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EXCLUSIVE: Camelot Unchained BSC Q&A with Mark Jacobs

If you haven’t been following Camelot Unchained then you’re really missing out. Mark Jacobs and his team have really been working hard to get solid information out to the fans about what type of game we can expect.  Our relationship with MJ began years ago.  We really respect his development style, and he has shown us a significant amount of respect over the years by paying attention to our humble site and community.  His team contacted us and offered us an opportunity to once again fire off any questions we wanted about the information released during their ‘Bat Sh** Crazy’ week-long information extravaganza. We jumped at the opportunity!

We took our time with this one and really went over the information they sent to prepare some questions we felt our readers would care about. We would like to thank Mark and his team for their time and willingness to answer openly. I want you all to visit the official Camelot Unchained website. Below you will find links to information you MUST READ.  Much of our interview requires some knowledge of the information released.  Our questions are broken down by section for ease of reading.

STATS

Q. Can players truly “gimp” themselves at character creation or during any meaningful decision making process? Whether a yes or no we would love to hear your thoughts on why.

Yes, they can. We’ve been very clear on this point from the beginning, and I see no reason to change it. We will give the player plenty of warning/advice during the character creation process, but if having the world’s weakest fighter is how you want to play the game, well, you should be allowed to make such a choice, up to a certain point.

For example, our classes/abilities will have certain minimal specs, so to be a fighter-type, you will need to have at least some strength. Do you have to be “strong like ox?” No. It will help you, but if you want to play your character this way, we are going to allow you to do so.

Now, this cannot be done within a vacuum, so the player must know that the character is likely to be gimped before making that decision. But once this is known, we want to give the choice to the player. As I said during our Kickstarter and beyond, choices matter – even bad ones.

Q. Will there be any way to respec primary or secondary stats?

We may allow a brief respec period after character creation (it will be longer if we can’t generate the volumes of support material I want for this game at launch), and there will always be respecs given if we have f-ed up something so badly that a class has become significantly out of balance/nerfed. Other than that, they will not be easily obtainable, as per what we said during our Kickstarter.

Q. Botting and/or macroing has been a big issue in previous MMORPGs where stats are based on usage. Can you elaborate on any plans you have to combat macros, botting, etc.?

As to bots: Die, die! Kill them all! Make them suffer! I’ve seen the botting problems in some current MMORPGs as well as older ones, up close and personal, and I hate them. I don’t feel as violently opposed to macroing (depending on one’s definition of it), but we’ll just have to see what happens. I do hope macros will be less of a problem in our game, and I think that bots will play less of a role due to certain design decisions that will make buffbotting less advantageous, but as always, time will tell. I’ve been very clear about how we will be aggressive in both our design and CS policies to deter botting.

Read on for our full Camelot Unchained interview with Mark Jacobs!  [Read more...]

Early Access: The Next Pay-to-Win

Yesterday we had a good discussion about pay-to-win strategies and how gaming companies are starting to slowly back off of the “whale-model.”  We also noted that the pay-to-win or else you have to grind model is also inherently flawed as it fractures the game into how it was meant to be played and how some people are forced or opt into playing depending on which side you’re on. Now I want to talk a little bit about something that I think is starting to replace the pay wall model: Early access.

Early access is a fascinating thing. There’s a degree of marketing genius behind getting someone to actually crave and desire to buy a game before it is completed. Money today is worth more than money tomorrow according to all those finance classes I tried to sleep through in college. We as gamers always want in on the ground level. If a game is ready to play now then we want it right this second. We’re also inherently wanting to be the best.

Is this almost a basic form of pay-to-win? On one hand they’ve simply moved up the date of the game and gotten you to pay to stress test.  On the other hand, if this is a F2P game then they’ve gotten you to willingly pay-to-play or in this case… we might even consider that winning. What’s even more ridiculous is that they’ll get us to pay a price way beyond what we might ever even pay in the cash shop.

I am 100% leading the pack face first into this one. I pay for early access all the time!  I would -never- spend $100 in a F2P game’s cash shop, but I’ll drop $100 to access an alpha for a game I’m anticipating. I’m either well within my right of exchanging value for value, or I’m insane. I think a little bit of both.  Either way, I have payed to–some degree–win.

This entire early access model is going to fall flat fairly quick. What’s happening is that the majority of the industry is becoming frustrated by games never finishing. The incentive to finish a project seems to wane when you no longer have to make sure you’re working hard to develop a product people want to buy–they’ve already purchased it after all. I still have early access cash tied up in 3-4 games that may never see completion. Am I pissed off? Ehhh no. I knew the risk, I played them for many hours already and could justify that for the price of admission alone, but gamers are wising up.

Just like with F2p/P2W models, gamers are expressing their dissatisfaction and unwillingness to accept shoddy craftsmanship. Early access will be no exception here. Regardless of your “business model” (and however hard you try to turn your game into a business), if you can’t make an amazing game you will fail. The market will catch up with every model eventually and demand quality.

