On top of teasing the first Age of Conan expansion, Funcom has shown off some of the forthcoming free content updates to its fantasy MMO Age of Conan at Leipzig.
Funcom highlighted two new zones, new and revamped dungeons and itemisation, and the graphical updates to be expected from the game's future DirectX 10 support.
Ubiquitous Funcom mouthpiece Erling Ellingsen said Funcom intended to answer the criticisms of players of the game who feel the game is too light on content in the second half. "We're really serious about adding content," Ellingsen said. "We agree that content thins out after level 55."
Ellingsen demonstrated the Commons district of the capital city Tarantia, expected soon. This mid-level slum area allows players to pick a side in a gang war between street bandits and the rulers of the rooftops. Questing will include thieving, exploration and stealth gameplay as well as combat, and complex storylines with moral choices.
Attention then moved on to the Black Castle dungeon, which is being extensively revamped. Originally a basic dungeon aimed at solo players, it will soon be a more sophisticated group dungeon featuring traps and puzzles reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda - shooting an eye with an arrow to kill a giant snake, or standing on pressure pads to allow your team-mates to pass flame-throwers.
Tongue-in-cheek tributes to Indiana Jones and Frankenstein had players fleeing from a boulder and piecing together a monster from body parts. There's also an attempt to give boss fights more personality (Ellingsen mentioned World of Warcraft's strength in this area), an epic feel, and superior loot drops. Ellingsen says Funcom is conscious that it needs to improve the quality of loot throughout the game, and is overhauling its entire loot distribution table.
The new outdoor area Ymir's Pass, for level 55 players and above, was shown. This beautiful Cimmerian mountain region has "dozens of hours" of content and a striking, ruined-amphitheatre dungeon. The Frostfather - a giant familiar from Robert E. Howard's stories - was shown imprisoned here. In a nod to the 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan films, Ymir's Pass also features the Wheel of Pain.
Ellingsen also showed screens and concept art of two top-level dungeons that are in development, but a little further off. The first, in an advanced stage of development, will be a group instance in Thunder River. The second, in the early stages only, will be a "huge" Cimmerian dungeon called the House of Crom, a social group dungeon where several groups can adventure at once.
Video was shown of the game running under DirectX 10, but Ellignsen refused to date this patch, saying that Funcom was taking its time to get it right. The DX10 version of Age of Conan will feature HDR lighting, ambient occlusion (more subtle shadowing), physics acting on grass and foliage, extravagant radial blur on fatality effects, volumetric lighting and fog, specular reflections on water and beautifully diffused underwater light.
On the anticipated update to the game's player-versus-player systems - originally expected some weeks ago - Ellingsen would only say that it was expected "relatively" soon. (In fact, he said "very soon", and then corrected himself.)
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