Polygon recently had an interview with Conan Exiles creative director Joel Bylos focused on the game’s slavery mechanics, a “feature” I had entirely forgotten about, probably because the game calls such NPCs – whom you are encouraged to capture and enslave – “thralls.” Bylos likens thralls to the ‘bots of Westworld: They serve multiple purposes, from dancing for entertainment to manning base defenses as “intelligent turrets.” Essentially, he argues, they’re a mechanic that allows a single human player to build out and staff a mini empire.
I thought it would be interesting to explore the subject of slavery in Massively Overthinking now that Conan is back in the headlines (and getting good reviews). Should slavery exist in MMOs and other online games? Does it get a pass because it’s NPCs, or does it make you uncomfortable to see your player potentially cast as a heroic slaveholder?
As a fan of the wonderful world that Secret World
brought us, do you cringe or grin with excitement when Secret World Legends
news pops up? Do you waffle between tell me more
and no news is good news
? I’ve been on both sides. Who can blame us? We’ve weathered everything from financial woes
and the corresponding closure concerns to a complete reboot. And now, we’re experiencing yet another changing of the guard. The Creative Director position that has migrated from Ragnar Tornquist to Joel Bylos
to Romain Amiel has been vacated, and a new lead designer is taking over; Amiel left Funcom last month
to pursue different endeavors, leaving Chris “Nirvelle” Meredith in charge.
You can’t have a big change like this without people worrying that something will happen to their favorite conspiracy-laden game; it’s inevitable, like the sass of Kirsten Geary. The big question is, will this latest development in the structure of developers ultimately fall on the fear or cheer side of the fence? Will the recent momentum be lost? Is this just one step on the continued track of new content, or will the train be totally derailed?
Funcom’s survivalbox Conan Exiles has officially shed early access and entered final launch as of today – that’s on PC, PS4, and Xbox One – having sold a reported one million copies in the lead up to release. More servers are apparently on the way now to handle the load!
You may have thought that last month’s patch – with the combat revamp and fast travel – was the big show, but you’d be wrong. In fact, there’s a huge download for the day-one patch (and patch notes) waiting for you no matter your platform. As our hands-on already previewed, players can expect the massive map update (yep, with the volcano and swamp biomes) and new Derketo religion, plus tweaks for the Purge, the healing rebalance, and too many bug fixes to count.
Here’s abbreviated look at our best coverage to date:
The early access days of Conan Exiles are coming to a close. In less than a month, the survival sandbox will launch. At that time players will get to explore two new regions, experience the new combat, farm, dive into two new dungeons, worship a new god, and summon her avatar on the live servers. But luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait! I joined Creative Director Joel Bylos in the game for few hours of hands-on experience with the new features, then got to keep playing for the evening.
After a farming demonstration and a quick tour of the volcano, I got to witness a Purge, watch the brand-new starter cinematic, wander around the swamp and climb into treehouses, participate in a siege, look over the new attributes and perks, parade around in new armor, and test out the new combat with all the weapon types. My impressions in a nutshell? Most of the additions really up the fun factor and improve the game (the jury is still out on the eating-to-heal mechanic). I’m pretty excited for these features to go live, and not just because I want to build a treehouse base! While there I can’t offer an elaborate play-by-play of everything I experienced during this lengthy play session, I do have additional details for those who want more than one nutshell’s worth of impression.
If you missed last week’s Conan Exiles stream, you actually missed some good stuff. The big news centers on the economic system en route for the game. Funcom explains that players will be able to find and trade – and even forge – different types of coinage and currencies, as well as trade with NPC merchants and thrall-traders, chiefly in the Unnamed City, which is due for quite the overhaul with new NPCs. Fast travel will also be possible via craftable map rooms.
Players should also expect changes to armor and the dodging system: Don’t expect to be dodging around like mad if you’re wearing the heaviest armor in the game, but heavy armor will be much better at protecting you. Perks and attributes are further up for changes so everyone’s not walking around with max health and armor.
“There will be attempts toward balance, but we’re never gonna be perfect,” Funcom’s Joel Bylos quips.
Also live this week are Conan Exiles’ new forums on the Funcom site; the company has been rolling out the new boards for all of its games over the past few months.
Are you a little sick and tired of lockboxes everywhere and all of these games desperately trying to jump onto the battle royale bandwagon? It might be of some small comfort that Funcom has no immediate plans to add either to Conan Exiles (although “never say never” and all that).
Creative Director Joel Bylos addressed these issues and more in an interview with PC Gamer. Now that Conan Exiles is just two-and-a-half months from official release, Bylos said that the team is working hard to making the whole package work, even if it means cutting content.
Bylos was asked several questions about the success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and how it could impact Conan Exiles’ profile. “You just do your thing and make things that are unique and interesting,” he said. “In terms of press attention, it’s always hard to get press attention when there’s a pretty girl at the ball. PUBG is definitely the pretty girl at the ball this year.”
Happy birthday, Conan Exiles! Yes, Funcom’s blood-and-guts survival sandbox is turning one this week, or more specifically, one year in early access on PC. Funcom’s Joel Bylos thanks players in a brief video on Twitter and teases the game’s new combat system, which has been the subject of much chatter over the last few months while it’s been undergoing overhaul. It’ll be demoed on the studio’s Twitch stream this coming Friday for the first time.
