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The difference between making an MMO versus an Early Access survival game

April 19, 2017 | By Bryant Francis

April 19, 2017 | By Bryant Francis
More: Console/PC, Design, Video

“It’s not so much about this very small percentage of power increase to increase progression.” 

-Conan Exiles creative director Joel Bylos

Last decade, MMORPGs like World of Warcraft dominated the landscape. Today, Early Access survival games have emerged as a partial successor to the genre, adapting the social gameplay of MMORPGs into smaller arenas. This means that a few developers previously working in the MMORPG space, like Age of Conan developer Funcom, now have transitioned to open-world games like Conan Exiles. 

So what’s it like jumping from one genre to the next? Luckily, we had Conan Exiles creative director Joel Bylos on the Gamasutra Twitch channel today to talk about Funcom’s new Early Access game, and he was able to give us some insight on what it’s like designing for one game versus the other. 

“In The Secret World (one of Funcom’s older MMOs), we focused on making cool content and story…but focus [also] goes into repeatable content,” Bylos told us. “It goes into things like ‘I’m going to run this dungeon 6 times, 20 times, 200 times, so we need to create rewards for that. There’s a lot of itemization discussion in MMOs.”

But since players in Conan Exiles understand they’re probably going to die and lose all their possessions (a lot), Bylos says that Funcom was able to shift how it thought about progression to build a space that’s more friendly to players who kill each other constantly. “People are going to lose stuff and we know that. We need to make sure they can keep making stuff, keep progressing throughout the game.”

For more insight from Bylos on the development of Conan Exiles, including the story about how Funcom developers began working on a new climbing mechanic after playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, be sure to watch parts 1 and 2 of our livestream of Conan Exiles. 

And while you're at it, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel for more developer interviews, editor roundtables and gameplay commentary. 

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