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Camelot Unchained Class Q&A with Mark Jacobs

Mark Jacobs and the team working on Camelot Unchained have released their very first class design document. This information comes as part of their goal to have a transparent design and development process. With this first class document — The Viking Warrior Class (Drengr) — comes information on a major part of the class system called Paths.

We were able to ask Mark a few questions about the design document. As always, the questions we ask when we interview a dev (even a friend like Mark) are the ones we want answered most — even if it means throwing a few tough ones in there — and the questions we feel our readers care about. If you have additional questions for Mark please feel free to leave a comment. He reads what you have to say and might even comment himself.

Keen: In the Path system you have stated that going down a ‘path’ unlocks ‘achievements’ and that they are entirely (or majorly) cosmetic type stuff. To be 100% clear for our readers, is it right then to assume that choosing a Path is not a means to unlock new abilities like Thor’s Lighting Smash Attack, but instead would be something more like ‘because you use crushing attacks you now glow purple and red with lightning and blood’?

Mark Jacobs: That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work! You just explained it better than I did the first time, when we presented the document to our Internal Testers for their initial review.

Keen: The path system seems like a clever way of disguising levels. “Looking for a Drengr with x Thor milestones” sounds like a spiced up way of saying, “Looking for a level X warrior with DPS spec”. I know that I have oversimplified this for the sake of asking this question, but is this the overall intention of the path system — to create a means of giving players a way of stating what kind of character they have built?

Mark Jacobs: Once again, you are correct, but with one slight modification. Since we don’t really have a vertical leveling system, but rather a horizontal one, I would describe it more like “Looking for a DPS warrior who has unlocked Thor’s Lightning Smash Attack, Mjolnir’s Revenge, Goldilocks for the Win! (just kidding), etc. With the Path system, identifying yourself when you are LFG becomes just a wee bit easier.

Keen: Path Banes and Boons (PB&B) seem to completely contradict the idea that a path does not unlock talents or skills, etc — especially if non-optional. It’s one thing to use a hammer and get better with a hammer, but another to use a hammer with the intent to unlock PB&B’s. Can you clarify how these banes and boons can exist within this path system and not play a major (if not complete) role in the choice?

Mark Jacobs: That was one of the points I discussed with the IT folks on our Forums. Now, if those B&B unlocks could be achieved by non-Path players, it works out fine. In that case, the B&Bs would be tied to amount of time in-game, power, or some other condition(s) that would track across all Paths. But, as you say, if the B&Bs are tied solely to progression along the Path, that might be a problem. That’s one of the reasons my initial thought was to have these B&Bs open to all Drengr, and not tied only to Path progression. This is definitely one of those points that we are going to be in deep discussion internally as well as with our Backers over the next few months and beyond.

Keen: There seems to be a lot of progression elements for the player to focus on: Weapon choice, skill usage, skill crafting, runes, banes, boons, potential skill degradation, bonding, stats, and now paths. (Did I miss anything?) Are paths meant to be a way of organizing all of these things to give the ‘general populous’ their path of least resistance to a play style by providing a common denominator?

Mark Jacobs: That’s the beauty of the horizontal system we are trying to build here. We can’t rely on the traditional verticality of leveling systems to give the players more and more powerful stuff as they progress in the game. OTOH, if we have a lot of different ways that players can progress, we can always keep adding small things to the game without breaking Rule #1 for Camelot Unchained, which is that new players have to be able to be competitive in RvR from day one.

As far as them being a path of least resistance, I would agree, but not just for the general populace. If we can create really cool and interesting classes and Paths, then even some harder-core players might be immediately attracted to one or more of them. With the mostly open-ended nature of the class/Paths, they could start their adventures in our game focused on one Path, and then tweak their build as time goes by.

Keen: I can’t help but think of old school Ultima Online here. You have a skill cap of sorts with the potential to choose any combination of skills. You can max out a few or dabble in several to build whatever type of character you want. Back in the day, players used to give names to certain combinations of skill point allocations: Dexxers, Hally Mages, etc. Despite the fact that non-cookie cutter FOTM builds were great, people seemed to always go for these templates. Are you worried that players will identify too closely with a ‘build’ thus reducing the perceived ‘openness’ of Camelot Unchained’s character system?

Mark Jacobs: I hope not. The fact that we will not have cheap and easy respecs will certainly limit the FOTM builds, but as you point out, that’s not the only possible problem. I do think that some players will perceive certain builds as being “the” build for certain situations, but if we have enough Components in the game, and in turn enough varied and distinct abilities, that won’t be as much of a problem (we hope). Keep in mind that without PvE, and with large-scale battle and sieges being a huge part of this game, I think it will make choosing the “best build” a bit more difficult. OTOH, if our Backers and players are happy with a “best build” tradition, then that works too.

Keen: Do you hope that most players will use and embrace the path system or create their own sub-class?

