Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gathering Resources in Age of Conan

I intended to have some more screens for you today, but something happened last night that I didn't expect... I had fun spending 2 hours doing nothing but gathering crafting resources for the guild's eventual PvE City. Let me explain.

In Age of Conan, crafting doesn't begin until level 40. I'm not sure exactly what the design decision behind this was, but that's the way it is. Your guild can start building its PvE city (separate from the PvP Keeps in the Border Kingdoms) as soon as you have a level 40 and that level 40 character is given Guild Leadership for long enough to claim a plot of land for the City in one of 3 truly massive zones). Your guild also needs to be made up of at least 24 people.

That said you can start gathering materials as low as level 20 in order to help your guild build that city and make a place to call home. To do this, it's a bit different than any other MMOG I've played. You'll get a quest in your starting city to go to your nation's main crafting and PvE city zone. For Khemi, this is the Purple Lotus Swamp which can be reached by heading straight south through the first adventuring zone in Stygia called Khoshepf Province (or something like that).

Once there you'll have to make your way to the Swamp's main crafting village which is oddly massive in the case of Purple Lotus Swamp. I assume it was made gargantuan with the expectation that eventually lots of people will be there training their crafting but last night there were only ten of us hanging out getting all the quests you need to begin your vocation as a gatherer. Anyway, this big old crafting village is where that initial quest first sent you, and by finding the NPC for that quest you'll be given 10,000 XP just for talking to a guy. Not a bad deal really. But once you see how long the jog is to get here, you'll realize why the reward you so.

So anyway let's go over the cool and the uncool about gathering in Age of Conan.

THE COOL
  • This will likely be an uncool for some but there is no innate way to track gathering nodes. You must search the zone while keeping an eye out for indicators of something that can be harvested. Trees that can be harvested will have falling leaves from them and might stand out a bit more. Metal or rock deposits will be differently colored than the regular mountainsides and ground and often will be nestled next to a mountainside or rock outcropping. Leather is attained by killing beasts throughout the zone, with a somewhat small drop percentage.
  • While you can't use a tracking system on your radar like in WoW, you can however make map notes of where you found the node or herd of animals. The place where the resources are never changes so as you scout the massive gathering zones, it's perfectly viable to make tons of map notes for future reference, or sharing with your guild mates via screenshots.
  • Resources like trees, rock and metals have "health" on a percentage. Each time you gather from one it takes away roughly 10% of this health. When it's below 10% you won't be able to get anything from it, but when you stumble across one that's at 100%... you've got yourself 10 pieces of ore, or bundles of wood or whatever. This can also be an "uncool" in the fact that if it's a busy gathering day you might constantly be finding only recently tapped nodes.
  • While harvesting a tree, or a copper vein, or any type of resource node, there's a small chance that you'll be interrupted by a "Jealous Prospector" or some other type of NPC enemy. This little touch is very cool in the fact that it even brings combat to a usually non-combative feature. It keeps you on your toes, rather than auto-pilot as you zoom from node to node. It also ensures that you'll be getting some XP and loot while you spend precious hours harvesting resources your guild.
  • The whole zone is generally aggro free. Except for the rare occurrence of a mob popping when you near a node, or when you're harvesting, there's no real enemies. It's a zone entirely made for resource gathering and exploration and boy is there a ton of ground to cover. I spent 2 hours in Purple Lotus Swamp last night and only covered about 50% of the ground while I was gathering.
  • It's a massive place. I don't know about the Acquilonian gathering zone, or the Cimmerian one, but Purple Lotus Swamp is one huge zone to play in. And the fact that they don't just give you a gathering radar to go by a la WoW or LotRO really places an emphasis on exploration that I thought might be missing from Age of Conan due to its non-open world. Tobold has said that he doesn't get the feeling of a world from AoC, and I can only suspect that it means he's not spent some time in the gathering zones. They're epic, plain and simple.
  • Once you have the gathering skills, you'll also find nodes for the resources in the main adventuring zones of the world. But they're few and far between compared to the dedicated gathering zones.
  • Since the zone is so large... I really wish I had a horse, or even that lumbering mammoth. Speed would be of much use for this part of the game.
  • Lastly, you can take up all gathering professions. I can't recall them all at the moment, but there is no limit to which gathering profession you take on. You can be a miner and a skinner, a stone cutter, and a weaver (cotton and other fabrics). Why? Because your guild will need the goods and it's nice to be able to do it all instead of worrying how many more miners your guild will need. Everyone can pitch in this way.

