Camelot Unchained Focusing on the Small Details
The MMO topping my watch list for years has been Camelot Unchained. I can't believe how much time has passed since I backed it on Kickstarter. It's crazy to think we already blew past the four year mark, and before you know it we'll be at 5 years.
“It’s been a longer-than-expected road but thankfully, finally, things are moving along at the pace we expected. That makes us all very happy.”
Time to check in a little bit and see what they're up to.
I follow every newsletter, internal test memo, and tidbit of news out there on the game. I'm purposefully controlling both my excitement and my immersion in the development process.
That saves me from three issues: (1) Getting anxious for release, (2) building the game up in my head to the point where it can't live up to the hype, and (3) suffering from knowing so much that the mystery and magic are gone before launch day.
In a recent newsletter, Ben Pielstick said something that stuck out to me.
Game developers generally can’t just focus on a few big important items to make a game ‘feel’ fun. The intrinsic sense of fun in games instead tends to come from a massive number of small subtle details, which cumulatively add up to an enjoyable experience. You can’t easily point to any one thing, like the ability button art, or the heavy armor footstep sounds, or the particle effects for casting a healing spell, and say how much more fun that one feature makes the game. If enough of these small details don’t achieve the quality standard set for the game as a whole, the overall feel of the game will start to suffer. When this happens, it can be difficult to point to a specific reason the game just doesn’t ‘feel’ good. Subtle details often don’t call attention to themselves, which can often lead to a guessing game as to which specific changes will fix the general problem of the game not ‘feeling’ fun to play. That is why it is very important to keep the details in focus.
I've spent the last 10 years on this blog striving to define what makes a game 'feel' good, and what makes playing one game 'feel 'more fun over another.
The answer is so complex that I believe even 10 years of blogging hasn't sufficiently scratched the surface. I don't think it can be defined, because it's not a definition. It's a feeling.
Ben is on the right track, though. We've seen many games fail because they focus on macro systems, or the big picture instead of the subtle details. He points out the cumulative effect of smaller systems and details being honed and polished to all add up to a better experience. I believe that is very true, but at the same time we've seen plenty of polished games fail -- fun is more than the sum if its parts.
Fun in a MMO has more to do with psychology than it does anything else. The closest we've come to identifying what makes a game fun is when we look at the psychological ramifications of certain actions, and how those systems interact with each other.
Alas, let's not digress.
I think the team at CSE is on the right track by focusing on the details. That seems like a great place to start.
I do hope that they can somehow manage to create the REASON for sieges and the REASON for wanting to progress. I could sit for countless hours crafting in SWG, harvesting resource, and decorating my house. I could grind constantly in EverQuest groups, or mine a cave in UO, and never wonder why -- I just did. I could spend hours in DAoC RvR and come back the next day craving more. That reason is the key to success, and without it the reason for failure (WAR, GW2, ESO, etc., etc).
Looking forward to seeing the CSE get to the point where they start talking more about game design and less about the technology. When that comes, I foresee a lot of great content and discussion with you all.