We're back with our second part of an interview retrospective of Mythic Entertainment's early online games with CSE's Mark Jacobs. Last week, we talked about the formation of Mythic, its roster of titles during the 1990s, and how titles like Aliens Online and Silent Death Online helped to push the studio toward its full-fledged development in the MMORPG genre.
Today, Jacobs will take us through a discussion of the challenges awaiting studios trying to make online games in that early era, the communities that formed around Mythic's titles, and how one MUD called Darkness Falls would be the catalyst that set off Dark Age of Camelot.
When you bring up the name "Mythic Entertainment," chances are that most gamers are going to immediately think of the studio's two major MMOs, Warhammer Online and Dark Age of Camelot. Perhaps Imperator Online might come into the conversation, perhaps not. But what is fascinating to me is that Mythic had a lot more than a pair of MMOs under its belt.
Since the formation of the studio in the mid-1990s, Mythic's team developed well over a dozen titles, many of which featured online multiplayer and other elements that would eventually lead into the company releasing DAoC to widespread acclaim in 2001. I've been curious what these older titles were like and how they contributed to the formation of Mythic's MMOs, and so rather than get all of my information from second-hand sources, I went straight to City State Entertainment's Mark Jacobs to ask him about games like Aliens Online, Spellbinder, and Darkness Falls. Considering that the man is still working on spiritual successors to the games he was involved with decades ago, I thought it would be great to get his perspective.
Hiring is going well for Camelot Unchained, City State tells players in a new dev post this weekend. "We are now up to six people in Seattle (though the 6th won’t start till January), and have seven candidates in the pipeline," Mark Jacobs says, noting that while CSE is losing a programmer to an overseas move, it "should have another Ops/Junior programmer to replace him shortly."
The studio has been focused on testing abilities, the patcher, animations, zones, network performance, and rendering -- you can see a bit of the bloom-soaked "god rays" in the screenshots below, though they're still a work-in-progress.
"Note the subtle shafts breaking through the trees, but also the bloom softening the environment just beyond the trees. We’ve also introduced eye adjustment which can be seen here. We are simulating the opening and closing of a person’s iris, which occurs as you enter or exit dark and bright areas. The consequence, as your eye adjusts to the dark shadows you are in, is anything that is bright, such as the sky in this shot, will be slightly more blown out."
Mark Jacobs has lists and lists of progress being made on Camelot Unchained as the game continues its "march toward beta." In this week's newsletter, Jacobs counts off all of the improvements the team has made, saying that a weekend test is currently underway.
"We are going to hold an Alpha and IT test this weekend, starting now," Jacobs reported. "If all goes well with this test, we’ll open it up for Beta 1 next week, as soon as we can resolve a couple of bugs that we know are lurking in the code. In the meantime, Alpha and IT folks: Enjoy the weekend, but please keep in mind that we do not consider this a truly stable build, so problems are expected."
Camelot Unchained's visuals have undertaken a noticeable uptick in quality thanks to the implementation of high-dynamic-range (HDR) imaging in the newest build. The team had a half-dozen new screenshots to show off how the countryside and characters look.
Wondering what's up with Camelot Unchained's Seattle outfit? "Our team has expanded and will continue to expand in the coming months," Mark Jacobs tells players today in the weekly update. "More on this coming in the next few weeks."
There's more to the update, of course; work on the re-abilitation project progresses (seriously, the word re-abilitation appears 10 times, as it should, since this is why the game's beta was delayed), plus there's new art for focus items, maces, spears for all three factions, and most important of all: drinking horns. City State is requesting feedback from early testers as it charges through ability components, armor penetration, consumables, groups, and debuffs. This weekend in particular, testers are asked to pay special attention to the ability system, weapons, rendering, and groups.
On Thursday, members of the dev team sat down for another "Bring Out Your Devs" stream all about -- you guessed it -- re-abilitation, which is included below.
Last week, we introduced the first part of our guide to the best upcoming, in-development indie MMORPGs -- yes, the list was so long that we had to split it lest our CMS explode! So this week we're back with the other half of our list, a quick and dirty guide to many of the indie MMORPGs in development and some of the key points about each. Hint: We're not asking whether they are a sandbox with open world PvP because of course they are. As a side note, we won't be covering most of the survival sandbox and mere multiplayer titles, as that would be too great for the scope of this guide. And if you're interested in these games, then you'll definitely want to track our Make My MMO and Betawatch columns.
On with part two!
I am not a big fan of Kickstarter in general, but I like to think that I'm not a big fan for actual reasons rather than spurious ones. Every time I see someone referring to Star Citizen as a scam, I get annoyed; the game is very clearly not a scam. It's already delivered too much of an actual game to be a scam. A scam is something that's never going to happen at all; most Kickstarter games are, at the very least, going to provide a good-faith effort to try making a game.
Not that this necessarily works out very well, as evidenced by Pathfinder Online. Intentions and ability to deliver aren't the same thing at all. So rather than calling out every Kickstarted game a scam simply because it involves still asking for money after the initial funding period (which, again, is not a scam so much as an indication of ballooning needs for money), why not teach ourselves to be better armed before backing a Kickstarter?
