It's not long now before the lid comes off on Funcom's Conan Exiles, due out in Early Access come 2017. We caught up with the Creative Director Joel Bylos to chat about all things Exiles: how development is going, what progression, server setup, character creation, and more will be like.
MMORPG: What's new in Conan Exiles development these days?
Joel Bylos: I’m so tempted to say “Everything is new” to parallel our TSW tagline “Everything is true” but that’d be kind of lame… Anyway, well we’re working hard on squashing bugs and squeezing the last few features we hope to have for Early Access into the game. All the core features are in, but have various fixes and optimizations required to get them up to our standards and we’re always tweaking and balancing combat and progression in the game.
MMORPG: Are you still on track for an early 2017 release?
JB: Yes, our planned features for Early Access are almost all done.
MMORPG: When can we expect to learn more about the features and systems coming in CE? What about story?
JB: I think we’ll be ready to talk more about the game once Funcom’s next game – Hide and Shriek – sails out the door during October. So soon! November soon!
MMORPG: Can you share how progression will work?
JB: Conan Exiles is a game in the survival genre, so there are a couple of progression systems for people to pay attention to, Crafting and Character. As you level up, you earn crafting points to spend on recipes and you also earn character points to spend on increasing some of your stats. The crafting system is gated progression – it will rely on your ability to harvest materials in the world, locate special recipes and build machines to help you in the production of materials. The character system reflects the changes that occur in your Exile over time – growing stronger, faster, more resilient etc.
MMORPG: Will there be PVE/safe servers for those who want them?
JB: Absolutely, players will be able to set up and control their own servers and configure them with a myriad of options in any way that they like.
MMORPG: What have been the high points of the game's development so far? Any pitfalls and lessons learned?
JB: I like how fast it is to get complicated systems up and running in the Unreal Engine. I hate how much time we have to spend wrestling with those features to make sure they keep the server running at a decent click.
Personally I am very much enjoying working on an open world game with action combat. That’s been a high point, but also one of the major challenges – building a combat system for a type of game that we have never made before. I could write a book of lessons learned, but not until after launch!
MMORPG: Conan Exiles is a very exciting title for fans. Can you tell us about the lore behind the game? When does it take place on Robert E. Howard's timeline?
JB: Sure, so at the start of the game you are exiled for reasons somewhat unclear to you (unless you believe the trumped up charge of “combo skipping”) and abandoned on the edge of a place called The Exiled Lands. You cannot physically leave the Exiled Lands (for reasons that will become apparent in the game) so you are forced to try and build yourself a life in this harsh environment. You’ll meet other exiles, different races and factions all struggling to do the same and explore the ruins of a mysterious city in your search for knowledge about what exactly this place is and why you are being kept here. The game takes place in the Conan stories somewhere between Xuthal of the Dusk and A Witch Shall be Born. Conan is around 26yrs old at this juncture.
MMORPG: Survival games have always been apocalyptic in nature, but this is hardcore dark fantasy, how will things differ in working with that genre?
JB: Well Howard was very aware of the cycles of civilization and in his epic essay The Hyborian Age he goes into a lot of detail about how the world of Conan came to be. In a sense, every civilization in Conan is post-apocalyptic. We figured it wouldn’t be a very good Conan game if you couldn’t go delving into the ruins of past civilizations and putting your sanity at risk for great treasures and forbidden recipes.
On the less thematic level, the game has a focus on melee combat that you don’t find in other survival games and it puts a lot more emphasis on the world and other people who you share it with. Not counting zombies, I think we are probably the first survival game to have NPC factions and camps dotting the world. We also have a lot of story to discover in the world, whether through talking to NPCs or finding strange inscriptions on ancient stones.
MMORPG: What type of server design will you have for players? In other games you can host private servers is this a possibility?
JB: You will be able to play locally (essentially single player), host a server (on your PC), set up your own private servers or connect to some official public servers. There will be a myriad of options available to configure the servers like increased XP gain, reduced monster damage etc. PvP, PvE and so forth are also configured on the servers.