See: City State Entertainment

The Daily Grind: What exactly defines an ‘indie’ MMORPG studio?

Earlier this week, I happened to see a mainstream website refer to ArtCraft as an indie studio, and it jolted me. ArtCraft, as anybody reading MOP knows, is working on Crowfall, which at least in my estimation is a high-quality, graphics-intensive MMORPG from hardcore MMORPG veterans who’ve been in the business as long as anyone alive. The game has raised at least $12M or maybe $15M, at least counting up what we know about.

When I think of indie studios, I think of the tiny outfits working on games like Project Gorgon, Ever, Jane, and Ascent the Space Game. But of course Crowfall is also an indie, right? It’s not running a $500M budget; it’s not ensconced under a cozy AAA publisher umbrella. It crowdfunds.

Then again, aside from the budget/wealth, its profile looks like a bit like Epic Games’ – it even has an engine to vend now. So is it really just about money? Is Star Citizen, with its multiple studios and AAA budget, an indie because of crowdfunding? Camelot Unchained studio CSE has multiple studios – does that factor in?

I’m curious what you folks think. What exactly defines an indie MMO studio? What characteristics must an indie studio have or not have?

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 177: ArenaNet A-bomb

On this week’s show, Bree and Justin cleans up after Guild Wars 2’s PR disaster, chew over the survivability of Shroud of the Avatar, and commiserate about Camelot Unchained’s delay. It’s not all downer news — there’s some really great stuff happening in the MMO industry, and that makes an appearance on this extra-long episode!

Special note: If you want to skip the ArenaNet discussion for the rest of the news, go to the 50-minute mark (yeah, we talk about it a lot!). Also, please note that this was recorded before the Polygon article that came out Monday night, so it’s missing some the additional commentary on Mike O’Brien’s second formal statement.

It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.

Listen to the show right now:

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Camelot Unchained has briefly delayed its 4th of July beta launch because ‘the client crash rate is too damn high’

Camelot Unchained has postponed its planned 4th of July beta launch in what Mark Jacobs is characterizing as a “short” delay.

“It’s not going to be a year delay or a three-month delay,” he told viewers on stream, reassuring them that he’s expecting it to be a matter of merely days or weeks. [Update: After the stream, Jacobs told Massively OP that he expects a clearer picture of how long the delay will be by Thursday.]

Over the weekend, studio reps said it was down to a list of 40 bugs it’s still crunching on; the company is asking existing backers to come help test this week. “The client crash rate is TOO DAMN HIGH!” is the mantra on today’s stream.

Longtime MMORPG fans will know that this delay follows several years of pre-beta testing. Last winter, City State Entertainment announced it had received a big cash investment and put the July 4th date on Camelot Unchained’s beta one. At the time, the beta was already three years late, as the studio struggled to find programmers, completely refactored large chunks of its ability system, and ultimately opened up a second studio in Seattle in order to make its RvR MMO vision a reality.

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Camelot Unchained’s 4th of July beta launch prospects are still ‘too close to call’

We’ve updated the end of this article with some words from Mark Jacobs.

Last winter, City State Entertainment announced it’d received a big cash investment and put a date on Camelot Unchained’s beta one: July 4th, 2018. At the time, the beta was already three years late, as the studio struggled to find programmers, completely refactored large chunks of its ability system, and ultimately opened up a second studio in Seattle, and I think it’s fair to say that patience has thinned out along the way.

But as we’ve been reporting for the last few weeks, while the team was originally on schedule, GDPR compliance requirements created a huge setback for the beta as key employees worked on dealing with bureaucracy instead of fixing mission-critical bugs. Consequently, as CSE’s Mark Jacobs notes in yesterday’s stream, whether or not the beta actually launches Wednesday is still “too close to call.”

Jacobs tells fans that the studio is down to a list of 40 bugs it’s still crunching on – yes, they’re crunching this weekend – and they’ll be conducting large-scale testing all weekend, which will determine whether beta one is happening on time. (The next mini-test begins right as this post goes live, in fact.)

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‘The pressure is on’ for Camelot Unchained’s beta test

“The pressure is on, but in the best of ways. The energy in the studio is incredible, we are all excited about how close we are.”

With a week until Camelot Unchained hopefully begins its long-awaited beta test, it’s all hands on deck over at City State Entertainment. The studio reported that it still has 19 “mission critical bugs” that have to be fixed to get the beta out the door, and the dev team is crunching this weekend to make it happen.

The building tech is being shored up, set dressing is being placed on islands, and the crafting system is being put together. Camelot Unchained’s backend is pretty vital to the success of the beta, and the team is also making sure that the architecture is in place for the test.

Get the full report from the team after the break!

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Camelot Unchained doubles down on development in the beta home stretch

Saying that it needs to “double down” and push hard to get the beta build finished for next month’s launch, the Camelot Unchained team noticeably increased its output this week with 20 items on its to do list.

Among the many projects that the developers were tackling this past week include shaping the Arthurian Physician class, stress testing the builder system, sorting out the crafting system, load testing servers, upgrading the trade window UI, and building props to populate taverns and banks.

As for Camelot Unchained BetaWatch (ooh, that’s a catchy title we should steal), it’s still on track: “As you all know, we had set our original feature lock date as June 12, which was this Tuesday. The good news is, many of our core Beta features have landed, things like skill improvements, scenarios, and our ability to have a complete game loop. However, some work just isn’t where we want it to be, and so we are moving forward with a bit of continued feature work to deliver the experience we want for Beta 1 Day 1. We are still hopeful for the 4th of July!”

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Camelot Unchained ‘just barely’ on track for Beta 1

The Camelot Unchained team is racing against its self-imposed deadline to get the MMO’s first beta test out the door on July 4th — and by the sound of it, it’s going to be a close thing. “We are still on track, but just barely,” the team reported. “We had to spend a lot of time on our compliance with the GDPR policies as well as some other game studio stuff (all good!).”

