Earlier this month, Camelot Unchained studio City State Entertainment came under fire when its leader objected to a YouTube video that speculated the company was on the verge of collapse. CSE’s Mark Jacobs said that video mischaracterized the company’s finances since the YouTuber didn’t have all the facts. But as we pointed out, the reason the community didn’t have all the facts was that City State hasn’t provided sufficient transparency, extending even to us, as the studio had reneged on an entire transparency-oriented interview with us because we refused to withdraw one of the questions at its request.
During the discussions that followed, we suggested that CSE answer our questions in full on its stream on its own turf to prove it had nothing to hide. Jacobs did stream yesterday evening, alone in the CSE offices, and he did answer some questions we’d posed, but not all of them.
Most positively, he does say that five new people have been added to the team in the last few months, including a senior UI engineer, who Jacobs says was very much needed and will help get multiple projects beyond the base game UI, like voice chat UI. He hopes that will help speed up development, along with the tech upgrades he discusses. The company is leery of hiring people to move to Virginia just to have to make them work from home anyway, so apparently the hires aren’t locked into either studio location yet. He’d love to have a 20% larger development team.
In response to a question on the next beta phase for the Kickstarted MMORPG, he declines to give a date for the next leg and the fully playable gameloop that he’d originally hoped to get done by the end of summer. “Dates only serve to put a stick in it somewhere that eventually you end up picking up,” he argues, suggesting that the company isn’t working hard to earn backer money anymore and investors are paying for the game, so the gist here is that they don’t feel obligated to give dates they suspect are wrong. (Camelot Unchained was originally Kickstarted in 2013 and has been in “beta one” since 2018.) [After publication, Jacobs disputed our characterization, saying that he meant that giving dates would be the right thing to do if the team were making a bigger push to raise money from the public, but it’s not.]
Final Stand Ragnarok, Jacobs says, will see its 0.5 version deployed in the next few weeks. He says it “runs like a champ” and the studio will continue to work on it as it’s why the investors are allowing the studio to keep hiring.
“The investors are continuing to fund us,” he says by way of reassuring players about the safety and financing of the games. “Everyone is kinda happy where we’re at. They’d be happier if we launched!” He also says the devs have no intention of licensing CSE’s custom engine anytime soon. “That would be a friggin’ disaster,” he says. “We have zero marketing materials anywhere for it.” Jacobs later says the quality of the engine will ultimately prove that the team knows what it’s doing. “It’s easy to understand why [critics] think we’re just an engine company instead of making games,” he says, but he’s adamant that’s not true. [Jacobs reiterated to us after publication that he is not seeking to license the engine and that if he were, he’d be going about it all the wrong way with teams hard at work on two games instead of on that.]
And as for refunds? “I am continuing to pay refunds,” Jacobs says, repeating that he’s paying them when he’s the office. He does not, however, address any of the open questions on refunds we and other media and players have asked. We ourselves have asked for clarity on how many refunds have been completed and how many are outstanding and why CSE has not invested time or money into speeding this along since some backers have been waiting more than a year and a half. (This has been an extremely sore point with the MMO community for a long time now, and it’s baffled most of our community as well.)
Jacobs also does not directly address the sustainability of development, when the CU NDA will drop, the latest plan for monetization, the projected plan for the playerbase size, and the apparently futile backer claims to the state attorney general earlier this year.
In response to a backer question on New World, he declines to comment on the game itself, only saying that he “want[s] other games to succeed in this space,” referring to the “a rising tide lifts all boats” aphorism. And he says that online gaming has been a “joke” to publishers – but they’re wrong. “MMOs are going to be around forever,” he declares. “[They] will become the most dominant game because of connectivity. […] I continue to believe in them.”
Finally, he weighs in on the Blizzard accusations and lawsuit at the request of a watcher, saying they’re “significant” and “troubling.” “I’m hoping there is more to the story, but I have no expectations that there are,” he says, saying that companies “get the reputation [they] deserve” and that he sympathizes with the victims.
— City State Entertainment (@CityStateGames) July 24, 2021