Funcom's fourth-quarter financial results showed an operating loss of $23.3 million due to "a lagging performance" by its MMORPG "Age of Conan." It was also announced that the CFO of the Norwegian company has resigned. Read More...

Despite Funcom's big plans for its MMO "Age of Conan" in 2009, including its first expansion, the company's planned server merges will reduce the number from 49 to 18. Read More...

Last week, MMO website TenTonHammer confirmed layoffs at Funcom's U.S. branch.

The Norway-based developer of "Age of Conan" acknowledged the "staffing cuts," which reportedly affected 70% of the U.S. branch in the Customer Service and Quality Assurance departments, as "part of our ongoing cost based efficiency and performance initiatives that are vital to any business."

We followed up with Funcom about how the cuts would affect "Age of Conan" and to check on the status of Xbox 360 version of the game in development. Product manager Erling Ellingsen told us via e-mail:

"Our aim is for this to not affect development of 'Age of Conan,' or any of our other games, at all. We are sticking firmly to our plans. The Xbox 360 version of the game is still in production, but as before we are not committing to any specific dates. I wish I could give you more information, but I can't at the time being."

"Age of Conan" was released in May and the Xbox 360 version was slated for 2009.

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When "Age of Conan" came out in May, the hype machine was in full force for the M-rated MMO based on Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian.

Though the game released to strong retail sales and started with over 400,000 players, several major issues with the game popped up -- including system performance, game balance, Player vs. Player, to name a few.

Matters weren't helped with the unexpected departure of the game's director, as well as the recent announcement that the company would merge its servers (which we've heard isn't necessarily a good sign).

With all these problems swirling, Funcom product director Jørgen Tharaldsen got in touch with Multiplayer today to defend the game. He was responding to questions I sent last month regarding the state of "Age of Conan," what the company is doing with the game moving forward and an update on the Xbox 360 version. Here are his responses:

[Image Credit: Espen Sjølingstad Hoen] Read More...

Change is under way for "Age of Conan," and players will like it, a Funcom rep told Multiplayer.

On Wednesday, Funcom announced in their official forums that producer/game director of "Age of Conan" Gaute Godager (pictured) has parted ways with the company.

Godager was with Funcom for 16 years, and was one of the original founders of the company.

MTV Multiplayer contacted Funcom product director Jørgen Tharaldsen about Godager's sudden departure and how this will affect the game.

Here's what Tharaldsen had to say via e-mail:

[Image Credit: Joacim Lund]

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Mythic VP and lead "Warhammer Online" designer Mark Jacobs told me some of the things needed to make a successful MMO. But he also said if you're looking to make an online game nowadays, the odds are against you.

"If you look at the numbers, MMOs have the highest failure rates of any entertainment product," Jacobs said. Going all the way back 11 years to the release of "Ultima Online," the first MMO to reach 100,000 subscribers, he said that there have only a been handful of successful MMOs compared to the number of them being developed.

I mentioned how the measure of success nowadays might be if your game still exists in a year. "It does seem that way," he said, "and it is just tremendously sad when you look at the amount of money and effort that goes into MMOs."

In our recent conversation about the state of online games, we also touched on why last year's "Hellgate: London" went under, and what the troubled "Age of Conan" can do to prevent the same fate.

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aoc-horse-markers-211×281.jpgI'm not sure what the animal cruelty laws are in Norway, but I guess they don't include covering a horse in ping pong balls.

A few weeks ago, I saw a demo of "Age of Conan," the new MMORPG from Funcom.

With the game due out next month, we've heard lots of things about it already: how difficult it is to adapt the controls for the Xbox 360 controller, and whether or not the game features nipples.

But there was one fact during the demo that caught my attention: in order to capture realistic movement for the in-game horse mounts, they motion-captured real horses.

I had to see it to believe it.

So I asked for proof, and Funcom gladly sent it to me. From Product Director Jorgen Tharaldsen:

"In order to make [the horse movement] believable, we looked for someone who could help us to make it look as you would expect in a real-life situation, and we found this in a team of crazy British guys who lined up an entire stable and even a stadium for motion capture. As a thank you to the Brits, we naturally had to put the jolly old lance in the game when fighting mounted! I'm not sure if we are the first or only ones to do this, and it really doesn't matter. What I do know is that riding a horse in 'Conan' looks mighty cool, and even realistic, so as far as we are concerned we reached our goals."

Click onward to see more photos of the horse and rider in action, as well as the screenshots of the final results.

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