Lack of server types is irritating and points to critical flaws in core game design

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Let me begin by stating I have always had a love-and-hate relationship with Conan Exiles. It’s one of the only games I’ve played where I’ve had this feeling. Don’t get me wrong - I love this game to death. I love the tools the game gives us to explore, build and fight with. I love the freedom it gives, to be able to place structures (almost) anywhere, even though it’s kind of an illusion. I love how we can interact with other players. A swords-and-shields survival game has always struck me as a very interesting concept in the genre.

What I don’t love, what I absolutely loathe, is the lack of decent server options. And this is partly the fault of the developers and the community, but moreso the developers for enabling the community. Allow me to explain with a little preface for those who weren’t around for the early days:

Conan was originally designed to be a PvP-intensive game. We saw evidence of that philosophy early on with avatars being present in day one of EA. Funcom wanted to make a brutal survival experience in which players had to fight it out for wealth, territory and strategic resources. This was a great selling point for me. They messed up, however, by limiting players’ options to counter cliff-top bases. And with this gaff began the rift in the community: raiders vs. builders.

So players deleted their stairs and raiders didn’t find it fair that builders were camping out on top of cliffs with impenetrable bases, due to the fact that they couldn’t be reached. Fighting on the Steam forums became incredibly intense and polarized as players gravitated to one side of the fence or the other. This was where Funcom had to make a decision: to cater to the PvP community, or to cater to the creative community. As a result, they tried to walk a tightrope and appeal to both sides with climbing and siege weaponry; improved thrall AI and traps, but this created a critical imbalance. Raiding became too easy, defensive options were still limited, and this imbalance soured the entire concept for many players.

I haven’t played Conan in about a year due to life constraints and other things going on. But I decided to sit down the other day and take a look at the game to see how it’s shaped out since the time of my absence. I looked at the server browser and saw that under the community servers, ALL of the top servers were role-playing servers.

Every server with more than 15 players has extremely strict rules regarding PvP. Some require that you have “role-playing related reasons” for hostile engagement with other players. Others have extremely limited raid schedules and I’ve read of many instances where admins cater to long-time players on their servers by gifting them loot and rollbacks when they get raided in an effort to keep them around so the population doesn’t dwindle.

When I inquired in-game about the lack of raiding within the community, players generally responded very harshly, claiming that PvP was usually a negative experience and that they would rather build and role-play instead of fight other players and risk losing their loot. This is a part of the game Funcom should be looking into deeply. Most other survival games that have a healthy population have an even more unforgiving PvP concept (losing tames on Ark that can literally take days to tame/breed, having an entire base wiped from a lost Tool Cupboard on Rust, etc.), and despite that, players stick around. I would like to say it’s partly due to the fact that these other games don’t encourage you to build skyscrapers and mega-pyramids without consequence. They say build a base and go fight.

While I would like to say that the community for Conan Exiles is filled with soft-hearted players that can’t handle loss, it would be a rather peculiar outlier that they all just happened to congregate on this game. There is a reason that the community prefers a PvE/RP-oriented experience and that is because of how the game is designed.

Some would argue that the attitude of gamers has changed over time, which leads to communities evolving within games, but World of Warcraft: Classic vs World of Warcraft: Retail is a shining example of how game design can meld a certain kind of community. Retail is more solo-player oriented. People don’t socialize very much because of inconveniences removed and quality-of-life features that negate the need to interact. When you look at Classic, you’ll immediately notice that the community is vibrant and just as full of life as it was back in 2005. Human nature doesn’t change, but the confines in which humans operate will influence how they behave. Stick humans in an aircraft and they’ll sit together with civility and smiles. Stick those humans on a deserted island with limited resources and they’ll fight for dominance.

This points to the idea that Conan Exiles has been designed in a way that nurtures creativity rather than destruction. And I really can’t blame the players for this. Funcom shifted their design philosophy from a PvP-oriented game to one that wants you to build sprawling castles with cosmetic items hanging from the walls and fully-decorated rooms, which serve no purpose other than to look pretty and foster a role-playing environment. DLCs haven’t really added any groundbreaking new items other than skins for buildings to change the atmosphere and other custom-colored items, etc.

