I met with Conan Exiles' creative director Joe Bylos at the Game Developers Conference last week, and he spoke about what the next year of development will bring to Funcom's Early Access multiplayer survival sandbox. Among other things, players can look forward to siege warfare, necromancy, mounted combat, a new map with a winter biome, plus a settlement system that will allow players to micromanage their thralls' activities, which Bylos described as "a combination of something like The Sims and Civilization."
Naturally, we also discussed the survival game's notorious male nudity, which you can read about here.
Here's a look at what's coming to Conan Exiles over the next year.
Above, you can see a work in progress video showing a player operating a trebuchet to destroy an enemy fort's wall. As you can tell, it's not a simple load and fire affair: the weapon, once constructed, needs to pushed into place, and counterweights have to be added and adjusted in order to launch the boulder the correct distance. The process will be easier with the help of friends: trebuchets are ideally meant to be operated by a three-player team.
It's not just rocks you'll be hurling at enemy cities, but also dead bodies. The addition of 'corpse lockers' will allow you to store dead bodies in a pit, and once those bodies have begun to rot you'll be able to fling them over the walls into enemy cities. "They'll explode as disease clouds in the enemy cities and and spread pestilence and disease among your enemies," said Bylos, "which is kind of macabre, but it's fun."
Discovering a secret ritual will allow players access to a new sewer dungeon you can see in the video above (again, it's a work in progress), where they'll find rare resources, such as phosphorus, which will allow them to craft new items like torches that can be used underwater. You can also see a simple puzzle that fills a chamber with water, allowing players to swim to a previously inaccessible level of the dungeon. And, naturally, the dungeon has a new boss to fight.
In less violent news, take a look above at the clothing and armor dye system, which is currently a work in progress but is scheduled to arrive in the game before the end of March. Players will be able to dye their clothing and gear so their clans can dress in color-coded uniforms to help them identify friendlies. Unless, of course, enemies dye their own clothing the same color as a bit of subterfuge.
Looking further ahead, Funcom will be adding player mounts in what Bylos hopes will be a more palatable taming system then those featured in other survival games.
"We think some of the mount-taming mechanics in some of the other games is a bit too tedious," said Bylos. "It's a bit too long-winded, so we're trying to make this somewhat less painful, more active, so you'll be able to knock out animals, just like you do with the thralls in your game, drag them back to your base and then put them in the pet training area."
Mounts will have different capabilities: camels are great pack animals, horses will allow for mounted combat with swords, lances, or bows and arrows, and elephants and rhinos can be used to smash down the walls of enemy forts and cities.
There are also plans for something called The Purge, a PvE event revolving around massive NPC armies that will congregate outside your cities before attacking. The Purge will contain legendary characters from the Conan world that you'll be able to capture and turn into thralls. The idea is to provide high-level players an end-game challenge that doesn't rely on PvP.
Speaking of thralls, you'll eventually be able to micro-manage them: assign them beds and jobs and even dictate their schedules: when they sleep, where they eat, and what tasks—like guard duty—they perform at what times during the day. And, if you prefer your thralls of the undead variety, there will be a necromancy system added later this year, meaning you'll be able to summon demons and raise your slain enemies from the dead to serve in your settlements as skeletons.
And, if you're not a huge fan of the brown, barren desert map you've been playing on, there's a new map in the works, a highland biome with green pastures and a snowy, mountainous region. Venturing into the frosty mountains will mean players need to dress appropriately in warm, woolen clothes to protect them from the elements.
That feels like an ambitious amount of content to add in the next year. Equally ambitious is Funcom's plan to release the full version of the game in the first quarter of 2018, spending a total of only about 12 months in Early Access—in contrast to many other survival games which have remained in Early Access for years.
Bylos said some other developers—he didn't name them—have been "rather irresponsible" with Early Access by selling their games to players without providing a time frame for completion. "Our goal with Early Access as a company is to be one of the companies that people point to and say 'That is how you should do Early Access.'"
Bylos also promised that no paid DLC will be released during Conan Exiles' Early Access period.