mark jacobs

Camelot Unchained’s Mark Jacobs on guilds, groups, and the social systems that make an MMORPG go ’round

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.

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Camelot Unchained explains its guild and group philosophy for beta one

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!

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Camelot Unchained on the perks of RvR PvP and overdelivering on tech promises

Were you worried that Camelot Unchained would slack off on its newsletters whilst in the pre-beta crunch? You needn’t have — this month’s missive clocks in at over 10,000 words. Among them, Mark Jacobs revisits the game’s Thirty Day doc, writing, “I’m confident in saying that I believe this information dump is one of the largest ever done for a game that was still in a true Alpha.

Moreover, the extra year of tech development for the game is genuinely paying off in a way that should please people tired of ambitionless MMOs and knockoffs. As Jacobs puts it,

“When we launched the Kickstarter, we said that we believed we could deliver on something not seen in any MMORPG to date: large-scale battles (1K or more), where players could maintain a playable FPS without having the best rig from Alienware. While we achieved this last year using the old ability system, the new system is a lot more flexible and complex. Over the last three weeks, we have overdelivered on a stated goal and delivered a powerful message to the Backers that attended: ‘The future is now!'”

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Camelot Unchained teases beta with a new ‘guiding principles’ doc

If it feels like we’ve been waiting for Camelot Unchained’s beta forever, well, it hasn’t – it’s only been half of forever. And the wait is almost over, if the first part of City State’s brand-new beta 1 doc is any guide.

“It’s been a longer road to Beta 1 than we expected it would be last year,” CSE’s Mark Jacobs begins. “For that, you have our most sincere and humble apologies.” After admitting he’s “committed more money to the studio than” planned, he says the result has been worth it, such that “by the time you read this, [CSE] will have moved achingly close to the first of the SNS trials, will be back up to 2.1K ARCs/Bots, the new ability, animation, and VFX systems will be performing as expected, and the programmers’ focus will have turned more heavily than ever to gameplay and not tech.”

The doc itself outlines the beta’s “guiding principles” for a “minimum viable vision” — namely, that it should be solid, intermittent, accessible, and more about fun than the tech-oriented alpha. While this is just the first part of the larger doc we’re told is incoming, it does tick off a number of specific features on immediate order, including improved UI, help files and links for newbies, updated patcher and player count, daily issues, class/race combos, attribute clarity, unique player names, and starting gear.

Plus? A peek at the login screen, which is slick!

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Camelot Unchained: Explosions, music, and death to getting one-shotted

Camelot Unchained’s Mark Jacobs helms this week’s studio update, with a peek into the team’s progress on shadows, archery and combat animations, siege engines, CUBE structures, inventory functionality and art, ability VFX, realm portals, mines, and terrain assets. Testers, make sure you practice explosives safety during the holiday:

“Happy Birthday, America: Gabe fixed an issue preventing our impact explosions from remaining in the scene. Doing so gave us the great idea of making our bow and siege abilities a bit more patriotic for the holiday weekend.”

Meanwhile, the studio’s latest newsletter features news on a fresh programmer hire, the game’s unique music system, and a positively massive segment on game speed by CSE’s Ben Pielstick. Specifically, he discusses the pacing of combat and the desire to avoid one-shot kills, no matter how logical, in order to keep new players and endgamers literally on the same playing field.

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Camelot Unchained implements torches (bring your own pitchforks)

City State’s Mark Jacobs is back at the helm of the Camelot Unchained weekly update this round, with news of his team’s efforts on terrain, performance improvements, seamless zone transitions, the API server, the salvaging system, siege weapons, ambient sound and music tracks, knockback animations, and the pleasantly named wounds and trauma code.

“We’re revisiting the rough first pass of the wounds and trauma code to make use of new code written while we wrapped up encumbrance. At the same time, this pass will also fix several long-standing bugs in the system, like dummies not respawning, and issues with bleeding to death. No one likes issues with bleeding to death, amiright?”

There’s also the usual assortment of images, including a super-detailed look at the work-in-progress unitframes and… torches. A whole bunch of torches. What could go wrong, right? Pitchforks next week?

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The Game Archaeologist: How Sceptre of Goth shaped the MMO industry

When it comes to text-based MMOs created in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, the sheer number of them would blot out the sky. There are certainly more multi-user dungeons (MUDs) than I’ve ever been able to get a handle on when I’ve tried creating lists of the most important to know, but I will say that there are a few that seem to pop up more than others. The original MUD1, created by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw, was certainly a watershed moment for online roleplaying games. Learning about DikuMUD is pretty essential, considering its impact on graphical MMORPGs that we still play today.

But there’s another title that often goes unnoticed, unless you keep an eye out for it. It’s a MUD that keeps popping up when you look into the history of the MMORPG genre, one with ties to key players and design concepts that are still active today.

