Mark Jacobs explains Camelot Unchained's beta delay, confirms game title [Updated]

Camelot Unchained's Mark Jacobs has admitted to backers today that the first round of CU's beta, originally planned for August, will be delayed.

Jacobs has explained that the senior programmer hired in June was essentially poached two days after his arrival. While CSE has since hired yet another new programmer, he won't begin until September, making the August beta impossible. Jacobs told Massively OP that the beta could be delayed into next year, but he won't set any date until the refreshed programming team is back on course.

He has, however, assured backers that the game's "spending is below projections," so the budget is good shape. CSE will continue to issue a refund to any crowdfunder who requests it.

We spoke to Jacobs prior to the official announcement to ask a few questions about the delay and its impact on the development of the game. Read on for the full Q&A and the Twitch stream.

Massively Overpowered: We now know that the first of three planned Camelot Unchained betas, originally estimated for August, has been delayed, but we don't know how much. I know you're not announcing a new date just yet, but can you ballpark it? Since the new programmer won't start until September and you originally wanted a programmer for June, we're looking at several months of delay, right? If you're not announcing the new date until September, is there any chance it'll be delayed until next year?

Mark Jacobs: Yes, there is a chance that it will be delayed till next year. When you are working with a small team, the loss of a couple of people can make a huge difference, so it would be foolish for me to say that nothing bad could possibly happen over the next few months. On the other hand, things are moving along nicely for the team size we have, and we are pretty confident that we can get an awful lot done before the end of the year.

Do you anticipate any other delays or potential delays? What misfortunes would drive the game even further off course? Is the studio going to rush to try to stay on track for beta 2 and beta 3, or will those be similarly displaced? How long/how many times can CSE delay without affecting the budget?

The key to our moving forward on schedule was (and remains) dependent our ability to add the right people to the team. We are certainly not going to rush to stay on track, because doing things that way leads to spending too much money, too quickly. And as I've said in the past, it is precisely because we didn't try to rush to beta that we are still in great shape, money-wise. As for how many more times we can delay without affecting the budget, well, I think what's really important right now is that we're currently fine financially, even with this delay. Now, if we were going to announce delay after delay, or we had to say, "Sorry, we're scrapping our engine and switching to XXX," then I would start to be really worried. On the other hand, I think the chance of either of those scenarios happening is a lot smaller than even Ant-Man can get.

Are players correct in thinking that the delay actually means that no features or content will be sacrificed in order to help the studio keep to an arbitrary timeline?

Correct. During the Kickstarter, we said that one of the reasons I was putting in my own money was so that if/when we encountered delays, we wouldn't have to bow to publisher/investor demands to start scrapping stuff in order to hit a certain release date. That hasn't changed, and even with this delay, and it's not going to change. The possibility of delays like this one is why we went down this path, regarding hiring and post-release stretch goals. Can you imagine how dumb we would look if all of our SGs were geared to more content, features, etc., for launch? That would be just awful. In that scenario, how could we say, with a straight face, that we could hit our release date?

Could you explain to readers why precisely one key programming position has been so difficult to fill (and keep filled) and how that one role can bottleneck the whole game?

Guys like Andrew, who can write a great engine from scratch, are just hard to come by. What has made it even harder to attract talent? Well, the fact remains that we are in Virginia, and not California or Austin. We had this same problem at Mythic, before we were acquired by EA. The key reason usually cited by many prospective candidates for not taking our offers is that if something goes wrong in Virginia, they pretty much have to leave Virginia and move to a different state. For example, even when Dark Age of Camelot was a huge hit back in 2001, we still had more difficulty that we expected in attracting talent to join the studio. On the other hand, once CSE made the decision to allow the senior guys to work remotely, the resumes started flowing more rapidly.

