Welcome back to another edition of Betawatch, the game where literally everything is in early access forever. Except Closers, of course, which is open! I never get tired of that. Yes, Closers Online is running a fully open alpha this weekend, which I guess is what we do now when open beta is actually soft launch. Regardless, you can play it and check it out. What else happened in the world of eternal testing this past week? Let’s see…
- Go Project Gorgon! It put your crowdfunding to work on a programmer to overhaul the in-testing UI.
- OrbusVR kicked off its third round of closed beta testing. Backers could also take part in Dual Universe’s second pre-alpha, which begins tomorrowday.
- Both Legends of Aria and Prosperous Universe put the wraps on their alpha testing.
- Crowfall talked up its action harvesting, while Ship of Heroes went all pew-pew with lightning.
- H1Z1 changed its name. Again. This is its third try and it’s still in early access! So is PUBG; it broke 2.3M concurrent players last weekend. Not too shabby.
- Don’t get your hopes up about Star Citizen spinoff Squadron 42; it’s not launching this year. Star Citizen itself is still busy breaking alpha 3.0. But Bless Online is definitely coming (to us) in 2018!
- Conan Exiles, on the other hand, will stay in testing an extra quarter.
Did we miss anything? Other than Eliot, who will be back in action next week? Send it along to us! And in the meantime, check out our ongoing list of MMOs-purporting-to-be-in-testing that we’re watching.
Funcom announced this morning that it’s delaying Conan Exiles’ formal launch, this time to Q2 2018.
“We’ve been looking at our development roadmap for Conan Exiles, and considering the level of quality and polish we would like to meet before full release,” the studio told followers on social media. “Making sure that Conan Exiles is of a high technical and gameplay quality is our number one priority right now. As such, we have decided to take a little more time than we had originally planned, to make sure we get as much polish in as we can before it moves out of Early Access. So we’re pushing the release date from Q1 2018 to early Q2 2018. It’s not a major shift in release window, but it will make a significant difference on the quality of the game.”
You’ll recall that delays are nothing new for Conan. The game’s original early access launch was planned for September 2016 but delayed to January 2017. The Xbox One version has also been delayed in the past, originally having been slated to follow the PC early access launch last January and then for Q3 2017 (it’s in preview now).
. Thanks, David and Kinya!
Thralls are finally becoming a lot more interesting in Conan Exiles. Currently in testing for PC is a new patch that makes those NPCs a bit more like custom companions than like the bots they once were, as you can now interact with them and fuss with their inventories, thus outfitting them so they suck less.
“One side effect of introducing the thrall inventories was that you could no longer pickup these thralls once they have been deployed [due to inventory item restrictions]. This makes it more cumbersome to move thralls over long distances. We are therefore adding support for archer, fighter and dancer thralls to follow you around instead. This should make it easier to rearrange your defenses. The follow mechanics also opens up the doorway for rescuing thralls in the future.”
Repair kits are also in testing, along with roofing pieces. Funcom says it’s working on stamping out crash bugs, building out the the Volcano dungeon, adding craftables, implemementing a new critter, and iterating on what could be huge changes to combat.
Do you have strong opinions on the flow of lava? It’s possible you’re a trained scientist who knows when it looks right or wrong, but it’s also possibly you just like nitpicking. Either way, Conan Exiles is making sure that the molten flow of lava in the game looks nice and authentic. You probably won’t be burnt to a crisp from convection, so realism is still going right out the window, but it’ll look nice just the same.
The weekly update has more in it aside from just that, of course; the combat team is working on lock-on targeting systems in prototype stages to test out how that change will affect the overall feel of the game’s combat, while the art team is developing some cute cats and new crossbows. Check out the latest dispatch to see everything that’s changing in the near future and is already in the works for future updates.
What is best in life? Ham. Delicious, well-cooked ham, with some nice potatoes and an appropriate wine. Don’t laugh, because that’s an important aspect to consider now when you’re playing Conan Exiles. Sure, you need to periodically eat and drink anyway, but the expanded food system lets you get even more benefits out of taking the time to cook things well instead of just eating whatever is close at hand.
Of course, players can’t simply toss some ham at a fire and expect a perfectly cooked meal. The really explore the joy of cooking you’ll need to build a full kitchen, and you’ll need to search for some of the best recipes out in the world instead of just toying about in the kitchen. Once you get there, though, you’ll be able to enjoy a multitude of long-term buffs in addition to the hunger-replenishing utility of food, so it’s well worth the effort to make your exile into a five-star chef.
Conan Exiles’ latest community update is a great example of why excessive community updates might not really be necessary. The team spends a ton of words basically saying, “We’re working on it,” catching everyone up on the state of the game, food spoiling, item repair, Xbox One stability, and Funcom’s focus on the PC/Xbox One parity patch.
More interestingly, the studio’s internal teams are working on expanding the thrall system, optimization, the building system, sickle harvesting (the first work on the in-design farming system), the new dungeon, the combat system, missing art, and PS4 dev.
“Most of the tech team are still focused on Xbox One, working on crash fixes and stabilization of the PC/Xbox parity patch,” the studio says. “We’ve also begun looking into how we can take advantage of the Xbox One X. This doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the issues with PC, as there’s still work to be done there. On the PS4 side of things, Coconut Lizard have reported that they can now reach character creation on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. That’s not bad for two weeks’ worth of work.”
