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On one of the last few remaining Age of Conan blogs in existence, Assassin's Hideout, an interview with the new game director, Matt Bennett, was posted this Saturday. You can read the whole interview here.
TL;DR: A new game director has taken over AoC. Nearly every feature announced for Age of Conan over the past three years has been shelved. A new feature has been announced, but it's being designed for TSW and imported to AoC, so it's not really an AoC feature to begin with.
Ok ok, so the new "game director" isn't claiming the title. Slith asks Matt Bennett:
"Lets start with proverbial elephant in the room: with Joel Bylos stepping down as Game Director who is in charge of AOC? Who makes the high level decisions about priorities and content? And most importantly: this "directorless" state is permanent or are we in some sort of transition?"
To which he replies:
"So really not much has changed except there is nobody with the title game director, “setting the direction of the game” is part of my job description. I know as there are no formal 'game director letters' it might seem from a player perspective that there is no direction, but I simply don't have time for these as they are more time consuming than you might think"
Soooo, he's really the new game director, but he's not calling himself a game director so that he can shirk the official responsibilities that come with the game director title such as the monthly newsletter. Not only that but the monthly newsletter is too hard.
Seriously, go read a few of AoC's past monthly newsletters. They don't even qualify as a middle school book report in length and content, plus they repeat the same information month after month.
I work remotely from my "boss" whose office is 500 miles away. Because of this he requires that I send a weekly report every Friday detailing what I've spent the week doing. This report is usually the size of one monthly AoC Game Director Letter and takes me about 15 minutes to write before I walk out the door.
You'd think that a company with an absolutely atrocious level of customer interaction would be looking to improve their lines of communication. Instead Funcom has decided to go from one small trickle of information a month, that couldn't take more than 30 minutes to bullshit their way through, to being a black hole.
Two game directors and three years ago, Age of Conan announced that they were going to completely revamp the entire crafting system in Age of Conan. Slith asks Matt:
"Crafting update. There is no way around asking about it since it’s [been] in development for 3 years now. Is there a major setback that makes the update too complicated? Is it less of a priority than, shall we say Cetriss? This is the only time I will ask about release timeframe: is there one?"
To which Matt replies:
"So the crafting update was started at a time when the team was much, much larger than it is right now and it was possible for there to be a focus on multiple systems/areas of content at the same time. This has not been the case for a while now and realistically we can only work on 1 thing at a time, before moving on to focusing on something else."
He then spends two more rather lengthy paragraphs to basically tell us that the crafting update is several more years away, if ever. So the biggest game change for AoC that's been heavily anticipated for 1/3 of the game's life cycle now, has been shelved.
He talks about changes to the new achievement system, cause every game has to have an achievement system these days, right? Sorry, but this, in my opinion was the biggest waste of limited game resources in years. The few hardcore players left weren't the "achievement" type. They had already moved on years ago.
Then he talks about PVP, which is so dead in AoC that I don't know why anyone wastes breath on it. No one does minis or Bori anymore, but hey lets talk about wasting the last few ounces of game resources on more PVP changes.
Another announced feature of AoC from the past was new AA's and new weapons added to existing classes. He then goes on to explain that this wouldn't be possible to do until after the crafting revamp. But... since they've essentially shelved the crafting revamp, then he's saying that this is shelved too? That's how the math adds up in my head anyhow.
Some Tier 5 (6?), Palace of Cetriss, talk came next. He was asked about new armor sets and was told that creating 12 unique armor sets for the next tier of raiding would be too hard. Instead we're going to be getting four base armors for each of the archetypes (rogue, soldier, mage, healer) and that there would be some color variation between them. I don't know what I expected honestly considering that the base game released in 2008 had the exact same pieces of gear for three tiers of raiding with a few slight cosmetic changes for each tier. Less is more now?
No server merges. There's two completely dead servers and one populated server. Matt says he wants to merge them, but it's out of his hands and not on the schedule. So if you're on a dead server, then suck it up buttercup and reroll.
New notification system announced in the past has been shelved. No surprises there.
He admits they screwed up back in May by announcing an "adventure pack" coming out for the game's anniversary... and then charging $20 for it after making it sound like it was an anniversary celebration gift. However, if they make any more of these, then they won't fix a hard deadline to them so that it can be polished... or more likely shelved like everything else that doesn't get a deadline.
The last Dragon Spine dungeon, announced years ago and never delivered, is the next thing on the schedule to release after the TSW ported dungeon finder. However, the animations are too hard and so all new animations except for the main boss will be scrapped and replaced with existing NPC animations in order to get this dungeon out of the door. This dungeon will also be reusing the interior of an existing dungeon which he dropped on us in an "oh by the way, it's always been the plan to use an old dungeon for the... new(?) dungeon"
Reading the interview more carefully you'll find that almost everything that needs to be done "requires a coder" and matt 'Is not a coder". Since Matt is the only Funcom employee working on AoC full time, and he's apparently a level designer, then we'll only be getting code-linked AoC updates when a TSW or LEGO developer has some spare time to spend working on AoC code. i.e. When sun dies, turns into a red giant, and melts the Earth.