Conan Exiles Developer Explains Why the Game Allows Players to Own Slaves

The Creative Director Understands That It’s ‘A Troubling Element’ of the Game

One of the mechanics of Conan Exiles, an open-world survival game based on the Conan the Barbarian films, involves enslaving NPCs in order to aid the player in their quest to conquer territory. The game’s creative director, Joel Bylos, acknowledged in an interview with Polygon that this aspect of the game is “troubling”.

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“Enslave the criminals of the Exiled Lands and make them join your cause and defend your territory,” reads the slavery mechanic’s official description on Steam. “Put them through the grueling Wheel of Pain to break their will, then turn them into archers, fighters, crafters, entertainers, and more.”

Bylos explained that there were “a couple of elements” involved in the mechanic’s inclusion into the game. He mentioned his own Australian heritage as a reason for why there’s less “cultural baggage” around the topic of slavery for him.

“I understand it’s a troubling element but it doesn’t come from a place of malice,” Bylos explained to Polygon. “It comes from a place, I would say, of perhaps a little bit of ignorance on my part, because I don’t have that heritage. But, on the other side of that, I would just say it just comes from a place of where, mechanically, we thought it was quite interesting for people.”

Bylos told Polygon that the mechanic served an important purpose in the game since the developers wanted to have players build bases and fight large groups of human NPCs. So in order to accomplish that goal, they created the slavery mechanic so that players could use NPCs for base defense instead of relying on multitudes of other players.

Bylos also said that initially his team wanted to include a mechanic where players could enslave each other but it wasn’t feasible so they ended up scrapping that mechanic entirely.

“We talked about doing that and sort of having people play off it in a sort of joking way,” Bylos said of the scrapped feature.

“I would say I’m a firm believer in the fact that just because you do something in a video game, you don’t do it in real life, and most people are quite aware of that,” Bylos added.

Conan Exiles is available on the PC, Xbox One and PS4.