Here are the highlights from Camelot Unchained’s siege warfare demo and roadmap reveal

    
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Here are the highlights from Camelot Unchained’s siege warfare demo and roadmap reveal

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.

Source: Twitch
Updating from the stream
Jacobs is on now, and he’s apologizing not just to players but to his staff (he actually broke down while saying that on the stream – never seen that happen before), as he said the developers and staff have had to put up with a lot of awful things the past week.
He’s posted up the features and tech that the team has been working on. Click to make it bigger to read it.

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.

Now he’s moving on to the Cherry Keep siege test. (If you’ve followed us a long time, you know we’ve covered this before.) Jacobs says the point of Cherry Keep was to create a slice of gameplay that could actually handle 500+ players in a giant battle, as was the Kickstarter promise. Now he’s showing never-before-published video of the May 2019 Cherry Keep stress test, with over 1000 bots and testers besieging the crap out of the player-built keep. It also includes destruction mechanics as the keep is slowly wrecked block by block by the trebuchet, and apparently they could even then get battles up to 3000 without much lossiness. You can also see individual characters, with armor, combat skills, and so forth. “Nobody else can do what we can do,” he says. Hopefully the hi-res video is available later, but here are some (bad) screenshots from the stream for now.

Here’s the destruction.

Now he’s just said that he’s going to run the Cherry Keep siege live and invited all backers (from all tiers) to join to play it. So the current stream is from right now as we type this. He says that the devs have smoothed out a lot of the glitchiness in the ensuing months, and they deliberately made this version of the keep wimpy so that it would be destroyed in a hurry for the demo. They have about 100 actual testers and about 700 bots right now. None of this has ever been shown to the public before. Again, our screenshot is crappy – if you’re not watching live, you can catch the higher-res video afterward.

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.

The test is still ongoing, but while that happens, Jacobs has moved on to the promised roadmap, Camelot-specific (it doesn’t include anything CUBE- or Colossus-specific). In this 90-day plan, they’re working on continuing visual upgrades, a new RvR battleground scenario, scripted events, character ability and art updates, warbands (if I recall right, those are a special type of big group that isn’t a guild), UI adjustments, new class stuff, more lore, and of course engine stuff. He does say people are wrong to downplay the importance of the engine, that it’s critical to everything the team does.

He reminds watchers that they haven’t added more stretch goals to eke more money out of anyone, and says everyone working on the game (and the investors) want the game out, and he gets that, and that if they didn’t care about getting out CU itself, they wouldn’t have spent all this time and money and effort working on it to get it as far as it is – nobody’s giving up on it now. He also apologizes again, saying he thought he’d be able to talk around the naysayers. “We have every intention of making Camelot Unchained the best RvR game that ever came out,” he says, calling it a “passion project” that he aims to finish.
On to Q&A now. I missed two questions, but I got most of them.

  • 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.
He’s concluding now, and he apologizes again and then thanks people who vented at him about the way he presented the games last week, that he heard you, but he hopes people have seen what they have now and will stick with them now that they’ve seen how CU is delivering the large-scale siege the KS promised. He says that was “just a taste” of what’s coming for the game.
Video for the stream is now live.

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Deniz Monkul

I am really super confused about where all of this is going.

Firstly, is a “Massive Siege” with thousands of people that important for overall gameplay were CSE dedicated so much time and effort for this feature? Sure the game needs to be able to handle a reasonable amount of people fighting massive battles and not come to a halt but we know what’s going to happen months after release. People will complain about imbalances in regards to population and start asking for Battlegrounds, arenas, fair fighting environments etc. Plus lets be realistic here, if there is going to be a handful of server for the whole game, aside fro the release hype and excitement, there will be a handful of times where 1000s people are fighting in RvRvR. Most poeple have other games they play and have committed to.

Second, SEVEN years later this doesn’t look well. I say that with all honesty and compassion for MJ as DAOC was my first MMORPG and I loved that game. However, what type of software development methodology/framework is being used here to make this type of progress in 7 years? 90 day plan looks like a wish list of topics. Are you deploying Agile, SCRUM, or any other fast turn around frameworks? I just fail to see here even a basic gameplay loop or concept from character creation to leveling to social and economic structure, etc…

Maybe its all because of NDA? I was very hesitant to back this game and never backed any crowdfunded projects as they don’t tend to end well. However, I was looking forward to make a decision on backing when they released this showcase. Unfortunately, I am not convinced…

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psytic

Sunk cost for me. Might as well see it through. Just need that 24 hr siege map for backers to actually get in and play whatever they have ready.