This push means that a lot got done this past week, including the reinstatement of the forums, updates to the Beta 1 refining process, work on the beta’s progression testing, and installation of debugging tools.

Of course, if you’re a visual creature, you’d be far more interested in seeing one of the new boat concepts, possible town art assets, and a couple of character model renders of the male Viking Mjölnir and female Arthurian Black Knight.

“I’m particularly looking forward to the next several weeks, as we get players moving between islands and scenarios, testing out all our hard work,” the devs said.
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Camelot Unchained begins the one-month countdown to beta

Hope you’re not tired of hearing about the Great Coming of Camelot Unchained’s first beta test because we get the feeling that City State is going to be ramping up the chatter and hype as it counts down the final month before this momentous occasion.

The team said that it has been “busy, busy, busy” getting ready and adding features for the beta, as well as adjusting the game to comply with GDPR regulations.

The isssue of game balance (or lack thereof) was toted out for discussion. CSE explained why it hasn’t spent much time on game balance as of yet: “Many of the parts of the game that need to be balanced are still very much a work-in-progress […] Think of this like working on a physical project in the real world: Work can often get done a lot faster by making a bit of a mess while you’re working and cleaning it all up at the end, as opposed to keeping the workspace clean the entire time work is taking place.”

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Camelot Unchained conforms to GDPR regs, shows off new visual effects

Europe’s new GDPR regulations are creating a lot of busy work for many MMORPG studios including City State Entertainment, which had to spend over 350 hours updating Camelot Unchained’s privacy policy and making other changes to conform to the law.

“We have made a number of changes to our privacy policy based upon the GDPR,” CSE said. “The good news is that ALL of our backers will now have extra protection, rights, and options than they had before. The bad news is that you have to read through a lot of words.”

The studio once again confirmed that it was still on track for July’s Beta 1 test. Some of its recent projects included adding more features for plots, setting up the new forums, adding dynamic updating of the skill bar, laying out the home islands, prepping cross-server scenarios, and more.

Visual effects are coming along nicely, and you can look at a few of these after the break!

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The Game Archaeologist: Warhammer Online

When it comes to notable years in the MMORPG genre’s history, 2008 stands out as one of the most significant. World of Warcraft’s debut onto the scene in 2004 caused an upheaval in ways far too numerous to go into detail here. Suffice to say that its overwhelming popularity drew the attention of game designers who looked at the staggering numbers of players and found themselves envious of the potential to grab a slice of that money pie.

Many projects went into high gear following WoW’s launch, with plenty of them trying to copy the formula and structure that Blizzard established in the hopes of making it at least partially as big as that game. So-called WoW clones began to pepper the market and there was a sense that gamers were ready to move on from World of Warcraft to the next generation of MMOs. In many players’ minds, this would be either 2008’s Age of Conan or Warhammer Online, two big-budget MMOs with strong IPs that carried a lot of the weight of expectation.

Little did anyone realize that 2008 represented a bubble that was about to burst on the industry and the WoW clones that followed — including Warhammer Online. Today, we’re going to take a look at “bears, bears, bears,” the high hopes of Mythic Entertainment, and how WAR became a casaulty on its own battlefield.

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Camelot Unchained knocks out another Beta 1 obstacle

The Camelot Unchained team is making enormous strides in preparing the game for its first beta test in July, with one major obstacle overcome this pass week. The team reported that it is hard at work tracking down a physics server crash bug, improving the way buildings are passed over the server, reviving warbands, tweaking the sound engine, testing out new racial traits, and updating character creation renders.

“Andrew wrapped up the giant building refactor,” the team crowed. “He achieved a 99.2% reduction in the number of bytes required to send an entire building over the network, and reduced the CPU load on proxies from over 75 msecs per connected client to a negligible level. Calculating changes between two states of a building now happens in only a few clock cycles, with comparable savings in network bandwidth for larger changes, like knocking off an entire tower.”

City State Entertainment continued its tradition of showing off various bits of art assets in the making. Fans can check out animation frames from the Mjölnir and Forest Stalker, trait icons, the Physician’s belt, a hip quiver, and three of the character renders for the UI.

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Camelot Unchained is getting unstable (but that’s OK)

It’s another week of progress and beta preparation for the team at Camelot Unchained. City State Entertainment is running an “unstable build” with lots of new features and ideas that it wants to test out. Some of these testable items include working traits, tweaks to the user interface, more animations, and zone art assets.

“We’ve been very busy this week, working on some great things like improved performance in the building system, new class-specific animations, and even updates to the scenario system to allow you to queue from different servers,” the team reported.

Of course, if you’d like the longer version, we can oblige with the full end-of-week wrap-up video with the devs after the break.

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Camelot Unchained works on trading, the UI, and building code ahead of July’s beta

July 4th is getting closer, which means the Camelot Unchained team is in high gear polishing up the build for the beta that’s finally set to launch come Independence Day. Last week’s dev update was relatively short for the longwinded CSE; there were no player tests this weekend, but the studio discusses its asset decluttering rules, building code, a big UI update, class animations, chat UI, character creation, the trading system, and the trait system. Maybe the most interesting bit (for regular players) is actually the screenshots at the very end of the update on the Dragon Fang scenario.

“The hill we are currently climbing in the assembly of this map, is the creation and placement of these large, SPIKY, rock walls, growing outward from the Place of Power which resides in the center of the map,” explains CSE’s Tyler Rockwell. “All these rocks also need to be very performant so we can have hundreds of players fighting it out in this zone. Next week we’ll try and finish up placing the majority of these assets to show off more of the map in the update!”

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