Note: We liveblogged the stream; scroll down to the end of the post for the latest.
The past week has been a whirlwhind for MMO players and watchers of Kickstarted RvR MMO Camelot Unchained. Last Friday, City State Entertainment announced that it’s received investment to work on a second game, the co-op horde-mode Project Colossus aka Final Stand: Ragnarok, which uses the same engine as Camelot Unchained. Colossus, as it turns out, will launch first, though both will be developed in tandem using as many shared assets as possible. Backers and looky-loos alike were furious, as Camelot has been many-times delayed: We still haven’t got the MMORPG gamers Kickstarted for $2.2M in 2013. In fact, the backer-playable “beta one” version of the game has been locked behind a NDA-wall since mid-2018.
The revelation led to a ruckus over refunds (yes, the studio is still granting them, with caveats), gnashing of teeth, and then last night, a full apology for the mishandling of communications from CSE’s top boss, Mark Jacobs, a name long known to MMO fans thanks to his tenure building Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online.
Perhaps more important than the apology is the fact that Jacobs has promised backers a huge deep-dive into Camelot Unchained – the sort of deep-dive they thought they were getting a week ago when they were summoned to a stream that turned out to be an announcement for a different game. CSE is planning to demo the Cherry Keep siege to show off the studio’s progress on large-scale siege warfare (it can actually handle more than double the players originally promised in the Kickstarter). Jacobs has further promised an “immediate roadmap for Camelot Unchained for the next few months.”
According to the last update in chat, the stream with the demo and roadmap is about to begin; you can watch it below. We’ll be updating with the big takeaways as we spot them.
Essentially, he’s saying this is what the team has been working on that is Camelot-specific – everything from the ability system, the “overmind” system that controls spawning, looting, graphics – it’s a lot. It also includes linuxification, which ultimately brings down the cost of running the servers by half, which is critical to the game’s business model (and how much subbers will be paying). Jacobs does note they’re still very much on the hunt for a senior tools engineer and that the game still really needs one. He’s spending a few minutes to read all of them off and explain the big ones for people on mobile who can’t read the graphic.
The point of explaining it all, he says, is to demonstrate CSE is not abandoning Camelot Unchained – that they’ve been working on it this whole time.
Here’s the destruction.
Jacobs says he has been reluctant to show things to the public not because he was hiding something but because he wanted to be able to show something spectacular. He also reiterates that the Colossus reveal was “dumb” and that he wishes he had shown this first, but also that the team has been working on something else even bigger. The stream has gone down a couple of times from internet problems, and Jacobs notes that part of why he wanted to wait on showing everyone was that they have things still to iron out, but he thought showing everyone now even with minor issues was more important. He also says he hopes people understand that you can’t just go out and buy an engine that can do this, hence why they’ve poured so much money and work into it.
- Question from a backer trying to log in, wondering whether the crash on the stream was because 100 players were on. No, Jacobs says; the server stayed up; the crashes were a memory error with his machine.
- Question on the new scenario. Jacobs says Ben is working on it and the design has been approved. They’ll be doing a big presentation on it.
- Question on who gets into CUBE and when. Jacobs says CUBE has been lying a little dormant, but they want to open to more people.
- Question asking about more 90-day roadmaps to release. Yes, Jacobs says. He says he’d like to do more and better updates.
- Question on release year. Jacobs says, “When it’s ready.” They don’t want to talk dates. He uses this moment to point out the money from Kickstarter was spent years ago, and he’s not asking you for more. They don’t want to delay. They want the game out too. But they don’t want to “half-ass” it. They have no financial incentive to delay (unlike other games he doesn’t mention, but you know which one he means).
- Question on test servers being up long-term. Jacobs says as soon as they get a fully stable linuxification server. They’re working on this soon not soonish, as boring as it is for testers.
- Question on the skybox. Jacobs talks about BioWare’s awesome skybox and says Camelot’s needs upgrading (here is an example where Colossus helped CU).
- Question on dev roadmap and whether everything on the list will be done in three months. Jacobs says they’re going to do their best, specifically mentioning new classes.