The game’s latest newsletter also explains what’s up with the new biomes; Funcom says it’s all about polish.
“The Jungle biome has about two-three people working on it on the Terraformers team, and they’ve built pretty much everything from the ground up. The layout, the size and shapes of buildings, the size and shapes of the trees, the way the light is filtered through the trees, it’s all them. The art team helps out with textures, creatures and the general building blocks, but actually creating the entire biome is done by a small number of people. It’s a big area, built up from nothing, and it even turned out bigger than we initially planned. Which then adds more time to development. The content rebalance will also have an effect on resources (like what you get when you use certain tools on specific resource nodes), NPCs and creatures in the Jungle, and it’s a time-consuming process.”
Get ready for a flood of information from Conan Exiles. Funcom admitted that it had been dropping the ball on talking with fans about what’s going on with the game — a fault that it wants to correct starting post-haste.
“Unfortunately haven’t been the best at communicating recently, something we’re going to be addressing (and hopefully improving upon) today,” Conan Exiles’ community manager posted on multiple sites. The post went on to promise a weekly meeting with the entire dev team, during which notes will be taken and compiled for a regular Monday post to the community.
If you can stomach even more communication about the early access sandbox, check out this Gamasutra interview with Creative Director Joel Bylos in which he talks about Conan Exiles’ Zelda influences, the rocky rollout of the Xbox One version, and the studio’s decision-making process.
Never before have we seen players so eager to contract frostbite in the middle of summer as we are with the situation that’s going on this month with Conan Exiles. Next week on Wednesday the 16th, The Frozen Throne biome expansion will launch for this early access title, bringing the snowy lands of the north into the barbaric world that previously hosted only deserts.
As a follow-up to the expansion’s announcement this past week, the developers went on a “deep dive” into The Frozen North and its offerings. Creative Director Joel Bylos and company show off the new region and discuss the other changes and additions coming in this free update, including combat tweaks, new building elements, and a grand summoning of Ymir the Frost Father. Always helps to have a giant god on your side during fights, eh?
The full hour of deep diving delight is yours after the break!
Just because they aren’t known for wearing shirts doesn’t mean that barbarians mind a little cold now and then.
Rugged and bloodthirsty player fighters will be forging into new territory later this month, as Conan Exiles is planning to release The Frozen North for the survival sandbox. Funcom announced that the expansion is coming out on August 16th, the same day that the game will go live on Xbox One. And as a reminder, this particular expansion is free for all owners of the game.
The Frozen North will greatly expand the game’s territory by 70%, adding icy biomes, rain, and snow. Players will explore this land while fighting new enemies, making a best friend of the god Ymir, brewing up strong drinks, cooking tasty meals, and — most important to the barbarian culture — taking care of honeybees.
Funcom’s Joel Bylos answered another round of Conan Exiles’ questions over the weekend, several of them on the new biome and beyond. “We combined two biomes in this coming update (highlands and mountains) and we have plans for one or two more,” Bylos says. “Now depending on our assessment in August of what needs to be done for launch we might scale down or up our ambitions. For example, jungle requires a lot of foliage and 4.15 is supposed to have improved foliage optimizations. Assuming this all works out as planned, then it becomes more likely we do a jungle area next. But if foliage is a huge problem…we might try something else.” What else?
- New music is coming with the new biome, along with at least one new “larger” dungeon.
- Optimization work on the game continues.
- The settlement update will arrive following the mounts and sorcery updates.
- Instruments for both players and thralls will likely arrive with the thrall update.
- Bears are coming, as are warpaints. Tattoos are a maybe.
If you were hoping to begin your climbing career in Conan Exiles sooner rather than later, hold that thought. Funcom announced earlier today that the Unreal upgrade is effectively delaying the climbing patch a wee bit.
“We’re upgrading from Unreal 4.12 to 4.15. It’s a pretty big leap,” Funcom says. “What this means for the game is that the next update, which adds climbing to the game, won’t be released before the Unreal 4.15 version is ready to roll out. We were hoping to do this some weeks ago, but the process of moving to 4.15 has taken more time than initially anticipated and so you’ve had to wait a little longer for the climbing system to come out.”
The upside is that the new Unreal version is expected to provide “optimization of both server and client, which should result in a smoother experience for all players,” as well as blueprint nativization, which’ll help out modders in the long run.
Conan Exiles has another new Q&A thread up on Reddit over the long weekend, and the first takeaway is invest in a coat and some sunscreen. Funcom’s Joel Bylos says the team is still working on the weather system, including new weather types in the new biome and maybe some fixes to sandstorms. “Weather will affect temperature, and Exiles will need to start worrying about temperature in the next biome,” he explains. In fact, the new biome has a lot of new content; expect things like fishtraps, crabtraps, beehives, and fiber harvesting tools.
Bylos also promises custom stamps, shoots down a foundation placement request, gives advice on how to defend against climbers, and reminds players that Funcom isn’t making a “community consensus” game. And then there’s this from a player:
“What are you going to do about the game? Its so riddled with bugs, and exploits even the RPers are leaving. Most of the servers are at 0/0 people logged in, some are shutting down. Even viewer count on twitch is low. You’re game is basically dead and its not released. Content is coming to slow, bug fix’s too slow. For a game that saved your company, you sure are royally screwing it up.”