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.”
Last week, Camelot Unchained posted up its big plans for test hoopla, including its Saturday Night Sieges. In CSE’s latest newsletter, it outlines its testing of the first version of deathmatch gameplay for those events.
“Most recently, we’ve been focusing on tracking down a performance issue preventing us from opening up Hatchery to our IT Backers, but we’ve got some good leads,” writes the studio. “If we can get those resolved, we’re hoping to reopen the server to IT next week!”
The team has also been working on NPCs, the scenario system, performance improvements, siege engines and ammo, the emote system, new UI icons, clothing, concept art, and character animations, chiefly for emotes and new weapons. My favorite, however, is the latest round of concept clothing, this batch for the Tuatha de Danann. You can check that out along with the team’s weekly wrap-up down below!
I remember years ago when then-Massively-columnist Rubi Bayer let loose with a blistering rant on the state of faux beta MMOs. She helmed Betawatch back then, see, and she was fed up with (mostly imported) MMOs claiming to be in beta when in fact they’d soft-launched. A lot of readers didn’t understand her fury at the time, but boy have things changed, right? Now, every game’s in on that very old trick, only they call it early access now, while some are still pushing the boundaries, charging $1000 for pre-alpha.
MOP reader Pepperzine proposed a topic for this week’s Massively Overthinking that’s right on point. “I was thinking it would be interesting if we could discuss when people consider a game to be in alpha/beta versus a final launch as a topic,” he wrote to us.
“Back in the day, this was easy to determine. Selective testers were extended invites into beta who were experienced testers who had the computer hardware to handle the software. The primary purpose of being in the testing phase was exactly that, to test and bug report. When the game was made available to the public at a price, a game was considered launched. Now, players are granted access to pre-launch titles by ‘donating’ or purchasing access. For the most part, the primary purpose of participating in the pre-launch experience for these players is not testing or bug reporting but rather to experience and play the game. The division of purchasing a game and donating to test has become so blurred that it is no longer a valid way of determining if a title is at a state to where it is launch ready. These titles can stay in this pre-launch phase for as long as they deem necessary, easily deflecting criticisms by reiterating it is still in development. So when do you consider a game to be launched? Is it when the producers declare it is? Is it when there is no longer the possibility of wipes? Is it when cash shop monetization is implemented? Is it as soon as the company begins selling access?”
Where’s the line in 2017? Let’s dig in.
It’s a productive era for the Camelot Unchained, as the team has reduced testing in order to “buckle down and focus” on development projects.
One of these is a new messaging system for the game that the team is calling the Post Office: “This allows us to send information from one entity to another in cases where we either don’t know where our intended receiver lives or if we have multiple receivers (and we don’t know where they live). We utilize this kind of system in gameplay, so we can tell players (or really anything that cares) what’s currently happening in the heat of battle.”
The team continues to have its hands full with other projects, such as improving the stability of the client, beefing up the character info screen, adding more sounds to siege engines, and refining weapon animations.
A diverse smattering of projects kept the Camelot Unchained team busy this past week, per the game’s newsletter report. It sounds as though players will have to earn their sea legs at some point, as more designs for Viking and Arthurian ships are being made.
Other points of interest include drafting up character creation backgrounds, whipping together a developer UI for fast-and-dirty testing, the ability to spawn NPCs in the game, and animating characters with great swords.
And just in case you were worried about getting ganked fresh out of the character creation screen, Camelot Unchained is preparing a save haven for your starter experience: “For Beta 1, we’ll want to have starting zones and safe zones. Colin’s work will allow us to spawn new players in designated starting zones and spawn returning players in those zones if the zone they logged out from is no longer up. Additionally, this work will gate access to a zone by faction. You wouldn’t want filthy Vikings running around on your TDD safe island, would you?”
MOP reader Sally Bowls is on a roll with the good questions lately! She lobbed us one this past weekend that seems a good follow-up to a comment thread discussion about the problems inherent in unregulated three-way factional PvP/RvR (and how a game like Camelot Unchained will regulate it). By way of example, she noted that a certain MMO griefer famously argued in favor of strategy that basically made the opponent not want to log in, using tactics like creating timesinks and hassles in a sandbox. “Should the dominant faction on a RvRvR server ‘camp’ the smallest to try to drive them off?” she wondered.
“If it’s about fair PvP, then that is anathema. But if you see the game as being about your faction being at war with other factions, then not doing your utmost to win that war is incompetence. Neither is bad design per se, just a conflict in understanding of the goals. And will Camelot Unchained really be RvR, doing everything legal for your realm to win? Or will it be about PvP battles, with the RvR rhetoric being more marketing fluff than von Clausewitz and Machiavelli? If camping a mine hurts your kill/death ratio but makes the opponent weaker due to hassles or crafting, is that winning or losing? Is an RvR game really about realms vs. realms or is it just another BG?”
I’ve pitched Sally’s comments to the team for consideration in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Is RvR just a more carebear-friendly way to market FFA PvP? Do you play RvR or factional PvP to win or to have fun, and how does that differ from a more open FFA sandbox? How would you design three-way factional PvP to keep people from quitting and stop griefing before it starts?
This week’s Camelot Unchained update is a top 10 list with 17 items, which is the sort of thing our own Perfect Ten writers would do, so we’ve got to get onboard with that. City State says its minions have been busy working on client lockups, web tools, the dev UI, progression tracking, archery, bow models, siege abilities, a big ol’ boat, and the usual assortment of VFX, art, and animations, plus character creation:
“AJ has been working on updating the character creation process. Not only are the new animated backgrounds hooked up, but the individual screens and general flow have gotten some TLC. Some examples include: changing attribute points updates your character stat values, and we’ve added a help button, where we can add relevant info to inform your choices.”