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Rodrigo Dias Costa

One thing I can say about all this controversy is that it made me a bit more interested on CU.

I do understand the reasons behind the second game announcement, and also why the single-player game will come first. Does it really need to be said how hard making an MMO is compared to tradicional sp games? But I also understand the frustration from the backers, since they want as much as the devs for this game to succeed.

They could’ve handled it better, but I think at least they’re actively trying to fix the communication issue. I wish them well.

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Oleg Chebeneev

I didnt post at other CU threads, so I’ll just drop my summary here.

Blizzard’s apology was 10 times more sincere than MJ’s. Cant believe some people are still fooled by this man.

Siege demo looks meh like everything Ive seen of CU. MJ as always only talks about numbers “we can generate 1000 v 1000 crowds, millions blocks” jaga-jaga. Zero awareness on how (un)fun it is.

Roadmap is vague and will have 0 transparency like everything CSE does. Who will track progress according to this roadmap? How do we know things like “review of crafting, planning of next class” were done and what exactly was done?

This quickly written roadmap and “apology” are nothing but an attempt to stop enraged backers from ordering refunds and to save face.

Thats all for now.

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Bruno Brito

Not that i completely disagree with you in this specific stance, but it’s actually funny that you of all people think you have this moral highground to stand on.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Proud of my morals and sleeping well at nights. Im always direct about what I like and dislike

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Bruno Brito

What morals, Oleg.

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Utakata

Or tl,dr…

dQd.jpg
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Arktouros

To be fair that goes on a lot around here on a variety of polarizing topics.

If there was ever a discussion on PvP that it wasn’t implied I was some sort of mom’s basement dwelling sociopath for liking PvP it would be pretty neat.

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Utakata

…wait, you forgot the neck beard! >.>

Seriously though, as this should be common knowledge by now to everyone, you don’t have to PvP to be a mom’s basement dwelling sociopath, lol.

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Munchmeat2

I think all these indie crowd funded MMOs are going to be major flops or never release.

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Mr Ish

I like your glass-half-full thinking, Oracle.

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Childsbane

It seems most games start with the art to get you hyped and then follow with the tech while CSE started with the tech and will follow with the art. That’s probably a better approach considering how many beautiful games we have with tech that can’t support them.

Looking at this for the tech, it’s fantastic. No, “amazing” is a better word. I’ve never regretted backing the project. I continue to be a huge fan of MJ’s work. CU is in good hands. Keep it up, CSE.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

That live demo was not very impressive to be honest – the character animations were still poor, the lighting was still very basic, the color palette was not very colorful. I know it is a demo and I know this will be all improved but I was honestly more impressed by tech demos from Hadean who partnered with EVE developers for it:

I am aware that all art was done by EVE developers for this demo and a lot of assets were reused from existing game, I just show this as a way to properly demo your engine. Also, if you watch until after EVE demo you will see a little bit of castle siege physics that was done by Hadean team themselves.

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Childsbane

As an art demo, I agree. As a tech demo, though, it’s looking great. Maybe CSE can sell Hadean their tech.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

CSE can sell Hadean their tech? You are joking, right? Take a look at Hadean site, they allow for much larger scale of battles, they already tested some battle using 4k players with 10k total number of concurrent ships (players and AI). Their current aim is to reach 10k live players.

First test a year ago, second last summer, third test last November

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Brennan Kuhrt

My current aim is to make $1 billion dollars but that doesn’t mean as much as the money in my wallet.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

What does your irrelevant nonsense has to do with the game engines? Hadean had already tested their engine with over 10k bots and the only reason they did not have that many live players is that they did not have that many volunteers.

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Arktouros

I mean most of that demo was really just copy-paste missiles flying in the air while you we saw noticable FPS lag as the ship navigated around and through. I’d be far more interested to hear actual results like how many distinct models are represented there at play and what kind of FPS action are they getting as maybe that video was just lagging during recording.

