Camelot Unchained’s beta will launch on the 4th of July; we interview Mark Jacobs

    
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You can go ahead and order extra sparklers because you’re going to need ’em this July 4th. That’s the auspicious day that Camelot Unchained’s beta one will finally launch after three years of delay, City State Entertainment has now announced. The studio has further confirmed that the “feature lock” date for the crowdfunded RvR MMORPG will be June 12th – at that point, everything for the beta will be set, save bug-fixing. And yes, everything that has been promised for the beta will make it for that launch (that doesn’t mean everything going into launch will be in beta – expect more builds going forward over the expected year of this beta).

CSE’s Mark Jacobs spoke with us just a few weeks ago to announce that the company had taken on a large external investment to speed up development of the game; he’s done the same this time ’round to answer our questions about beta and what to expect between right now and the 4th of July when those beta gates open. Read on!

MassivelyOP: Are you at all concerned about summer demographically — will you have enough testers in the summer months to make the rollout then useful? Or is a slow build to the fall peak exactly what you’re looking for?

Mark Jacobs: No, not concerned at all. Our early Beta 1 testing is going to be focused mostly on weekends and the Impromptu Tests during the week. While some folks will certainly be traveling during the summer, a lot of other folks will be out of school and at home more, so I think it will balance out nicely. Plus, it’s Beta 1 and we don’t expect the kind of turnout we will get for our Open Beta. This is also one of the reasons we decided to use the Saturday Night Siege scenarios a lot during Beta 1. In an open world testing environment, if you have a low turnout, there’s a lot of walking around with very little action. OTOH, with scenarios not only is it based on having lots of action, but the NPCs/Bots can fill out the tests in a meaningful way.

As to the slow build, that certainly doesn’t hurt but it didn’t factor in at all to our thinking primarily because we are going into Beta 1 and we know that attendance will be sparser than in Open Beta.

Does the date affect the 2019 launch plans at all? Can you sketch out the vague testing plans between beta and launch – as in, how many beta phases?

Not at all, the date is well within where I thought it would be when we made the deal with our new overlords, I mean investors! Right now the plan is to have three full Beta stages before we have an Open Beta. During each stage we will use scenarios to test specific aspects of the game and gameplay as well as some open world testing. We will go into feature lock before we go to open beta (duh, right?) and use the open beta period for the final shakedown of the game before we go LIVE.

What specifically is the team working on between now and the beta launch?

The biggest challenges for us over the next few months are the stability/destructibility aspects of our building system and the amount of UI work that we need to get done before Beta 1 begins. In the case of the former, no MMORPG that I am aware of has our combination of blocks, true physics (no floating blocks), and structural stress/integrity. That’s always been a pretty tall order for us, but we are confident that we can solve it, even if we do it in stages. In the case of the later, it might seem silly of us to list UI as a risk factor versus other things, but the fact is that building a great UI takes a lot of time from a number of different people and disciplines (art, design, and engineering). And since our programming team is still small by MMORPG standards, this is a significant risk for us. Fortunately, unlike some other items, if we go into Beta 1 with a more bare-bones UI our Backers will be quite understanding of it versus say not having any siege engines in our Saturday Night Sieges!

Is there anything that could shift the beta date?

Yep, there sure are which is why we add some padding to our Beta 1 date. We know that things will go wrong between now and the planned opening of Beta 1 and we hope the extra-soft padding will envelop these things in its extra-softness so we don’t break the date. Our biggest risk factor though is probably our stability/block destruction system for our buildings which is why it is going to be getting so much attention from us between now and Beta 1.

What types of gamers would be most helpful in the beta – you need real testers, right, not looky-loos who will only be disappointed? What’s your plan for dealing with that influx of opinions and leaks, given that your beta is a real beta and not just a showpiece/preview?

Looky-loos won’t be joining us for Beta 1, I suspect, because we are going to change our refund policy for new purchasers once it is ready to start. We’ve had a bunch of people who have cost us money doing that during Alpha test (get the highest tier possible, refund with the first couple of days) and we are not going to allow that to happen during Beta 1. We’ll be doing lots of streaming but we will actively discourage people from buying a tier just to try the Beta 1 and then refund.