Mark Jacobs: A mixture of both would make me very happy. If our Backers and future players think that the Path system and the classes we create are worthwhile, then that alone will mean that we have done a good job. If, after playing the game for a while, we have a mixture of heavily focused class/Path combos as well as player-made combos, and players are happy (as per above), then that would work for us too. As I’ve said since I created my first online game, no matter how smart we think we are, the players will always have their own opinions, and will also be, at times, smarter than us. We just have to try to create a great system, and then react based on what we see, hear, and experience as we and they play the game. That is one of the reasons we are releasing this document now, as well as why we plan on having much longer Alpha and Beta test periods, with a much larger group of Backers/players than most other MMORPGs have.

As always, thanks to Keen and Graev for this interview and support of this and other games I’ve been fortunate enough to work on over the decades.

Thank you Mark for taking the time to answer our questions!

Be sure to read the Viking Warrior Class Design Document for more information.

The Council of Gaming Elders

I had a very interesting dream last night. I was evaluating the current state of MMORPGs and decided that the current state of affairs had gone on for too long. Our beloved hobby and industry was degrading past the point of recovery. I took action into my own hands and called a Council of the Gaming Elders.

I was standing in a dimly lit room with a solid round wooden table in the center. A chandelier with glowing blue flames hung above. There were 6 chairs. As I stood at my seat the other Elders entered, each announced by a low voice. First to enter was Mark Jacobs. He stood next to the seat at my right — the table in front of his seat embossed with the realm triad from Dark Age of Camelot. Next to enter was Raph Koster stood by his place marked by a lightsaber crossing a crafting station and house. Steve Danuser was next and took his place by a lore book.  Dave Georgeson entered next and stood near his place marked by a map. Last to enter was Mike Morhaime who took his place next to a seat marked with golden coins.

Once all of the Elders had entered, we sat together in unison. I began the meeting by stating that I had called them all there to discuss how we can restore these games to their true potential. Each of them possessed talents necessary for restoring MMORPGs to their previous state. What followed was an enlightening discussion and meeting of the minds. Each Elder brought up ideas and we began to craft the perfect game… the game to restore balance. It ended with the Elders departing, each committed to bringing their resources together to make this game (which we completely planned out) happen.

I don’t know why my mind chose these people. Mark Jacobs is an obvious one because he has become a friend and I value his contribution to PvP and the MMO community. Raph Koster is someone I’ve always thought of as a virtual world connoisseur. Steve Danuser is someone who gets the idea of a living world and I like his sense of lore and continuity. Dave Georgeson because he is attached to EverQuestand I respect him as a person and his career. Lastly, Mike Morhaime (who surprised me since I thought this would be Chris Metzen) because of his position over WoW.

The game we designed was ideal. That’s the general impression I get. I remember only minor thoughts I was having during the dream. This perfect MMORPG was some sort of mix of every game these Elders had worked out. I was in charge of the vision and I know that I felt like this was the true spiritual successor to every ‘great’ game I remember playing from 1996-2004.

I woke up feeling like I had accomplished some great work. For a moment I was even anxious to go play this game. If only…

Camelot Unchained is Looking Real Good

My excitement for Camelot Unchained is really starting to ramp up. Such a welcome change from the dismal outlook I’ve had on MMOs lately. Camelot Unchained is currently in pre-alpha testing. I think I get access to some version of Alpha based on my support of their Kickstarter campaign… I just can’t remember when or how I’m supposed to be getting that access.

I’ll be the first to admit that I thought Camelot Unchained would look rough. I’m not a graphics whore or snob (well okay maybe a little).  When I saw the screenshots from the P.A.T. I was actually shocked in a good way. Take a look.

camelot-unchained-pre-alpha1

camelot-unchained-pre-alpha2

Pretty cool right? I’m liking how they’ve progressed from that tech demo. I think the character models already look good and have a lot of potential. I’m starting to get excited to think about playing this game and rekindling that sense of a big world of territories ripe for the conquering.

You guys know me. I’m typically a PvE carebear. When it comes to PvP I’m reluctant to participate and always have been since I started playing online games. The only game to truly capture my attention from a PvP angle was Dark Age of Camelot. It’s all about the realm, the large group, and the server battling together rather than guilds or individuals or teams. It’s grand scale stuff. My mind is creating these types of experience already in the graphical style of what I’ve seen in Camelot Unchained.

Something else I want to touch on briefly is the way in which Mark and his team are promoting/marketing/etc., CU. I love the blunt and matter of fact way in which they talk about their game. I’m a fan of the “our game is not for everyone” tone. I’m a fan of letting your game speak for itself rather than having to create marketing materials or bs videos of a dev sitting there talking. As Camelot Unchained enters a stage when they can start actually sharing the game itself, I hope the team at CSE keeps it up.

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…]

[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…]