In terms of how a senior graphics engineer can bottleneck us: It doesn't bottleneck the whole game, but it does negatively impact our schedule. For example, the first task on the new programmer's task list was to improve/rewrite our VFX system. What we have works well, but we need to take it to the next level. Since we didn't have the manpower to do that on time, it meant that some members of the art team had to move on to other tasks. Additionally, it delays implementation of more of the A.I.R. system until we get the new VFX system since VFX are kind of central to A.I.R. Plus, once he left, it meant that Andrew and I had to spend lots of time on new candidates, legal, and other matters, which took our focus away from what was most important, making the darned game. Unfortunately, that process continues even today.

The last senior programmer would have been a huge catch for an indie studio; usually it's the studio he was from that is poaching from indies like CSE. Can you tell us a bit about the New Guy/Gal and what he/she will bring that is of specific value to CU? What's the plan if this new hire doesn't work out?

OK, I'm going to do something I normally don't do and "cop out" a little here. Because I don't want to jinx things, I am thus obligated to be super cautious about this. However, I will say that he is a very experienced, senior programmer, who will fit in just beautifully on both the networking and gameplay sides of the team.

What specifically is the team's focus this summer other than the alphas? What is doable sans that senior programmer?

Our focus for the remainder of the summer is both to continue to increase the engine's ability to handle an ever-increasing number of Backers and Bots, as well as to make the engine build feel more like a game build. So, things like weather, wind, clouds, new terrain system, the first classes, etc., will all be making an appearance before the summer is over.

How have the alpha tests been going in general? Has the team done any course-correcting in design and tech as a result of the concentrated alpha periods?

The alpha tests have gone great. We've had the expected kind of issues pop up, and so far, we are dealing with them quite well. As we've been saying, the engine is coming along great, and we've been slowly adding new tech to it. In terms of any course-correction, nope, we've been tweaking stuff, of course, but we haven't had any "Oh, we need to scratch this entire system" yet, and that is a very, very good thing.

How many refunds did CU see after the last delay? How many do you anticipate seeing now? Will you be offering any additional awards to existing backers or incentives for brand-new backers after this announcement? Are you concerned that recent happenings in the crowdfunding space regarding refunds and missed dates will negatively affect CU?

The last delay cost us many thousands of dollars, and I have to expect that this delay will do the same, and potentially a bit worse. On the other hand, we really pushed out a lot of stuff during the P.A.T.S., and I think we can do the same thing during the extended alpha. FYI, to date we have paid almost 50K in refunds. As far as offering different incentives, well, we'll talk about that in two months when we announce the beta date. All I'll say for now is that our alpha backers will certainly have more time in alpha, and at a minimum, as a thank-you to them, I plan on having the servers up more often than we originally planned, during the extended alpha. For our backers with beta 1 access, we will also be letting them into the alpha tests at certain times, but we'll talk more about this going forward.

As to whether the stuff in the crowdfunding space will affect us? Probably, but we've been very clear about our refund policy, and we will continue to stick to it. We are pretty unique among crowdfunded games on that score, and I'm proud of that. I'm hoping our backers will recognize this delay as what it is: not good news, but a good sign for the future. As I said in the video, we could have said that we were delaying beta for a couple of months, then rushed out a crappy beta in the early fall and said, "Mission accomplished!" We might make games, but we aren't going to play those kinds of mind games with our backers. They trusted us with their support, and I'm not going to betray that trust to avoid the heat, avoid paying refunds, avoid criticism, or anything else. Any and all crowdfunded developers should be willing to do the same, once donations from players are accepted by them.

You'd told your backers a few months ago that your wife was seriously ill, leading to extra stress and time away from the game's production for you. How is your wife doing now?

We had a couple of quite unexpected setbacks, but things are back on track. She'll be beginning her radiation treatments soon, and fortunately, she didn't have to go through chemotherapy, so we are looking at that as a big win. However, while it did and does add extra stress, I wasn't away from the game's development for very long. In some ways, I'm still the same guy I was back at EA, when after my mom died from cancer I was back in the office quite quickly, and even worked from the hospital. Fortunately, I've been able to go with Janet to all of her appointments, surgery, recovery time, etc., and still run the studio and be the lead designer. After all, there are still 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week, as the backers on our forums can attest.