In terms of real testers vs. “fun in the sun” folks, I want them both. Beta 1 is when testing the actual gameplay of Camelot Unchained begins anew. We will need both hardcore testers as well as folks who just want to run around and check things out. As to our plan for dealing with them, we’ll do what a lot of folks do, ignore them. In all seriousness, we hired a CM earlier than expected so he could get up to speed well before Beta 1 starts. We’ll be doing more surveys, we’re building an in-game bug reporting system, as well as other things to make the experience better for both our players and our team. And, as always, yours truly will be on the Forums talking directly with our players.

Will you be rewarding testers for actually testing in any way?

You mean more than just a laurel and hardy handshake? Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and we do intend to reward our players in meaningful and fun ways, including that all time favorite, cash.

Did you get a new couch yet? And what do we say now instead of “beta when”?

Nope, no new couch. As to “beta when” how bout “OMG, you nerfed left axe again!”

Finally, during my last talk with Jacobs, he sketched out CSE’s plans to revamp the game’s pledge tiers and properly compensate the earliest backers for the long delay and change in plan to take on a new and large outside investment. At the time, those plans had to be redacted because they weren’t yet set in stone. Jacobs tells me that though the beta date is locked in, the pledge tier revamp isn’t ready – there’s just not been enough time. But it’s coming! What that means for readers is that we’re still not quite sure how money you’ll need to ante up for a pledge if you have your heart set on testing and aren’t content to just wait for the full launch next year.

As always, we’d like to thank Mark Jacobs for speaking with us! The team’s announcement stream is over now but archived on on YouTube below:

Don’t forget to check out our massive interview with Jacobs from last month about how CSE will be putting that extra $7.5M in investment dough to work.

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Chris Mac

You had me at “OMG, you nerfed left axe again!”

Berzerkers were never the same LOL

Love you guys. Played DAOC From launch. Warhammer I alpha tested. still loved it. Take all the time you need. “Trust the Process”

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Will Martin

Mark, i want to start by saying this game looks like it has the most potential iv’e ever seen in an mmo in a very long time… I’m excited beyond words for this game and I have the upmost respect for your creative talent and I want to see the game succeed. I’m currently “mmoless” right now after quitting archeage because of well, obvious reasons, and am in a slump about the whole genre in general…. Please save us from the nightmare that is mmo’s at the moment.

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Alex Malone

Woot, congrats Mark and CSE, good news on the Beta 1 date! This remains the only upcoming MMO that I’m excited about, which considering I’ve gone 5 years without finding anything worth playing is a big achievement!

Have you still got 1 announcement to come? I seem to remember you were going to have 4 big announcements:

1st one was that you were hiring new staff
2nd one was the additional funding (or, how you paid for the new staff :P )
3rd one seems to be this one, the beta 1 date (though, did you say you’d be announcing release date at same time?).

Have I missed one? Or do you have another one to come?

Anyways, good luck with the game, I look forwards to the beta testing and eventual release!

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Mark Jacobs

Yep, one more on how we are making some very major changes to our Reward Tiers.

And no, we’re not making them all Lootboxes! :)

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Rooks

There is absolutely no way you’re going to be able to resist a lootbox-related event for the first April Fool’s day post-launch…not a chance :)

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Mark Jacobs

It’ll be hard, but it’s a bit too easy and expected. OTOH, with the right angle… :)

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vinicitur

Guess it’s time to start looking closer at those classes again. My faction has been decided since the kickstarter: TDD all the way.

My short list atm is: fianna, blessed crow and forest stalker with the fianna way in front.
I love lotro’s warden and the fianna is the closest to that I have seen in another game.

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Mark Jacobs

Thanks! The warden was pretty cool in LoTRO. I hope you like ours just as much or even more!

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Alex Malone

Class choice is definitely going to be extremely hard!

I’m going vikings but can’t really find a class I like. Aesthetically, I want to look like Ragnar Lothbrok, so axe and shield. I’m thinking HelBound or Mjolnir might be able to achieve it. But gameplay wise, I prefer my support classes, so that Skald seems appealing, I just don’t want to be a bard! The wave weaver also sounds interesting, but feels wrong to be a viking and not charge into battle!

Think it’s going to be a case of get into the beta and then create everything and see what works!

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Jack Pipsam

Well it’s winter for me, so I approve of this ;)

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Mark Jacobs

Glad you approve!

