I’ve been slacking over Christmas and playing the Age of Conan MMOG. I played briefly a year or two back and since then it’s gone to free to play with a premium option. They gave me a free month of premium subscription so it seemed worth another look.
Overall it’s one of the most entertaining MMOGs I’ve played, but there are a number of things that really annoyed me after the premium month ended and I went back to free to play.
1. Bag space. Free accounts get half the bag space of a premium account, which means that you have to spend real money to buy a bigger bag if you don’t want to waste half your time running back to town to sell junk… and running back to town can take five minutes or more. The default bag size is limited enough already, so this merely feels like a punitive measure against free players.
2. Your quest log is full. I was killing bad guys to finish some quests and as I collected the requisite number of drops I was seeing this message; which made no sense as I wasn’t trying to get another quest, I was just progressing in the one I have. Only later did I discover that the quest had vanished from my character, the quest drops are still in my inventory and the person who gave the quest won’t talk to me. Now I have four broken quests and will have to get a GM to fix it for me.
This is an appalling bug that people seem to have been complaining for years.
3. Quest space. The root cause of this problem is that you can only have thirty quests active at once. Now, this is a game where a quest may involve running for twenty minutes from one side of the map to another, so no-one wants to have to go all the way back to finish it when they could just do so next time they’re in that part of the world. This is a crazy limitation which applies to premium players as well as free players.
4. Trash respawn. First you have to fight through a couple of dozen trash mobs to get to the NPC you need to fight to complete a quest. Then you clear out the area around that NPC. Then you fight that NPC and the trash you cleared starts respawning around you and joining in the fight. Then you die and all the trash has respawned so you have to start all over again.
5. The sudden change at level 20. The early levels in the tutorial area are among the best I’ve played in a MMOG, but once you hit 20 you’re dropped in a new area beside an NPC you can’t talk to until you’re level 30 with no idea of what to do. The number of quests drops dramatically and the voice acting mostly disappears; I’m not a fan of voice acting because I can read much faster than they can speak, but the difference is very noticeable.
6. Petitions. After the quest log problem I mentioned above, I sent in a petition asking them to fix it and then logged off, because in any other MMOG I’ve played it would be fixed while I was offline. But no, apparently my petition went into the ‘offline queue’ which means they won’t even look at it until I log on again; I can’t tell what’s supposed to happen because the help page link in the email returns a ‘404 not found’ error. Why do I have to log on and sit around doing nothing just so they can fix obvious quest problems created by game bugs?
7. Targetting. Sometimes I’m attacked out of the blue by several mobs and I’m trying to cast spells and they’re not casting. Eventually I realise that it’s because I’ve somehow targetted another mob and hence it’s trying to attack that one, which is well out of range. Why can’t it then auto-target the ones that are beating the heck out of me?
8. Expansions. I bought the game expansion a long time ago, I believe it was in a deal where you paid for a three month subscription and got the expansion for free. But now my account has reverted to free to play, I’m no longer allowed to go there.
Overall it’s a fun game, but they seem to have missed the point of free to play; the idea is to bring in more players who then spend money, but instead it feels like I’m continually being nickel-and-dimed to pay for things that I can’t play without.
I’ve also been playing Champions Online, which is also free to play. The difference is that all the paid options (e.g. character slots, more bags, new costumes) are useful but you can play the game without them so while I’ve spent a reasonable amount of money there I never felt I was being forced to do so. Nor have I ever run into a bug as serious as the ‘your quest log is full’ corruption in Conan.