Age Of Conan Going F2P, And Unrated

By John Walker on May 25th, 2011 at 9:54 am.

Warn them! The free people are coming!

It’s all change in the Age Of Conan. First he was promoted to replace Leno, then Leno screwed him over and they tried to bump him back to midnight, but no, he cried, and now his show on TBS is going grea… Oh wait, I made a comedy mistake that about no one outside America will get! Of course I mean Funcom’s MMO, Age Of Conan: Hyborian Adventures. Huge changes are afoot, including turning free-to-play, along with a name change.

It’s now to be called Age Of Conan: Unrated, which does seem a bit like when a teen gross-out comedy comes to DVD, and tries to boost sales by restoring a scene with boobs in it. I mean, a lot like that, since they’re saying it’ll be,

“savage, sexy and brutal”

But more significantly, it’s taking on what I believe the young businessmen call a “freemium” model. It’s a “hybrid business model allowing anyone to freely roam the vast lands of Hyboria either as free players or premium subscribers with access to extra content.”

What this means is, those playing for free will get a limited version of the game, both geographically and personally. The not payers will have access to just four of the character classes (another eight available to the payers), only one of the “adventure zones”, non-premium dungeons, just two raids, no sieges, half the personal bank space, two character slots (premiums get 8), no “alternative advancement” whatever that might be, basic mount training, no “Offline Levels” nor “Veteran Points”, and not receive the 5% discount at the shops that paying customers will see.

Alongside this, new stores are being added so both classes of customer can purchase additional bits and bobbins to boost their game. Free players can gain access to various pieces of premium content by buying passes, so for instance if you’re after a siege, or access to a premium dungeon, you can get yourself access for a fee. This is all through the game-breaking concept of Funcom Points, designed to reduce the need for weeny credit card transaction fees (they say – but will likely mean you also buy a larger number of points, I’m sure), which will eventually be sold in-game in certain shops, but currently can be bought at the registration page.

Those already subscribing just carry on as they were, and are automagically premium players. You can find out many more details about the differences here. And more questions are answered here.

They really are planning to be ruder, too. Which is, as they point out, true to the works of Robert E. Howard. Which means it will use “even more of the barbaric, brutal and sexy setting that is Howard’s Hyboria. Funcom is already in the process of developing new locations, monsters, equipment and storylines for ‘Age of Conan: Unrated’.”

And of course there’s a new Conan movie coming up, which the game will be creating new content for as well. All these changes are happening “soon”.

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62 Comments »

  1. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    So free players are essentially just cannon fodder for premium players?

    • Vexing Vision says:

      That’s the point of “Free to Play”/Freemium-Titles. We actually LIKE free, non-paying customers. These are content for the paying customers. Which is not a bad thing for either side, really.

      I hated the Beta, but I’ll give it another poke around.

    • Alez says:

      It seems so. It looks like a demo where you are put in the same place as people that “bought” the game, which have access to all the toys.

      Really now, this increase in f2p games is actually a reinvention of demos.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      I just can’t see any enjoyment, it would be like minecraft, without all the charm, but, that is just the vibe I am getting from everything he said would be free vs premium.
      (also, Please gods of internet, Don’t let “Freemium” catch on. god.)

    • Johnny Lizard says:

      I think the phrase is “If you’re not paying for it you’re not the customer, you’re the product being sold”.

  2. Teddy Leach says:

    There’s nothing sexier than dismemberment.

  3. JonathanStrange says:

    All things considered I rather enjoyed the brief time I played Age of Conan after its release. It was visually stunning for its time, the combat while far from perfect was at least refreshingly different with its combo system to the typical mmo keybindings, I’m familiar with and a fan of the setting which I found to be beautifully realized, and the soundtrack was simply brilliant (No, really, it was. Look it up, soundtrack was the best part of the game!).

    Not bad. Not great either mind you, the game was pretty badly imbalanced and I dislike the whole ‘instanced areas’ thing plus I remember reaching a point in the game where in order to continue I pretty much had to grind… which isn’t fun at all even at the best of times. So I quit. With the dwindling community I just didn’t have anything to keep me around playing and at the time half the guild/community features promised either didn’t work or weren’t even implemented yet despite being selling features.

    Still might give the free version another try. Truthfully I doubt it will keep my interest for long, but hell, worth a shot I figure.

