able to lead fulfilling and healthy lives. I think, in fact, that my altitus is as much to blame as anything, what with constantly rolling new characters and repeating old content, one generally begins to accept quests automatically because they’ve been experienced before. This is habit forming, though, and eventually you begin to see every set of quest text as an overly lengthy interruption to your game-play, even if reading that text would take only a matter of tens of seconds. It’s often a false economy though, even with the excellent quest trackers in modern MMOs, the quest text is usually there to explain where you are required to go, and what it is that you have to kill ten of this time. So you end-up revisiting the quest text, skimming it to find the pertinent information, and wasting more time than if you’d just read it all in the first place. Alas, the habit is formed, and it is a strong one: text is your enemy and must be ignored at all costs!

The problems lies with the fact that it translates too easily into the real world; it crosses that ineffable boundary between fantasy and reality and haunts your ways, like when you’ve just woken from a dream and have yet to shake it off as the fictional creation of your subconscious. Of course, you soon realise that there is not, in fact, a giant space octopus with tentacles made of creamy pasta and a single fulgurating eye of pure topaz trying to steal the collection of George Clooneys from under your bed.

I’m sure you can relate to the experience now, because even if you don’t skip the quest text, I think we’ve all had that dream.

Take off your hat to your yesterdays.

I received an email this afternoon when I got home that contained the code granting early access for, and subsequent rhinoplasty of, my characters in Age of Conan. Or something. It’s definitely got something to do with horns, at least. Or maybe that was getting the horn? Must be all the mature boobies in the game. Not sure what the sexual attraction of antiquated seabirds is, but I suppose that there are stranger things in the worlds of Robert Ervin Howard.

So that’s it. Strapped in, locked down, doors to automatic, turbines to power, all systems are green for go. F.A.B. All ready for the take off of Age of Conan. I’ve given up reading the general bloggerama because there’s no real firm information. Vanguard looked like a train wreck in the making from day one. Age of Conan seems more like Pirates of the Burning Sea in this case: it could go either way, and nobody is really sure which. But there’s more drama in soothsaying doom.

So it’s just a case now of gripping on to the armrests, singing the Golden Grahams song and waiting for the g-force of launch to kick in, followed by the rickety rockety ride through the atmosphere, and then either the weightless elation of orbiting through the gaming heavens, or plunging back to earth in a crimson ball of pure forum-ite flame.

Oh, those Golden Grahams.
Oh, those Golden Grahams.
Crispy, crunchy, Graham cereal,
brand new breakfast treat.

Asses are made to bear, and so are you.

The age of Conan approacheth! I’ve been trying not to post too much about Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, ‘Hyborian’ being based upon the Ancient Greek word ‘hyperborean’, which we all know is made up from the word hyper meaning “I am very”, and borean meaning “Bored”. So a fine setting for an MMO then!

Both Zoso and I are trying to ignore AoC as its release creeps up on us. I say ‘creeps up on us’, but of course it has arrived with all the subtlety of a rabid fox in a tuxedo filled with fire ants, making his grand entrance at the March Hare’s summer ball by bursting out of the giant cake and attempting to sing Happy Birthday Mr President while stamping on his tail which has caught fire from all the candles.

And like the barbarian of the title, the Funcom marketing department has launched itself into the midst of its sworn enemy – we consumers – and whipped, bludgeoned and smote them with the vorpal sword of AoC, although not fuelled by an unquenchable rage in this case, but instead by a soul wrenching outpour of unadulterated venomous hype.

