Conan Exiles officially launched last month, and was playable in early access for more than a year before that. Unfortunately, the game still contains no means of reporting other players for griefing, abuse or racism.
It's a common question asked on Conan Exiles' forums, Steam discussion page and subreddit: "How do you report a player for harassment?" A couple of weeks ago, a Funcom customer support rep finally provided a definitive answer.
"Lately we have been receiving reports of harassment in Conan Exiles," they said in a post on the game's forums.
"Unfortunately it is not possible to provide in-game moderation across the thousands of Conan Exiles servers we have operating at the moment. We apologise for being unable to assist you in-game. If you find a player being toxic in chat you can mute them from the Player List. If the behaviour of other players continues to be a persistent issue you may want to consider playing on another server."
They also noted that renting your own server is an option.
In other words: If somebody's giving you trouble, it's on you to handle it.
"For 2 weeks now we have had to deal with a racist clan in official server #1655," one player wrote on the game's Steam forums last week, pointing to repeated, violent uses of the N-word in player names, clan names and chat interactions. "It is absolutely ridiculous they are allowed to do this without punishment."
Racist griefers are enough of a problem on their own - as much as Conan The Barbarian's mystical Hyborian Age is said to be a time of chaos, lawlessness, and meaty man mountains crashing into each other, I don't think modern-day racist slurs and harassment really fit with the fiction.
Bad player behaviour also manifests as building spam, a separate issue that has also led to frustration with Conan's lack of available anti-harassment and reporting options.
"Currently I'm playing on the official server #1038 Pve-Conflict and there are a clan of 2 players who are placing walls all over the map to block access to many areas," said another player on the game's official forums. "They know there are [sic] not moderation, so they continue to do it."
Without an official way to deal with griefers, some players have decided to take matters into their own hands, often in ways Funcom probably didn't intend. There have been instances of naming and shaming particular servers and, in cases where those servers are player-run, their admins.
Other players have, at various points, expressed concern that this kind of retaliation has resulted in a witch-hunt mentality.
An example of a structure being used to block a key pathway. Image: megamadmax84
"Funcom provides over one thousand official servers as a free service to players, but as with many games similar to Conan Exiles we do not offer 'MMO type' game master support on these," community and PR director Natascha Röösli said in an email to Kotaku.
"We're also working on adding new functionality such as a whitelisting system so you can control who gets to join your server, tackling building spam and land claim harassment, and adding other features to discourage griefing."
So building spam and other similar kinds of griefing are thankfully on the way out, but it still puts moderation in the hands of those running their own servers without giving players a means to report players on official servers.
Private servers are unreliable in other ways, too: They might experience long, unexplained periods of downtime or just up and stop existing one day. It all depends on who's in charge and how dedicated they are.
As Röösli pointed out, ruling over a thousand 40-player official servers with an iron fist would require quite a few iron fingers. At the same time, Conan Exiles and survival games like it verge into MMO territory with their free-form exploration and encouraged player interaction. That means more opportunities for griefers and harassers to ruin the experience, which I can't imagine the people responsible for the game want.
And even if that weren't the case, some sort of reporting system still seems like a good idea. A thousand official servers is a lot, but plenty of far larger games such as Overwatch, League of Legends, and even fellow survival game Ark: Survival Evolved have reporting and moderation systems in place.
The longer Conan Exiles goes without moderation, the more damage is done. Unconstrained by consistent consequences for their actions, shitty communities tend to metastasise in this kind of environment.
When a developer comes out of the gate unprepared to deal with the internet's bountiful bouquet of bullies, it can lead to toxicity epidemics that require time-consuming emergency interventions from developers. Leaving things in the hands of players can cause many of the well-behaved ones to bail on the game entirely.
Already, some players have said that griefing and harassment are ruining Conan Exiles. Of those who have stayed, many have adopted a familiar cynicism around the issue.
"Welcome to online gaming," said one player in a thread about how Conan Exiles is in a bad spot. "This isn't a new thing and there is no real solution to it."