May 14, 2008 / 2:50 PM / 12 years ago

King Conan pillages before online gaming debut

OSLO, May 14 - King Conan wins a bloody final battle against a menacing mix of barbarians, assassins and sorcerers in the hills above Oslo before retreating to his virtual home where a million online gamers await him.

With real swords, metal and leather body armour and fake blood, Norwegian gaming company Funcom launched its “Age of Conan” Internet role-playing game with a recreation of the famed Barbarian King’s brutal world.

Guests and more than 100 journalists found themselves in an ancient village, surrounded by sword-wielding warriors, soldiers on horses and leather-clad women firing arrows.

In “Age of Conan”, players enter the world of Hyboria to live, fight and explore its dark nature, wary of cruel gods and mythical creatures lurking around every corner.

All Hyboria residents are actual people signed up to the game, taking advantage of a new technology which enables massive multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPG).

The world is based on the works of author Robert Howard, whose fictional fighter in an ancient world was brought to life on the silver screen by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1982 film “Conan the Barbarian”.

Funcom said that over a million fans have signed up for the test phase of the game, which boasts realistic graphics and original music.

“We believe this represents the largest ever beta (test phase) sign-up figure in the history of this genre of games,” Funcom said.

Since the start of the year, Age of Conan had more than five million unique visitors with a total of over 70 million page views, Funcom said, citing data from Google.

“I am really ready to give birth to this thing,” game developer Gaute Godager said. “What you have today is something bigger than what we ever dreamed of having,” said Godager.

Age of Conan gives players numerous character development options and customizes skills, abilities and deadly spells to ensure that no two characters are exactly the same.

The massive player-versus-player combat system allows warfare on an epic proportion. Players can also hire themselves out as mercenaries and battle for pay.

“We have spent over $20 million over four years and had 200 people working on this project,” Funcom’s product manager Erling Ellingsen told Reuters.

“This is in line with the biggest Norwegian film productions, if not bigger,” he said on the eve of the launch in North America on May 20. The game will launch in Europe three days later.

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