THE UNCOOL

  • The initial quests to learn your gathering skills are long and often tedious. I spent 2 hours last night gathering, copper, silver, ash wood, etc. I only completed 2 of I think 6 different gathering quests. I couldn't even find leather on the beasts I killed, and I certainly didn't come across any Cotton plants.
  • There are tons of nodes spread out across a massive zone... but because of the fact that they're spread out so far it often feels like there are too few of them to be found. I would like to see the disbursement be a little more dense. Maybe twice what it is now.
  • The quests to gain the gathering skills require 20 of each resource. You spend hours doing these things and then you give the resources away to the quest NPC. LAME! After all that work for what I thought was going to go towards my guild's city, I ended up losing the resources. That sucked.
  • The documentation on how or where or what the nodes will look like is slim in game. I was lucky to have a guildie who already had done them, or else I would have been lost. So take heed. Ores and rocks are near mountains and other major rock formations, lumber is on trees that have leaves constantly dropping from them, and leather is on the animals in the area. Cotton? No idea. Hopefully will find some tonight. My guess is by water sources.
  • This is a guess, but I'm thinking that on PvP servers the gankage level will be astounding. Not necessarily an "uncool", but it could be if you're in the middle of mining some copper and you get jumped by 3-4 assassins and a necromancer. This is why I play on PvE servers.
  • Nitpicking now, but there's no way to tell at level 20 how much resources you'll need for your guild city from within the game. There may be some website which has this info already, but I'd like to know what I should be stocking up on as I go along.

And that's about it for now, folks. I can see this part of the game frustrating a great many people who are used to the more simplified and streamlined affair that is WoW's gathering, or even EQ2's these days. But to me, this is a very novel and surprisingly fun take on the key part of crafting that will really reward the explorers and the dedicated. I could have been 24 from level 20 earlier in the night had I spent my evening questing and killing, but something kept me in Purple Lotus Swamp. I'm sure there will be others who find it as engaging as I do, but I worry that most will find it a waste of time when they could be out grinding mobs for experience.

Me? It's satisfying that childhood urge of being an archaeologist. It feels good to be exploring an uncharted land. One day I'll have all the nodes marked and it will likely become a chore, but for now... for now it's a blast to run around looking for buried treasure.

17 comments:

Tim said...

An "uncool" to me, without having done it, is that it removes the ability to gather while you level. It's separating the two sides of the game completely.

Which, in some cases, can be really cool. I have a friend who loves to be a merchant class or some sorts in every game he plays. So by making it harder for the average joe to gather, he'd be better off.

But, then they make the random mobs appear while you gather and bring combat right back into it, forcing the gatherers to be combatants, but not allowing them to do it as they level.

Bildo said...

Hmm... maybe my wall of text beat you down there.

You can gather as you level, there are just less nodes in the open.

And the mobs attacking while you gather are rather seldom. I'd say the chance is somewhere around 5-10% of the time.

Tim said...

Ahh. I read the whole thing, but I guess I was confused by talking about how big "the" zone is and how you had to travel to one specific place and there were no mobs there.

Tobold said...

Tobold has said that he doesn't get the feeling of a world from AoC, and I can only suspect that it means he's not spent some time in the gathering zones. They're epic, plain and simple.

I explored one of the gathering zones, Potain, gathering 120 cotton. And I think you confuse "large" with "epic". I did explore and run around for hours in Potain, but the problem was that there wasn't much of interest to see there. Exploration is only fun if you actually find stuff. In the gathering zones, you can only find gathering nodes, and there aren't very many of them. I don't think very many people will be crafting, there are far too few nodes around. The whole huge gathering zone of Potain has less than a dozen cotton nodes, and even if you are all alone in the zone and make a complete tour, the first isn't back up to 100%.

Bildo said...

Think of it like EQ2 in terms of zones.

Khoshepf (or however you spell it) Province is the first zone for Stygia to level in, at approximately 20-38 I think.

At the southern end of this zone, there is an exit to go into Purple Lotus Swamp, which is its own self-contained zone where you can build your guild's city and gather resources in general safety.

There are resources in Khoshepf, but there they will be fewer in quantity and you'll have to worry more about enemies ant whatnot that are nearby the nodes, which is more in line with say WoW or LotRO.

