It's still no secret that The Secret World is probably my favorite MMO. It's the game that made me recognize "Funcom" was a company, even. So when I went to Playthrough back at the end of March and saw their booth, I rushed over hoping for some news on the game. While I didn't find anything there, I did instead get to hear about some other new projects. Talking to community manager Andy Benditt, I got to learn a little bit more about Conan Unconquered, the Switch port of Mutant: Year Zero, and upcoming horror game and Secret World spinoff Moons of Madness.
TechRaptor: So, Funcom. Why don't you just give me a quick rundown on what they're doing right now?
Andy Benditt: Sure, yeah. So, brief history of Funcom, we have over 25 years of experience in developing and publishing games across all sorts of genres. We're a Norwegian based company. We currently have a studio in Oslo, Norway and then also in Durham, North Carolina, in the RTP area.
Our whole mission statement is kind of working to open windows into fantastic worlds. We focus on developing and publishing games slightly off the beaten path with a little bit of edge to them. We try to do unique and fresh takes on things and genres and IPs that people might not necessarily expect. So, like, for example with Mutant: Year Zero it's a turn-based tactical game, sure, but then we have our own wrinkles on it in that we add a real-time stealth/exploration element to it, for example. Or our upcoming title Conan Unconquered, it's a real time strategy game, but it's a solo or co-op RTS where you defend against hordes of enemies.
We all try to kind of zag when everyone zigs, as it were.
TechRaptor: Now you guys are developing Conan Unconquered...
Andy: We're publishing Conan Unconquered. So both Mutant: Year Zero and Conan Unconquered are published titles. We, at Funcom, are not developing them. Conan Unconquered is developed by Petroglyph Studios out in Las Vegas. They are Command & Conquer veterans, so they're the ones who developed all those games in the past. Then Mutant: Year Zero was developed by Bearded Ladies Consulting, which is a Swedish-based studio, that we published.
TechRaptor: Okay, so you guys are publishing Conan Unconquered. Why go with Conan for an RTS?
Andy: That's a really good question. We are the caretakers of the Conan property for digital interactive experiences, and so, I guess kind of going back to things you might not necessarily expect, we wanted to kind of attach the Conan brand to something you might not have necessarily expect out of the world. We feel that the concept of a co-op RTS is just really untapped and unexplored, and we think there's a lot more that can be done with the real time strategy genre in today's gaming market that hasn't been explored. So we want to get that out there, put Conan in it to give the genre a unique twist, and go for it.
TechRaptor: Now when most people think of Conan they think of a big burly barbarian Arnold Schwarzenegger punching things.
Andy: Yeah, punching camels.
TechRaptor: Yeah, punching camels, exactly. So most people probably wouldn't think more of this RTS angle. So how do you use the IP for an RTS?
Andy: Sure, yeah. So there it's actually based on an existing story arc in the Conan literature. It's based on the Black Colossus story, where Conan takes up arms as a general and commands an army. We're taking inspiration from that story. There is a Conan comic about Black Colossus that you can pick up. We're drawing upon existing lore from Robert E. Howard obviously, and then making something based off of that.
TechRaptor: Since I guess RTS is a bit of a weird genre for Conan, what other weird genre would you personally put Conan in?
Andy: What would I personally put Conan in? [Laughter]
Nicole (Another community manager at the booth): Dating sim! Dating sim!
Andy: Yes! A light visual novel dating sim. Yes, that's exactly what I'd do. Doki Doki Hyborian Legends.
TechRaptor: Alright, that's a thing now.
Andy: [Laughter.] That's personal opinion, not that of Funcom.
TechRaptor: I will definitely not say Funcom is 100% making that.
Andy: Yeah, it's like "dating sim confirmed. You heard it here first. World exclusive." It's not, it's a joke.
TechRaptor: World exclusive! Awesome. So, you guys also published Mutant: Year Zero. What attracted you guys to that one?
Andy: So, as a Norwegian developer, we really like to help support our Nordic friends. Mutant is actually an existing tabletop franchise from the 80's. If you were growing up in Sweden you probably played Mutant. It's not quite receiving the same renaissance here in the US as D&D is, for example, but it was a very popular tabletop game back in the day.
We like to reach out and support our friends in the area to develop these games. The Mutant franchise is also one of the IPs that we are caretakers of. We're in an agreement with Cabinet Entertainment for a thing called Heroic Signatures, which is a number of different properties. Mutant: Year Zero is one of them. A Swedish studio wanted to work on this, so we're like "yes let's do it." Again, putting our unique twist on an existing genre to keep things fresh.
TechRaptor: You guys are currently bringing it to the Nintendo Switch.
TechRaptor: Would you say that's challenging or the perfect fit?
Andy: That's a really good question. I'm not sure I would be properly equipped to say like what the difficulties or the challenges are, because I'm not directly involved with the process of bringing it to the Switch. Personally speaking, I think it'd be a great fit on the Switch because of the nature of turn-based combat scenarios. I think it'll do really well on the Switch.
We also have new DLC coming out right around the same time. It'll feature new story content and a new mutant as well. That's coming out June 25th.
TechRaptor: Besides this, you guys also just recently announced Moons of Madness. Probably the one thing that interests me about that game, more than anything else, is that it takes place in the same world as The Secret World. How do you guys go about publishing this sci-fi horror game based on weird urban legends?
Andy: The overarching basis of The Secret World mythos has always been kind of like this Lovecraftian cosmic horror scenario. Originally Moons of Madness was not in The Secret World universe. We picked it up recently as a publisher and it is now in The Secret World universe. It was unveiled years ago, you can find full gameplay videos of an earlier prototype online before we were involved, and that gameplay footage that was displayed in that demo footage is not representative of what it is now.
We thought that it was a natural fit. It's a Norwegian-based studio also, so again, we like to help our friends out in that area. So we just came together and they said "we want to do this" and we were like "yes, let's do it, and lets make it Secret World." Now we're drawing upon the universe to put out an awesome cosmic horror game. We have the same writer from The Secret World working on Moons of Madness, Joshua Doetsch, so we're really confident that's it's A) going to be fun and B) have lots of story nuggets that people who are invested in The Secret World's lore are going to really appreciate.
TechRaptor: Now, I guess I have to ask because I'm a huge fan of The Secret World, what's next for that? Are you allowed to say?
Andy: Not at this time.
TechRaptor: Alright, worth trying. So with these three projects, Mutant: Year Zero on the Switch. When can I get that?
Andy: June 25th.
TechRaptor: What about Conan Unconquered?
Andy: Conan Unconquered comes out on May 30th.
TechRaptor: And Moons of Madness?
Andy: Moons of Madness is Halloween season 2019. The exact date has not been set yet.
TechRaptor: Awesome. Andy, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to talk with me, it's fun getting to hear about all these games.
Andy: Yeah, thanks man.
We'd like to once again thank Andy for taking the time to talk with us.
Disclaimer: Two friends of mine worked for Funcom from early 2012 until early 2013. Both worked as GMs on Age of Conan: Unchained and The Secret World. Neither currently work for Funcom or have any ties to Funcom, neither have worked on any of the games mentioned here (besides The Secret World), and neither have influenced this interview in any way.