We try to pretend here at kiasa that the game is not going to affect us; it’s an honest and stalwartly British attempt to not be bothered by something that is clearly doing its very best to push us right to the extreme limit of being really rather annoyed indeed, in a manner more often applied to that great British past time of queuing. It is a little known fact that the average British person is actually born with a secondary nervous system that allows them to sense queue dynamics in real time; such a system allows them to not only calculate exactly which queue will be the fastest to move forward (and then fail utterly to take that queue due to some unknown inherited sense of Edwardian etiquette), but also fully equips them to deal with a lack of queue etiquette by others. We, the great British queuers (that’s queuers), watch very carefully as the queue dodger makes their way up the outside of the line, ducking under the clearly marked barriers that delineate the correct formation. We observe them reach that point, usually just in front of us, where they have to decide whether to push in or make their way to the back of the queue again while feigning an interest in the geometry of the local architecture. We wait patiently as our secondary nervous system detects the minute variations in their body temperature and heart rate. We pay no direct attention to them, and give off on air of not being bothered at all “it’s just one place in the queue, we’re in no tearing hurry”. And then our quarry makes their move, and side steps into the small gap we’ve left for them, and the trap is set: our space has been invaded, our rights have been trampled upon, and if they had bothered to bring a flag it would have practically been a declaration of war. With our inherent advantage of generations upon generations of Darwinian queuevolution behind us, we wait with a quiet and studied confidence. Biding our time. Until the moment… is just… right. And then we rear-up to our full height, our leonine presence commanding all to observe us in awe. And then we let out a really, really loud *tut*.

The grand old masters of many queuing session may even roll their eyes skywards, just to really show them.

Where was I? Oh yes, bear shaman! Because bears… like queuing. Yes.

I’ve decided from the small snippets of information that have managed to pierce my hype shield that I like the look of the bear shaman best out of all the classes in AoC, they seem to tick all the boxes on my character suitability survey. Primarily these boxes consist of: the ability to heal and or support other classes; the ability to get into melee a bit and not have to stand at the back looking like you’re trying to sneak out to go to the toilet; and the ability to assume the form of, or have some connection to, a sodding great ursus arctos horribilis or the like. These are the same reasons why I will probably try a Warrior Priest in Warhyper: Age of Rodomontade. I intend for the lack of bearness about the Warrior Priest to be made up for by an overabundance of bareness instead. So if you want to find me in WAR, look for the naked Warrior Priest bludgeoning the enemy with his ‘weapon of the gods’.

I’ve certainly not looked at any forums or wikis or twenty five page magazine spreads about how much damage the assassin does, or how cool the Herald of Xotli looks when they’ve turned into a sodding great demon, because with my well documented altitus it would be an utter disaster.

Hmm, Stygian Herald of Xotli eh?

No! No no no. Bear shaman. That’s what I’m going to play.

Assuming nobody else is.

Aye, and there’s the rub. You see I, like many others I’m sure, like to be somewhat unique within my close party of like-minded grind monkeys. I understand that there will be a thousand or more clones of my character all identical barring a slight change in the style of facial hair, and perhaps an unsightly birth mark which is in a place that will never see the light of day in a family MMO or otherwise. This is the way of all MMOs to date, other than City of Heroes, where I can create a sentient atomic pea, controller of the very earth itself, who was grafted on to the body of a recently decapitated therapist, and who is called Terra Pea. I’m fairly sure that that guy is unique. Special. Like me. In the straight-jacket sense.

However, within my small circle of friends, those whom I will be playing with on a regular basis, I like to play a class that nobody else is. Which is quite tricky when – and Zoso may back me up on this if he’s feeling generous – I seem to have an extraordinary ability to pick the class that someone else has decided that they want to play too. I remember my fantastic start to World of Warcraft. I was playing a dwarf paladin, and that was that. I’d planned his talents, worked out his look, calculated optimal dungeon runs for best gear distribution. I was set. When I turned up on day one of the WoW release, another in our party had decided to play a paladin. Of all the classes we had to pick from, and there were only five of us, we’d got two people already playing the same class, thus fighting for the same loot, and the same role in the group. We even had the same embarrassing birthmark damn it! So I rolled a priest. But the priest wasn’t really what I wanted to play, I convinced myself that it was at the time, but really it was just me trying to justify my stupid desire to be playing a different class to the others, to add a new dynamic to our group, and not just be the guy ‘playing the other paladin’.

Long story shor… uh… quite long, actually, I eventually got my paladin to level 70 in WoW. After my druid though, who I settled on mainly, if for no other reason, because with a little effort I could be a reasonable rogue or tank or nuker or healer, and therefore fill a role that wasn’t already filled by somebody else. It worked rather well, for me at least, and sated my altitus enough that I didn’t roll a new character for quite some time, and it’s the main reason why I love true hybrid characters so much; I don’t need to be the best player that ever lived, or have the most powerful character, if I can do a little to help in an area of play that otherwise wouldn’t be covered by others, then consider me deeply satisfied.