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[Exclusive] Camelot Unchained Q/A

Camelot Unchained

I can’t believe we’re coming up on nine months since Camelot Unchained was funded via Kickstarter.  The CSE team has been hard at work pushing out lots of background information in the form of lore and stories to really set the premise for what’s going on in the world.  So it’s only natural that I would bug Mark Jacobs to subject himself to our barrage of question.

We decided it was time to really start getting to the nitty-gritty details of Camelot Unchained, and we wanted you (our readers) to begin the discussion.  We asked you to come up with the questions you want answered most, and then we just threw them at CSE in a nice big unorganized pile. I think you’ll enjoy what they sent back.

K&G: What is the combat system like? Twitch based, Action-rpg or traditional mmo hotkey based?

CSE: To date, we have said that we are going for an old-school approach to certain aspects of our game, and this would certainly be one of them. What I’m willing to say for now is that we don’t want a lot of bunny-hopping players dodging incoming attacks. There are enough games that already do this, some quite well, and we don’t need to add another to that list. Also, that style of gameplay doesn’t fit what our Founders have told us they are looking for in Camelot Unchained. [Read more...]

Camelot Unchained: Luchorpan!

Camelot Unchained LuchorpanWe’re long overdue for a good Camelot Unchained post!  Mark Jacobs and his team have been publishing regular updates with everything from concept art of races and their origin stories to a very transparent rundown of their sprint cycles.

Knowing how crazy I am for the little races like Lurikeens, Gnomes, and Dwarves, Mark allowed me the opportunity to communicate to him some of my thoughts on the Luchorpan (or Leprechaun) race.  I think I screamed MAKE THEM LURIKEEEEEEEEENS … and he said no.  We got the next best thing, though, after begging for big eyebrows and tons of ear hair.

Camelot Unchained Luchorpan Faces

 

You can find a rundown of some of the potential racial abilities here.

If you’re not familiar with the how the lore of Camelot Unchained is developing, you really should read some of the origin stories.  The Veilstorms are bringing about what’s being called “The Change,” and all of the races are experiencing its effects.  Be warned, some of the lore can be dark and twisted and is not suitable for younglings.

Lore and art are fantastic, especially the leprechaun variety, but what all of us desperately want are the nitty gritty details!  That’s one of the tiny downsides to closely watching an MMO with transparent development.  I see every little update like getting paperdolls to work, and suddenly I envision my Luchorpan shooting arrows at people from the treetops, leaping down onto unsuspecting prey and poking their eyes out with my long sharp fingers, then robbing them quite literally blind.

I’m going to have to temper my enthusiasm.  We have a long ways to get yet!  Meanwhile, I’m going to keep poking Mark until he gives us some goodies to share with you guys.  Stay tuned!

MMOs Need a Counter-Revolution

Back in 2010 I concluded that the MMO industry is working backwords. January 3, 2010 I said, “Looking at what the MMORPG’s of the past were able to accomplish, and what is being designed and attempted today, does it not appear as though we are working backwards?”  MMOs were once achieving certain things, progressing (EQ/AC to DAoC to SWG, etc) but MMOs today are going down a path which leads them in a direction where it’s impossible to become better.

Over three years later, I am haunted by this industry’s perpetual failure to recognize the greatness in games long past, and an industry now plagued by horrific ideas thought to be ‘just how games are made these days.’  Embracing worlds which are instanced to the point of being single-player experiences, PvP in little frag boxes, absolutely no reason to ever interact or socialize with anyone, and nothing but the same game being made one iteration after the next.

When is a game going to come along that bucks the trend, stands up against this regression, and starts us back on the path moving forward?  Inspiration for this musing comes from Camelot Unchained’s Kickstarter page:

“In the rush to cash in on the WoW phenomenon, publishers/designers tried to simply “out-WoW WoW”, leading to most MMORPGs becoming more risk-averse, more “casual player”-focused, and overall, less challenging.”

Developers and players alike these days seem to think this was an evolutionary trend, and the ones drinking the cool-aid think it was a revolution, when in fact it was a devolution.  Now to buck this trend we must begin an era of (as CSE puts it) counter-revolutionary MMO design.

That’s why I’m willing to back a game like CU years in advance.  I believe in their ideology.  I have no idea if the game will even be any good — I mean I really hope it is, but I’m not investing in this like a pre-order banking on hype. This is me throwing my support and backing what I believe.  I believe we’re never going to get back to making MMOs that actually innovate and move beyond what was originally being developed a decade ago until someone steps up and takes us back to a point in which we can actually begin moving forward in the right direction.

Dedicated Crafting Classes

I believe that dedicated crafting classes are one of, if not the most, important features in a MMO.  If a game can sustain multiple play styles, that game will have far more depth than a game where crafting is something anyone can pick up and max.

My custom house in UO is currently under construction. I have converted the second floor into one giant workshop where I spend most of my day tinkering.

