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Friday Update:Letter from the Game Director

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Greetings everyone

Today is a definition of mixed feelings for me, and many in the Conan team. We hate being late. We hate not delivering on what we have promised. We hate letting you guys and girls down. We all want to hide somewhere dark and be ashamed of ourselves. And naturally, here is a good time to profoundly apologize to you, our loyal and patient community. We are sorry for another delay, we truly are, but hopefully this WILL turn into something better for all of us.

As you have seen over the last period, and as we have stated again and again, our clear intension was to launch in October. But what happens when you learn that the game you have needs more development time? Do you continue to force through towards a release, like we did with Anarchy Online? This time we did the right thing. I am proud by the fact that we work in a company that knows what the game truly needs, and are willing to follow and support the best interest of the game.

I am very happy to see that many of you, our community, actually support this decision. Naturally, there would be resentments and aggravations because of this. There is nothing wrong with that, but the logic is sound and I would like you to lend me your ear when I go through this.

“It's that first few hours. Either explain how it takes 5 months to fix the first few hours, or explain the full reason behind the delay. And don't take us for idiots.”

The combos are tied closely with feats. The combos are also tied closely with the five directions in the game. Today all classes get five directions, even when you are a nuker wizard that never even bothers getting in close combat. We wanted to make sure that the classes not wanting melee, actually wouldn’t have a superfluous system thrust on them (all five directions, combos etc). We wanted to make sure that the complexity of knowing which combos do I start when I press a direction to be clearer (this is complex even for me who love this system). We wanted to know that people got a larger component of instant gratification in combos. We wanted to remove the confusing elements of combo cooldowns that you cannot click on, but that looks like icons.

For many of you, who are not in the beta, this might not mean a lot. Let me break down what we are doing instead:

  1. You don’t start with 5 directions, you start with 3. Non- melee classes don’t get the full five directions. We keep the depth and complexity in what we do, but we present it easier. The melee classes get the 5 directions.
  2. We give people the opportunity to not only have 2,4,6 or 8 combos available, but as many as they want! To do this, they have to start the combo with a clickable, but the gui around this is much more uniform. You still have to do up-right, left etc to execute the combo though. (Today there are 8 slots for spells. 4 Slots for clickables, 8 slots (that you cannot click on) for combos. It will be now, hotkey bars where you put what you want where you want.)
  3. We can now speed up combat, and enhance the action elements – positioning and directions because people aren’t struggling with knowing which combos they are starting.
  4. We can add a certain dash of effect on the first key, on the second key and on any key in the combo, as we KNOW which combo is actually being executed. This will make it much, much more appealing to the players.

Why does this take 5 months? To make it we must go through every combo in the game, reassign keys, make icons etc. To make it does not take 5 months. We should be done around Christmas. We wanted the 5 months to make sure we could make another iteration if feedback was as still less than stellar. We wanted a solid buffer.

“It's 2 months before release that you "realize" that the combat system is a bit hard to understand in the beginning”

I know I am not perfect, by a long shot. This delay reveals my humanity in a quite demeaning way. You see, I personally love the combat. I love the combos, the fast-paced hack and slash, the dodging and weaving. I love it all. Also, the initial reactions by many have been very favorable. No, stunning actually!

But then, I have actually had 3 years to learn the combat. Not listening to experienced beta testers initial reactions is the most dangerous thing to do. I know I have lost face, and most likely a lot of credibility to a lot of people. I am still professional enough to realize that sometimes you must have the balls to pull your own pants off, standing there in all your glory, and admit your mistakes.

Luckily we do not change what I love! We change the way you learn it. I have explained why it takes time, and that is unfortunate. I am dead certain I shall be vindicated in this decision! Hey, we could have given you some bull**** reason about needing more time to polish a startup area or whatnot. This is the truth. It stings.

Come on! It is 5 months. It is not years.

“AoC is being dumbed down to appeal to the LotRO/WoW crowd so that FC can get more subs”

Conan is its own entity. We keep what is great, but we let people access it more easily. Are you saying the beta testers feedback comes because they are dumb? I hope not. The directions, the combos, the hands-on-action. It is all there.

The community often complains that we aren’t detailed enough in our statements. This is the reason. This exactly this, is why. We sometime need to adjust methods, input configurations, feedback systems and so on.

We are NOT changing the vision! It stays the same! Not dumber, not less deep or compless, but less convoluted. How can you accuse me, the many years Game Director of Anarchy Online of making dumbed-down games. You needed a Phd to get into that game, and even then it wasn’t a certainty ;p Funcoms “problem” has never been dumbed-down anything!

“March? The expected release of the 360 version?”

Xbox 360 will also be delayed because of this. How much, I cannot tell you.

“IMO it is better to make the game a star from start,”

Thank you for pointing this out! I cannot agree more. We only have one chance to become a success. People can have many reasons to want success; monetary- , being part of something they are proud of- , making a name for themselves-, loving what they have created and wanting it to live forever-, it does not matter!

Whatever reason, we all want the same thing. This to succeed!

“beta testers are not at fault for complaining”

No, on the contrary, we love to get concrete, detailed feedback from our beta testers. I would like to address this directly to you, if you are a tester. I would like to say – this is an homage to your integrity, your sincerity and to how much we value your input. You are but the messenger. I hope you appreciate to what degree we listen to your input!

We do not fault you, we honor you.

And with that I hope I have at least commented on some of the aspects I have seen on the forums and around the news today. Right now we are gearing up for the show in Leipzig, and the way it stands right now, if you get a chance to get there (bring a video camera so you can film the game from the showfloor, you too WILL be able to play the game.

You will love it!

- gaute

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