After playing and reviewing the long-awaited Isle of Siptah expansion, we knew we needed to interview the mind driving the creative direction of Conan Exiles. We spoke to Funcom's Chief Creative Officer to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on how Lovecraft inspired Isle of Siptah, the most fearsome new foes, the best content creators on Conan Exiles, and the latest news with Tencent!
Firstly, congratulations on the launch of your expansion and thank you for taking the time to sit down for an interview. Could you please tell me a little about yourself and your role?
Thank you very much for taking the time to ask us these questions. My name is Joel Bylos and I am the Chief Creative Officer at Funcom, but on Conan Exiles I serve as the Creative Director.
What advantages does Conan Exiles have over its competitors? How does Isle of Siptah expand on these advantages?
When we started making Conan Exiles we wanted to make something that was more approachable than a lot of other survival games, with a proper action-combat system and deep crafting system. And naturally we wanted to build a world more than an empty sandbox, and the Conan universe is a great world to be in.
Isle of Siptah builds upon those elements by providing players with an entire new piece of the universe to explore. The story runs in parallel to that of the original Exiled Lands map, and provides new systems to interact with, new building sets to obtain and a whole new storyline to explore.
What advice would you give to players who want to play Conan Exiles for the first time?
The game has a lot of ways it can be played – if you are new to survival games I suggest playing for a little while in the single-player mode and learning the basics before jumping into the larger multiplayer experience.
If you are an experienced survival gamer – jump right in. The core loop should be familiar and exploring the systems in a dangerous online environment is half the fun.
Conan Exiles has an array of diverse and atmospheric biomes that are begging to be explored, what was the inspiration behind the addition of Isle of Siptah?
The Isle of Siptah is an island off the coast of Stygia and we wanted to do something a little different than your standard tropical island. Our Art Director really wanted to put in giant redwood trees to give players an opportunity to build in the tree tops and the coastline is riddled with the wrecks of ships that have been destroyed by the magical maelstrom that expands from the heart of the island.
The universe of Conan is a post-apocalyptic universe in so many ways – savages squatting amongst the ruins of cultures undreamed of – and we brought a lot of that to the Isle as well. Siptah is a layered experience – as players go deeper, there is more and more to discover.
Isle of Siptah marks the long-anticipated expansion of territory for Conan Exiles. Are there other new projects and developments on the horizon or will all of your creative energy be dedicated to Isle of Siptah for the foreseeable future?
There is always far too much going on! The Conan Exiles team will have their full focus on Conan Exiles – which means both Isle of Siptah and the original Exiled Lands. There is a clear plan to work on upgrades that offer benefits to both maps and continue to provide patches and updates. We still have a lot of changes planned for the game – we've got a long roadmap!
As for other projects – well we have announced Conan Chop Chop and Metal: Hellsinger coming down the pipeline – but there is plenty of other development going on behind the scenes as well.
Conan Exile’s has some truly formidable and occasionally terrifying enemies. Isle of Siptah is no exception! Which beasts in either the main game or the expansion are your personal favourites?
I have the most boring answers here, unfortunately, because I always prefer fighting humans to monsters. The combat system is the most complex when fighting humans and I love raiding camps full of enemies and clearing them out.
On Isle of Siptah, which de-emphasizes the humans (makes sense on a deserted island) I like to fight the storm creatures. We've leaned heavily into some of the Lovecraft mythology (Howard and Lovecraft were friends and shared many ideas) so the Moon Beast and the arachnoid Spider of Leng are both terrifying additions.
We came across some pretty terrifying arachnids in our preview playthrough, so we're with you there! The marketing campaign leading up to Isle of Siptah has been jampacked full of references to traditional Conan lore and literature. How deeply did you draw upon Conan canon in the creation of the expansion?
The Gem in the Tower is the original story by L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter which mentions the Isle and the Tower of Siptah. It's safe to say that we used the elements of that story as a jumping-off point – but we went a lot deeper into the lore and back to the original Howard for the deeper layers of the story.
The Shadow Kingdom, which is a Kull story, actually had a very strong influence on the setup for the Isle of Siptah. And the Isle of Siptah leans into Lovecraft much more than the base map, the idea being to create a wholly different sense of dread and awe in the players as they explore.
Many Conan Exiles fans are begging for more sorcery to be integrated into gameplay. Necromancy has given them a taste for sorcery, and Isle of Siptah’s new portals give them a little more. Do you plan to integrate more magical abilities?
The plan has existed for a long time, but doing it right is a matter of time, effort and testing. Sorcery cannot just be high magic experience like in Skyrim or World of Warcraft – the requirements of the setting require that we take the time to do it correctly.
Unfortunately, I can't say much more than that.
The building system in Conan Exiles truly excels in its class. Some content creators such as Sven P have created in-game architectural masterpieces. What was the structure that has impressed you most?
As a "shoebox" kind of builder myself, almost everything I see impresses me. We've run several building competitions and the sheer artistry of the entries always blows me away. I can't pick a favorite – but check out how amazing these are.
Are there any content creators’ whose buildings (or other Conan Exiles content) you’d like to recommend or promote to our readers?
There are a lot of people who put time and effort into content creation (not just buildings) and I appreciate that they do. We have worked closely with some of our workshop creators, such as Joshtech, Snowhunter and Neebs Gaming – and I am always humbled.
There are also some great streamers and YouTubers who do their thing such as Firespark and JadePlaysGames…
For builders, Sven P, KiahOnFire, Shadiversity and Eradicati0n are all worth checking out. But there are tons, and it almost feels unfair to single out just a few.
Finally, many fans are eager to discover more about the situation with TenCent. Could you provide us with any updates?
Tencent purchased all of the shares in Funcom earlier in 2020 and moved us off the Oslo Stock Exchange in August. My experience with Tencent is that they are very hands-off and want to let us "do our thing". Nothing has changed about the development of Conan Exiles.
I think the biggest change for us as a company has been going from having a lot of small investors, many of whom know very little about games, to having a single large investor, who knows a lot about games. We ask them for advice and suggestions – and they draw upon their large pool of knowledge to provide us with answers and help. Funcom has always been an isolated company, working out of Norway, but through the Tencent network we can discuss our games with everybody from Riot Games to Epic (whose engine we use).
I understand that players have reservations, but the experience on the development side has all been positive.
Thank you for all of your answers and for giving us answers to such a fun preview playthrough. We can’t wait to get stuck back in.
Don't forget to check out our review of Conan Exiles Isle of Siptah. As part of the launch of the expansion, Conan Exiles are running a series of discounts, launch-deals and events. MMOGames.com is committed to bringing you all the freshest, funniest, and most insightful MMO news. If you enjoyed this content, why not share it with your community? And make sure that you never miss our updates and exclusive giveaways by following and favouriting us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.