We haven’t seen any critical balancing of weapons to make as many viable in PvP as possible. People have been complaining about spears and their supreme power/potential exploits since day 1 of EA. We haven’t seen any additional items introduced to raid with, or to counter raids with. There are more thralls now than there were before, but those thralls serve more of a utility function than strictly base defense. On top of that, thralls are still stupid. They’re buggy. Funcom is still having trouble getting them to work right to this day.

While I can appreciate that the community is trying to make the most of the game by harboring a role-playing environment, we can’t ignore the fact that the game has severe balancing issues and uses the role-playing concept as a band-aid for a broken concept.

I’m writing this because not only am I annoyed that I couldn’t find any healthy PvP servers, but because I love this game and I want to see it succeed ever more. A swords-and-shields survival game is such an awesome idea and I feel that if Funcom did some balance-passes to the weapons, the way splash damage works with explosives and defender thrall AI, the game could have some excellent opportunities to grow.

The fact that I can run past a line of 50 archer thralls and none of them can hit me with their shots gives testament to how lopsided the raider vs. defender concept is. And I feel Funcom should have the expertise by now to really get this down. I can handle spinning AI, or mobs that get caught on rocks, but to have a defender’s only real auto-turret option work like a dud for three years, it seems they just kind of gave up on trying to get it to behave properly.

And it is because of this imbalance I always want to play the game, but wind up logging back out shortly after starting. I want to get into Conan like I was when I started. I want all of my friends to join in and have fun with me. But because of ridiculous role-playing rules that the majority of the community has adopted (either that or all-out griefing on official servers), I am finding it impossible to strike the middle ground and find a corner of the game I can enjoy, which is where the gem within this game lies.

To those of you who actively play and enjoy RP/PvE, I’m happy for you and very glad you’re having fun. What I want to strike home with is the fact that this game can be so much more if Funcom took the time to iron it out, polish the AI, perform balance passes, and nurture a community that is willing to embrace the savage side of human nature, rather than constantly pandering to the creative aspect and playing nice with others.

If you made it this far, thanks for hearing me out.

TL;DR: Conan is great, but Funcom caters too much to the RP aspect, causing the community to become too passive for a large portion of potential survival players to enjoy.

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Great post! I’m with you 95%.
I’m playing RP-PVP while having very little interest in RP just because those are the only servers with “clear rules” concerning PvP engagement and kind of protect you while offline.

One very important point which I am not sure you’re getting is: it seems the conan exiles community is more on the mature/adult side (as opposed to Ark, from what i heard).
That means people with (jobs/kids/insertyourdailygrindhere) limited play time, who still want to enjoy the game but cannot compete with a minority who can spend 5 to 10 hours a day grinding mats and preparing for raid. This is why I think the community shares the responsibility with the devs for the path that has been chosen. I would very much like to see a middle ground where we ca fight and defend ourselves in a more casual setting on funcom servers, but it seems many features must be fixed first (starting with thrall AI…). The devs are responsible for that, and I really hope they will sort it out at some point.

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I dont get it, you want pvp with no rules that is official pvp but then complain its pure griefing?

The concept of pvp in CE is griefing like many others. I can’t belive raid time and event log exist on official servers, there is no true free for all servers anymore.

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I never said I wanted “no rules” PvP. I want PvP that works. We should not only have an array of offensive PvP options, but also a healthy amount of defensive options - including good thrall AI, balanced weaponry and tools to help safeguard our bases while we’re offline. And let me be clear: by tools, I mean things that can be done in-game to slow a raider. Not band-aids like raid times or plugins to stop offline raiding.

I don’t feel it’s asking too much for a game that confidently promotes conflict between players, rather than encouraging them to instead craft pillows and wall tapestries because of options that are missing or flat-out don’t work.

It’s because of PvP and raiding being in such a state of disrepair that the majority of the community prefers stringent rules regarding any hostile player conflict. Players can spend months and months building layers of ramparts around their bases with hundreds of thralls lining the perimeter, only to have someone bypass it all and blast in due to extremely limited defensive options. But like Halk said, other underlying features need to be addressed.

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Exactly that! Being a noob in virtual warfare, I could never point out what exactly was missing to make PvP playable. I think you summed it up in these few words.

Being honest I dont think we will ever see a viable defensive option other than being online and in equal numbers to the attackers.

Unless thralls are overbuffed, the AI is very limited and easily exploitable, take archers, you can easly outrange then.

I didn’t play ark much to know but do bases in that game pose a challange to be raided offline? I remmember reading about people logging to a wiped base all the same. And Rust too. I dont see those games much different than Conan in the pvp area, all are griefing games.

I dont think it’s Funcom or community fault the game community is evolving away from pvp griefing. It’s the same as negating effectiveness of ranged weapons in favor of mounted combat, because mounted combat is more honorable, while using guns is much more cost effective.

Humankind goes for what is more effevtive, in this case people grew tired of losing their building progress and established laws or server rules to enforce they dont have to rebuild daily.

Perharps to make a server where pvp battles occur more frequently opposed to offline raiding, there should instead be a server configuration or game mode that encouraged that, truly limited resources say resources dont respawn, a time objective, no building allowed, etc… Essentially Conan Battle Royal.

I think that’s what OP is after. Title of thread points to "lack of server options ".
It’s time to think outside of the box and give a chance to people to PvP without spending 10h a day online.

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That is like saying a poll of Republicans how far right they lean. Or Democrats how far left they lean. Either way, it would not say that is the best and only to way to run as a politician trying to get elected by everyone.

If you had read the sentence immediately after what you quoted, it gives you the answer. Despite the game being single-player, avatars gave a strong hint of the design intentions. On top of this, if you had watched developer interviews prior to the game’s EA launch, you’d know their philosophy was to make a game with a PvP focus. They created single-player as an extra thing for those who didn’t want to partake in the multiplayer experience. But making single-player doesn’t mean they didn’t want the game based around PvP.

The idea was that people would build near strategic resources and that those resources and points-of-interests would be scarce. If you wanted them, you’d have to fight the players and destroy their bases in order to gain access to said resources. This came directly from Joel Bylos, the creative director of Conan Exiles, when he did one of the first previews of the game with Jens Erik in a sit-down gameplay Q&A prior to EA’s launch.

And those players exist on every game, but they exist in a particularly different form on this game. This isn’t some coincidence that a particular group of people who wanted something out of the game grouped together here and called for change. The game’s design and the environment in which its players operate in foster a certain type of behavior. Read my World of Warcraft: Retail vs World of Warcraft: Classic comparison for a better idea. Players operating under lopsided and broken mechanics saw a need for change; however, if those systems had been implemented properly in the first place, the tune may have been completely different among the community and players may have enjoyed the raiding aspect more.

Like it or not, the developers had ambitions to make this game in a similar fashion to the other large survival games. They had made direct comparisons to Ark and Rust throughout development. Nobody here is saying they wanted a CoD/BF type of game. But when you have a multiplayer survival base-building game, raiding and PvP is kind of expected; otherwise, the game gets stale and you get the evolution of a role-playing community. The numbers don’t lie, either.

Sure, we need to worry about food, water and shelter; however, those are micro-elements of survival and part of early-game progression. In every survival game - even the hardest of them, you eventually progress to the point where you have established shelter and food and water are no longer an issue. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had bases with wells built all around the compound and so much food (on standard rates) overflowing from storage, that I’d never have to worry about dying to survival mechanics. If this game was designed to focus intensively on the survival element, they messed up there, too.

“Survive, build, dominate.” Dominate encompasses the conflict between players. I think these three points summarized their philosophies of the game pretty well, don’t you?

Unfortunately, forums do not represent majorities of communities on any game. Usually only the most critical and devoted will take to message boards. Most people don’t go to game forums; they’re busy playing in-game or have other things to do with their lives. A better way to approach getting a non-biased opinion would’ve been to post an easily-accessible in-game poll, rather than directing players to forums. Most won’t take the time to do it.

It is because of the loudest voices on game forums that some games have been turned into hollow shells of their former selves. Looking at you, World of Warcraft: Retail. Do you know why the game has been so simplified over the years? It’s because Blizzard spent too much time catering to the complaints of forum-goers. As we’ve seen, this was not their smartest strategy. Opinions on the forums should be taken with a grain of salt, and again, they do not represent the community at large.

