If you know one thing about indie MMORPG Camelot Unchained, it’s that CEO Mark Jacobs appears to dwell perpetually in internet comment sections amiably sparring with gamers and attracting loyal advocates.
But if you know two things, you also know that the game is late. Really late. The RvR-centric, PvM-free, anti-lockbox, sub-only MMO was supposed to enter beta three years ago, according to its successful 2013 Kickstarter, but studio City State Entertainment suffered admitted setbacks along the way – both hiring difficulties in the company’s Fairfax, Virginia, location and technical hurdles. Much of that has since been rectified; in 2016, the company launched a second studio in Seattle while continuing to hire engineers and spending the better part of a year completely refactoring its character ability code and polishing up its home-grown engine. But here we are in 2018, still mumbling beta when? at Jacobs and his dogged crew.
Well, we’re finally getting an answer to that question and more, along with a significant blast of hope for the future of the game, as CSE has just received a massive cash infusion to speed up development. I spoke to Jacobs at length – he’s infamous for being effusive – about what’s going on with the game and the studio in 2018. Read on for the executive summary!
Camelot Unchained has been teasing a slew of big announcements coming over the next few weeks, and finally one of them is here. No, it’s not beta one (though it’s coming!), but it is the news that City State is once again hiring. It’s already picked up a brand-new community manager and senior animator, both of whom begin this month, plus it’s still hiring for more positions in both offices.
“As time goes on, the announcements’ importance in terms of our Backers current concerns/worries/”BETA WHEN?” will grow, and more questions will be answered, news will be shared, and the question of the Beta 1 start date will be addressed,” CSE says. Maybe hold off on those “beta when” tattoos for now.
This week’s update also includes bits and bobs about progress on the UI, ability buttons, floating combat text, disconnection bugs, animations, and art. The whole Q&A with CSE’s Mark Jacobs is tucked down below.
One of the frustrating bits about our end-of-the-year content rollouts is that sometimes predictions and story roundups can come across as negative. It’s way too easy to assume that if someone is predicting game X will flop, she wants it to happen and is gleefully steepling her fingers and cackling madly over its future demise. Which is just not so! I never steeple my fingers.
But all the same, for tonight’s Massively Overthinking, we’d like to take a moment to set aside our fears and expectations and just talk about our hopes and wishes for 2018 in an MMORPG context. That was what we think will happen. This is a summary of our most optimistic daydreams.
Massively OP’s not-so-serious end-of-the-year awards continue today with our blooper award for Best worst headline. And the winner is…
It’s no massive January announcement, but Camelot Unchained’s end-of-year reports supply enough reading to un-bah many humbugs during the holiday break.
First up is the monthly newsletter, CSE talks about the importance of prototypes and fast iterations before committing to and fleshing out features. “During the prototype stage of development, the most important goal is to figure out what should go into the game, and how it should be put together. This means we must figure out the right aesthetics, performance, and general ‘fun’ factor each feature should have, which isn’t always easy,” said Ben Pielstick.
The weekly newsletter gave a toast to the community and 2017, while also showing off some floating combat text and concept armor variations.
And for the sub-only crowd, here’s an encouraging quote from Mark Jacobs: “We’ll never go [free-to-play] with Camelot Unchained as long as I’m in charge. I believe promises should be kept, and I made this promise to our KS Backers and thus, I’ll keep it.”
Welcome to a special edition of Make My MMO, Massively OP’s regular recap of what’s going on in crowdfunded MMOs, which we do specifically for those of you who are convinced Kickstarter is the absolute worst (it’s not) and that no crowdfunded MMOs ever launch (they do). Plus, somebody’s got to keep an eye on what your money’s up to! Tonight’s edition isn’t going to be our usual recap of the last couple of weeks, however; we’re going to look at the most important MMO crowdfunding news of the entire year. Lock up your wallets and let’s get to it.
With 2017 drawing to a close and 2018 rushing up to meet us, the Massively OP team has regrouped for another round of bold and goofy predictions for the year ahead. We’re feeling pretty good after our fairly successful predictions from last year! What’s in store for the MMO genre next year? Here’s what we think.
It has become a long-standing tradition as Massively OP and our former site that we like to end the year by creating a list of titles that we anticipate for the coming one. It has always been a devilish list to create, full of loose dates and fast guesswork about which titles will and won’t be releasing during a 12-month window (just read last year’s list to see how spot-on I was).
