Developer Q/A Recap: The Cursed Sands Discord Server Birthday Event - 04/14/2021
Funcom staff sightings for this stream were:
- Nicole Vayo (Community Manager)
- Andy Benditt (Community Manager)
- Glaucon (Lead Programmer - North Carolina Office)
The Cursed Sands discord server, as they have done for the past two years, hosted Funcom for a Q/A session in honor of their server’s 3rd birthday. And like last year, I am writing a written recap for those that missed the event.
Important Note: This is a roleplay PC server that uses mods, and thus a lot of the questions are framed with that in mind (so there weren’t any console specific questions asked or things like that). This was also centered around Conan Exiles, no other games were discussed (or could be discussed in the context of certain future titles).
Another Note: The recording for this Q/A was provided privately and I will be unable to link it’s source. As always, I try very hard to be as accurate as possible to what was said so readers may feel confident they are reading the answers as they were given out during the stream.
Special thanks for this recap go out to Reiner von Rattenkrieg for recording the stream, and Nicole for sending me the list of questions and summarized answers to save my fingers a lot. Also special thanks to the Cursed Sands for hosting the Q/A, and of course a big thank you to Funcom for taking the time to answer some questions.
Here are relevant links for this stream.
- Testlive Patch Notes: (2.4 is currently going through public testing. It’s been updated two additional times at the time of this writing)
Baldassario gave a brief recap of the Cursed Sands community and how it started 3 years ago. The server now has over 3,000 members in the community.
As is custom for the birthday event for the Cursed Sands, they gave the floor to some mod authors. The mod authors who were present briefly talked about their mods and the work that they do in the modding community.
For the sake of the recap being focused on the Q/A and privacy concerns, I won’t summarize what was said or mention anybody by name. However, for those present at the time or other mod authors reading this, PLEASE feel free to reply with links to your mods and a brief description of what they do (as that would be appropriate and the Cursed Sands admins would want to give you as much credit as they could).
Questions are out of order, I grouped them by category. With that, here we go.
- Do clowns exist within the world of conan?
Mostly just some joke answers how Andy and Nicole are already clowns. Glaucon’s “serious” answer was that he’s sure there are things like Jesters and such in the lore.
- Guns? When?
They will add Robots and Guns to Conan in 2099.
- Do you think there’s a tendency for “mature” games to try to stay relevant by getting wackier? For example, Fallout 76’s Scorched, or Starcraft 2’s revelation that Kerrigan’s a goddess. If so, do you consider this a bad thing? And again if so, how do you avoid it?
Glaucon talked about the “wackiness” that games sometimes wade into. He listed an example of Call of Duty DLCs where they have pink camouflage and ‘Hello Kitty’ outfits. With Joel breathing down their necks about Conan lore, they are going to really avoid those types of “wackiness.”
The second category is narrative “wackiness.” The big bad always has to be bigger and badder next season because you know the hero can already beat the guy from last season. Which of course means the newer bad guy has to be tougher. You start out getting your butt kicked by a werewolf and by season ten you think god’s too wimpy so you might as well kill death itself (Supernatural reference?).
The assurance that Glaucon can give is that Joel is a real stickler for Conan lore (seeing a pattern here yet about that?). And they are also bound by the IP holders as well so they can’t really get too wacky. Those two together helps them stay grounded. They do also have a narrative advantage in that they aren’t bound by a tight narrative window with a hero of a specific story, as Conan Exiles is a sandbox survival game.
- Have you ever played/considered coming to play on a roleplay server such as Cursed Sands?
Glaucon likes to hang out on RP servers and people watch. One of his personal favorite things to do is, after they release an update, he goes to various servers and just watches the reactions in chat. He said that many of them already join servers anonymously as yet another source of feedback. Many of them also play Conan Exiles in their free time (primarily on unofficial servers).
Glaucon said that he often finds that RP servers are “pretty chill and very interesting” because of how players interact with each other. RPers tend to interact on a much deeper level (as that’s what RP is all about after all), rather than just shouting at each other to get out of the way while they mine Brimstone. On a personal level, he doesn’t really have the time to get really involved on an RP server or the RP stories. Glaucon said he has a pretty hectic life and he doesn’t want other players to rely on him for their stories and play time.
While Nicole doesn’t RP or feel she isn’t a good RPer, she really enjoys and is incredibly impressed with the content that Conan Exiles Rpers have been creating (the in-depth character stories, the environments, the fan art, etc).
- Last year you talked about the things players did that impressed you the most ( like trebuchet golf) was there anything new that players did that impressed you this past year with how they played the game?
Glauconm started first. He always likes looking at the impressive buildings that people make, especially the ones that aren’t considered strictly castles, but more artistic sculptures. Especially when players use some of the more complex building techniques that sort of trick the system into doing things it isn’t really intended to do.
