Tim Cain, one of the lead developers of games like Fallout and Arcanum, recalled his idea for an action RPG based on the Conan universe, which never came to fruition. This dates back to 2004, when he was working at Troika Games.

Tim Cain recalls his 2004 proposal for Conan the Barbarian RPG on Source engine

Tim Cain (left) / Cover art of Conan, a 2007 game by Nihilistic Software (right)

In a new video on his YouTube channel, Cain said he came across a proposal for a Conan the Barbarian game while going through his old files. He wrote this short document in June 2004, when Troika Games was winding down the work on Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines, and since then he completely forgot about its existence.

The studio, where Cain was one of the founders along with other renowned devs (Leonard Boyarsky and Jason Anderson), was trying to figure out what they would do after the release of Bloodlines. So the Conan RPG was one of the ideas, and Cain chose this setting because he was a fan of the original books and ran a high school D&D campaign based entirely on the Hyborian Age.

Here is a brief game overview that Cain wrote in 2004:

Conan the Barbarian is an action RPG set in Robert Howard’s glorious Hyborian Age, the age of Conan, an age of black magicians, corrupt kings, and proud adventures. Black-haired and sullen, Conan was a thief, a corsair, a man-at-arms, who traveled the length and breadth of the shining kingdoms of the Hyborian Age, eventually to rule one of his own. The fates of empires turn on the strength and skill of his sharp-edged sword.

The proposed project was expected to give the player a lot of freedom in terms of various in-game decisions. In his document, Cain described an encounter with multiple options: kill the guards at the temple doors and get noticed by nearby priests, look for other entrances to the location, or sneak past the guards unnoticed. Conan could also use multiple weapons, including a sword, a bow, or even his fists.

The text pitch also contains information about the game’s system mechanics:

Unlike most role-playing games, where the player begins as a weak character, Conan the Barbarian starts the player with a strong main character already. The player then chooses how to make him even more powerful as the game progresses. He can buy additional combat moves, such as strangulation or cyclone strike, stealth moves; he can buy damage resistances to injury types, such as crushing or fire, or even buy magical immunities in order to bring down powerful wizards. Multiple combat moves later on can be stacked for more devastation. Realistic physics simulations will allow Conan to toss his enemies around from the sheer force of his blows.

In the Engines & Graphics section, Cain wrote that Troika planned to use the “technologically advanced” version of Valve’s Source engine. The proposed Conan RPG was also expected to feature an over-the-shoulder third-person camera and “realistic facial animations.”

Interestingly, Cain doesn’t remember which publishers Troika sent this text pitch to back in 2004. At that time, the studio had many draft proposals, including Baldur’s Gate 3, Might & Magic X, a game based on The Lord of the Rings, and The Temple of Elemental Evil sequel. So the Conan RPG was just one of the ideas that never made it beyond a text document.

Most concepts like this tend to stay behind closed doors, so it is great to see developers like Tim Cain sharing some of them with the public. For more details on the Conan the Barbarian game proposal, watch the full video below.

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