Developer Q/A with The Cursed Sands Server - Recap - 04/14/2020
It’s been a minute since we’ve had any sort of developer stream. Obviously Covid-19 has thrown a wrench in just about everything imaginable. My fingers have been itching to get some exercise for sure.
Context of the Q/A
The Cursed Sands, like they did last year, had Funcom come over and do a Q/A session in honor of their server birthday.
This year, The Cursed Sands celebrated it’s 2nd birthday. Thanks to server admin Malum Venenum, a recording of the session was sent over to me so I could do a proper recap of what was asked by the server’s players, and Funcom’s answers. The Q/A session was done on April 14th.
Funcom Staff Contributions for this Q/A:
- Nicole (Community Manager)
- Scott (Executive Producer)
- Nils (Associate Producer)
- Rob (Senior Designer) - Not present during the Q/A, answered questions prior to the event.
Questions are out of order, I grouped them by category. With that, here we go.
- What do you feel about the more mature or openly sexual Roleplay private servers such as this one (Cursed Sands)? How do you feel it impacts the game as a whole? Do you feel it’s a negative or a positive?
Obviously Conan itself is a mature and sexual IP. While some servers can take Conan Exiles pretty far into territories some may feel is too sexual (and Funcom could never officially endorse or implement such content), they feel i’ts a positive for the community as a whole. Conan Exiles is a sandbox game in which the developers gave the players the tools to create the stories and gameplay they want. It helps bring players together and form their own communities centered around those gameplay styles too.
Nils joked that the Oslo, Norway office took bets on how long it would take for such servers to be created. He also agreed that it’s a positive for the game though as it helps bring in more and new players.
- When games give players the tools (and Conan Exiles gives players lots of tools and mechanics), players often use them in unexpected ways. Excluding bugs and exploits, has there been anything that the players have done, or items in which the way they were used that wasn’t initially intended, that surprised you?
Nicole was most surprised by players’ submissions to Funcom’s official building contests.
Rob had an answer, but the audio cut out too much for me to make out what Nicole was saying.
Nils said that even though it wasn’t supposed to be part of the answer, that some of the exploits they have seen have been shocking.
Scott said how people mix various DLC cultures and make them fit together.
- What are some of the most unexpected behaviors you’ve been able to discover from players? What did you expect that didn’t happen?
Nicole’s answer to this was the various mazes she has seen built, along with Trebuchet golf. Where players create mini-events or mini-games from the features and tools that Funcom gave to the players.
Rob’s answer is when players set up fun events. A server he played on had an olympic style event, which included a long jump competition and parkour style track.
- Is there anything that you personally wished you could have seen more fleshed out? Or was there an idea that got left, wholly or partially, on the cutting floor that you really hoped would have been something that could have been completed or implemented?
Nicole’s answer to this question is gliding from tall cliffs or mountains. Gliding was turned down as an idea by Joel Bylos for lore reasons.
Nils said that he is pretty happy with the progress that the game has made since he came onto the Conan Exiles team 6-8 months ago. In particular mounts, where he is excited to see more features added onto that system as time goes on (such as what we see on Testlive now).
Scott said that in a perfect world, every feature would be improved. They see the same bugs as everybody else, and it comes down to time allocation and resources of addressing areas of improvement.
- Do you see the Exiles as master criminals and deadly killers, or just social outcasts/misfits/troublemakers?
Nicole thinks it’s a variety. Some are criminals, others are in the wrong place at the wrong time, others are innocent. She feels this is one of RPer’s strengths, developing a story for their characters and how they found themselves in the Exile Lands.
Nils said that immersion is an important tool in Joel’s original designs, with the main idea of being able to build your own story.
- How many developers/programmers work on Conan Exiles as their primary or only project?
Scott says quite a bit of people work on Conan Exiles, but that Funcom has a lot of projects and that people move in between them for different purposes. Nils added that the number has fluctuated a lot over the past year or so.
- If you were in the Hyborian Age, which god would you pray to?
Nicole wants to be able to eat raw meat whenever she wants, so Yog is her answer. While Nils said that Crom doesn’t answer any prayers, so it would be pointless for him.
- What are some of your favorite mods you’ve seen come from the modding community?
Nicole’s favorite is the Age of Calamitous mod because of the fantasy elements in it. Nils jokingly booed Nicole here for that, commenting that he was a big Conan lore fanatic.
Rob listed some of his favorites:
- Savage Steel
- The Age of Calamitous
Rob further added that the “modding discord will probably have my head for only listing a few mods” , but any mod that you enjoy playing for any reason, is a good mod in his mind.
