Paradigm shift; from grind to emergence and a Player-Thrall system.
Player interaction is the nature of multiplay. Yet, there is a general flaw in gear-grind, level-grind, building-grind mechanics. It always devolves to a ‘solo process’ or pve. This has been Funcom’s general shortcoming as “MMO Developers”, since Anarchy Online. Of course there was Secret World, but the under-developed punk Harry Potter theme wasn’t resonating with gamers.
There is still time to shift the Conan Exile ‘paradigm’ into an emergent, barbaric and interactive experience. Building castles, then smashing castles has very limited appeal where only the hyper-dedicated and hard-core have entry. To grow your CE community you’ll need to grow your ideas. Watching people grind forts to be mashed down a few week later, is a face-palm paradigm. Or mine-crafting as pve, where all you have is a solo competition to out-lego the other guy, for “impressive points”.
However, what we are seeing with Pippi, Class-mod, Sexiles and other mods, is the same, obvious path I had suggested several years ago, when discussing the emergence in Skyrim Modding. How dropping the grind and go emergent is the future. Yes, Funcom does a nice grindy MMO, but keep an eye on Fallout 76, that is where you should have pointed this IP. And Bethesda is wholly thankful you did not, it allows them first entry and bragging rights for a new genre.
Funcom still has an extrodinary opportunity, primarily due to the R.E. Howard universe as both excuse and reasoning. Brutal, dangerous hard-fought struggle for power. Where slavery and liberation are the thematic threads throughout.
A player-thrall system, a Sparticus Mechanic, is the only way to bring players together. Making other players a resource for power. PC-Thralls that persists when a player logs off. Rather than spiking heads on a pike, you enlist the services/efforts of other players – emergence.
I posted a suggestion on discord for Class-Mod/Sexiles, using Confidence Rating as the new girbil-wheel carrot. Provide motives and mechanics allowing enthralled players to leverage their disadvantage eventually claiming a portion of a slavers value, if the slaver fails to win the slave/master moral struggle. These mechanics bring both ‘hard-core’ grinders and casual players together in what could be consided the first proper simulation of humanities most energetic struggle – what is freedom. This is the primary theme for R.E. Howard, a texan who created the universe, to expose the intriges and emergent outcomes of humanity’s struggle with itself.
Going soft-core for Conan Exiles is part and parcel of Funcom’s almost-hit, but mostly a miss development efforts. Certain things sell, and the most obvious ones are always at the fretful edge of moralized hand-wringing.