    • dadioflex says:

      I did not care for it. The instanced areas made the game seem empty. And as I was playing from launch the lack of balance, even the attempts at balance were frustrating in the extreme. And the DDR combat… ye gods…

      (edit – I just remembered the suicide express – the convoluted twisting maps where it took ten minutes to get somewhere you could see five feet away because of invisible barriers/gentle slopes and when you did eventually get there to kill something or reach a quest location, it was often simpler to just suicide by jumping off something high to get back to your spawn point than to run back. They ever change that?)

      Whatever happened with WAR? Did it ever go freemium? Is it still around? I quite liked it just not quite enough.

    • FKD says:

      I quite enjoyed my time with it as well. I really liked the look of the models/faces, and I liked how the classes while pretty much the same as any other game, still felt somewhat different in their execution. The game was far from perfect, and the grinding bit was certainly a turn off. I also was not fond of how many group quests there were. I prefer to play by myself but it seemed as if I wanted anything “good” I was going to need to group up with others, then try and kill the target before another group tagged it while we were fighting the adds. So currently, my highest level char (maybe 40 or so) is still wearing stuff I am pretty sure I got not long after Tortage. (Though I threw in a few of those “free levels”) Also in some aspects the game felt very unintuitive and that you had to just play around with it to figure out just what the heck you were supposed to do.

      @Dadioflex: The last I heard/played, WAR had gone “free to play” in the sense that you could play for free up to lvl 10, though others might know more than I do. I went back to it briefly when they made that change and then got quickly tired of it again.

    • Blaq says:

      WAR is still around, the free to level 10 is just a free trial that doesn’t expire.

      The game is mainly being fixed and rebalanced with no major expansions announced yet (which is what it needs really, unless you’ve never played it before). It seems like most of Mythic’s resources are pooled into SWTOR, so we might see something happen with WAR after it’s release, be it either getting an expansion or going F2P.

      But yeah, it’s come a long way since it was released and I hear it’s quite fun (I took a break from it a few months ago).

  4. Ralud says:

    Segregation, eh?

  5. Kid_A says:

    Indeed.
    A game where not paying results in being fodder for those who do?
    Not a game for me,
    indeed.

  6. MD says:

    Savage, sexy and brutal, just like your mum. All of your mums.

  7. Koozer says:

    Well that sounds like a lesson in how not to do free to play.

    • dadioflex says:

      I’m not really seeing how it’s different to any other game that went F2P but kept subscribers. eg LOTRO.

    • Vexing Vision says:

      Turbine games allow you to gain Turbine points with in-game activities. So a really good player will be able to access the same content as a player who pays money. This is F2P done well, and is incidentally the same philosophy that we as a publisher have used forever, and continue to use with our upcoming titles.

      THIS here doesn’t seem to potentially allow non-paying customers to access all the content (like Champions Online, sadly), which is a shame.

      I really like the Turbine system of rewarding good players. Same as Puzzle Pirates, which is another brilliant implementation.

      *Note: Resisting the urge to linking to our site and games. *pats self on back*

    • skalpadda says:

      @Vexing Vision:

      And by “really good players”, you of course mean someone willing to spend absolutely insane amounts of time grinding deeds for Turbine points. I haven’t played much LotRO, but from what I can remember, deeds awarded 5-10 points each and the quest packs you have to buy if you want any actual content after level 20-ish cost hundreds, not to mention the other odd things you’ll need to spend money on if you want a bearable experience.

      I find Turbine’s “free to play” model one of the worst ever and the monetisation of absolutely everything is bordering on abusive to people who try to play the game for free.

    • Vexing Vision says:

      @Skal Really? I haven’t played Lotro, but I played a lot of DDO. Yes, it’s work. But I’m skilled enough to run Elite dungeons from the get-go, which means that I earn favour very fast, which means that I get enough Turbine Points to unlock all the content I care for.

      For me, it works. Of COURSE free players should have a harder time unlocking things than paying customers. That’s the point, right? We publishers/developers want to eat, too. :)

      But the option remains there – you CAN access everything for free, if you care enough about the game to play it religiously, but not enough to pay something. This makes it a very good F2P model in my eyes.

    • malkav11 says:

      Turbine’s the only one that’s gotten it right so far. And not because of the in-game distribution of their points, although that’s definitely a good move. But because they don’t segregate their “free” players like EQ2 does, nor do they permanently lock off anything significant in their game to people who are actively paying a subscription fee. And if you do subscribe, your characters retain most of the benefits of that subscription (like unlocked bag slots and such) afterwards, unlike Champions Online where those characters get to sit locked and useless until you pay up again.