This year we’re changing things up a bit by tossing out the qualifying factor of “will see a hard launch in 2018.” Instead, I drafted up a list of 20 MMOs that have the potential to do or be really interesting next year, whether that be a launch, a long-anticipated beta test, or some other significant development. Plus, hey, you get 20 for the price of 10, so no complaining now!
As an aside, this list isn’t going to cover some other exciting-looking multiplayer games that are arriving in 2018, like Anthem, Sea of Thieves, The Crew 2, Monster Hunter World, DayZ, Red Dead Redemption 2, Stardew Valley, Conan Exiles, and State of Decay 2. And you old school fans won’t want to forget that Ultima Online has a new free-to-play option coming this spring.
They aren’t dressing it up with “burndown” hoopla, but City State Entertainment’s devs are in just that kind of check-it-off testing mode with Camelot Unchained’s development as they push their way to the long-delayed beta one. In this week’s dev update, Tyler Rockwell explains that the team continues work on its template component system, the Dragonfang scenario and Place of Power maps, scenario automation, NPC tech, the world space UI, combat effects, lady clothes, armor animations, the patcher art, and skill buttons – although really they could’ve saved themselves a lot of trouble and just made a single I-win button, am I right?
Books are also on the agenda! “Jon began work sculpting out different Realm variations of books, the magic tomes a caster might use as a type of focus,” Rockwell says. “These, like our other weapons, are being designed to include interchangeable pieces that can be used in crafting.”
“We continue to push forward on the needs for Beta 1, while making improvements to not only combat, but also gameplay. This is part of our commitment, through the Dragon Circle concept, to provide our patient Backers with a more fun experience during testing, up to and into Beta 1.”
Settle in, folks, because it’s Camelot Unchained monthly newsletter day — and that means plenty of good reading for those excited about this RvR title.
One of the big topics this month was the preparation for something that the team is calling Saturday Night Sieges. These beta activities, according to Mark Jacobs, “are intended to distill down some of the most fun aspects of our game into the form of scenarios, and allow our players to interact with each other in the same way as they will in the LIVE game.”
Jacobs said that these Sieges will grow as the team ropes more players in to test elements that will be present in the live game, such as siege engines, building destruction, and a full arsenal of weapons. The best part? When Saturday Night Sieges meets the teams goals, the game will officially be in Beta 1 testing.
Last week, Massively OP’s Eliot Lefebvre wrote a (fantastic) Soapbox editorial arguing that Star Wars Battlefront II (and its concomitant monetization dust-up) is merely a symptom of the “long tail” trend of the games business. As he put it, it’s not a bad thing that game companies seek to make money; they need money to make games, and games make us happy. We’re happy to pay fair prices for good games! But EA, he argues, is merely undertaking a “blatant cash grab” over and above the rising costs of making games, and the worst part is that the game developers themselves aren’t reaping the benefits of the publishers’ increased revenue.
“The programmers and art staff don’t wind up seeing much, if anything, from these increased profit margins, still being subjected to an awful volume of crunch time and demanding workloads with ever-growing headcounts,” Eliot asserted. “And the people making these games aren’t seeing any benefit from all of these increases; salaries aren’t going up except for the people at the top end.”
But that might be true for only a segment of corporate developers. In conversation with Massively OP, Camelot Unchained boss-man Mark Jacobs suggests that over the last five years, developer salaries – specifically programmers – have increased significantly.
Due to the truncated holiday week, the Camelot Unchained team didn’t have as much time to get work done. Still, there was progress made on several fronts, according to the newsletter, including work on emotes, stamping down server spikes, and automating scenarios.
There will be a short IT test over the weekend before the team gets back to the grind next week. In the meanwhile, City State Entertainment took a moment to give thanks.
“For us at CSE, we are more than thankful not only for our supportive backers, but also for the opportunity to work with you on such a great game,” the team said. “Once again, thank you for your kind words, enthusiasm and patience. If our playtests are any indication, we’re on a great path to succeed, and have fun along the way!”
When the bugs are away, the developers will play. Camelot Unchained’s team reported that it made significant advancement this past week on its “Saturday Night Sieges” scenarios. These are going so well, in fact, that the team sees switching to external testing on these sooner rather than later.
“The progress we’ve made has improved the stability of the scenarios, allowing us more time to run around killing each other in our office tests,” the devs said. “This means that, for some, our focus has begun to shift into combat bugs and improvements. It’s great to experience how fun things feel, this early in testing. Our goal now is to get the major issues out of the way so we’re not masking the fun with known bugs.”