Funcom's CEO Trond Arne Aas has told GamesIndustry.biz that the company has turned around the fortunes of its MMO Age of Conan, after a rocky first year.
Early adopters are returning to the game and server activity is increasing, following a series of technical and design improvements implemented by the developer aimed at fixing bugs and creating a better player experience.
"The problems for Age of Conan arose after the game had been live for a period of time, as players progressed into parts of the game where content turned out to be too thin and advanced features simply weren't good enough," admitted the CEO. "There were also performance issues on some machines, and the items and RPG system – even though it worked exactly as we designed it – did not engage players for as long as we had hoped for."
"We have turned most if not all of this around and we have corrected these issues through a series of massive updates. For us it was never an option to drop the game despite the challenges we faced."
He continued: "We knew we had a game with some very strong points, we just had to improve upon it in order to keep people playing and bring former players back. It's been a long process but we think it is paying off. We have seen very positive trends on key subscription metrics, with people playing the game for longer periods of time and activity levels on the servers rising."
As well as technical issues with the game, after a busy first few months subscriber levels fell, and two high-profile executives at Funcom left the company, leaving the impression of internal problems at the developer.
But while some developers and publishers are prepared to drop an unsuccessful MMO if it doesn't perform quickly in the market, that was never an option for Funcom, said Arne Aas, who's confident the quality of the game now speaks for itself.
"We're in the process of proving it as we speak. The game has turned around quite significantly in terms of quality and content, and the opinions among the players and the public in general is turning more and more to the positive because of the efforts we have put into the game since launch.
"I can say that we have seen very positive trends in subscription longevity and server activity, and I think this is proof that we are turning around the fortune of Age of Conan.
"It's a long, multi-step process that we've been going through since launch where we have planned every update in utmost detail to make sure we're pushing the game in the direction that both our players and we as developers want it to go," he added.
Asked what have been the most critical areas to upgrade, Arne Aas said the developer has made so many changes it was difficult to pin down, but players returning to the game should notice massive changes from content through to features and technical improvements.
"There isn't really a short answer to this one, but if there had to be, it would probably be a whole damn lot."
"Returning players will see that the game has generally improved leaps and bounds since launch and that the overall gameplay experience feels a lot more solid now than it ever did before."
Now the emphasis is on Funcom to bring back the players and convince new users the game measures up to the market leaders in the MMO field.
That began this week with the company launching a re-evaluation campaign to entice customers back to the game with two week's free play.
"It will be up to both existing and returning players to determine whether or not we've managed to turn the game around, but I think that the launch of this re-evaluation campaign shows that we as developers are confident about the quality of the game as it stands today," said Arne Aas.
"We'll do more similar initiatives in the future, and we will work hard to promote Age of Conan to make sure everyone - former players, the press and gamers in general - sees that the game is moving forward, that it's getting better and better, and that it's definitely worth checking out," he concluded.