Camelot Unchained “Bater” Details

The Camelot Unchained beta bater test (sorry Mark) is potentially coming pretty quick. Sheesh… it’s already October? Beta is coming (subject to change) early 2016 which means CU should begin taking the shape we can expect to see around launch relatively. Despite backing the game, I’ve purposely been avoiding CU whenever possible. I’ve had access to the alpha tests and I get all of the emails and newsletters, but I’ve kept this distance in order to protect myself and the game.

Getting too close too soon to a game like Camelot Unchained is like asking the fire not to burn you. Even with the upcoming beta, I am foreseeing a lot of change will occur to bring CU’s beta version in line with what MJ and team want to deliver, and what the backers and general public are expecting. The way they are discussing things, it sounds to me like launch is still quite a ways off.

There’s a video you can watch that’s about an hour long. I went ahead and watched it to extract the details you’ll want.

Camelot Unchained Abbot

In Beta Phase 1:

Classes (one of each for each realm (9 classes))

  • Fighters (or “tank” but that felt ambiguous)
  • Healers
  • DPS


  • Generic class without plans to specialize them
  • Gathering materials will be in
  • Full crafting reveal expected before the end of October


  • 1 Larger map
  • 3 small maps with plot ownership, contested stuff, etc.

Lots of other stuff like basic itemization, travel, technical stuff, basic guild system, etc., were mentioned. Most everything was stated as “basic but will be built upon.”

We’ve all been here before. The realistic picture being painted is that this is likely a fall 2017 launch at the earliest. Just like Mark said for beta’s launch date, “Expect the worst,” I’m expecting the worst for release.

Overall, I’m getting excited. I’ll allow myself that much. The classes revealed were the ones I voted for (which is exciting) and I like how I can already feel the class diversity starting to roll in. Hopefully it’s true diversity and not just the same spells reskinned for 3 classes. I want to see a class coming and think, “Incoming Abbot!” rather than, “Incoming melee/healer hybrid!” The class identify needs to be strong. My hopes are realistically high.

Like Lots of Classes in Your MMO? I Do.

Camelot Unchained Class Reveals

Camelot Unchained offered up one of their more interesting reveals last week: There will be “a wee bit” (read: a lot) more classes than originally planned. The reasons cited ranged from symmetrical class design being too restrictive all the way to being easier to balance asymmetrical classes.

Classes in CU won’t all have the same number of skill trees, and if I’m reading this all correctly it sounds like we won’t necessarily see mirrors across the realms. Lots of classes that aren’t the same? Less homogenization? Those are all the things I like to hear.

Dark Age of Camelot took a very similar approach. All realms had archers, speed classes, tanks, etc., but they weren’t all identical. Granted, they did all have (if I remember correctly) the same number of paths. However, they all played entirely unique. The Hunter was very different from the Scout.

Being able to say that essentially make any changes to any classes does make balancing easier on a per-class basis, but introducing more classes can quickly become difficult to balance if all of the classes are given enough diversity. Having 3 realms and maybe 10 classes per realm could mean having almost 30 different classes with the ability to all be very different. This is a breeding ground for flavors of the month.

The risk is worth the reward here, though, and I look forward to a return of more classes in a MMO with differing playstyles and themes. I credit the number of classes and replayability as the biggest reason I stuck with DAoC for as long as I did. Lots of classes and lots of diversity are now a requirement for me to play an MMO, and I’m glad to see CSE stepping it up in CU.

Heads up, backers like myself can vote for which class reveals we want to see.

Camelot Unchained Alpha Footage & MMO Marketing Tips from Keen


I’m still catching up on some news as I get settled back into the captain’s chair (that’s what I call my desk chair).  Just a few days ago, some of the first [public] footage of Camelot Unchained’s alpha made its way to the eyes of the masses, and there’s a few things I want to say regarding both the footage and how it was delivered.

First, the footage. Any DAoC vet will agree that it looks like… DAoC. Zergs? Check. Bolt spells with ridiculous distance? Check. Milegates? Looks like a check. No complaints there (except for zergs but that’ll never stop). Some of the things I liked or at least felt intrigued by were the summoning of blockades, destruction, and of course the ability builder (all of which we knew about already but it’s nice to see publicly). Overall, I love what I’m seeing and the game is still so far away. MJ and his team are on track to make a great game. I can’t wait to share my thoughts from having been in the testing so far!

Okay, now on to a very serious topic: Marketing your MMORPG in 2015.

Utilizing ‘Streamers’ is one of the biggest mistakes you will ever make in marketing a MMORPG. At first glance it may appear like a very basic marketing tactic where companies use influencers to gain exposure for their brand. However, MMORPGs are not like Crest toothpaste. You can give a famous mommy blogger some free toothpaste, pay her $250, and have her write about why her kids love your toothpaste. Try that with an MMO and you’re in for a world of hurt.

There’s more to MMORPG marketing than getting that huge upswing. When a streamer like Cohh, even though he really is one of the more legitimate experienced MMO streamers out there, plays games he does so for an audience. Streamers move on quickly, and when they do they take their following with them. Every single game that someone like Cohh hypes or plays because they’ve been given “special dispensation” ends up being a game they play for 2-3 weeks then move on. Why? Because the next company in line is ready for him to hype their game.

Pop Quiz: Do you want to see big peaks and big valleys in your player base? If you answered ‘NO’ you are correct.

MMOs are all about building that stable foundation — the community. Instead of handing your game out to a few streamers who can hype your game and be your brand champions, why not build an entire community of brand champions? Do you want a handful of people saying “Camelot Unchained looks amazing let’s all get excited!” Or, do you want thousands of brand champions because you’ve marketed your game around building a community from the ground up.

While CSE hasn’t yet gone the route of SOE in this regard, they’ve taken the first step. I strongly caution against this. Please continue doing what you’ve already done by rallying players to your forums, live streaming your office to bring the players into the experience, and communicate yourselves on websites, forums, and streams. You guys should be the ones streaming this footage on your own channels and letting others pick up on it. Yeah, that means streaming to 500 people rather than 5,000, but those 500 people have a much higher chance of being your strong foundation than any of the 5,000.

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…