The technical beta is kicking off and we’ve already started inviting several hundred players to join us. This week take a look at what they can expect to see!

Now is an incredibly exciting time for everyone working at Funcom. The technical beta is kicking off and we’ve already started inviting several hundred players to join us and become some of the first people to tread the blood-soaked earth of Hyboria under their sandaled (or chain mailed, for that matter) feet. After years of working on the game behind closed doors it is finally ready for the world. Bringing more external testers into the game is a very interesting experience for us, especially with so many people participating. We’re just as excited as you are, if not even more!

We know most of you won't have the opportunity to join us this time around (though your chance may come soon!), but we still want to let you in on what we'll be doing in these first tests by explaining to you what it will involve.

This first time around we’re focusing on testing how well the server works under heavy load, particularly how the different areas of the gameworld holds up when many people try to get into one specific place. In the days following the test, developers will be going through the data collected and probably utter quite a few “oohs” and “aahs”.

“We’ll start by testing several different high-load scenarios on our servers by pushing the technology, like seeing how the server reacts to so many people going from one area to another at the same time,” says Quality Assurance Manager Ørjan Mathis Tvedt. “This is to further optimize our servers for the future tests which will be even bigger in scale.”

The stage is set and the players will be given access to the Acheronian Ruins, one of the areas on Tortage Island. This is one of the locations players will be exploring fairly early in the game, and includes some gigantic ruins that can be climbed by those adventurers who manage to fight their way through the Picts, Ghouls and Bat Demons that have made their home at its base. The early participants in the technical beta will be joining the game as pre-made characters (though they will get to change their appearance slightly) of a specific class, and they will have access to a limited amount of equipment.

A separate build of the game has been created for the first tests, and everyone at Funcom have been playing it for quite some time now. Funcom has a strong quality assurance team working on Age of Conan, but we’re just as much looking forward to the feedback from the external testers as well as seeing the hard data that the server technicians and developers can extract from the test.

There is probably many of you who wonder what the first technical testers will be able to do once they get logged onto the servers. In contrast to the general beta it will be fairly limited, and during the first tests we’ll only let them roam the Acheronian Ruins taking on some simple quests, killing enemies and finding loot. They can try to wear whatever they pick up, though we’re limiting the equipment available because we only want certain data fed back to us. The Acheronian Ruins is a dangerous place with numerous Pict encampments, and it gets more and more challenging the closer you get to the ruins.

But, of course, we don’t want to spoil the fun for all those of you who will one day get to explore this area by yourself (or, preferably, with friends!) and experience its dangers first hand. Still, we want to give you a small peek into these tests other than just through text, so we’ve added a few screens taken by some of the developers using the test build.

Note: These screenshots does not represent the visual quality of the final game. They were taken using a developer's version of the game that contains unfinished elements such as a temporary user interface and more. And please disregard the chat -- this is what happens when you put a bunch of very silly (yet brilliant) developers together in one place.

For those of you not invited: Fear not, this is only the beginning of the technical beta and we will be adding more and more testers to the process as we move ahead. The general beta yet to come will also see an even greater number of players being invited, so your time may come soon enough!

Not yet signed up? Do it now!