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Earlier today on the Gamasutra Twitch channel, we were lucky enough to be joined by Joel Bylos for another look at Conan Exiles, which recently joined the Xbox Early Access program and released some huge new updates. Since Funcom had to jump through some unique loopholes to deal with the game’s nudity, as well as other trials related to live game development, we figured it was worth returning to Conan Exiles to talk about what’s changed with the game.
You can watch our full conversation with Bylos up above, but in case you’re slaughtering the unworthy as we speak, here are a few quick highlights from our conversation.
There’s a new climbing feature directly inspired by Breath of the Wild
As we loaded up our stream, we talked with Bylos about implementing a previously discussed climbing feature that was inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Bylos called it “the most polished feature implemented yet,” and described the positives and negatives of letting players climb on whatever they wanted.
The story of why the early Xbox Game Preview build was buggy
As we were discussing the merits of developing games on the Xbox Game Preview program, Bylos felt compelled to share the story of the first major hurdle related to Conan Exiles' nudity. Since the game nudity is allowed to be sold on European Xboxes, but not American ones, Microsoft helped Funcom get a version of the game onto the Xbox store that would separate the two regions by containing the nudity in a Europe-only DLC package.
Of course, when launching a game, nothing ever goes according to plan, so after a few venturous players were able to download the DLC in the US, Funcom was forced to grapple with the consequences, and temporarily keep a more crash-prone version of the game available on the market while it was sorted out.
The Funcom process for deciding what features stay and what go (and why Bylos has to work against it sometimes)
Bylos is the creative director of Conan Exiles, and while he jokes he does not run his team as a democracy, Funcom does have a functional production system that lets team members shape the course of feature development. It’s one that other developers might be able to learn from, since it lets the different play styles of the team shape development, but Bylos also explains why he himself (in coordination with the community team) has to sometimes work against the system in order to advocate for features players may want that aren’t reflected in the studio.
For more developer interviews, editor roundtables and gameplay commentary, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel.