At GDC 2017 in San Francisco, DualShockers sat down with Conan Exiles Creative Director Joel Bylos, who provided a lot of juicy details about the future of the game.
Bylos started with an quick look back, by explaining that, as you may know, Funcom has been making MMPGs for a long time, but the past couple of games have not really done very well, and last year the company was on the brink of bankruptcy, “right on the edge.” That’s when they decided to make Conan Exiles, and for the company the past one has been a “very good move.”
The game sold half a million copies in the first 30 days, making a million dollars in the first sixty minutes after release. It took less than one week to recoup all the development costs, as Conan Exiles has been the top seller on steam for two weeks, and the most viewed game on Twitch.
Funcom has a very precise philosophy regarding Early Access. They want to have a time frame set in stone, and move on to the full release within a year. The goal is to have other companies in the future look back at Conan Exiles and recognize that this is how early access should be done.
The game will also launch on the Xbox Game Preview program in Q3 this year. Originally, they wanted to launch in the spring, but they decided to push it back as they’re going to release a new biome, and they want to include it in the Xbox One launch.
Full release will come in Q1 2018, on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
During early access the game is going to be patched on Thursday, once every one or two weeks. Those are small patches with bug fixes, optimization and small features like new building parts and placeables. There will also be more significant game updates with new features and content. On top of that, major releases will includes the launch on Xbox One, PS4, the new biome and more.
In the current year, the company will invest five to ten million dollars as the game goes through early access.
But now, let’s get to the major updates that will come this year.
The first will be siege warfare, including trebuchets, siege towers, avatar defense and more. Trebuchets will come “much sooner than you think,” and you can see them in action in one of the videos at the bottom of the post.
Siege towers are in line with the philosophy of the game: you basically build a mobile foundation, and then you can build whatever you like on top of it.
Avatar defense will allow players to set up a defense grid that prevents one kind of avatar from attacking their city. You can choose only one, so you have to decide which one to defend against.
A corpse locker will also be made available: players will be able to load the corpses of killed enemies into them, and them use them as projectiles for trebuchets, spreading pestilence in the streets of enemy cities.
Another major update will be the Purge: NPCs will gather at the edge of the map, and then move inwards, attacking the players’ bases. Cities will need to be built for defense, with walls and traps. This will prove enjoyable for PvE-oriented players, but PvP-oriented clans will be able to lure the purge to attack their enemies.
The Purge will be led by legendary heroes from the Conan universe, and players will be able to capture them and turn them into their servants via the thrall system. Players will need to defend, but they will also want to attack the Purge to capture these characters.
A mount system will also be added to the game. Players will be able to capture horses and other animals and bring them back to their base to tame them. If they want to capture something big like a rhino, they’ll need a group of five people working together with ropes to drag the unconscious beast to the animal pen for taming.
Each mount will have different features. Camels for instance will have inventories and will carry items. Horses will be enabled for mounted combat, and players will be able to fight with lances and more. Elephants and rhinos will be siege mounts, able to demolish walls and buildings.
A further major update will be sorcery. Sorcery will use the corruption system, forcing players to go into dark dungeons and soak up the evil energy before they will be able to use sorcery to summon and control demons.
Necromancy will also be included, allowing players to replace thralls with skeletons, allowing them to live the fantasy of being the evil sorcerer or necromancer.
A settlement system is also coming, and Bylos believes that it’s going to be one of the game’s major differentiators.
Players will be able to assign their thralls schedules, telling them when to wake up, when and when to sleep. It’ll also be possible to train them to do tasks like lighting lamps around the settlement at a given time. Other examples are training a thrall to open a door when you approach, raise and lower a drawbridge (I guess this confirms drawbridges in a future update), or blowing a horn when NPCs come close.
The idea of the system is to let players create living, breathing and dynamic cities. This will also tie into the building system: clans will be encouraged to build roads between their bases, with a 50% speed boost granted when player follow them. While moving within bases will become faster, Funcom also expects other players to lay in ambush creating conflict.
A major piece of news is the reveal of the second biome (of which you can see some artwork in the gallery), the Highlands. It will include snowy mountains and Scottish-like environments. There will be new creatures, new factions, new areas to explore, new dungeons, new recipes, new resources, and even new gods.
The addition of the highlands will also bring the temperature system: players will have to wear warm clothes when they go to snowy mountains, and cooler outfits in the desert.
Looking at updates closer in time, within the next month a dye system will be implemented (you can see it in action in one of the videos below). Players will be able to collect flowers and other elements like blood and craft dyes, coloring different parts of their equipment. The system will launch before the end of March.
The trebuchets mentioned above will work according to physics, pretty much like real ones. In order to determine the range, players will have to load rocks in the counterweight. The more rocks, the farther the trebuchet will reach. They’re designed to be operated by three people, but a single player will be able to use them, albeit slower.
Something Bylos clarified is that trebuchets won’t be as devastating as in the video (marketing tuned it up for effect). It will take more than one hit to knock down a wall. The idea is to give people time to respond.
Last, but not least, is a new dungeon. You can also check it out in a video at the bottom of the post. It will include rare resources, like phosphorus, allowing you to craft torches that burn underwater. It will be an open dungeon in which multiple teams can enter at the same time.
There will be puzzle elements, for instance prompting players to flood the whole place to reach the higher area of the dungeon.
Incidentally, Bylos also mentioned that, at launch, the game will have a main storyline that even solo players will be able to enjoy
At the end of the presentation, we also had a chance to ask a few questions.
We learned that the team decided to add mounts later in early access instead that closer to the beginning because the map isn’t huge yet. When the new biome will be added, then the map will require mounts.
The map currently accessible in the game is 8 km x 8 km, but that’s just because it’s walled. The whole area is much bigger, so when the new biome will be added, the “wall” will simply be moved so that players can access a larger area. The plan is to have a seamless transition with no loading screens. Bylos mentioned that in case the new area adds a huge overhead on the server cluster, they might implement a zoning mechanic, but players will still be able to see into the next area. It will depend on the tech side, but he is “fairly confident” that the transition will be seamless.
A decay system for buildings is coming this week. It’ll work depending on how many pieces your structure has. The more pieces, the slower it decays. On the other hand, single foundations will disappear within an hour. The idea is to create a semi-intelligent dynamic system that will counter people griefing with single foundation spam, while people who build cities won’t have to maintain them every day.
The development team is actually split into multiple teams. The live team works only on bug fixing and patching the live game, a new features team that develops the new content, a third team working between the other two teams. Last, but not least, there is the art team.
Bylos explained the the AI was “overthought.” When the server frame rate drops, it becomes “very stupid,” as it’s been relying too much on the server. You see the AI working the way it should if you play solo. Luckily, the team is currently working on fixing the AI.
Character customization is also going to be improved, with the addition of facial hair, a physique system that changes the stomach area and more. This kind of addition is part of the smaller updates, and will come gradually. Further character variation will come with new armor sets.
Conan Exiles is currently available for PC on Steam Early Access, and will launch on Xbox Game Preview in Q3 2017, followed by the full launch, including PS4, in Q1 2018.
[On Location Reporting: Azario Lopez]