Tobold's Blog
Friday, May 30, 2008
Another miracle patch for AoC

I patched Age of Conan with the latest patch yesterday night, and to my great surprise found that since then my framerate nearly doubled. Previously I had 40 to 50 fps at medium settings, and since the patch they shot up to 80. So of course I tried high graphics settings now, and got a quite playable 40 fps now, in the PvE adventuring zones. Boy, AoC sure is pretty at high graphics settings!

The patch also contained a note saying that "withdrawing coins from the bank should now correctly add them to the coins in your inventory, instead of overwriting them". This is the kind of patch note that scares me, because it reveals the gravity of the bugs they are fixing. But I must say that Funcom is the master of miracle patches, with every patch bringing big improvements to the game. The trader (NPC doing bank, auction house and mail) is now working, which he wasn't on release. And of course now being able to run AoC at high settings and without crashes is also a big plus. And there was also an announcement that Funcom banned the people who used an exploit to get to level 80 quickly. So while the game still isn't quite at the level of excellence I wished it would have, the speed of improvement is certainly laudable.

I'm still not a big fan of Age of Conan's user interface. For example for selling items you have to scroll through an alphabetical list of all your items, you can't just click on them in your inventory. It's far too easy to accidentally sell something you wanted to keep. But as Relmstein pointed out, it is possible that the user interface has been designed to work well on a console, and not only with mouse and keyboard. Age of Conan is planned to come out for the XBox 360 next year, so it would make sense to already design the user interface in a way that it can be played with an XBox controller. The last dual platform MMORPG I played was Final Fantasy XI, and I actually used a gamepad to control the PC version, because that just played better. I'm just wondering how Funcom plans to port the awesome PC graphics onto the XBox 360. Now *that* would really require a miracle patch.
From what I understand you can optimize the crap out of the hardware in a console, while you need to base the 3D rendering on a PC game on a redundant model where everything has fallbacks for lacking hardware.

Usually it takes a while for the most optimized code to become common practice, but I also think that the xbox360 has enough juice to play AoC well, maybe not at the highest possible settings but any game world with properties similar to those of gta4 will be quite impressive enough.
Concerning the UI, Erling Ellingsen told in a recent post-launch interview that changing the UI was one of their priorities, based on player input.

Don't remember quite where you can find that interview, I just read it yesterday.

That suggests that Relmstein's theory is wrong though.
(Or perhaps not, if the changes obviously take an Xbox-style controller layout into consideration).
The bannings give me high hopes and put this game back on my radar, but I dont want any distractions from hitting 70 with my new horde toon in WoW. I always feel guilty playing another MMO when I could be leveling in WoW.
I actually play AoC right now with my 360 controller and Pinnacle Profiler..

Almost EVERYTHING has been mapped...and anything I could not map is still clickable..
In so many words, I do not need to touch the keyboard except to chat...and on the 360 console that will be rectified as it has the textpad unit that snaps onto the controller for typing Mobile Phone style...

What is real interesting is how I mapped the many skills you gain, so I had to trick the controller and skills by placing them in separate toolbars...I planned on doing a write up for that later on my blog...
This has made the game more "actioney" to me, and maybe it is why I am having so much fun...

Coming from the Diablo/Baldurs Gate Xbox world...this has become the fix for the console style action games I use to love (NinjaGaiden for the XBox and controlling the combos in that game effectively was one of my most truly inspiring achievements when I finished that game)
As to how the 360 will run it...the way the console optimizes and uses the graphics controller, I actually see zero issues with AoC in 720P.
Usually when any game comes from the 360 to the PC, the only differences is resolution.
Try putting the game in 1280x720 on your PC and watch how much faster the game runs...
Also note...some code is still being optimized as you have seen already with the framerate increases...and supposedly the dual core code is still somewhat AWOL according to some tests out there..
If they fix that, the multiple cores in the 360 will make this game shine.
Graphics wise I am not impressed with AoC and i am running it at high with 50+ fps. It could be I have been spoiled by single-player games on the 360, which look much better (in my opinion).
I wouldnt get my hopes up too much about using the 260 chat pad with AoC. Maybe it can be done, but I have yet to see a game actually support the chat pad. FFXI does NOT work with it and I get the impression that it is only meant to be used for messenger, or input on 360 specific controls. I hope I am wrong, but it blows my mind that the one MMO on the 360 right now can't use the chat pad.

Then again, maybe its up to square-enix to build in support for the chat pad and they just wont do it. Who knows.
Thats greqt,since mine has gone down since the patch and I'm starting to hit pockets of really bad freeze lag.

But its nice to know someone is getting a better frame rate than me.
If you think about it...FFXI was not even meant to be on the 360 to begin with, and for the chatpad, it has to be supported...

So, with AoC being new, I do not have any fear of that move..
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