The highlight, however, is the WIP background for the Viking character creation screen – love those runestones. We’ve got the new images and Q&A video down below.
In the game’s design docs and our interviews, Camelot Unchained’s Mark Jacobs is positively adamant that multiguilding (that is, being able to join more than one guild at a time on the same character) is harmful and will not be possible in the game. Specifically, the doc argues that multi-guilding is “one of the things that has hurt the viability and attractiveness of guilds in modern MMORPGs” and that “multi-guilds have contributed to the decline of meaningful guilds in MMORPGs.”
My subsequent questions, you probably noticed, fought back against the idea that multiguilding is a problem. That’s because I’ve been a guild leader for a very long time, from hardcore to casual, and I’ve seen how strict and inflexible lines between guilds can actually cause massive rifts in communities and friendships, outstripping their potential for stickiness or society-building, and I’ve seen how blurring the lines, making the unit of play smaller teams or even larger factions or player cities, brings people together in ways structured, hierarchical guilds do not. Making people choose between my guild and somebody else’s was a friendship mistake, one I’d rather not be forced to make again.
On this week’s show, the amazing duo of Bree and Justin look at another beefy Camelot Unchained interview, talk about several new mystery games in development, and boggle over the mobile MMO revolution that has arrived.
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
Listen to the show right now:
In making the transition from limited-focus tests to larger siege gameplay to the long-awaited beta, the team behind Camelot Unchained is “sprinting” as it rounds out the MMO experience with numerous small improvements.
“The intrinsic sense of fun in games instead tends to come from a massive number of small subtle details, which cumulatively add up to an enjoyable experience,” wrote designer Ben Pielstick. “In our case with Camelot Unchained, the details we’re working on at present have to do with things like smoothness of animations for drawing arrows from quivers, the speed at which characters swing their swords, and the time it takes characters to change directions due to WASD movement input.”
You can read up on more of these smaller projects in this week’s newsletter, which includes mentions of shortbow animations, the progression system, the siege user interface, and more faces for characters.
Over the weekend, the studio behind crowdfunded RvR MMORPG Camelot Unchained released a hefty chunk of its ongoing beta one document, revealing extensive insight into the way the game’s social systems will be laid out. Parts of those social systems will look familiar to MMO players, such as groups (Warbands), guilds (Orders), and raids (Battlegroups). But there are more layers to contend with, including perma-groups or mini-guilds (Permanent Warbands), as well as project-oriented raids (Campaigns), all designed in the service of an ambitious RvR-centered MMO that makes space for soloers and small guilds by not over- or under-privileging the largest teams in the genre. That’s the goal, anyway!
CU boss and MMORPG veteran developer Mark Jacobs, whom many of you know personally thanks to his ubiquity in our comments section, gamely answered about a thousand of my questions over the weekend, which we’ve compiled into an absurdly long interview about how to properly smush together all these groups into a social system sandwich that makes everybody happy. There’s even a Star Trek quote and a bonus question about Warhammer Online’s development and CU’s budget at the end!
I strongly urge you to check out the original doc first, as the interview assumes knowledge of the basic terminology and structure of the game. Fair warning: While Camelot Unchained’s document is almost 6000 words, this interview itself is close to 4000. You put Jacobs in a virtual room with me and my questions go on forever, and damn if he doesn’t answer them exhaustively. It’s a whopper, but it’s worth reading for a glimpse into what could be the future of MMO community planning.
Mark Jacobs and City State Games have a big surprise for Camelot Unchained followers in this week’s dev blog: a major update to the beta one document focused on guilds, groups, and all the social organizations in between. And bigger. Really, this game is going to have a lot of different types of groups, with every niche from soloers to small crews (Warbands) to big guild-like crews (Orders) and even some formations that are more like raids, but nothing so big that little guilds or lone wolves need to panic. The document is lengthy (nothing new there, right?), but no matter what kind of group you’re in (or aren’t in), it’s worth a deep-dive to understand how the game’s community will be structured in a PvE-less RvR MMO because while it shares a lot on common with games like Dark Age of Camelot, it’s also got a few tricks I’ve never seen done before (like permanent groups that aren’t quite guilds and specialty mega-groups that are more about project management than fighting).
The dev blog also has some work-in-progress renders of character faces, super-detailed, down to the freckle — we’ll include some of those down below.
Want more social systems info? Mark Jacobs sat for what I can legitimately call a massive interview with us on this topic and a few others, so stay tuned for Monday, when we’ll be publishing the goods!
This week’s Camelot Unchained is good news, assuming you want to play the game, and you probably do, else you’d not be reading this.
“We are now embarking on a ‘sprint’ with one of the key features for Beta 1: sieges,” CSE’s Tyler Rockwell explains. “Now, we are not going into crunch, but instead, we are focusing as much of the team’s time as possible on delivering the tech and gameplay we need for carrying out a proper siege in Camelot Unchained. So whether that means better archery animations, or NPCs firing off Scorpions, or blocks of buildings collapsing properly when dealt a giant gaping hole, the team will be focused on that for the next 4-6 weeks.”
Consequently, the regular weekend tests will be replaced with “impromptu and weekday testing” to get it all out faster. The update also touches on weekly progress on class progression, client stability, emotes, animations, nodes, and realm portals, and there’s a bonus pic of an engine test running 1000 unique NPC bots with solid FPS. Finally, the team teased a big infodump on groups and guilds coming next week, so stay tuned for more on that!