      There’s no use complaining that you have to pay for content. The point was never to just give you a whole MMO to play for no money. What Turbine does is give you the option to pay at your own pace, and get stuff as and when you feel the need for access to that content, or pay a subscription and get it all for the duration of that subscription. Hell, you can even mix and match. This simply isn’t true for the other subscription MMOs that have converted to this business model.

    • MrPants says:

      I’ve been playing LOTRO recently as a non-subscriber, and in my experience they nailed the balance expertly. As a ‘free’ player, you can explore the entire world freely (which is critical in a world that I enjoy mostly for its weight of lore and epic grandeur), and obnoxious barriers aren’t hoisted aloft to remind you that you’re a second class citizen.

      “Free” is of course a misnomer, because the point of the model is not to be free, but to provide an alternative to monthly billing. You can happily play LOTRO freely to about level 20 without bothering to spend a cent – heaps of time to decide whether you want to continue. Beyond that, you’ll want to buy quest packs, which each give you access to all the (many) quests in a given (seriously huge) zone, and will cover at least 10 or 20 levels. In most cases there are a couple of zones covering the same range of levels, so you can pick the one that appeals most. If you just want to check out the scenery and slaughter the locals elsewhere you are free to do so, you just won’t be able to do it questing. If you’re serious about continuing in the game it make sense to make some up-front purchases that are non-essential but make life more comfortable – a horse, extra bank slots and such. But it’s under your control.

      The idea of truly playing it for free with earned Turbine points is absurd – you get dribbles of points for grinding hundreds of mobs, and if you’re content with that you’re not my particular brand of masochist. The XP and exploration conveyor belts are powered by the quest packs, which are mostly about US$4-7 equivalent for what is generally at least a dozen hours of content.

      FTP is just a redistribution of the way you pay. Since points are cheapest in bulk, you are likely to pay more up front (US$50 buys 5000 points, the ROI is lower for smaller packs), and spend a bit getting your basics (horse, bank) set up if you want to. After that you’d be dribbling a few points here and there for trait slots as you level and such, but mostly spending 400-700 points about every dozen levels on questpacks. I doubt I’ll spend any more meatspace cash for another six months, unless I make it right through to the endgame. The beauty of it for players like me is that if I’m too busy for a month or three, I don’t have the pressure of a monthly charge hanging over my head, and I always hated in other MMOs that after suspending the account for a while, in order to play even 5 minutes again I had to resub. MMOs are always ‘cheaper’ when buying 3/6/12 month subs, and it’s rare that my attention span expires neatly at the end of a block subscription period.

      The AoC pricing model seems to miss LOTRO’s true victory of making the subs and pay-as-you-go players both feel like they’re getting good value. I doubt I’d enjoy the restrictions described in AoC FTP.

    • MultiVaC says:

      Yeah, you would have to be crazy to spend enough time playing LOTRO to earn enough Turbine points to get all of the quest packs without paying. If you intend to play seriously and long-term, you’ll need to spend some cash. But that sounds pretty reasonable to me. I have some friends who got all pissed off when we were playing LOTRO and they realized that they were probably going to have to pay for some quest packs at some point if they wanted to get to level 65 and run around Angmar or go fight the Balrog in Moria. I’m not sure why people have this idea that they are going to get the entire game for free when an MMO becomes free to play. I had a pretty good time getting to level 25 without paying any money at all, so I didn’t have any problem paying for some more content to play longer. I like LOTRO’s payment model a lot better than any other MMO I’ve come across.

    • Tasogare_A says:

      MultiVaC says:05/26/2011 at 04:47
      I’m not sure why people have this idea that they are going to get the entire game for free when an MMO becomes free to play.

      Name indicates it -”FREE TO PLAY” not “Half-Free To Play” or “Free To Play Half”.
      I started playing Runes of Magic lately and its free to play. There’s item shop where you can buy many things and you might want to. But you have aces to everything for free. There’s even an option to exchange gold for diamonds (premium currency). Once i tried out Dungeon Runners where you had to pay for using equipment, not cool.
      Age of Conan uses Free to Play name because it sounds better then FREEMIUM, more appealing i guess.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      The only good “free to play” model is the Guild Wars 2 model. Let me pay an upfront price for the game and let me play without a subscrption. Then just support it with cosmetic items or little doodads like non-combat pets. Or hell, have a sub, but make that sub a lot cheaper than $15. I think MMO’s would get a lot more subscribers if they had a cheaper sub price (and don’t tell me about pre-paying for 6 months and get a cheaper rate, because most everybody wouldn’t want to do that). It would be a win-win for everybody. The developers would get more people subscribing which would offset any loss from offering a cheaper sub, and could potentially make even more profits with more people signing up. And the player base is a lot larger for everyone to enjoy.

