“Does this outfit make my butt look fat?”

Anarchy Online’s open beta continues, with over 100,000 people according to Funcom all yelling in the “lvl 10-50 auction” channel that zoning doesn’t work. The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten dropped in on the development team during these final crunch days.

Sales director Nicolay Nickelsen was reluctant to concede Funcom’s future was totally dependent on the game’s success. “If you take on (competitors such as) Microsoft and Sony, you have to take chances. This is a calculated risk. We feel we are well prepared and anyway, we have other legs to stand on,” Nickelsen told Aftenposten Interactive.

Still, given the level of interest in the beta, AO looks to be a sure sales hit in 2 weeks when the game reaches store shelves. The development team is pretty honest that, like every other MMO, the first days of release will be hell. And, like every other MMO, the game has apparently already gone gold to meet a pre-determined ship date despite still having serious problems, although it’s impossible to tell at this point what problems in the game are a result of the server stress-testing and what are still bugs in the game’s code.

Still, the game’s come a very long way from earlier betas, and a few core differences that make AO stand out from EQ remain. The mission generation system, when it actually works, does in fact create small individual adventuring areas that should eliminate crowding issues entirely. Soloing is less of a cruel joke, and downtime is minimal.

Trade skills? Player vs player combat? Depth of the game world? You got me – since I haven’t been able to actually leave the newbie zone yet thanks to zoning problems, it’s impossible to say. What is safe to say is that we’ll have a great deal more to say about the game in the future. Assuming we can actually leave the newbie zone.