Thanks for your time and candor!

Update: 07/17/2015 3:26:13 PM EDT: During the stream, Jacobs confirmed that "Camelot Unchained" will indeed be the final name of the game. A previously selected name was actually claimed by another studio, so CSE decided to stick with CU.
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144 Comments on "Mark Jacobs explains Camelot Unchained's beta delay, confirms game title [Updated]"

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hvd
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hvd

come on im tired of wow and eso need my daoc fix.dont wait to long to put this out.

Bolognapwny
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Bolognapwny

I would accept the delay, but the fact that they can't fill needed positions on their staff should be a sign of the product they are producing.  Lets not get started on the very sheltered fanboyism they have following and supporting the game.  This game will be vapor ware for an engine they will try to sell to a better company later.  I will say Mark is really seducing all these people to help him get what he needs.  Think about it... put up some of his own cash promise to make a Niche game eg: not popular game which will give an excuse to shut it down and then sell the engine to other companies...

Final point... 2 MMOPRG games he was involved in failed (not counting the many other games he had part in)... he can't make games as proven in the past... he blames it on everyone around him instead of taking the blame.  If you supported this game... take him up on his offer and get your refund.

Reht
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Reht

While i am just a little disappointed at the news (only because i am really looking forward to the day the game launches) and CSE's luck at filling these critical needs, I still feel incredibly confident in MJ's vision and his team's ability to make this game and make it great.  The honesty, unprecedented interaction and transparency that MJ has shown to his backers has been astounding for an industry that is normally very tight-lipped and cloaked in secrecy.  I have wasted plenty of money on crowdfunded and soft-release games than i care to admit and haven't once thought about asking for a refund.   Keep up the good work CSE!

David Bacon
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David Bacon

Mark Jacobs David Bacon Like the majority of people who have posted on this article- I'm of the opinion that it will take as long as it takes to deliver this title. In CSE we trust.
Now I know completion of CU is a long way of but any chance of resurrecting a title similar to Imperator Online :). I was chuffed when you got the Warhammer license- but gutted when Imperator was dropped due to the impracticalities of developing two new title alongside each other and running DAOC.

TierlessTime
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TierlessTime

Mark Jacobs Just remember easy things are never as rewarding. :)

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

TierlessTime Yep. I think he would have been a great hire, it's a shame. Bad timing, luck, etc. Nothing is ever easy.

TierlessTime
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TierlessTime

Unfortunate but part of the process I believe. I'd rather run a short crew than take a bad hire any day. The things I've seen one bad hire do to a work environment (shudders).

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

Cobin Jondron Thanks so much for the support, kind words, etc.

Well, I'm caught up with comments here, time to work on the update. BBL all.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

vemerce Mark Jacobs Thanks so much for that, as per above.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

Nanulak Thanks! It was the popular choice. :)

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

PaganRites Yeah, I was a little sad about Camelot Unchained being the true name but due to the stuff I talked about during the live stream and the delay, well, it made sense to stick with it. As to the programmer, I want everybody to move on (including myself of course). It happened, it sucks but to quote one of our Backers who sent Lady J and I some new presents, "It can always be worse..."

So true, so true.

PR, you know how I feel about you and your support. So... :)

Cobin Jondron
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Cobin Jondron

Anyone who has followed the development of a game of this magnitude realistically has to expect delays. It would take some serious setbacks and a dishonest course of events to get me to ask for a refund on my donation, which is something that Mark Jacobs is certainly not known for. I backed this game because I believe in his vision of a follow-up MMO to Dark Age of Camelot, which was by far my favorite, or one of my favorite games to date. There is a lot of experience, knowledge and integrity among this development team, and I am confident that they will deliver a product that is well worth the wait! Keep up the good work Mark, lifetime supporter here.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

vemerce Wow, nice, thanks so much. I have to correct you though (sorry), you can buy Builder's Packs for the game, not Founder's Packs. The Builder's Packs are still great but they are different from the Founder's Packs (bought during the KS). 

However, please make sure you read up on the game on our Wiki page (http://camelot.gamepedia.com) and/or our website before you pledge. We really want our Backers to be on-board with the game we are making, even though we are still giving refunds. Saves wear and tear on my fingers. :)

Thanks for the kind words and, no matter what, for your interest in our game.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

Sinaptic Thanks, as always. The push to Beta will be an important one for the studio, more so even than the push to Alpha. Pushing to Alpha was a push on tech now, in the push to Beta, the game has to start to emerge. Tech is far more objective than subjective. Gameplay and art, well, that's the opposite.

Thanks for the trust Sinaptic, I'll never betray it. No body can guarantee that a game will be pure awesome sauce for everybody. OTOH, I can guarantee that I'll continue to earn the trust of our Backers.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

cald I understand why some Backers want a refund and I'm okay with it. However, I think though if gamers do that, they also shouldn't complain when a game comes out with problems. Can't have it both ways. :)

I bear no anger nor ill-will to those that have asked for a refund, it's what we said we would do and as such, they have a right to make their own decision. Fortunately, while the amount of refunds isn't 0, it's still well within we I thought I would be this morning. I'm working on an email update to our Backers that will recap what was said in the Live Stream and reaffirm our refund policy. As I've always said, I'll be upfront if/when there are problems and you can't do that hiding the best news or having someone else deliver it because you don't want/scared to be associated with bad news. If you want to stand in the spotlight you shouldn't be willing to stand in front of the firing squad either. :) 

Thanks Cald, as always.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

JohanLundqvistMattsson Thanks for the trust and support BUT we do owe all of our Backers an explanation just as any developer, crowdfunded or not, owes an explanation to those that have been waiting for a game to come out. Now, as a crowdfunded game, I think the duty owed is even higher because it is your folks' money, along with my own, that is being put into the game. So, will I'm deeply grateful for you and those other Backers who do not need one, I think you all deserve them and that principle, like my Foundational Principles, are crucial to me.

Fortunately, the delay was almost entirely due to staffing issues. Yeah, mistakes happen in all disciplines during a game's development but fortunately, we haven't been hit with the dreaded "We need to scrap XXX and start again" problem. Whether that is testament to skill, luck, etc. who knows? I'm just glad that since we had to say that we were going to delay Beta that we did so in July and not the end of August and that things are going well overall.

As to Dark Age of Camelot, it was made by a great team of people to whom I am always grateful just as I am to our current team.

Thanks again Johan!

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

David Bacon Thanks David, for the support here, and with the project of course. Things are never easy and man, the ups and down we had during the development of Dark Age of Camelot were even more dramatic than most roller-coasters rides. We'll get there, it will just take us a bit longer than we would have liked.

David Bacon
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David Bacon

When I backed this game on Kickstarter I knew full well that there were going to be delays and obstacles along the way. It is an ambitious and exciting project with a small team working on a much stricter budget then a lot of other titles out there.  This should have been obvious to anyone who backed CU at any stage of its funding and development. 

Mark and the team have gone out of their way to keep us informed of changes- which is a darn sight better than a lot of crowd funded games.

Keep up the good work folks.

JohanLundqvistMattsson
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JohanLundqvistMattsson

I have a total and complete respect for Mark Jakobs expertise and experience.
I do not need an explanation, since I have a 100% trust in him.
If it is delayed, then he and his team has a reason, and that is more than enough for me.
I can wait.
#fanforever
ps ...
DAOC is still the best RvR game ever made til this day ... ;)

cald
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cald

Why would people be asking for a refund.. games take a long time to create and there can be a lot of set backs along the way. Its almost like people expect the game to be 100% finished right when the kickstarter finished..