When you write for an MMORPG website that covers literally hundreds of games and could probably add in hundreds more that are extinct, are in operation only overseas, or are so incredibly niche that their creators' moms don't even know about them, you start devoting a large portion of your brain to trying to keep details about all of these games straight. This not only results in forgetting two of your kids' names (after all, space is limited), but it's nearly an impossible task. There's just too much out there.
And lately I've noticed that the staff and readers alike have started to become incredibly confused regarding all of the indie MMOs that are oozing through the development process in their 72 planned testing stages (the other week I could swear that I saw a game declare itself to be going into "state semi-regionals"). There are too many games, some of which look far too similar, and it's stressing us out.
Enhance your calm, citizen. Here's the first part of our quick and dirty guide to many of the indie MMORPGs in development and some of the key points about each. Hint: It's not asking whether they are a sandbox with open world PvP because of course they are. As a side note, I won't be covering most of the survival sandbox and mere multiplayer titles, as that would be too great for the scope of this guide. And if you're interested in these games, then you'll definitely want to track our Make My MMO and Betawatch columns. Then stay tuned next week for the second half of this list!
It's been a "longer road" to the first beta test than Camelot Unchained's team originally anticipated, but the good news is that progress is definitely being made. Need proof? Then go no further than this week's newsletter, which spells out in painstaking detail all of the projects being done.
The ability system overhaul is still ongoing, with the team identifying and stamping out bugs that skitter through it. The game should be running 10% to 20% faster now, thanks to improvements to terrain generation.
"We’ve made continued in-roads in other areas such as more than two islands, which we hope to get into testing next week," Mark Jacobs reported. "We’ve also completed a first pass at groups which we are currently testing in-studio."
The team also showed off some of its new Viking weapon art and some of the creations that the community has made with the game's CUBE building toolset.
This week in MMO crowdfunding news, our own MJ - MJ Guthrie, that is - returned from DragonCon with reports from several crowdfunded MMORPG studios. First up is Camelot Unchained and its own MJ - Mark Jacobs, that is - who've got a new update out, complete with new screenshots of the autumn forest biome (seen above) and a tease about the ongoing hiring. Jacobs says the team has been busy working on resource modification, ability conditionals, skill timing, archery abilities, periodic effects, building damage, the Stonehealer class, and the first pass on multi-island/multi-server integration.
We've also welcomed Hero's Song back to our watch list. The John Smedley-led OARPG canceled its Kickstarter earlier this year but has returned to crowdfund just ahead of its early access launch with a new Indiegogo campaign.
Dual Universe also launched its first Kickstarter, seeking over half a million dollars to fund the epic sci-fi sandbox. Meanwhile, Ever, Jane postponed its open beta's first update, Fragmented went on sale for five bucks in the Humble Bundle store, Edengrad updated backers on its combat plans, and HEX released its fifth card pack, Herofall. Read on for more on what's up with MMO crowdfunding this week and the roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we've got our eye on!
If you've been following anything about Camelot Unchained, then you get the idea that Mark Jacobs has set out to make something different than what is currently in the MMO market. That difference shows in the upcoming game's leveling system, which is accomplished via realm rewards in RvR. The ability system is unique, focusing on crafting new and different skills instead of just letting players acquire more powerful versions of the same ones. At DragonCon 2016, Jacobs was joined by more of the City State Entertainment crew to dive a bit more in-depth on these two systems as well as touch on some other features. Couldn't be at that panel in person? We got the scoop for you.
There's so much to see and do at DragonCon that you can't possibly fit it all in. With actors, authors, game developers, cosplayers, and fans in panels, costume contests, balls, readings and more at every turn, you have to prioritize your time. Up in the top bracket of my "must do" list was sitting down (in a quiet place) with Mark Jacobs and talking all things Camelot Unchained. Unlike a game update, the conversation flowed across a number of topics, including Jacob's view on trolls, hiring more devs, payment models, and how his life almost didn't go the game developer route. Oh, and we also talked about Camelot Unchained!
This week in MMO crowdfunding news, Camelot Unchained closed out a quiet July with a newsletter and state-of-the-game address. CSE boss Mark Jacobs told players that progress since the game's setbacks this past spring has been strong; this summer will see the addition of many new abilities to the retooled system, in-house animation is revving up, and new waves of testing are on the way. Beta 1? Not yet, but Jacobs says he's hoping to announce Beta 1's planned date after early backers have had time to test some of the on-deck pushes.
"This attitude of not rushing a 'Not ready for Prime Time Beta' has meant/means/will continue to drive a slower march to release than we would all like, but after certain games’ issues at launch, do you really want us to do it differently?" he asks. "I hope not, because this is the right way to do things, and one of the advantages of being a crowd-funded game – we won’t be rushed into releasing a game to meet somebody else’s needs, other than the long-term needs of our Backers for a stable, fun, and 100% 'Ready for Prime Time' game. And as Alpha, Beta 1, and IT Backers will be seeing over the next few weeks, our time and your/my money has been well-spent."
Meanwhile, Das Tal is wrapping up its final summer alpha weekend, Star Citizen kicked off a refreshed season of community videos, Grim Dawn teased new content, and Shroud of the Avatar pushed out Release 32, which officially marked the last wipe of the game and unofficially marked the closest thing it's going to see to a launch.
Read on for more on what's up with MMO crowdfunding this week and the roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we've got our eye on!