Something about crafting relaxes me.  For over a month now I have been playing a pure crafter role in UO.  I log in each day, visit my vendors to see what other players have purchased, head back to my workshop to craft items, then revisit my vendor to restock.  When I have stocked my goods for that day, I spend the remainder of my time gathering resources, crafting inventory to have on hand, and finally I come up with ways to market my goods to gain an edge against the competition.  As you can see, my daily agenda is quite full.  I can easily spend 2-3 hours stocking my vendors and preparing for the next day.  I recently wrote about having to rely on other players to provide me materials, and the biggest reason I choose to buy so much from other players and cut into my profits is because I don’t have enough time.

Playing a pure crafter is a fulfilling experience for me.  In fact, although it may sound like I have a fairly regimented and monotonous schedule, I find playing a vendor to be more dynamic than playing a company character.  I’m always having to worry about inputs from other players. Have prices dropped? Is there a new hot item in demand? I’m constantly adapting and changing in ways other players who go out each day to slay monsters can’t even imagine.  Keeping up with the trends is precisely how I built my immense crafting empire in SWG: I found a need and filled it before anyone else — it just happened to be food and drink which provided stat bonuses no one knew they needed until they met someone who was way better than they were because they consumed my goods.  Consumable + can’t live without = rich Keen.

Camelot Unchained is going to have a crafting system which sounds, so far on paper, like what I want.  According to Mark Jacobs’ Foundational Principle #7, the fundamentals for a good crafting system are there: Item decay, dedicated crafting classes, everything you make is useful (instead of making 50 widgets you’ll never use), no AH (you have to come to me or my shop) and you can customize the look of the items (hopefully).  There’s one feature, however, that makes this system more impressive than even the one used by UO: All items come from crafting.

When I craft in UO, I’m constantly having to compete against these rare magic drops that are sometimes better than anything I can make.  That’s aggravating because my entire reason for existing is to provide players with things they need to go out and hunt monsters.  If they can remove me from the equation, suddenly my reason for existing comes into question.  If players are forced to turn ot crafters for everything, suddenly there will always be a reason for a dedicated crafter to exist.  Combat classes will be forced to rely on crafting – whether they do it themselves via journeyman crafting or turn to dedicated crafters for more illustrious items.

So far I see two potential issues in Camelot Unchained’s plan.  First is item decay.  There is no full looting in PvP; the only way an item will be replaced is through item decay.  Items will need to decay fast enough to generate enough demand for potentially hundreds of dedicated crafters.  If there are 1000 combat characters, even if only 100 people play dedicated crafters (10%), that’s not a lot of business.  It’s even less business if those people only need to replace their items once a week.

Second, why am I making gear?  Realm pride is one reason.  I want my realm to win and I want them to do so using my stuff.  If realm pride can boost personal pride, that’s awesome.  But I also want to get rich and have nice things.  In UO I work so hard to sell sell sell because I want to be able to decorate a custom house and help my friends.  Those things cost a lot of money due to money sinks.  Hopefully Camelot Unchained provides me an outlet for spending my wealth, and sufficient cash sinks.  Furthermore, I hope combat characters earn enough cash to bring it my way.

Penalties for dying in PvP

DAoC RvR death penalty

Here’s a random picture of dead people in Dark Age of Camelot.

The subject of consequences isn’t foreign to this blog.  We talk all the time about wanting games with more meaningful decisions. Over the past few days, Mark Jacobs has been publishing a lot of what he calls “Foundational Principles” wherein he discusses his thoughts on this very subject.  While reading his thoughts, and contemplating my own current feelings, I came to a conclusion about certain PvP penalties/consequences.

I’ve circled the MMO block a few times.  I started PvPing consistently in DAoC where there was no direct penalty.  I’ve played games like PotBS, Darkfall, UO, etc., where you can lose everything.  Personally, I prefer not losing my stuff.  I don’t see a need for losing gear, experience, or stats for a PvP death.  To borrow a phrase from Mark Jacobs, those are more often than not “quitting points.”  Different methods can produce very similar results.

Take DAoC for example.  Death meant being out of the fight.  You missed out on the action, missed out on the points, and had to run all the way back.   If you’re thinking to yourself that running back isn’t a big deal then you clearly never played DAoC where the run could be 20+ minutes.   In reality, it could take even longer waiting for a portal to teleport you back, and even longer if the action moved.

In my opinion, DAoC’s penalty for dying in RvR handles the issue with much more finesse.  By comparison, simply losing all your stuff feels like a cop-out, and unsupported by the rest of the game.  Weak penalties, like the one found in games like WAR, where death is nothing and neither side truly loses anything — ever — are just as bad… maybe worse.

Balance is needed between just enough to be meaningful, and not enough to make you want to quit.  I prefer when the penalty can be incorporated with more of mechanics and features of the world, rather than simply going the full-loot route.

Since I mentioned MJ’s foundational principles in the beginning, I’ll close by mentioning that Camelot Unchained will not have full-loot in PvP.  When I spoke with Mark at length about penalizing players for dying, he agreed with me that DAoC’s penalties (as I mentioned earlier) were adequate  and alluded to taking Camelot Unchained down a similar path.