I backed this as I wanted to see it get made.. I did not want to see it get rushed out the door as a buggy mess,

Sinaptic
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Sinaptic

I have no interest in a refund. I trust and will wait for MJ. MJ has been open and honest about the whole situation from the start.
It sucks yes but it happens.

vemerce
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vemerce

Mark Jacobs Just the fact that you're willing to give unhappy people refunds and delay things when they need to be delayed for the betterment of the product, I'm going to at least buy and try Camelot Unchained. Goodwill like that from a company deserves to be supported. (And the fact that you personally supported MassivelyOP, to help them get back on their feet, speaks volumes as well.)

vemerce
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vemerce

Even though this is somewhat bad news for people that backed Camelot Unchained, this announcement does give me a bit of respect for the studio. Not many Kickstarter titles would offer refunds to unhappy customers and not many companies in general delay games until they work these days.
I didn't back Camelot Unchained, so I missed that boat. If I had, I wouldn't be asking for a refund. In fact, I'm wishing they'd do another Kickstarter so that I could jump on board and throw some money at them; help compensate for the people that drop their support due to beta delays.

PaganRites
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PaganRites

Fuuu...  I've been in the wilderness a few days and totally out of the loop.  This is really disappointing to hear.  I totally support Mark and team CU, just totally bummed for them.  Kind of curious who this senior programmer is.  Pretty douchebaggy thing to do.  Also, pretty surprised the CU name is now the final.  At this point, might as well as everyone knows the name.

Mark, keep fighting the good fight on all fronts.  Fan forever.  -PR

PaganRites
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PaganRites

Mark Jacobs Jigawatts If you do, I'll be there!

Nanulak
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Nanulak

Before I forget..disregarding the temporary bump in the road on beta testing.  Congratulations on the final naming of the game "Camelot Unchained".  I for one support this choice.

Jigawatts
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Jigawatts

Mark Jacobs Jigawatts Hold me to it, I'll be there with bells on....just....for the love of god, no daily quests! :P

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

Leilonii Mark Jacobs Celestia KalaMona Can't force people to stay if they don't want to and frankly, that would be a bad thing. Yeah, it really sucked the way it went down and it was a blow to the studio and a personal embarrassment for me but such is life.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

Jigawatts Awesome. I'll hold you to that. :) I do hope I get to make at least one more PvE MMORPG. I was heavily focused on WAR's starting areas and IMO they were among the best in the industry at the time. But I want to do even better next time and I believe I know how to do it. Hopefully I'll get the chance.

Jigawatts
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Jigawatts

Mark, I love you man, you seriously rock, never ever change. And if you ever decide to do a no hand-holding PVE centric game with the feels of classic EQ/vanilla WoW and unique sandbox elements intertwined, I will be there from day 1 my friend.

Estranged
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Estranged

Mark Jacobs Estranged Kahai Given the parties involved.  Yes.  :)

Leilonii
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Leilonii

Mark Jacobs Celestia KalaMona Maybe it's just me but I think it's pretty shitty of both the programmer and whoever hired him/her that caused him to leave. I hope that reputation follows them because you can't trust someone like that. I have never seen someone leave a job so fast for another one. Why start the one if you're not planning to see how it goes? Beyond that, you should have people in vital positions like that sign something that says they need to stick around for X amount of days before leaving. :(

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

Mark Jacobs paragonlostinspace  LOL! Goof! Off with you!   :)

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

paragonlostinspace Yeah, it was a bad roll, certainly. And yes, we are back in the hunt. Once we knew he was lost to us, we spun the headhunter up again to go back into the fields working for the highly sought-after game. We've had a few interviews, lots of resumes and some phone calls. The trouble is, that guy was really talented and a perfect fit, that's why it hurt so much. :(

Thanks for the good wishes to Lady J. She really has been greatly moved by all the support from people such as yourself.

I'm outta here now.

