With Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures passing its one-month milestone, game director Gaute Godager has one of the most successful launches in MMO history under his belt - but the work is only beginning. A month of frantic patching has produced a more stable, playable, enjoyable game, but the weeks and months to come will make or break Conan, as Funcom strives to ensure that players are happy, entertained - and paying their subscriptions.
In the past fortnight, the team revealed some of its plans for the coming months, in the form of new content and systems for the game. Despite our heartfelt affection for Age of Conan, there's no question that Funcom still has much work to do, and many criticisms to answer - so we tracked down Gaute in his northern fastness (well, phoned his Oslo office) to talk about the launch, future plans, and the issues setting the game's forums alight at the moment.
Eurogamer: You've had somewhere over a million sales of the game in its first month - did you expect that level of success?
Gaute Godager: We've actually had over a million sell-ins, which means that that's the number of copies that have gone to shops. That's a bit different from sell-through. We expect those to go out in the first four to six weeks - but we don't really know exactly how many copies have sold through to customers.
Eurogamer: Even allowing for that, you're still by far the biggest MMO launch since World of Warcraft - you must be pleased.
Gaute Godager: Yeah, we're delighted - and we're a bit taken aback and surprised at how well it went, in terms of the number of users that we got. We're also very happy that we were able to have a launch that is.... Well, it's a great deal smoother than [Funcom's previous MMO] Anarchy Online was, put it that way! I think we have something that could be a great success.
Eurogamer: Have you had any teething trouble, given the large number of players at launch?
Gaute Godager: Technically it's been smooth, in fact a lot smoother than we'd expected. I was actually a bit surprised at that, because based on previous launches and what we've seen from other games, I was expecting more technical troubles. The servers have coped miraculously well.
What we weren't able to ramp up was customer service... We had a sales projection, and we went with that in terms of hiring customer service staff - and then we sold a lot more. We were caught out by our own success there. We're really doing absolutely everything we can to deal with that issue as fast as we can.
Eurogamer: Looking to the future, you recently issued a huge statement about what's coming up for Age of Conan. What are your present development priorities, though? If you had to pick a number one and number two priority for things to fix or add, what would they be?
Gaute Godager: The short-term focuses that we have internally are on polishing - finding more bugs and fixing them, polishing quests and so on. I think that we've been able to communicate that quite clearly to the players, not through what we say but through the number of patches that we've had and the number of improvements that we've made. They know that we are taking the bugs very seriously and are doing absolutely everything that we can to correct them.
That's the immediate and the most short-term focus that we have. In addition to that, giving PVP real purpose is the second thing that we are really focusing on. There are certain measures that we want to take to make PVP more focused, more fun and more rewarding to play.