While in Purple Lotus you really only have to worry about the very occassional mob popping up while your hunting down nodes or when you're trying to harvest one. Think of these mobs as your character "failing" to mine a node. Only instead o just retrying you have to beat the mob (which is always on par with your level) and the try again.

Bildo said...

I'm not confusing large with epic, T. I just might have a different definition than you. To me the scale and size is what makes the zone epic.

In Purple Lotus there are ruins, huts of wild tribes, packs of animals running wild... those are all things that I count as discovery and exploration type affair. Will they be a few weeks from now? Of course not. But no zones are like this after you get to know them.

I think you not feeling the world is sort of odd since as far as I can tell you didn't make that claim with EQ2 which was very much the same. Correct me if I'm wrong here.

Genda Silverspike said...

Are the gathering zones instanced? I could see it as problematic if it's not.

Bildo said...

Indeed they are instanced.

But I've not seen more than one copy of the instance yet. It's a HUGE zone, so I don't think there's a need to make a copy yet.

brenda said...

This is similar to harvesting in Vanguard. You don't forage lumber; you get raw logs by felling trees (which fall down in a satisfying way) and then cutting them into logs, which you further refine into planks.

You can even have people group up to harvest, which not only gets it done faster, but produces more of the resource. The spawn points for all the harvestable nodes are fixed (and there is an add-on that tells you where they are), so it's sounding much like AoC, except that there are no "harvesting-only" zones.

That said, the main thing I am trying to do when harvesting is to get as much stuff harvested in as little amount of time as possible. It is the last place I care about any sort of realism. It's just a roadblock to stop me from crafting, and as such, I always resent harvesting as a skill to some degree.

Bildo said...

It's definitely time consuming, Trenda... hmm Trenda. Mixing your names now. I like that.

But anyway, it will cease to be a timesink (mostly anyway) once I (or anyone) has the nodes mapped out and can teleport to the region when they have a guild city.

It'll almost be like running a daily quest in WoW I'd think. I wonder how long it will be before someone has it all mapped out and on the net?

It's definitely something you have to work at and think about, at least until you get the nodes hunted down. It's sort of like the hunting for nodes in Asheron's Call 2... pain in the ass to find at first but becomes easier as you do it.

br3ntbr0 said...

I think it will be possible to share your map notes with other people. That data is stored in some xml files somewhere, and its only a matter of time before someone comes up with a way to share them. Since the spawns are static they are pretty much always where the maps notes say they are.

On a sad note, we are ready to build our city on Set but can't because the traders don't work and some key ingredients are in peoples banks. :( I guess that's the downside of having the trade post, bank and mailbox subsystems accessible only through 1 NPC.

Anyway, happy harvesting!

MMOROG said...

I came across cotton plants in other zones, the Wild Lands specifically.

Not having a resource tracking radar doesn't seem to be much of a problem since you can pushpin tags on your own map. I'm not sure if there are limits on number of points though, but doing this manually to me feels more.. appropriate.

If you're considering just size for epic... I'm imagining the cities that will be built. =)

I dunno, epic is kinda a person-by-person thing, because the last truly epic feel I had in WoW was during the Loch quests and that was in 2004. As time and patches went on in WoW, not only did I lose the epic feeling, but much of it was beginning to feel small-minded.

~shrug~

We'll see with this game, I'm really thinking all of the predictions of where it's going are going to line up about as well as the predictions during beta. =P

ethan said...

Hey, I have a question for you guys. I'm done with a few of the gathering quests and did the 2nd quest of getting the rare item from the same node - now I want to advance (for example) to mining iron, but he tells me I need more experience. The rub is, he doesn't tell me what kind of experience I need. Do I need to gather more, or actually level my character more, or what? I can't figure out what to do!

Bildo said...

Hey Ethan,

I believe you have to be level 30 for the next set of gathering. But I could be wrong.

I would check the official forums or our forums at http://aoc.tentonhammer.com as I'm not quite high enough to know for sure myself.

MMOROG said...

No need for a radar anymore, Funcom has now marked the resource locations on the map.

I actually preferred it the way it was before, I'd completely mapped out the locations myself. Now, there's a lot more competition as it's really obvious for everyone. Heh.

MMOROG said...

Okay, no the markers are gone again. Hmm, maybe something they're still working on.

Kian said...

Epic or huge? You guys must be kidding... There are about 4 or 5 nodes of each type... which mean that you can do a 'round' of one kind in about 10 minutes... that is circeling the whole zone. I think its actually the smallest zone I've been in except for 'town zones'.