  8. Dominic White says:

    Free version of game doesn’t offer all features of paid version!
    Encouragements to purchase make internet angry and/or confused!
    Veteran PC gamers forget what a ‘demo’ or ‘shareware’ version is!
    News at 11!

    This business model has been around for almost a decade now. You think you clowns would have cottoned on to the fact that ‘F2P’ doesn’t mean ‘Freeware’ by now. You can stop being shocked and appalled when they don’t actually give away the whole MMO with all the server framework for free. It’s not clever.

    • Premium User Badge Joshua says:

      Runescape also got it.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Just that shareware used to mean the first x levels of full game IDENTICAL to full game, not with half the monsters / chars / guns / whatever modded out.

      Other than that, of COURSE you are a superior smug everything-the-industry-does-loving funster!
      As always.

      It kind of gets boring that whenever I see your nick pop up I can roll a onesided dice of whether the post will be positive/approving of whatever the RPS post is about.

    • Dominic White says:

      I remember playing TONS of shareware games back in the day that had ‘ONLY IN REGISTERED VERSION’ signs over certain areas, weapons, classes, etc.

      But hey, yeah, it’s much more reasonable to accuse me of being a shill, somehow, for the entire games industry, indie, AAA and everything inbetween. That’s not crazy at all!

    • Arglebargle says:

      There’s a fine balance in giving the free players enough to make them want to play. Populated servers are an asset to the company. If you go free and still don’t have a load of people, you are hosed. Not particularly happy with the cut down on character classes, as most of mine won’t make that cut.

      Must say I like a lot that they do in AoC, but I restrict myself to only one paid MMO subscription. Other ways lead to madness!

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Apogee, id Soft etc simply only put out the first x levels, “as is”. No restrictions.
      If you wanted the full 3 episodes, you got the full game.

      As for an industry shill, no. Has nothing to do with any suspicions of whether you’re “from there” or not.

      I just think you have an absolute “be thankful for every kick in the groin” attitude towards anything gaming related.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      I’d be perfectly fine with it if they marketed it as a demo. But they don’t. As is, all they are trying to do is luring in people with the free to play angle then nickle and dime them unless they pay a subscription.

  9. DSR says:

    I’m soooo going to enjoy it just to piss you all off, guys!
    I can say I enjoyed AoC when It was released as simple as fun combo based action rpg(Compared to hotkey based games like WoW).
    Not interested in raids and sieges, just plain mob murdering with friends from time to time.
    There wasn’t enough fun to PAY a monthly fee, but now its all fine and dandy.

    • LittleMonsterMind says:

      Amen to that. The community that -was- there, and still is in the case of my old server, was actually pretty enjoyable for random dungeon crawling. But that was not enough for 15euros a-month. This pretty much solves my problem with the game.

  10. coledognz says:

    So what happens to people that bought the game previously but aren’t current subscribers? They just get screwed over? My collectors edition means nothing.

    A free player that paid for the game? They need to introduce something similar to Global Agenda, with the Free Agent / optional Elite Agent / optional booster packs or bundles for current subscribers.

    • Johnny Lizard says:

      If you don’t play it any more, you will either continue to not play it, subscribe again (which you could have done anyway) or play for free (which you couldn’t do before.) How are you being screwed over, exactly?

    • coledognz says:

      Because I paid full retail price via pre order on a collectors edition when the game released. If i return to play my account without subscribing, I am still no better off than any other free to play user who hasn’t purchased the game. This isn’t at all enticing to get former players to return, after they’ve apparently improved the game. They have been continuously emailing me about it, trying to persuade me to return.

    • theleif says:

      Isn’t that like complaining about a steam sale?
      I bought Medieval 2, collectors edition, and now you can get it for 5€. That doesn’t make me feel especially betrayed, though.

    • coledognz says:

      You can’t compare a game like that to an MMORPG, as it isn’t constantly updated with patches, content and doesn’t require the server architecture like an MMORPG does. Regardless, I will not return to play my account as I can’t even play my main because of that stupid class lock, despite having BOUGHT THE DISCS when the damn game released.

  11. Premium User Badge Carra says:

    So it’s a demo version.

    Looks like a great way for people to find out if the game is something for them.