It’s the MUD that shaped the MMO industry, and it was called Sceptre of Goth.

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Camelot Unchained completes ‘first 30 days of beta 1’ doc

With the Seattle base a go, Camelot Unchained is pushing forward. City State’s Tyler Rockwell says the team has been hard at work on terrain optimization, zone transitions, portals, particle performance, crafting recipes, environment assets, and UI tweaks. Crafters, this one should leap out at you in particular:

“Crafting: Mark completed his first pass on his ‘First 30 days of Beta 1’ document and handed it off to some members of the team for commenting. This is the document that he spoke about two weeks ago. Once it goes through the rounds here, it will be passed on to our Backers, so they know what to expect for the opening of Beta 1 and a little bit beyond.”

Meanwhile, Mark Jacobs returns to helm a Q&A for the weekly round up — and don’t forget to check out the latest art uploads!

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Camelot Unchained focuses on particles, trees, and the beta interface

I know most of you come to these Camelot Unchained posts hoping to hear about beta one. I can’t wait to write that post, believe me, and I’m pretty sure CSE can’t either. In the meantime, we’re digging into another weekly update from the team, whose highlight is the fact that the weekend tester build has been updated with a proper particle rendering system, the better to make your spells sparkle.

“This is the system we have been talking about for months. Included in today’s code-drop are almost a dozen new features, as well as some added functionality for existing parts of the particle/lighting system. The next step is for Mike and the art team to update/change existing VFX as test cases of the system. Like the animation system, this is a WIP, and will serve as the basis for our next major improvement, which will happen during Beta 1. In the meantime, the new system will allow our world to feel more alive, magical, and interesting. And more performant, as well!”

CSE has also uploaded some new images — some psychedelic ones showing off the lighting systems on water, some gorgeous blossom-draped foliage, and a first pass on bits of the beta UI. Don’t miss Mark Jacobs’ end-of-the-week summary vid below either.

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The many faces of Camelot Unchained

Terrible pun title in honor of April Fools’ Day! This week’s Camelot Unchained update touches on art, interface, and ability cooldowns, but the most interesting bits are surely the faces and the animation work.

“An image can only say so much about how actually playing the game will feel, but we want to emphasize the time and effort going into making the animations not only look good, but–just as important–feel good,” CSE’s Tyler Rockwell says. “In the past, our ‘jump’ only popped your character into the air and played a looping animation for the time you hovered. While Andrew re-hooks up ‘jump’ with the new animation system, Scott has worked out a jump with a prep and recover phase to smooth the in and out of the jump. This example also includes a pose specific to carrying a two-handed weapon, vs. having a shared pose for all weapons. Likewise, he’s begun working on a jump animation that will play when the player hits a certain velocity, to create a ‘running leap.’ The latter idea is still conceptual, but is part of our goal of making things ‘feel’ good.”

Check out the new art below, along with Mark Jacobs’ video update.

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Camelot Unchained shows off its weapon stances

While it’s certainly tempting to focus on Camelot Unchained’s progress in creating weeds (or as the devs put it, “the unsung heroes of the grass plains”), the star of this week’s newsletter is most definitely the game’s improved animated stances.

“We’ve been talking quite a bit about the progress we’re making on the new animation system, which has allowed us to see some of these assets for the very first time,” Mark Jacobs wrote. “The other exciting thing is that characters now use the appropriate animation within their stance, per the weapon(s) they have equipped.”

For a look at some of these stances, some environmental scenes, and, yes, the thrill-a-minute weeds, check out the new screenshots from the following gallery.

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Camelot Unchained completes first pass on working armor, shields, and weapons

Beta 1 is mentioned 14 times in Camelot Unchained’s latest update. I’m not saying it means something, but I’m sure feeling like we’re making some headway to it!

City State’s Mark Jacobs says his team has finished up the item update, putting its new programmer to work on crafting, demoed the new social UI, completed a first pass on the manual aiming system, promoted the experimental patcher, and tinkered with VFX rendering, plus there’s new artwork from the WIP place of power.

“As you can see, more and more, our engine is beginning to resemble a game,” he writes. “As part of this evolution, we are checking off item from Primary Beta 1 list: ‘First pass working armor, shields, and weapons in game.'”

This weekend’s test is open to all alpha and beta 1 players, but Jacobs warns that the animation system is a placeholder and physicians are busted.

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Camelot Unchained talks about development challenges and beta announcement

There are several notable quotes in this week’s progress report from the Camelot Unchained team. Mark Jacobs said that encumberance penalties are being worked into the inventory system and explained why doubling the programmer team hasn’t resulted in double development speed.

“The fact remains that for a programming team whose size just reached the double-digits, making a game like the one we are making would already be difficult. Making an engine at the same time is, in the eyes of many of our industry colleagues, a ride on the crazy train. Well, we are on that train, picking up speed, and we can see the next station in the distance,” he wrote.

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