PAX East 2017: Talking Conan Exiles on the show floor with Funcom
If you're a fan of Funcom and the games it makes, Conan Exiles probably has you breathing a bit easier than you have in a while. It's an indisputable success for the developers, who have been in a difficult financial situation for the past several years. Now they've got a pretty big hit on their hands, big enough to take out a sizable booth on the PAX East show floor to demonstrate the harsh survival of the game.
I had a chance to chat with some of the Funcom staff on site as well as an opportunity to play the game a bit myself. (Although that was mostly an exercise in getting gored by rhinos and eaten by alligators, so MJ is probably the better source of information on the game mechanics.) They revealed to me just how big of a success the game has actually been for Funcom, hitting its twelve-month sales goal in 30 days. That's significant however you slice it, especially when you're discussing a buy-to-play game rather than a subscription setup.
Of course, you don't need to worry about the success leading to money being diverted into other avenues; the current plan is for everything made by the game to be re-invested in the game, making the best possible version of Conan Exiles for public consumption. The point was repeatedly stressed that the early access model is something the development team wants to visibly respect and endorse; there is a set end point to the game's early access development period, and during that period it will not have any additional paid content for players. Everything added to the game during early access will be added for free.
After that? They're not ready to discuss that yet. But if you were attracted by a promised but not yet implemented feature, you won't have to pay for it. The point of early access is to get feedback and learn more. Rolling siege towers, for example, were added to the game specifically as a result of player feedback.
Obviously, as this game is rising, the sun sets upon Age of Conan, which seems like an odd dichotomy. I asked if this game was meant to in some ways to be a spiritual successor to the older title, and the answer is a combination of "yes," "no," and "sort of." The two games have very different focuses, naturally, and while AoC was designed from the ground up as an MMO, Conan Exiles is meant to be about survival in a fashion that an MMO couldn't and wouldn't be able to manage. Part of that is environment, but that also includes things like having big PvE encounters and organized endgame play as opposed to an experience built of your own goals.
At the same time, Conan Exiles is still an inheritor of parts of AoC's legacy. The combat in the game, for example, already closely resembles what AoC combat was originally meant to look like, years before it was possible to really make those systems work. It also inherits the same visual language that Funcom developed for the Conan franchise, so while it's built on a new engine and with updated graphics, you should be able to look at the games and see the stylistic link. It's not a spiritual successor, but it is a part of the overall Conan mythos, and it should feel that way.
That's also something players can look forward to in the future; while elements of AoC will never be wholesale plucked out and added to Conan Exiles, the designers are incredibly happy to raid the game for ideas about environments, creatures, and designs. The lore link works both ways.
Part of the difference is also that Conan Exiles does not have a story beyond the one you craft for yourself. While there's plenty of lore to be found scattered throughout the Exiled Lands, players will never find themselves sent on a specific mission to address some climactic story confrontation. No, you'll just be left to wander the wastes, build your structures, and survive. A comparison was made to the extensive lore and background of Dark Souls, which players experience almost entirely secondhand.
We'd like to thank Funcom for taking the time to answer our question and congratulate it on the game's success so far. Life in the exiled lands appears to be nasty, brutish, and short, but that's the sort of thing that Conan himself would think is pretty good. Maybe not what is best in life, but in the top ten.