Combat Based Questions
- Why is the katana fourth attack still a thing?
It’s something they’re looking into, as well as another weapon they won’t mention right now.
- Why are wolves so overpowered in PvE in comparison to other animals? Bears in particular are weaker in every way except knockback defenses.
Bears are actually underpowered in this case. Through various patches, some of the content they feel is a little too easy, but wolves are where they should be at in terms of balance. Each biome should have elements of danger that make it challenging, and wolves help with that in their area. That said, they are always looking at balance, and will tweak things as appropriate in the future.
- The stylized movesets of various Conan Exiles weapons are an integral part of in-game PvP. Are there any plans to add some variety to these movesets? Such as a new mechanic that allows for customizing your character’s fighting style?
They do look at and evaluate how all weapons are used in both PvE and PvP. Which weapons are being used, how they are being used, etc. It is something they will certainly consider for the future, but they need time. Scott further adds that they are working on a couple of major features, so they would need to finish those before looking at combat.
- Will there be anything new added to the Pict DLC (The Savage Frontier DLC)?
No. They are happy with the content they put out for the Pict culture. They may introduce other factions in the future that have a somewhat similar aesthetic.
- Will there be more DLC to come? In particular, Cimmeria type content.
Nothing currently planned for Cimmeria in terms of DLC. They are happy with the current Cimmerian content found in-game now. Their focus instead is adding cultures or themes that aren’t already found in the game.
Stygia is an option for the future, though even Stygia has some things in the game already.
- The last few DLC’s, in particular Debaucheries of Derketo and Blood and Sand, we saw a different collection of things that was different from the standard format of previous DLC’s. These showed growth and development in the varieties of styles of buildings, decorations, and outfits that are less focused on one race specifically. Is this going to be the new style moving forward, or should we expect more in line with the DLC’s from the first season?
Funcom has been experimenting a bit with the DLC format. One of the problems of doing the same thing every time is it doesn’t present the best opportunities to see what players enjoy. If they continued with the same themes and patterns, it wouldn’t properly show what people are most interested in. They will continue to experiment in the future, and will talk about new DLC’s and what they will contain sometime soon after it’s been revealed.
- When is the next Free Weekend event?
Scott said whenever Steam lets them do it next. Valve (Steam’s developer) has restrictions on how often you can offer your product for free, as well as time windows. The last Conan Exiles free weekend event was in February, and they would have one now if they could because of Covid-19. They try to line up free weekend events when a DLC is launched, and that we “will know soon.”
- When you developed the DLC building pieces, they seemed most ideal to be used essentially as stand alone in their use. However, builds now are often done with mixing different types together. What goes into the designing of a new DLC pack and did you make the more “neutral” packs with mixing styles in mind?
Their first and primary focus when making a new DLC is how to make it unique, and to make it feel worthwhile. A lot of it also has to do with capturing the essence, as it were, of a specific culture. Joel Bylos (Chief Creative Officer, formerly Creative Director) is infamous for his huge passion for the Conan IP, so he has an obvious hand in the designs. Than there is also Gavin Whelan, the Art Director for Funcom. Like Joel, Gavin worked on Age of Conan, so he is already intemplently familiar with the Conan IP.
As far as mixing and matching the DLC’s, they do think about things like color quite a bit. Obviously not everything will match everything, but they do take that into consideration when creating new designs.
- Are there any plans to revamp the current DLC’s in either aesthetic or functionality? Functionality meaning how some foundations or ceilings experience clipping issues, and how there are no sloped walls in previous packs.
Revamping the building system, Nils says, is fairly low in terms of possibility. He knows there are some bugs that they are or will be looking into, but overall the building system itself they are pretty happy with.
As far as going back and adding more or changing things in existing DLC’s, Nils said it is highly unlikely that they will be doing that. They are what they are. If there ever comes a point where they need to revisit a DLC for some reason, they’ll figure it out, but he says that players shouldn’t count on any of the DLC’s being remade.
- What were the developers thoughts on more DLC that is focused around furniture, clothing, emotes and such? Such as what came out with Debaucheries of Derketo.
Making them is quite fun, as doing things like emotes helps change things up and add variety. One of the challenges they have seen is making sure a DLC is worthwhile, while staying within the theme, in particular when they aren’t doing a DLC around a specific culture. They want to make sure that everything in each DLC pack is cohesive, so when it’s a culture, it makes it convenient to help them with that goal.