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Utakata

*Suppress the urge for my pigtails to blurt out, “That’s something one will likely never hear from Star Citizen: Beta!”*

…err…congratulations, Mr. Jocabs! <3

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Mark Jacobs

Thanks! I hope you are wrong on Star Citizen though. I really want that game to come up and be great. Its Backers deserve it, just as ours do, for their patience and support.

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Utakata

For a lot of people’s sakes, I hope I am wrong too. My apologies for the off-topic quip though. :(

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Mark Jacobs

Hehe, no worries. It’s all good.

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Solaris

Grats to CSE. Mark Jacobs is the best in the business. Now I’d like to see CityState add a full PvE/PvE sibling in the same universe (yes DAoC2, so what?!)

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Mark Jacobs

Anything is possible once we complete Camelot Unchained. :)

And thanks for the very kind words. I will do everything I can to keep faith with all of our Backers, now and for as long as I’m making games.

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Estranged

Mark, I like that you are talking about making more games. Gotta put that house engine to work!

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Reht

That’s what i have been saying!

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Mark Jacobs

That’s the plan!

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Reht

I love that plan!

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Neb Jenter

“…plans to revamp the game’s pledge tiers and properly compensate the earliest backers for the long delay…”

I know they then immediately said that they had to take it out of the article because nothing is finalized yet but in case I missed it sometime in the past, do we have any idea how early “earliest” is?

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Mark Jacobs

Hopefully before mid-March. We need a couple of solid weeks to get the changes done and until the Beta 1 date was set, I wasn’t going to take any time away from anybody.

Veldan
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Veldan

What does “earliest backers” mean here? Kickstarter backers, or also those who backed through the website years ago?

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Mark Jacobs

All Backers of the game will benefit by the changes, just to different degrees of course. We need to thank everybody who has been a supporter of ours, especially those who have seen us through the darkest days of re-abilitation.

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serariron

I can not wait. I just recently learned that your game will have dedicated support classes (buffers etc.) which makes me so excited since that is my favourite roll in an MMORPG which has become extinct in pretty much every game that came after WoW other than Lotro and EQ2 (where I loved my dirge)

I am currently enjoying the heck out of my Burglar and Captain in Lotro, so I can not wait to jump in.

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Mark Jacobs

Yep, support classes are important to me and we talked about this during the Kickstarter as well! And we have stuck to what we said during our KS pretty darn tightly. :)

I hope you like what you see from us.

shazanti
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shazanti

Damn you Mark Jacobs & CSE. How am I ever going to decide what to play?! I want to craft. I want to support. I want to get in there and mix it up in combat. Ahhh the overpowering excitement and the overwhelming anguish of indecision, it is so real!

*deep breath* Hopefully I will have a chance to test out my preferences before launch, in one or another of the Betas. There’s time, Shaz, there’s time to decide.

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Estranged

Shazanti, the class choices are almost overwhelming. The races and factions as well…

It’s a great problem!

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Mark Jacobs

I guess I should not say that I have other ideas as well for new classes and races, should I?

:)

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Estranged

Yes, Mark, you should!

I’m a 50 button guy!

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Rodney Perry

Glad to have a date. I kinda hoped it would be sooner. I wanna get into the belly of this beast. Gives me time to finish my new PC I guess.

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Mark Jacobs

You’ll be able to play in all the pre-SNS builds if you are Alpha, occasionally if you’re Beta 1 and sometimes even Beta 2.

It’s going to be a lot of fun. Chaotic, broken at times, but fun.

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Rodney Perry

I’m in there like swim wear ?

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deekay_plus

hey i caught that in the video i thought but wasn’t sure. care to outline how beta 1 backers are involved with this pre beta 1/post alpha action?

Veldan
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Veldan

While I did not participate, I got an email last week that said something like “impromptu alpha / IT / beta 1 test now in progress”. There have been more sudden testing events like that, though the previous one was some months ago. I’m guessing they’re going to be doing more as they move towards beta.

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Mark Jacobs

Lots and lots and lots more. That’s one of the advantages and use of the money we received.

gelfred
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gelfred

Yeah, I was hoping sooner, April or so, but I have loads of games to play, happy to wait for them to get it done properly.