- Question on new gameplay content, a vertical slice of the gameplay loop. Jacobs says that is exactly what is on the roadmap, like classes. He makes fun of himself for talking tech all the time, but the engine and linuxification took them forever. Now, he says, he can pull people from that to gameplay. So that’s happening.
- Question on how the investors are responding to all this. Jacobs goes off-screen and brings back a letter and what looks like a fruit basket from the investors thanking them for their work. He reiterates that they were worried about backlash before the announcement (same as he told us in our interview) but that they are behind the team.
- Question on team organization with Final Stand: Ragnarok. There is no Ragnarok team, he says. It’s just a CSE team. In fact he says Ragnarok is “essentially a mod” for the CU engine. He’s pointing out that a lot of people are working on both games or engine stuff that applies to both.
- Question on visual improvements between May and now as seen on the stream just now. Jacobs says there actually has been, especially in terms of lighting and effects models. What he just streamed was the “first playable” build, not the “polished” build, so it wasn’t obvious.
- Question on merch. Jacobs says they’re not really doing that, but yes, backers from before Friday get the game for free. He says he doesn’t want to treat his playerbase as walking wallets, so he’s not going to sell merch to you to get more money from you. Aside here about CUBE maybe potentially being its own thing someday too.
- Question on when we’ll get an idea about the game’s final visuals. Jacobs says some of it will happen with the skybox, more over the next 90 days.
- Question on whether new backer tiers will include Ragnarok. Jacobs says they hadn’t thought about it, but yes.
- Question on gameplay and whether the demo that just got shown is gameplay. Jacobs says the siege definitely is part of it, but definitely not all of it. If it’s something your character can do, it’s gameplay, from trebuchet use to crafting, even if it isn’t person-to-person hand-to-hand combat. He says that wasn’t the point of the demo, though; that the point of the demo was to show the state of the tech. He does note that he doesn’t think people are going to be blowing up the world’s biggest castle every night, but there will be plenty else to do.
- Question on which devout class is first. They’re not telling.
- Question on how much caching tech is done. Andrew takes over to answer and says virtually none – because everything is very, very live and dynamic and procedural. The point of all that is to avoid imposing unnecessary RNG on the game. (Apparently everyone at the studio hates RNG but Jacobs. There is currently no RNG in the combat in the game.)
- Question on classes again. Jacobs says he wants to add enough to get them matched up. The devout and another class are coming, then they’ll be talking more in the future.
- Question on how close graphics are to done. Nowhere close, Jacobs says. They haven’t finished locking down lighting and art yet.
- Question on whether there’s every going to be a point where the production goes on too long. When CSE runs out of money, Jacobs says. He is aware games don’t all make it, but he also says launching too early with unfinished tech, they definitely don’t make it. Investors are committed.
- Question on things Jacobs wants to tell newcomers who have seen only fresh drama. Jacobs tells people to keep watching over the next 90 days. He promises more public streaming of the game, which they haven’t done, as well as more uptime for servers and more backers in. He says it’s going to be an interesting year, but the new artists and new engineers in the last six months have made a huge difference.
- Question on what Jacobs would do differently if he could start all over. He says he wishes he could make sure they had more money upfront and started with a much bigger team, as well as had better timing – he says the industry lurching from mobile to VR to big tech companies dipping in and recruiting engineers from gaming made it super hard to recruit for lots of companies, not just his.
- Question on the roadmap. The roadmap on the stream is apparently slightly different from the one posted to the forums, down to timing of the stream.
- Question on a known upcoming challenge Jacobs thinks they will have. (There’s a long pause here, and when I tabbed back over to the stream to make sure it hadn’t crashed, I realized it was because Jacobs was trying not to cry again, sheesh.) Anyway he finally answered that the biggest challenge is that people might not give him another chance, and that’s what he’s trying to overcome. Insofar as the team, there isn’t really one – “the really scary things are either done or almost done.”
- Question on his favorite and most challenging features in both games. For Ragnarok, Jacobs says the challenge is making fun for more than a few hours, like with combo moves and more involved gameplay, but the coolest feature is a goofy bug that they’re going to turn into something fun. For CU, he says his favorite is the class after the next one.