<poof>

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

paragonlostinspace Mark Jacobs Yep and I'm responding to you too. :)

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

Mark Jacobs Heh, I posted as you did. lol. Have a good afternoon Mark.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

Darn Mark, you rolled a critical fumble on the "roll for Senior Graphics Engineer" loot roll!  Keep on keeping on, we'll wait. Or in other words get back into the queue for that sweet sweet senior graphics engineer lewt roll!  :) Also continued well wishes directed at Lady J from me and mine. :)

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

BBL folks, I'm off with the Lady J for a while. So, if I don't respond, I'm not ignoring you. :)

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

Atlasien Mark Jacobs Draugris Zer0K We are willing to have programmers work remotely, which we weren't before. It's more of a hassle but it can be done. FYI, that's why we got some additional resumes. :)

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

Mark Jacobs Edany (AmberACurtis) Celestia  LOL@ Made me snarfle she did. heh.. Gotta show that one to the wife.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

blackparrot89 Mark Jacobs Not as young as I used to be and man, now that the FDA has said NSAIDs are even worse than they thought, my workouts hurt more. A couple of Motrin before the gym/court were so helpful. :(

LOL about the feature creep. Yeah, can't do that. 

I do really, really want to do a PvE-focused game again. There are so many interesting things we can do that we aren't doing to more those kinds of games forward. But, as much as I would love to add them to CU, that would be a big mistake even if we raised lots of money by doing so.

CU and RvR, first, foremost and forever.

And yeah, pets, fields of rippling pets... all there is in life is pets... lots of pets... a tremendous amount of pets... yellow pets... red pets... pets with feathers...

:)

Atlasien
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Atlasien

Mark Jacobs Draugris Zer0K

I''m not in the gaming part of IT, but from what I've seen the only reliable way to get (and keep) a senior programmer is to grow one. Which is not really workable for CSE at this point.

Have you given thought to hiring from abroad and having them work remotely most of the time? Perhaps there is some US specific legal issue with that though.

Celestia
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Celestia

Edany (AmberACurtis) That is definitely a picture of something.  o.O

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

Gylnne You're welcome and Lady J is doing fine now, we are quite fortunate. Thanks, as always.

Gylnne
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Gylnne

Mark delays in life happen and are to be expected but as always thank you for your honesty. My prayers are with your wife for a quick recover.

blackparrot89
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blackparrot89

Mark Jacobs
Yeah, about the PVE I already knew the answer, since we don't want to have feature creeps now do we? ^^ Anywho you are still a young man, I believe in time we may see another pve game from you. Something something pets :D 

As always nice talking and have a wonderful day ahead.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

Edany (AmberACurtis) Mark Jacobs Celestia LOL, same to you as always.

And yeah, Lady J is doing well and, as per other posts, has been really touched by the kindness of the Community as a whole and by specific individuals as well (hmmm, wonder who?). 

Today will be a great day. Our son is having an awesome time taking a summer class at college, Janet is doing well and the vast majority of our Backers and the Community-at-large have been awesome, as usual. I can't ask for more than that.

Thanks again Amber.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

blackparrot89 First, thanks for the praise and kind words about Janet, much appreciated.

Secondly, as to adding PvE, can't since we pitched this game as an RvR-focused game but I'll take a rain check if we do a PvE game down the road K?

And as to the budget, I see what you did there, nice. :)

Edany (AmberACurtis)
Guest
Edany (AmberACurtis)

KalaMona Poaching - Hunting on territory or land that is not yours, that you should not be on. The Programmer would be considered the 'game' or animal, the other studio went on land that they shouldn't have been on (CSE Studios), and poached (stole) the programmer.

Edany (AmberACurtis)
Guest
Edany (AmberACurtis)

Mark Jacobs Edany (AmberACurtis) Celestia Glad to hear about Lady J Mark, very glad. I miss picking on you here and there, that's all ;) Have a great day!!

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