Thursday, May 28, 2009
In yesterday's thread Baktru wondered whether he was the only person in the world who enjoyed Tortage. Certainly not! I loved Tortage! Everybody loved Tortage! Tortage was the reason why Age of Conan sold 700,000 copies in the first month. The rest of the game being no way like Tortage was the reason why two-thirds of them left Age of Conan after the first month.
Of course that is a huge oversimplification, but like so often with simplifications, there is a large core of truth in it. Tortage, the level 1 to 20 instanced tutorial of Age of Conan had this great mode of storytelling. The same story was told from four different angles, depending on what archetype you played, with your part in the story being appropriate to your class. Thus the fighter would get the kill quest, and the rogue the sneak quest, while the mage feigned alegiance to the evil sorceress to get information. It reminded me of Akiro Kurosawa's Rashomon, and that is no small compliment.
Tortage was also the only part of Age of Conan which was accessible in the various betas, so it hugely shaped expectations about the game. But once you reach level 20 and leave Tortage, the great storytelling vanishes in a puff of smoke. Your "destiny" quest line only has one lousy quest every 20 levels in the rest of the game. It isn't as if Age of Conan was really bad after level 20, but if you loved the storytelling of Tortage, the rest pales in comparison. I trudged on to level 30 for the next destiny quest, was disappointed, and quit Age of Conan. And I'm pretty certain I wasn't the only one. The difference between Tortage and the rest might not be responsible for all of the drop in subscription numbers after the first month, but it certainly explains a good part of it.
Which of course poses two questions: Would Age of Conan have been more successful if there hadn't been a Tortage, but instead a tutorial closer to the rest of the game? And would a game which had Tortage-like storytelling throughout be a smash hit? Bioware is apparently betting on the latter with Star Wars the Old Republic. Here's hoping.