Nils couldn’t talk specificis, but he is really excited about the next DLC they have coming and he thinks it’s one of the best things they have put together yet.
- Is hair, beard, or face DLC a thing for the future?
It’s something they’ve discussed before, but one of the major things they would need to introduce before that is a system that allows players to change their character appearance. So, it’s a we’ll see, though they have other things they see as higher priority. For example the AI rework that is on testlive is something they have been wanting to do for a long time. Then there are other highly requested features that go along with that Funcom feels is important for the game that they want visit first before looking into adding more cosmetic features.
- Would building pieces designed to float on water ever be a possibility?
It gets brought up internally from time to time, but there are a couple of contributing factors into the why not. One, it’s already fairly possible to do so now (using pillars or foundations) to create a “floating” structure. And second, the Exile lands don’t have a lot of water areas. Water based content isn’t as high on their list of priorities for that reason. Nils went on to add that it doesn’t feel very impactful in terms of creating it for a DLC. If you can only use the content in a few niche places, it doesn’t make the DLC as useful as it could be.
Ultimately, Nils answer is maybe if they come up with something really cool that they like, but it’s not at the top of the priority list.
Nicole piggy backed on this question with something she see’s asked a lot, which is will Funcom ever add boats to the game. Nils answer to this was “unlikely”, as it’s a lot of resources for something that can’t be widely used.
- Are we ever going to see implementation of functional watercraft, such as ships, rafts, or boats?
Already answered, very unlikely. A mod to check out though is the River Boats of the Exile Lands mod, which is authorthred by Snowhunter, hades, mma3rd, and Numinous. River Boats features a rail system in which boats patrol a given route. Players can then ride these boats to various destinations.
- Are there plans to fix the “raining inside” issue? Example being that if you have a base in the highlands, and it rains, the whole interior now has a glossy wet look.
Nils has some bad news to deliver here in that he says it is unlikely this will ever be fixed. They’ve had discussions internally about this particular issue several times. It comes down to technical issues that cannot be resolved. They’ve looked at trying to address it many times, but Nils believes we are stuck with it.
Future Plans and Proposed Feature Ideas
- Will there be any new map openings in the near future?
They can’t really talk about that at this time.
- Will there be other NPC races, such as Aquilonian or Khitan, added to the game so that they can be found on the map? Why were some races excluded from those that appear in game, but still playable?
They wanted the player selection to reflect many of the races of Hyboria, so they wanted to offer as many choices as possible. As far as adding them to the map, there hasn’t been any concrete discussions. But you never know.
- Has there been any discussions on new customizations features, like hairstyles, tattoos, and face options?
They would like to add more, it’s been part of their discussions. It’s more of a matter of the when and the where, in terms of most fitting for scheduling and development resources. They have lots of cool things they want to do for the future, so they have to plan accordingly.
- Anything you’re willing to share with us about the Dune game?
Sand, spice, sandworms. Dune IP. Other than that, no.
- Is there any possibility for a future update in bringing a Traveling Merchant? For instance, one that sells more than just a single item, or one that you can sell or trades items with?
It’s not really something they have discussed in the past, or at least recently. Nils said it would be something to suggest for consideration, though the player would have to do a good job of convincing Alex (Conan Exiles Lead Design) of its importance. Nils went on to say that Alex has a massive list of things he wants to do with Conan Exiles, and that Alex probably would see such a feature as lower priority.
- Are dyed building pieces (colored walls, foundations, etc) something that we might see as a feature?
It’s been discussed internally, and would require some work. There aren’t any concrete plans right now, potentially in the future though.
- With a lot of RP servers having fantasy elements and various forms of magic (via mods or text RP), the topic of magic is a hot topic around the Cursed Sands discord. Is there anything new you can share about potential magic mechanics or spells being added in the future?
They aren’t ready to talk about Sorcery at this time. If or when they add a Sorcery system, it would remain within the lore and be low fantasy. So no flying on a dragon and shooting fireballs in the future for Conan Exiles.
- What does the company see as the future of Conan Exiles?
Scott started off with saying that they have been working on Conan Exiles for close to 5 years total now. They plan on continuing to work on Conan Exiles for several more years. The three biggest events for Conan Exiles in terms of player impact was the first EA launch of Conan Exiles, retail launch (May 8th, 2018), and the launch of mounts in December of 2019.
Conan Exiles had its third highest population overall (using internal metric data) with the mount launch. With Covid-19, they are also seeing high numbers from that as well. Conan Exiles is very healthy, Scott says, and they intend to continue working on it for a long time.