Since we released Conan Exiles a couple of months ago, we’ve been scrambling to improve the game and move it in the right direction. We’ve patched over 30 times since our Early Access launch, fixing exploits, bugs and adding new systems and content.
Let’s be clear though, not all the patches have moved the game in the desired direction and there have been several instances where the patches broke something while fixing something else. This has been a consequence of our desire to get the game into the best possible state, but obviously, people are not impressed when you break building to fix an exploit.
For this, I apologize. We’ve taken steps to increase the quality of our patches, including a longer testing cycle, more time on testlive servers and focusing the patches around exploit and bugfixes over content delivery. Recently we have made the call to step back from forcing ourselves to release a patch every week, and instead hold patches until we are certain that they reach the quality bar we have set for the game. This, in all practicality, means that we will not patch every week, instead aiming for a bi-weekly schedule.
All of this leads to the Easter survey we ran asking specific questions about Conan Exiles and the future plans that we have planned for the game. We plan to do these surveys several times during Early Access to gauge how our player base is changing over time and make sure our focus is on the parts of the roadmap that players would like to see sooner, rather than later.
I’m writing this post to share some of those results with you and to discuss the ways in which this has affected our process and given us new insights into the community. Over 10,000 players responded to the survey and around 50% of those who responded left additional comments on things we could do to improve the game.
It takes some time to read through 5000 comments (comments is the best description, though some of the most passionate feedback would qualify as “novella”) so we still have a bit of reading left to do.
Question 1 – What type of server do you play on?
For this question, we allowed players to choose more than one response and it was no real surprise that the most popular server type was Private PvP. Private PvP servers represent the ultimate in flexibility in the game: custom rulesets, player-built communities, mods and the ability to fight others if you choose to.
Private PvE was the runner-up, and again, not much of a surprise as these servers offer most of the flexibility of the former, without the PvP element.
This was followed by Official PvP, Local/Single-player, Official PvE and Official PvP-Blitz.
The only real surprise among these results was the large % of people who play local/single-player, which we had assumed was somewhat lower (it is much easier to track players on live servers than players running local games). The good news is this – as we move towards the Xbox launch and are performing optimizations to client and server, local play will get a large boost from these optimizations that should make the experience smoother.
Official PvP-Blitz were the lowest played servers, and we are currently discussing changing some of these toward the more popular server types.
Question 2 – How often do you play Conan Exiles?
For us to gauge the community accurately, we needed to know who exactly was responding to the survey. Were these current players or people who had stopped playing? Were the survey respondents people who play the game daily, weekly or rarely?
Luckily for us about 70% of players who answered the survey play the game at least once a week. These are active players, which means that their survey responses are talking about the game in the state that it is right now.
Of the remaining players, a concerning amount had bought the game at launch but stopped playing. These voices are also very important because even though the game has changed and been updated many times, they still care about what the future holds and thus will potentially return. Making sure that the game follows a direction that entices people to return is also important for the development team.
Question 3 – Which new features would you like to see ingame first?
In this question, we asked people to rank the roadmap features in order of priority for them. Please note that in development, we often setup features that rely upon pieces of other features to help development further down the line. An example of this is that the mount system relies on elements of the thrall system etc. So, though this question gives us a good feel for the order in which the community would like to see certain features, we need to make technical considerations about when and how to roll things out.
The top three, Mounts, Thralls and Sorcery were all very closely ranked and adding the percentage of replies that scored them as highest or second-highest priority puts them all neck and neck.
None of these were particularly surprising and I am happy to report that we are working on elements of these systems currently.
For mounts, we are working on the base system – capturing, taming and then the mechanics of riding a mount. For the first iteration, we will likely release a mount that can be ridden, but not one that can be used in combat.
For Thralls, we are looking at both Thrall AI, the ability to rescue thralls (rather than enslaving them) and the next steps in the thrall interaction and upkeep systems.
For players familiar with the Conan stories, we are currently working on a type of glass orb that Xaltoltun hurls at Conan in The Hour of the Dragon. It’s a small first step on the road to the full sorcery system, but we think you will like what we do with it.
The next three features, The Purge, Exploration and Farming were also very closely ranked and combining answers puts Farming slightly ahead of the others.
Finally, sieging. This was a bit of a surprise as the sieging feature includes fixes for Avatars and defending against Avatars, which is one of the most requested features outside of the survey. This could be a failure on our end to emphasize that this feature was included in sieging. In any case, Avatar defense is close to completion and we expect to roll it out soon, which hopefully covers the part of sieging that people have desired the most.
As a result of the answers in this section of the survey, we have done some priority reshuffling, down prioritizing certain elements of the siege system, focusing on an earlier release for some other elements (mounts, sorcery). You’ll start to see these results in upcoming releases!
Question 4 – Which existing features should the dev team focus on and improve first?
The purpose of this question was to give us a good sense of what it is that the community feels is important to the game that currently exists. Not a roadmap, but a list of existing features that require work and polish throughout early access.
You ranked them as follows: Combat, Building, AI, Thralls, Lore, Crafting and Clans.
Combat is a no-brainer. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the combat system and thinking about the core issues. You’ll see changes to combat as we move forward- changes that should make it more tactical and interesting. This is a core area of focus for us and it is good to see that we are in complete alignment with the community here.
Building was more of a surprise. We feel that the building system is one of our most polished features, with a great variety of options. There are popular community requests that we are working on (*ahem* stackable triangle foundations) and we want to expand both the building types and materials as we move towards the new biome, but we were not planning on putting a lot of focus on the building system outside of this. In this, I would like to see more specific community feedback on what people would like to see us do with the building system. Please post your concrete wishes on Steam or Reddit so we can get a clearer overview of where you would like us to take this system
AI is also one of the core focus areas for us. We feel like the basic behavior of NPCs and Thralls is not at the quality level that we hoped for the game and we also strongly feel that this contributes to the complaints about combat. You don’t really get a good impression of what it feels like to fight a Rocknose if it has a bug that makes it spin around on the spot.
We are committed to improving the AI, even working with an external company that has extensive Unreal AI expertise to help explore some new approaches to the way we have set it up.
The rest of the features fall roughly into place in our future updates and will all receive love and polish over the coming months.
Question 5 – What aspects of the game should the technical team focus on?
In this question we wanted to get a feel for the burning technical issues in the game, ones that the community feel need to be addressed and in what order.
It was no surprise to us that exploits was the highest priority. We’ve been making some great strides fixing exploits in the game since the beginning of our exploit hunters program. You can see the results in our latest updates which have patched out some more exploit fixes.
This is a constant battle in multiplayer competitive games and we are committed to keeping on top of the exploits. Early Access is a fantastic way for us to nail down these problems together with the community and, in the end, we hope to have a game free of exploits.
Game client performance is also something we are constantly working with. One of our goals is to release the game on Xbox One Game Preview during Q3, and achieve this goal the game requires a high number of optimizations. These optimizations made for consoles will translate into performance gains on both server and client for PC.
The result which surprised us here was that increasing the player cap on official servers was not considered a priority for the community. This was something we had prioritized highly internally, working on optimizing the servers for the maximum number of players. This result doesn’t mean that we will stop working on this optimization, but it does mean that we will take a step back and ensure that other, higher ranked issues, are getting the priority that they require.
The dev team have been working our asses off since Early Access launch. And the easter survey has been a great way for us to orient towards what the community wants. We’ve updated some of our processes since the survey and shifted the focus of some of our developers towards giving you more of what you want to see in Conan Exiles.
We’ve also reorganized to better respond to the demands of Early Access and the “live” nature of the game since the launch of Early Access. We’ve split the development of the game into several teams with suitable names.
The Vanguards – Are our first line of defense against major bugs and exploits. This is a cross-profession team of designers and coders who are focused on fixing the problems that the community are reporting. If you encounter a shy dev on steam asking you for more information about a bug, it’s probably one of the stalwart vanguards.
Terraformers – The Terraformers team is made up of designers and artists working on the next biome for Conan Exiles. Their focus is new content and areas – you’ve seen the first touches of their work in The Dregs dungeon that we patched just before April. Their primary focus is the new biome and all of the work required for that.
Featurama – The featurama team are focused on the new features that we want to add to the game. This includes mounts, sorcery etc. In addition, they are also heavily focused on further iterating features that already exist in the game, for example, combat. You see their work with every new feature that makes its way into the game (for example dyes and trebuchets) and there is a lot more to come over the coming weeks and months.
The art team – The art team supports all the studio teams with artwork, animations and fx.
The tech team – The tech team focuses on the backend of the game. They’re working on server and client optimizations and developing the Xbox One version of Conan Exiles.
We’re working hard to make Conan Exiles the great adventure that we all know it can be. Thank you for your patience with us on the journey so far. Together we will make this game a great addition to the survival genre.
Our cross awaits, Exiles,