He also has a bit of a morbid curiosity in how far players will go to exploit things. Obviously it’s not healthy for the game when players are exploiting, but it’s sometimes fun for him to see just how far players will bend over backwards and how much work they will put in to get even the smallest unintended advantage. He finds it amusing that sometimes players will put in a ton of effort to exploit something, when they could do it simply within the game’s intended parameters.
Nicole fondly recalls how a player over New Years Eve made a casino for their server. The server admin’s vision was that they knew everybody was stuck in quarantine and unable to go to parties or have fun at casinos for New Years Eve. So the server admin made it so that interested players could come on the server and enjoy the casino, or watch fireworks. The player even made an IMAX theater in the game. The server name is Greybush Playland, and there is a video here on Reddit for those reading who is interested in seeing the place in action.
Andy’s addition to the question is about one of the Official Japanese Servers. Funcom came across it because they were receiving reports from players about land claim and lag issues. And what they discovered was that the players made a huge complex of unique creations and buildings. There were things like Ferris Wheels, Roller Coasters, and unique bathhouses (and etc). But it was also causing major lag issues on the server as they connected everything with giant roads that connected them all that went across the entire map and prevented a significant amount of content to spawn.
- How do you feel about the wide variety of mods that have been created, and the ways people have changed the game? Is it a goal to allow for this kind of thing, and is it likely to appear in future titles, or just happily incidental? Is there anything you expected to see but haven’t? Didn’t expect that has appeared?
Glaucon said that it was absolutely a goal to allow for the insane variety of mods that have been created. They’ve even been recently working on smoothing out some of the hurdles to mod development that exist in the game right now (as they have been doing the last several patches. Speaking as a mod author, the mod support has been amazing!)
Funcom sees Mods as basically a multiplier on time and creativity. If you have a team of say, a hundred people, they will have a certain amount of output (regardless of how great they are at their jobs). They are limited by the amount of time and resources that they have to think about improving, adding, creating, or implementing various facets of the game. But then if you add another thousand people on top of that, even if a lot of those things never see the light of day, you end up with a better result. Even more so if you let people pick and choose which types of things they want to add to their game.
Naturally, whether or not to allow mods is always a decision you have to make on a per-title basis. Glaucon says that generally it’s an investment that pays off, but you can’t allow them to bring imbalance to a competitive title. And obviously mods are also of limited use on titles where players can’t tailor their games individually. An example of that would be an MMO, where you can’t change other people’s game experiences without their consent.
Glaucon feels that Exiles was and is a great place for mods because it appeals to a very wide range of players who are going to prioritize many different interests. While also allowing players to run their own servers that cater specifically to themselves. All of that is a ripe ground for modding; being able to cater to an infinite amount of desires, interests, and specific ways that make the game most fulfilling to those players.
But again, it comes down to the type of game. Funcom would be a lot less open to allowing mods in something like a competitive First Person Shooter. Other Funcom titles such as Age of Conan and the Secret World allow UI mods, but those don’t change the game functionality. In general, Funcom really likes mods, because it gives players a lot of choice in how they want to set up their games.
The only real negative, as one of the mod authors in chat pointed out at the time, is that mods can also break the game (in particular around patch time). Every patch they often get a flood of crash reports (caused by outdated mods), which naturally causes their producers to have a lot of concerns. Funcom semi-recently updated their crash report to automatically filter and separate out crash reports that are caused by mods so that Funcom can focus on the crashes that they directly have control over.
- Why did you decide to go with Zath for the new religion?
New religions are mostly Joel’s (Joel Bylos, Creative Director) decision to make. As many people already know, Joel keeps a tight leash on what is allowed to go into Conan Exiles. He had some reasonable ideas of what could be added to the game based on the lore and around the time period of when Conan Exiles is supposed to take place.
Joel presented the Conan Exiles team with a list of options, and they felt Zath had a good mix of both distinct visuals and gameplay, while also doing the religion good justice too. There were a few gods that were given as options they felt they couldn’t do proper justice for based on the technology on hand, along with the time they had. While some other gods were too similar to the ones that existed in the game already (Glaucon mentioned one that would have felt like another Mitra, for example).
- With the, to put it politely, mixed reception that Siptah Early Access and its subsequent updates has seen some players are wondering what the future plans for the game and its monetization will be. These concerns have served only to grow with some audience reactions to the Testlive additions to Siptah which some feel is both too little and too late. What, in short, are the team’s plans and hope for the future of Conan Exiles?
When Funcom started work on the Isle Siptah, they had a specific goal in mind and a specific direction to go with it. Funcom didn’t want Siptah to compete with the Exiled Lands, they wanted it to be a different experience for a different group of players. Players who preferred the experience that the Exiled Lands provided could play that map. While players who preferred the experience that Siptah gave could play there instead. Siptah’s intent was to provide a more sandboxy, harsher, and more player driven experience than the Exiled Lands. It also would have more opportunity and space for players to tell their own stories through systems and player interaction without their handcrafted narrative content getting in the way as much as it does on the Exiled Lands.
What became apparent to them, as they approached the release of Siptah, was that while they succeeded in meeting their goal, they overestimated the number of players who were interested in something different then the Exile Lands. The players who were looking at Siptah, and who were purchasing Siptah, really wanted more Exiled Lands. Players liked the experience of Exile Lands, but wanted something newer, fresher, and new places to explore. They wanted the handcrafted narrative content and tailored experiences, and weren’t as interested in the systems available on Siptah.
The Conan Exiles team decided that they couldn’t leave those players out to dry with a product that they didn’t want. That is why Funcom chose to revamp Siptah significantly in 2.3 and 2.4. Though it took them a while to get there. With 2.1 and 2.2, those patches were already in the pipeline, and game development just takes time (so does massively changing direction). This is why so much attention has been put on Siptah over the past year. They felt it was unfair to leave the players who paid for content and didn’t like it, and that it wasn’t okay to leave them hanging.
In terms of monetization, Funcom wants to do what makes sense while improving the game. They want to provide systems and content that improves the whole game, not just on a specific map or a specific part that only a small group of players is going to enjoy and play… In order to do that, Conan Exiles will need to continue to be profitable so they will continue to look for things that we can sell that don’t put players on an uneven playing field. Until that time, the primary goal is to get Siptah up to an appropriate developed level. They hope that they made Siptah much more enjoyable after the significant changes in 2.3 and 2.4. That, along with the upcoming character transfer systems so players can travel to Siptah to enjoy that content, but also travel back to the Exile Lands if they so desire.
- Animation Cancelling
This was less a question and more of an offhand comment prompted by chat at the end of the Q/A.
Glaucon briefly touched upon the latest changes on 2.4 in regards to people using various animation cancelling exploits that were not intended. He basically said that current “meta” forms of animation cancelling have been fixed, with some additional fixes in the works for other reported unintended animation cancelling. Glaucon described it as “impossible to balance anything” with its existence. As always, they intend to continue to look at balancing for PvP and other combat balancing as time goes on.
- Are there any more DLCs on the horizon for Conan? Will they be covering some of the races not yet represented in the game?
DLCs in general, yes. Funcom looks for things that the game seems to be lacking and things that aren’t gameplay breaking or imbalancing that they can offer as a product to sell (such as the buildings and armor sets of the past). Funcom wants to keep developing the game, putting money and resources into it (improving older systems while also adding new systems, along with of course bug fixing.) This obviously makes it easier to do that when the game is profitable.
In terms of races. On the backend races are just presets of the character creation options that already exist. Funcom have discussed making new character creation options available as DLC, like they did with new hairstyles and beards recently (Siptah DLC).
There is a technical hurdle they need to overcome first though, which has to do with mods. The system that is currently in place creates problems with mods if they add new character customization options. They are working on a fix for that, though this new system will likely cause some issues with existing mods. Glaucon said that they will work with mod authors on it as the new improvements get closer to being done.
Once that technical hurdler is fixed, they should be able to make lots of new options. They intended to release new character customizations with 2.4, but they ultimately decided not to until they can resolve the technical problems.
- Capes, can we have a diverse selection of capes? Big fur capes, cloaks and so on.
Capes are an absolutely massive performance hog, especially if you enable physics on them (they cause stuttering, other graphical problems, and lag). They haven’t been able to find a level of performance and fidelity that they are happy with while working on cape designs. And if you disable the physics, they look really bad. Until or if they find a solution to balance out performance vs making them look good, they won’t be able to do capes.
(There are a couple of mods that have capes in them (mods don’t have to worry about performance issues, or making them work on console.) Warrior Mutator comes to mind.)
- Magic system update in the future? We already have orb that spawns friendly npc spider on test live. What about magic attacks in offhand weapon slot?
Funcom has a list of things that we want to explore, the sorcery system is still on that list.
Glaucon said that he knows that Joel would want him to point out that the spider orb is part of a religion and therefore technically not “magic” or “sorcery” any more than the other religious items that are in the game. Religion and sorcery are distinct lore-wise.
- Will players ever see implementation of operational ships in Conan Exiles?
Glaucon personally thinks that ships would be “super cool” to see. However, the answer is maybe. It would be a ton of work, though obviously it’s technically possible. They would really need to weigh the amount of work and investment that it would be, compared to the actual value that it would bring to players.