This is how it is in any survival game. Aside from crafting stations and shelter of walls to store loot and camp out, there isn’t really any purpose to decorating a base. Even with the decorations, it’s still a shell. How many YT videos have you seen of mega-base builds on Conan where people will show off their bars and inns within their castles, only to stop in, look around, then leave and never come back? There’s no point to them.

Now, I’m not saying decorations shouldn’t be in the game. I’m saying Funcom is dedicating too much time on placeables and cosmetic DLCs, when they should be focusing on continual polish and bug-fixing, along with content additions. Cosmetics aren’t content. They’re illusory fluff. They serve no gameplay function other than looking pretty. To believe they do otherwise is just naivety.

You’re right. And this is probably the only bit out of your post that I agree with you on. The only thing is, with a community leaning toward RP/PvE, it’s near-impossible to build a healthy server based on the PvP mechanics that currently exist. There are PvP servers out there that try to strike a balance, but they’re dead servers. Your best choice for PvP engagement is to play official, where undermeshers and exploiters roam rampant and no-life players will raid your months of effort as you sleep.

I did consider server hosting, but I believe the game has critical issues that need to be addressed before the investment can be of value.

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I agree, but on hindsight it might have just been deception (trying to lure as many players as possible to get a critical mass necessary for growth).

If I remember well there was originally pvp, pve and pvp blitz servers? (Not sure how they were called anymore). The closing of these blitz servers was a result of low server population (also if my memory serves well). Do you remember what was wrong with these @Zaerin?

I think it’s almost a given that the game was originally envisioned as a PvP experience, and the other modes (PvE, Singleplayer) were added later. And I say that as a PvE player who has recently been transitioning into Singleplayer.

Certain core mechanics of this game only really make sense in a PvP environment, and the addition of the other modes is one of the reasons the game design at times feels like it’s covered in band-aids.

Which, again, is not to say there’s anything wrong with choosing PvE or Singleplayer, that would be rather hypocritical of me.

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@Mikey Exactly. Even as a die-hard PvE player I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t acknowledge that the game was obviously designed with PvP front and center. Gods & bubbles (pointless in PvE), weapons that deal Stamina damage (useless against AI), trebuchets & explosives (virtually useless in PvE save as a novelty), even all the footage from the game trailers on Steam showing conflict and destruction. Heck, look at how many times the game balance has been tweaked largely in favor of PvP balance over the desires of PvE and Solo players.

It would be like arguing Overwatch, Quake, or Unreal Tournament etc. weren’t designed primarily for PvP because they included an option to play versus bots.

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I think that if I wanted ‘Pure PvP’ without all the griefing that goes with that (in Conan and most/all other world games) I would get myself a server and play there. No lags. No issues. Exploits and griefing completely easy to deal with.
I like PvE. I got myself a server. Players come on and no issues at all. If/when I swap to PvP, same will apply. The Official servers were never meant to be monitored by Admins and therefore are 100% free for all - including any trash-play

To;Dr version for people:

OP doesn’t like RP much, thinks game should be more focused, or entirely changed to cater to, hardcore PvP.

Ya, no, pass.

Also, they just had a balance pass a couple months ago. They are on record for indicating it was just a start, and that combat engagement is going to see other changes when mounted combat drops in December.

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Here goes, again! :joy:

Your source is?

If that were true why did they previously remove PvE-C, to add more PvP servers? Surely it would have been the other way around.

Those days, are long behind us now!

Not a fact.

They are doing this constantly. Check patch history.

That’s what private servers are for!

Me neither!

Which numbers? Your source is?

The above video, is the only pre-EA dev stream I remember/found so… this one?

Or;

I can’t see anything that even remotely suggests a “PvP focus”.

Just to add;

Taken from Funcom Annual Statement 2017 & repeated in 2018.

“The operational objective of the Company, as stated in article 2 of the Articles of Association is to develop, market and carry on business in computer games, hereunder massively multiplayer online games, online role playing games and related games on electronic devices of different kinds.”

http://cdn.funcom.com/investor/2017/FUNCOM_NV_Annual_Report_2017.pdf

http://cdn.funcom.com/investor/2019/FUNCOM_NV_Annual_Report_2018_631032.pdf

Your source is?

