With J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth having its own MMO, appropriately enough called Lord of the Rings Online, it is not surprising that Robert Howard’s Conan books series is getting its own mmorpg. The new game, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures will give players the chance for adventure in the world of Hyboria.
Instead of the high heroic fantasy offered by Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures aims to capture the world portrayed in the sword and sorcerery Conan novels and the 1980s cult movies of the same name starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Funcom’s Second MMORPG Offering
The Age of Conan MMORPG will be released in March 2008 by Funcom. Gamers who are familiar with Anarchy Online have already seen the sci-fi cyberpunk offering of the game. Some of the features of Age of Conan are similar to those found in Anarchy Online, including the PvP (player versus player) system. Following the example set by other mmorpgs, the Conan game will include mounts from the beginning.
Single Player, PvP Battles and Siege Battles
Taking a page from Mythic Entertainment’s Dark Age of Camelot, Age of Conan features trade skills that allow players to engage in castle sieges as part of PvP conflict. PvP in Age of Conan is not as controlled as it is in Dark Age of Camelot.
Players of Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventurers are able to build and defend their own cities. The player-made cities can change control from one player to another as the time passes in the game, allowing for a more dynamic world than in most standard mmorpgs. The player-built city system similar to the city system already in place in Funcom’s other mmorpg, Anarchy Online.
MMORPGs Targeted to Specific Fans
Age of Conan is not the first MMORPG targeted towards a specific fan base. City of Heroes, Star Wars Galaxies, and Pirates of the Caribbean Online were all created to attract players that are fans of comics books, Star Wars, and the Jack Sparrow movies, respectively. Funcom designers and programmers attempted to follow the Robert Howard’s books as closely as possible so as not to disappoint Conan fans.
Whether or not Age of Conan mmorpg succeeds depends on how much of a fan base there is for the Conan books and movies. Players without a deep interest in Conan will likely pass up Funcom’s latest online game for the other sword and sorcery mmorpg offerings. Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures promises to be a good mmo for fans of Robert Howard’s Conan the Barbarian books and for players who want challenging game play in an mmorpg, and players who just want to play as a Conan character by themselves, can buy the game solely for its single player content.
Conan Creator Robert E. Howard
His early childhood was spent largely on the move, until his family finally settled in the town of Cross Plains in 1919. Robert was an only child and spent his early youth much like any other boy: hunting, fishing, and exploring. He was sickly and began an intensive programme of strength training.
He enjoyed reading, to such an extent that he broke into the public library when it was closed. He loved history and poetry, particularly old legends. Inspired, he wrote his first story when he was about ten.
Howard spent much of his time alone. His strength training paid off, for he eventually grew into a broad, powerful man. He was an avid boxer: he often boxed in local saloons and almost always won. Boxing was the most popular sport in the western world at that time, with boxers being celebrated as the epitome of masculinity. Howard lived at a time when boxing legends like Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney were on the scene, and he was to draw heavily upon the image of these fighters as well as his own experiences when it came to creating characters for his stories.
Howard began writing for the ‘pulp’ magazine Weird Tales when he was eighteen, but his income was so meagre he had to supplement it with other jobs. He picked cotton, branded cattle, worked in a pharmacy, a grocery store, and hauled trash. Throughout all, he continued to write. His persistence paid off, and by 1928 he was earning enough money to write full time.
His style was fast-paced and gritty, and covered a broad genre of fiction. Howard was a natural storyteller and his work included westerns, sports stories, horror and thrillers. His stories were packed with action and movement, and he could be humorous as well as dark. He produced hundreds of short stories for other publications besides Weird Tales, but is probably best remembered as the creator of Conan the Barbarian.
Howard declared that Conan was an amalgamation of many different men he’d known, ranging from oil-field bullies and prize-fighters to bootleggers and honest workmen. The appeal of Conan spread rapidly, and Howard’s popularity soared. He cultivated friendships with other ‘weird’ writers like H.P Lovecraft.
Howard was an eccentric man. He struck up a relationship with a woman named Novalyne Price Ellis, a schoolteacher in Cross Plains. Sometimes it went well, sometimes it didn’t. Howard was given to bouts of moody introspection, and his views on life were stark and sometimes brutal. He had a great attachment to his mother, Hester Howard, and had often remarked that he did not plan to outlive her.
Hester had a long history of illness and her continuing health problems imposed a severe drain on Howards purse. Finally, on June 11, 1936, after a long illness, Howard was informed by her nurses that she had slipped into a coma and would not awaken. Howard went outside to his car, locked himself inide and shot himself through the head with a .38 pistol. He survived for another eight hours before dying. His mother died the following day and they were buried together in Brownwood’s Greenleaf Cemetary. He was just thirty years old.
R.E. Howards Legacy
It is ironic that, whilst he struggled so much in life, his most famous character, Conan, became a multi-million dollar franchise in the decades following his death, spawning several movies, countless comics, computer games, and dozens of novels written by imitators. Novalyne Price wrote a book about him in 1986, entitled One Who Walked Alone, which formed the basis of the 1996 movie The Whole Wide World, starring Vincent D’Onofrio as Howard and Rene Zellweger as Price.