Well, Legends of Aria fans, it’s the final… alpha? That doesn’t sound like a 1980s power ballad line at all, someone should get on that. But yes, this is the final alpha for the game ahead of its upcoming Steam launch. There’s no date for said launch just yet, though, so you may as well get into the alpha testing now (assuming you already have access or want to drop the money on it).
Do we have more beta news? Of course we do. There’s always more news.
Also, there’s a list. It’s on a list; it must be true if it’s in a list, like charts in tabletop RPGs. Why not see what’s on the list? Why not let us know your thoughts on this week’s beta news or share your comments from beta testing you’re allowed to talk about? Why not build yourself a chicken costume just in case that becomes a pressing need in your life? Rhetorical questions are fun.
It’s no secret that I love to explore. And exploring the dangerous new worlds of survival games has been something I have really been enjoying this past couple of years. But there is dark cloud looming over each of these experiences: They end too quickly. These games, most of which are still in early access, have a very finite map. Once I’ve poked my head into every nook and cranny, once I’ve built what I wanted, and once I have completed the game tasks, there’s nothing left for me to do. I am not one who likes the whole wipe-and-start-over idea, precisely because there is nothing left to explore for me. And the PvP scene is no long-term draw either. Sure, maybe the studio was happy to have folks for just those few months, but wouldn’t retaining players be better? So how do you keep things fresh and keep players playing?
Different games are exploring different approaches. Currently, Conan Exiles is releasing new areas and expanding its map, offering plenty of new spaces to survey. ARK: Survival Evolved releases expansions that are completely new worlds. But to explore those new areas, you have to buy them. It’s actually a different strategy that ARK employs that I think solves the problem best, especially for games with a smaller map-type. Three words: procedurally generated maps.
There is about a half of a year, we are told, before Conan Exiles leaves the semi-shelter of early access and sees if it can sustain itself as a fully launched product. It seems as good a time as any to take stock of where the game is and what needs to be done before release.
Funcom said in its weekly community letter that it is finalizing the rest of the early access roadmap and should have it to players soon. Right now, the team is mostly focused on stabilizing the Xbox One version and working to attain parity between the console and PC editions of the survival sandbox.
Additionally, Funcom is working on a variety of improvements and fixes, including keeping players from raiding containers through walls, adding in moon phases, making combat look better, and optimizing destructible building elements. There is a small patch that’s being tested and should correct a couple of reoccurring issues that players are facing, such as not getting black ice resources from their associated nodes.
In one of our recent Daily Grind discussions about MMORPGs that might make it to 20 years of live operation, some of our commenters pointed out that despite Age of Conan continuing in maintenance mode, Funcom had ceased to honor its ongoing subscription loyalty reward program for players pushing two years or more.
The same day, Funcom (purely coincidentally, we have no doubt) posted its 720-day loyalty reward information. The good news for loyal subbers is that the two-year mark will net you five royal treasure chests and a free character boost to level 80.
Age of Conan was officially put into maintenance mode back in February as Funcom chose to instead pursue Conan Exiles, Secret World Legends, and other upcoming projects.
Feeling chilly about Conan Exiles’ previous stab at using temperature as a genuine obstacle in your survival journey? You may be a little happier with this week’s Update 30, which revamps the temperature system and makes it hot-hot-hot.
The big takeaway with the new system is that temperature changes as you move through climates takes place more slowly, allowing you time to adapt and adjust. There are nine stages, from frostbite to overheating, the extremes of which can be managed with certain gear, fire, eating ice, or even taking a dip in a lake.
Other changes with Update 30 include the option to lock containers, a map marker for your inglorious death, reusable arrows, mob XP that’s distributed to all relevant killers, and a greatly reduced crafting time for most recipes. This adjustment is also welcome: “The cry-for-help radius of humanoid NPCs have been reduced significantly. This will make it a bit easier to break camps and not have to face hordes of enemies all the time.”
Last week, Conan Exiles players got an apology and a promise that Funcom would do a better job of communicating what was going on with the game’s development. This week… that promise has already gotten its first bit of follow-through with a weekly community letter discussing the state of the game on both Xbox One and PC along with upcoming projects. The former is being quickly brought up to parity with the PC version, while the latter is having stability fixes rolled out and new updates added for testing.
Further out, the team is working on a new fire-themed dungeon area for players to explore, new building pieces for housing, and an overhaul of the game’s combat system. It also explains the split between the various portions of the team, hopefully putting to bed the idea that the team is only working on one thing at any given time. Check out the full letter to get a sense of where the team is at and what’s next for survivors in the exiled lands.
Lest you think that Conan Exiles is just about crushing your enemies and all that, Funcom has a new dev diary out today elucidating the game’s building system. Pure builders should skip the PvP servers, the studio says, and slip into single-player god mode or on a server with super-fast harvesting and crafting speed to focus on creating your very own Sim City in Hyboria.
Players of other sandboxes probably already know the drill: You don’t have to just plunk down prefab stuff and can instead build from the ground up using smaller building blocks. “To build truly creative structures it can be important to use a lot of different building pieces and placeables,” cautions Funcom. “Based on feedback from the community we are making additional building pieces with new shapes so you can make even more creative buildings.”
“You can build almost anything you want in Conan Exiles. If you have the time and patience you can even fill out most of the map with all kinds of buildings, castles and cities. Build a sprawling metropolis filled with thralls dancing in the streets, hammering away at their anvils or standing guard. Or perhaps you want to build a humongous castle, filled with all sorts of rooms and dungeons and even labyrinths.”