Again taken from FC Annual Statement;

"The Company carefully considers what niches to compete in and seeks niches that are too small for the largest industry players to focus on and too difficult for small indie companies to compete in. "

http://cdn.funcom.com/investor/2019/FUNCOM_NV_Annual_Report_2018_631032.pdf

It mentions conflict between players, and NPCs, amongst other things, being neccesairy for domination.

Agreed! @WhatMightHaveBeen :joy:

Jens explains here;

Barely anybody used them. So yes you’re correct!

Please note, I don’t necessarily disagree with any opinions people have here.
But when those opinions are presented as facts, that is not beneficial to anyone. Especially new players who may come here to establish their own opinion.
My only objective is to replace the speculation, with information.

I already had this discussion maybe 20 times on various platforms, here is the most recent;

Feel free to add, or provide, more relevant information if available.

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Can only agree with you. Appeasing the people who like to be undisturbed builders on PvP servers has lead to a huge misbalance; building spam to grief, event log babysitting and abusing it as a raidmarker.

Ark and Rust and even Atlas have a far superior raiding meta, where you build with the purpose to defend yourself. In CE building is so cheap and rewarding in terms of defense that only 10% of what a clan builds goes into protecting their valuables, while the other building resources are used for griefing and PvE projects.

All balancing changes to fortify poorly designed open field fortresses to withstand in PvP have lead to the creation of nearly invincible pillar bases and indestructible foundation spam all across the map.

People fight out PvP with awkward tactics like landclaim invasion. This should ring a bell about PvP balance… really

I can only ask the CE dev team to take a look at their other big survival competitors and how successfull They are with a much more aggressive PvP meta. Also please go more into PvP servers and take a look at the actual effects of balancing changes.

I personally liked the game design much more in the first Early Access months and while it had some flaws, it was certainly not the right path to pacify PvP servers in order to mute dissense over lost bases.

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You have played for so long you must remember when archers could hit us like laser beams while on the move? That was before the new combat system, circa crossbow era. In the new system, bows were meant to be sidearms at launch and have been upgraded ever since. As a consequence, they’re not terribly good at lateral tracking just yet. However, if you run north on a south-facing archer, you will get peppered within her cone of attack, which is dependent on elevation and obstruction.

If you set up your palisades correctly (the stick walls), your enemy must zig and zag into the cone of fire.

Most of what makes PvP wonderful in Conan Exiles is the enormous risk at hand: yes, I built something beautiful and legendary, and ultimately it will decay. But if it is ruined, my heart will feel it. This is why we still play on quiet servers. I believe we just need more promotion to bring back the long-term base of PvP.

It’s great to see you again. Thanks for a well thought-out post.

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This was an interesting post to read however is wrong in so many points.

First off this game was never meant to be exclusively a pvp game to start with but like a game that allowed different kind of gameplay to cohexist. In the early alpha there were even RP official servers that due to the lack of moderation are been now removed (players actively griefing players on those server due to lack of moderation).

Usually pure PVP communities are pretty volatile they usually storm game in and if they find it unfitting they are also quick to abandon them. The early access of Conan exiles had his share of problems. Even the release was problematic. You are seeing now RP server more populated mostly because this game as an huge RP population.

RP is not PVE as conflict is contemplated in a RP server usually but what it changes is you have rule to follow you have to have a rp reason to bring conflict and this is needed because many people in past used to log in to rp servers to litterally annoy and griefing the communities.

Pvper have usually for some reason a strong dislike for roleplayers and this usually degenerate from insults to active willing to grief the roleplay community. Funcom in my opinion gave too much listening to people that were complaining for the sake of complaining.

We seen in the early access many people each day spamming the forums with exploits posts or messages asking with the Official server((insert number here)) was down. They attempted to fix this but alas was to late. And a large crowd of the pvp community returned in game such a Rust or Ark because they expected a conan themed rust clone.

Well… If they’re my archers, all of them will surely hit me. Occasionally, a Relic hunter wanders north from Sepermeru to draw graffiti on my base walls or something, and my archers decide to use him for target practice. Then this Relic Hunter aggroes at me (blaming me for the mistakes of my underlings - I can sort of accept my responsibility), and as soon as we cross blades, all of my thralls seem to shoot at me instead.

… Do you suppose they don’t like me?

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Maybe if you didn’t stop to feed them that wouldn’t happen… just saying

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