Right now, there isn’t a lot of deep water on either of the two official maps. A player could certainly go around the edges of Siptah, or take a trip up “newb” river in the Exile Lands. However, glaucon thinks that to bring true worthwhile value to boats, a whole new map would need to be made where it was set up like smaller islands. He added how players would need to accept that they wouldn’t see any updates for “like 6 months” while they worked on boats. Then players would get bored with the feature in 5 minutes, but not feel a giant use for them since they couldn’t take the boat to, for example, the SInk Hole and use it there.
- Is there ever going to be an underground city map
Again, it’s a maybe. Glaucon thinks that would be a really cool and fun map. He talked about how he is always bugging the art teams (while they worked on the Isle of Siptah) to put in more caves and things like caves. However at the end the day, he’s a programmer, so he doesn’t have a lot of say on things like the design of a map. Caves are particularly more challenging when designing a map since they require custom sculpting, when compared to normal terrain creation.
He added that he isn’t aware of anything that is technically stopping them from doing that. There are some complications with having play areas that overlap vertically, but in terms of just being underground they could make it work (he listed an Ark map as an example). Glaucon also named drop the “Underdark” mod of things he would like to see. (Underdark of Acheron, link here). Though he also said it would be another thing to pass by Joel to ensure it was something they could do that was accurate or friendly to the lore.
- Has there ever been any talk about adding things like half height walls, or shallow ceilings to build sets? (like the awnings, but as a rooftop!)
If not already aware, Funcom has added a type of half height wall to the game in one of their DLC’s; The Riders of Hyboria has one (or close to a half wall) as part of it’s stable set. Glaucon says that they have to be careful when adding building pieces that have different shapes and sizes. It all needs to be able to snap and work together in a type of grid. When you add one piece that’s a different size, then you have to add another complimentary piece to snap to the new piece
(This is something I know all too well myself. My Pythagoras and LBPR - AF mods feature many out of the ordinary pieces that make me have to account for that).
This is one of the reasons there are so many roof types, so that players can properly close their roofs from a variety of different build styles. When intending to add just one new piece, they can quickly end up having to add a whole bunch of different pieces just to support the one new piece that was intended. That being said, they have done some of this, such as the previously mentioned stable piece, three-piece columns in the Architects of Argos, the new roofings in Argos and the Blood and Sand DLC’s, etc. Funcom does enjoy reading about new ideas, so please continue to make suggestions on the forums.
- Have you ever considered making a generic adventuring gear set with no real building pieces as a sort of FLC?
There was some general confusion with the question, where they thought maybe the player was referring to “non-culture” types of armor sets. They mentioned how Siptah has added several new armor sets and were fit around a theme for those. Glaucon mentioned how they are not limited to having to make armor sets that were only cultural in nature, whether that was base game additions or DLC’s.
He also talked about how they added the cosmetic or RP sets of armor in the ‘Debaucheries of Derketo’ DLC as an example of this. However a concern they have with adding more items like that is they feel they need to make future armors more “reasonable” to use. They don’t find that many players use them because the actual armor stats aren’t very good. So future goals for a cosmetic piece of armor would be to give them more reason to wear them since players rarely used them.
- Any plans for new sandbox MMORPG’s like Conan in the works?
Not something they can talk about.
- When are we getting the grapple hook?
Glaucon gave another “someday maybe” response to this one. He really likes the concept of them. It’s not currently something they consider high priority, but are continuingly interested in adding new “things” and features to the game.
- Will animal companions ever receive small animations that can be seen on their untamed counterparts? Laying down, walking within bounds of a base, etc.?
Glaucon couldn’t make any promises or say anything would happen for sure, as he’s not in charge of design or timetable decisions, or resource allocation. However, he did say that adding more “liveliness” was one of their goals for Followers so that they act less stiff. Maybe Followers go through a loop of various animations, or play random idle animations; those would be things they would be interested in visiting someday down the line if they can.
Crossbows were part of Conan Exiles during Early Access (2017-2018). They were later removed for the overhaul to the combat system (which occurred just before official launch in May of 2018). The game in its current state doesn’t really have a concept or system in place where “reloading” exists, which is a key feature necessary for a Crossbow to work. Glaucon said that to properly do Crossbows again, it would take significant effort to adjust the combat system to accommodate the mechanics necessary for them.
While possible to do, this isn’t something that has as of yet been prioritized since Bows fill the range combat role already. He said that they don’t feel like Crossbows give a compelling enough difference in gameplay when compared to what already exists and the work involved to properly do them justice and support them. That doesn’t mean “never going to happen” either. Glaucon says they have a very large list of things they want to do. They look through their list of things they want to do, and determine what they have a realistic amount of time and resources for, with generally the top of the list being worked on soonest. From there, they constantly reevaluate what they consider the top priority, and what gets pushed down.