  12. Premium User Badge Carra says:

    Now that I think of it: WoW should offer free play time:
    -You can only roll a Tank or healer class
    -You can only queue in instances as tank or healer.

    Et voila: tank problem solved!

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Cue players venting everywhere about lousy ‘noob’ tanks and healers. L2P, pls! *ahem*

  13. Premium User Badge Ridiculous Human says:

    You’ve reminded me how much I need to see this Conan movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45Cct4b_UZ0

  14. RegisteredUser says:

    LOL @ expecting free users to take them seriously with this restriction lineup.

    • Kaira- says:

      Well, I believe their target isn’t to amass lots of free “leechers”, but to get people to actually pay them. I know, crazy.

  15. Robert says:

    But I want to have the cake AND eat it!

  16. crainey92 says:

    Was really excited about this game through beta and up to release, bought it, played it for first free month and couldn’t bring myself to paying for another subscription, was an awful disappointment I’m afraid. However just like EVE this game plagues me and I crave it therefore since it will be “Freemium” I might well give ‘er a go.

  17. malkav11 says:

    Can “free” players buy permanent access to all the same content that the subscription players can, except piecemeal? If so, yay. If not, boo, another company getting it wrong.

  18. trjp says:

    “Alternative advancement” is what AOC does when you hit the level cap. It was added in the expansion instead of adding more levels – it allows specialisation of your skills through much effort.

    I like AOC, I really do, upto Level 50 it’s the best MMO I’ve played because the world is amazing to explore and the game makes you do just that.

    The instanced stuff allows story development (and restricts ganking) – it’s the best intro to an MMO ever, too…

    After Level 50 it’s the same shitty grind as every other MMO of course – but hey, you climbed that mountain and forded that stream – don’t complain if it was for free!!

  19. clownst0pper says:

    Lord. The difference between this model and that of Guild Wars 2 is staggering.

    Just make it free to play when you’ve bought it, lower the box price and add a transaction store for mission packs etc.

    • mmalove says:

      I’m definitely in favor of the guild wars model. I cheer a little everytime a subscription based game dies or goes free to play. Good. Tired of people expecting recurring fees for the most repetitive, stupid RPG content imaginable. The only saving grace of these games is that they are multiplayer – if you’ve ever played an MMORPG where most of your friends moved on, you quickly realize how terrible most of them really are.

  20. clumsyandshy says:

    Short post.

    Free to try (which is what this is) is good.
    Better than having to pay to even try.
    If you like it and want more, you pay like everyone else.
    Like before but with another option.
    Good.

  21. qeloqoo says:

    I’m more interested in their planned Blood and Glory PvP Server ruleset which was announced some time ago and should be rolled out with this freemium/premium thing. Hope this ruleset will fix mess done by Bori and borked minigames (you can’t sign as group into it anymore)…

  22. Nick says:

    lol boobs

  23. Coldblade says:

    Goddammit, give us Dreamfall Chapters already.

  24. manveruppd says:

    1. I hope “Unrated” doesn’t mean they’ll tone down the adult blood-and-gore side of it…

    2. Personally think they should’ve instead allowed full access to all content for everyone, but let people buy virtual currency or some of the best loot for real money. It’s still enough of a skill-based game that people who can afford better equipment wouldn’t be able to take a poo over everyone else, so might as well. I mean, their gorgeous environments are the biggest draw of that game, not their boring raids, or the buggy, laggy sieges. So telling them “pay up so you can play our boring raids and lag out while trying to get in a siege!” isn’t going to work is it? Gear would be something more people would be willing to pay for. IMHO of course. They may have improved the sieges since I last played. They were a great idea, just too damn slow.

    • malkav11 says:

      Unrated, at least in the US movie market, usually means they’re adding in violent and/or sexual content that would have secured a rating that would have killed any chances of being shown in the theatrical market.

  25. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    Weird. I must be the target market because when I was quickly reading the paragraph with “freemium” and “hybrid” my brain picked it all up as “hymen”.

  26. FuzzieBoy says:

    Those four classes will probably be the basic warrior/ranger/rogue/mage classes, with payers getting access to the other versions of warrior/ranger/rogue/mage. That seems fine, and they’ve said you will be able to get better loot in game than the stuff in the item shop from dungeons and raids etc. I must admit, restricting a lot of content is a bit annoying, but in LOTRO and DDO you still had to buy quest packs, and sure, it is possible to grind, but it’s very impractical, as it takes a very, very long time