Tobold's Blog
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Age of Conan early access

All is not well in Hyboria. It turns out that the early access offer which allows you to start playing Age of Conan already on May 17 was a limited offer, and is sold out. That left a lot of angry customers holding a valid pre-order key, but without early access as promised. The reason given for the limited number of early accesses was that the Funcom servers couldn't handle more people downloading the 14 GB client. Funcom could have solved that easily by offering people who already had one of the various beta clients installed a way to patch that client to the release version. But no, that wasn't possible, you had to uninstall the beta and download and install the huge early access client again.

Next problem was that the Funcom early access downloader resulted in many people having corrupted downloads, and receiving "ERROR: Filesize incorrect" message when installing the game, leaving them with a non-functional client installed. That can be fixed, but you need to know how to do it: Go to the directory where you installed Age of Conan in, find the SimpleConfig.exe program, and run it. Click on the Verify / Repair button, check the repair checkbox, and start verification. That verifies all the Age of Conan files, and downloads correct version of corrupted files.

Once you got all files in order and start the game, there is a good chance that you will only see a black screen. In that case you need to stop the program, and run SimpleConfig.exe again. This time go to the graphics tab and check whether it is set to DirectX 9 or 10. If it is 10, it won't work, so set it to 9. If the screen remains black, try changing the resolution in the SimpleConfig.exe program to something lower. That should fix the problem. Once you see something, you can change the resolution back to high with the Settings button when Age of Conan is running.

I got the early access client downloaded, installed, and fixed, but it took me two days to do so, including several visits to the AoC Technical Support forums, where I received some good solutions from other players, but never saw a Funcom tech responding. Needless to say that up to now I'm underwhelmed by the technical excellence of Age of Conan. It isn't as bad as Funcom's last release, Anarchy Online, but still far from smooth. And from a marketing point of view having early access only for a limited number of preorder customers sounds like a rather bad idea to me.
It seems that Funcom have been clear from the start that a pre-order key only offered a chance to get into early access, and that places were limited. Unfortunately, many retailers were less than clear when passing this information along.

Maybe Funcom could have done more ahead of time by announcing a specific limit on the number of early access places, so people at least would have gotten the impression that they had to be quick.

I reckon there's at least a small chance that we'll see some more early access places materialising today due to the uproar, but either way, I'm sitting pretty already :)

The updater seems to be downloading yet more patches today...
For this Black screen problem it can also help if you choose windowed mode in the config application, and change back to fullscreen later
IMHO the Early Access is just a bonus, not something that everyone should be getting. Most players will be joining on the official release anyway.
Well, for example the pre-order page for Age of Conan says: "Pre-order the standard or collector’s edition of "Age of Conan" to receive the in-game Amazon Curved Bow, a hardcover mini-guide to the Conan universe written by Roy Thomas, and an opportunity to participate in the 3-day Early Access Program for a $5 fee." To most people it wasn't at all clear that the "opportunity to participate" would be so limited, and not everyone would even get that opportunity.
The problem with giving everyone early access is that it's no longer early access at that point. It becomes release day.

They probably just should have limited early access to the collector's edition like WAR is doing. That way it's still limited, but it's done in such a way that's it's easier to understand. And it gives another reason to purchase the CE.
All we really know is all of this "controversy" sure has kept Funcom and AoC in the news...

"Bad news is still better than No news"
i.e: Spellborn, Aion, etc...who thinks about those titles.

I read one article discussing the MMO's of 2008...Spellborn was not on it...
Or another of the upcoming titles which seem to be innovating...had AoC and Spellborn...but no Aion..(maybe because it will be another Asian Grinder in commercial clothing...)

Guess when the smoke clears in a month or two...maybe THEN we will know if this game is any good
(PS: I enjoyed the OB immensely, I am excited about my Early Access time...keep an eye on my blog for my "mis" adventures)
I lost faith in Funcom as a company years ago after beta testing Anarchy Online for months and then participating in the disastrous launch. The nail in the coffin was when heavy handed gameplay changes a month after release left my level 50ish character (the cap was 200 at that point) unable to solo even level mobs. I quit, my friends quit, and I've been suspicious of Funcom's production values ever since.

I really hope they pull this off and release a great game that provides some competition to WoW. Blizzard has been resting on their laurels for far too long and happy to wallow in their huge piles of money. It takes competition to provoke innovation, so I hope AoC can compete even though I have no intention of playing it.
FC's handling of this matter is puzzling to say the least. Especially the comment made by one of their community managers of the official hatefilled cesspool of testosterone driven monomaniacs, i mean forums. The restrictions plus keeping beta servers live would suggest that they are not quite ready for launch.

Also, i only got my preorder key today, and after the news of it being closed i didnt expect it would still be an option. But when i registered the EA option was still there, im downloading that version now.
Being one of the unfortunate people that could not get the EA, despite preordering, I have to say that it's been a horrible experience.

There was no indication on the email that this was "limited", and the "restrictions apply, please see webpage" is a cop-out. From understanding, even the webpage did not indicate that it was first come, limited time only.

Since download started last night, I naturally thought to wait til I could .. .you know download the game before paying them money. Silly me!

I have to say that the webpage itself is difficult to navigate, and I've yet to find a way to see my payment history on that page. Im apparently missing something obvious.

My friend agrees that the webpage that manages the account is juvenile and not at all intuitive.

BTW, I did finally manage to get EA, by refreshing the page and removing and adding my payment, then upgrading the account.

... which proves that EA is in trouble if they closed EA access and people can still get in.
I don't get the fuss, this is the same thing that happened with other games, there has to be a cutoff point, that's only reasonable.

All it means is that:

1. Some retailers just suck getting pre-orders out.

2. Some players 'pre-order' at last minute, expecting an early access bonus unreasonably.

3. Funcom has probably underestimated demand.

How is this different from any other MMORPG, particularly WoW? It's exactly the same. Just usually the disgruntled players get ignored on the forums and it doesn't make blog news.

Just illustrates to me how bad news rolls downhill and collects every bit of junk along the way.
I registered my pre-order code on 5/15, was offered EA (via the upgrade subscription option) and FC took my $5.00 from my bank account. If I'm not allowed in (because they closed the US EA on 5/14), why are they still offering EA and taking money? And, if I do get in, why was I able to get access after the EA was closed? This goes beyond the "limited availability" issue.
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