Is Pay to Win Coming to an End?

I’m really liking what I see with payment models across the gaming industry in general. For a while there it was an obvious turn toward free-to-play, and no one had the model figured out. We saw most in the MMO space going with a pay-to-win approach, or a nickel-and-time model. The trend is still moving toward this idea that gaming should be “free,” and they are still setting themselves up to make a lot more money off their players, but the entire scheme is being marketed in a much better way.

Marketing gets a bad rap for being this sneaky, slimy way of seducing people in and (here’s the key) not providing any value in return–that sense of being tricked. Good marketing, which we’re seeing more of today, still entices people to play the game, but they do so with a sense of comfort that they don’t have to spend money.  It’s the idea that I can play a game, not spend any money, but still enjoy the game completely that keeps people playing and will entice more people to try. Believe it or not, a huge part of marketing in this industry is developing a product (game) that can actually stand up against the competition. I think people are also wising up to the idea that the ‘core gamer’ in the MMO market–the one who will stick around and be the source of revenue–isn’t cool with the pay-to-win model.  That same demographic wants AAA games. In past I would laugh in your face if you told me a F2P game could ever be AAA, but now if I’ll laugh in your face if it’s not.

A big company isn’t going to just one day say, “hey we should make all of our games free for everyone, stop selling games entirely, and sell in-game clothing.. and we should do that in games with a $20 million budget! That will make us millions!”  I believe in data and market research. Trusting your golden gut is like rolling the dice, even if you think you know the industry. Data should be one of the foundations upon which you make decisions and formulate a strategy.

As pay-to-win starts fade away let’s hope the new F2P strategies (hopefully backed by real data and smart marketing) will lead to better games. In the end, I’m still a firm believer in subscription models and virtual worlds, but what I most care about are great games designed to keep people playing and enjoying a rich and fun experience.

Thoughts? I think we can all agree that the insidious F2P model fading away is a great thing for MMOs and gaming in general. What are your thoughts on this newer more laid back, “hey, give us your money if you want. No big deal!” F2P strategy?

Divinity: Original Sin

divinity-original-sin

Divinity: Original Sin is a fantastic RPG experience that rises above the sea of mediocrity that the genre has become. I just thought I’d get that out of the way.

Premise

In D: OS you play as a source hunter; two, actually, but I’ll get to that later. Source Hunters are tasked with hunting down Sorcerers and other foul magical things, but for your mission you are sent to the town of Cyseal in order to investigate a murder. A councilman has been killed and the scene of the crime was hinky enough for the local wizard to request the aid of Source Hunters. However things aren’t quite as simple as they seem and soon you find yourself wrapped up in something much larger than you realize. Sound fun? Read on for our full review.  [Read more...]

Anticipation Kills MMOs

I hinted yesterday about anticipation killing games.  This idea about hype isn’t a new one.  If you read MMO blogs, especially if you read this one six years ago, you know how bad hype can be when a game is built up and put up on a pedestal. Nothing can ever, ever, live up to the expectations we create in our heads.

I’m generalizing a lot and speaking for everyone here, so let me explain why I can’t personally let myself anticipate MMOs as much as I used to.

My imagination runs away

I had a decent imagination as a kid.  I still do.  When it comes to MMOs, however, my imagination is crazy.  I envision worlds functioning almost like real life. I see people working together in ways that really aren’t probable. I start to see PvP like a real medieval battle. I see archers on battlements and rows of pikeman advancing. I see the battle of Helm’s Deep. I think about crafting like a blacksmith really owning a shop in Camelot.  All of that is what I want and imagine, but never what translates into gameplay.

I already experienced what I want and love about MMOs

Three of my favorite MMOs are: (1) EverQuest, (2) Star Wars Galaxies, and (3) Dark Age of Camelot. Three very, very different games.  All three were (almost) perfect (for me) back in their day. Those games have never been recreated. I’ve gone back and played emulated versions of all of them.  I’ve sought out sequels, games created by the same devs, and never have I experienced them again.  I can’t figure out why, but I know that’s been a trigger for experiencing that feeling of falling flat on my face when I anticipate new MMOs too much.

MMOs have become too much about business

Whether or not anything has actually changed, I think of MMOs today as more of a business venture rather than a team getting together to build something special. MMOs cost more money so more funding is needed. When more funding is needed you have to worry about making it back and then some. This industry has gone through a phase or awful new business models trying to find itself. We’re just now, maybe, starting to come out of that.

I can sit back and say that no game will ever again be worth anticipating and that we shouldn’t ever get excited, but that’s going too far. I’ve written plenty in the past about the fact that you can still get excited, and should, but keep your excitement in check. Look at the facts.  Consider 100% of the game rather than the 5% or 10% you like. If you’re like me and you know why you can’t anticipate games with such zeal, temper those expectations and look for other ways to get excited.