It’s cool and all, don’t take me wrong, but both are just tech demos. How “impressive” each one is largely going to be subjective. With Jacobs flexing 18,000 player and AI controlled characters it sounds like Hadaeon has a ways to go to catch up yet but they appear to be on the right track.

In either circumstance this kind of engine tech simply never existed before, which it’s good there’s progress being made on it. As a veteran of large scale PvP environments the engine/lag is always a huge driving factor towards players quitting in these kinds of environments. Competition is frustrating enough without having to deal with low FPS or lag.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

Of course they are tech demos, I am just saying that I was more impressed by Hadean demos compared to what I have seen in Camelot Unchained demos, especially from visual point of view. And Camelot Unchained is still far from even close to be finished, especially in terms of lighting and art and animations and rest of gameplay. And I just keep wondering if it would simply be better to license Hadean engine and redo the rest of the game in Unreal Engine since Unreal is known by many programmers and artists and has latest support for all hardware features and many assets available for purchase. Most players do not care about technological aspects and just want to see their game faster, so if Camelot Unchained can be released faster by switching to Unreal Engine and Hadean engine – this can benefit everyone.

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Childsbane

Just to clarify: You understand they’re tech demos but your takeaway is Hadean has better visuals? And after seven years, when CU has a working engine that exceeds stated goals and expectations you’re recommending CSE license someone else’s unproven engine and start over development with Unreal?

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Subtle Savagery

I would of asked for a refund awhile ago if I had been able to find my purchase documents. Never use Paypal quick pay as a guest. Anyway, so I’m stuck on this ship for better or worse. I don’t know how relevant it will be before it’s released (Probably at least 2 years more minimal). With so many Kickstarters coming out and just the general release of mmos. I hope it does come but if it doesn’t then… Well, I have blown a lot more money more frivolously.

miol
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miol

:/

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Gevatter
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Gevatter

Camelot Unchained and its engine are inseparable; the game would not be possible without the engine, and without CU the engine would never have been developed.

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Subtle Savagery

Incorrect. Eve Online, Guild Wars, Archeage, etc. Didn’t need their engine to have massive battles so… Burn

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Arktouros

Incorrect. Eve Online, Guild Wars, Archeage, etc. Didn’t need their engine to have massive battles so…

This is a bit deceptive because games deceive you pretty cleverly.

The main thing that most games do is actually referred to as “rendering” or “culling” or “phasing” and other similar turns where they basically stop showing new character models after X amount are shown. This is because without this hard limit it would bring your FPS to it’s knees. You can see this old video I found from back in RIFT even.

Even modern games like Planetside 2 handle it this way. For example what they do is if you’re in a tank, they will make some infantry invisible to you and prioritize rendering the other tanks/aircraft/etc. However this leads to you getting sniped by anti-vehicle you can’t even see because they removed the infantry shooting at you. We used to die all the time to invisible bombers because the game decided it was too far and not relevant to us as infantry.

As Bree mentioned it was super prominent in GW2 and a whole meta evolved out of it where you would sneak a Mesmer into a huge enemy ball and portal summon which would then wouldn’t render those models to the enemy and you could largely kill them invisible before you finally loaded in and the enemy could react to you. Eventually they fixed this, and let you load as much as you want but warned you it could be taxing on FPS.

Interestingly BDO does the opposite of this and will load an unlimited amount of people in a radius but then de-prioritize things like trees/NPCs. This is what leads to the ‘pop in’ issue everyone complains about since that happens whether there’s lots of people or not.

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Bruno Brito

Even modern games like Planetside 2 handle it this way. For example what they do is if you’re in a tank, they will make some infantry invisible to you and prioritize rendering the other tanks/aircraft/etc. However this leads to you getting sniped by anti-vehicle you can’t even see because they removed the infantry shooting at you. We used to die all the time to invisible bombers because the game decided it was too far and not relevant to us as infantry.

Anyone who plays GW2 knows this. The game keeps several invisible targets when there’s a huge ammount of people in the same place. It’s a complete mess.

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Jace

As a reasonably high tier backer from 7 years ago all I can say is ‘meh’, and that makes me feel really sad.

Not going for a refund, I knew what I might be letting myself in for. I was REALLY looking forward to this but with each passing year I care a little less :(