PAX West wasn’t the only convention with a solid MMO presence Labor Day weekend. DragonCon may not be a games-specific convention, but several high-end game devs annually make their appearances and give panels on their games and the industry in general. This year, City State Entertainment’s Camelot Unchained had a strong presence in the video gaming track, with CEO Mark Jacobs holding court to discuss the state of the crowdfunded MMO into its second year.
In their game-specific panel, Jacobs and CSE co-founder Andrew Meggs led a discussion about where the game is going. They discussed CUBE, the Camelot Unchained Building Environment, where players can use the engine to create castles and other structures. While it was likened to Minecraft, I felt the system was more like Daybreak’s Landmark due to the higher resolution of structures. CUBE uses a PBR or Physical Based Rendering to help ensure that any structures built will actually stand up, unlike either Minecraft or Landmark, and is free to Kickstarter backers and donators.
In the primary game itself, they revealed a new fall biome and also discussed how their researched astronomy system will affect magic and its effects because Meggs is an astronomy nerd, and that the game will also feature proper seasons unlike most other MMOs. While the game isn’t yet optimized, Jacobs pointed out that their current low end framerate was 30 FPS, so players with beefier systems and after optimization may experience substantially higher rates. The team also pointed out that trees in-game are rendered on the server side, not client side, so line of sight during fighting will actually be a legitimate tactical factor.
They opened up the floor to questions, and the audience wanted to know basics. Camelot Unchained is a game focusing on Realm versus Realm (RvR) combat. Progression is strictly through RvR objectives, and it was deliberately designed to have a slow progression, so there would be no land rush to snap up all the choice locations for player settlements. There is also no mob grinding to level up, Jacobs explained. Players will get rewards based on player contributions, the overall accomplishments of the entire server, and it ties into the realms in ways other games don’t do. When asked about AFKers, Jacob and Meggs were firm to state that if the game is bottable, then it’s either a bug or bad design.
They discussed the notion of skill and the scenario of what happens when 8 good/skilled players might take on a zerg of 80 not-so-good players. They believed that a small well-organized and coordinated team on voice chat with good character builds and who knew how to best use the environment around them could possibly triumph over a mob of 80 other players who weren’t coordinated or well-versed in terrain use and less-optimal builds. When asked about the possibility of the meta forcing certain preferred builds, the team replied that their progression is horizontal, where players’ Swiss army knives might get more tools in it rather than having it convert into a machine gun and increase power exponentially.
Another question from the audience touched back on the PBR and how it would affect things like spells being cast. The team replied that spells were treated like any other projectile and limited by the same physics, hence why the trees being rendered server side and directly affecting line of sight suddenly comes into play.
When asked about crafters, Jacobs noted that the game has one crafter class that has access to all crafting abilities. They’re a pure crafter class, not a fighter, so they can conceivably stay at home and do nothing but craft. 99% of all items in the game will be crafted rather than world drops, and the crafting meta itself is very involved, which Jacobs likened to Star Wars Galaxies‘ professions. He added that it will be visually obvious if someone makes a superior crafted item, and that crafters will get realm rewards the same as warrior characters. We have more on crafting in our one-on-one interview with Jacobs below as well.
Back to the Q&A, players wanted to know about the stealth bridge from earlier iterations, will there be similar good places for ambushes. While Alpha has been a very open environment for testing purposes, there will be good spots in future iterations. Players were also concerned about the possibility that RvR will become unbalanced, with one realm constantly steamrolling over the other ones. Jacobs said that their plan was to make losing fun and still rewarding to some extent. He cited the notion of players organizing some heroic or clever kills or otherwise standing out even in a losing effort will net them some rewards. When asked whether one realm can spy on another, the reply was ‘Oh hell yeah!’. Scouts are built into the concept as are other stealth options, with the promise of doing things like marking enemy fortifications for artillery strikes and the like.
Players were also curious how CUBE played into things, whether it would be compatible with other games. Blueprints created in CUBE can be imported to the regular Camelot Unchained game, and they can also be sold to other players. CUBE buildings also require physics-based viability. If something isn’t stabilized properly, the structure will fall over. The panel ended with two straightforward and simple questions. Jacobs nodded and said there would be a speed class for swift travel, and he concluded with answering a question about how targeting would work in the game, citing a combination of action and tab targeting depending on specific situations.
Later on, I had a chance to dig into the details of how Camelot Unchained‘s full-on crafter class would work in a one-on-one interview with Mark Jacobs, offering up questions from our resident Econ PVPer, Anhrez. I asked him how the economy would work, and he said the game has no auction house, only a commodities exchange, and it was their deliberate choice to enforce interaction between players. Crafters can run with combatants or stay in the safe lands, but if fighters want gear, they have to talk to crafters.
Jacobs added that since there is no PVE leveling in the game, players of either stripe cannot level up quickly and they’ll need to work together. Anhrez wanted to know how Camelot Unchained was doing itemization differently given how difficult it is to balance in other games. Having no PVE track helped with itemization, Jacobs replied, citing the silliness of a breastplate dropping off a random animal mob. They wanted to be more realistic with the relatively few world drops. With crafting, players would achieve better quality items by spending more time and using better materials in the crafting process.
Next up, Anhrez brought up the mobile vox units, a means for a crafter to get stuff done while doing other things, and how they tied into places of power. Jacobs confirmed that places of power are still a thing in terms of what benefits they give to crafters, but that the bonuses rotate due to the moon’s cycle. It’s a mechanic they built into the game to ensure that certain items were only available at certain times, and that it helps avoid griefers continually camping the good spots.
Anhrez’s final question was about the taker, shaper, and maker being the crafting trilogy. He wanted to know if a player could master all three and still have a viable solo experience? Jacobs said no, because they aren’t gated by time. They deliberately chose to ensure that no player can do all three, and they didn’t want to start a litany of ‘challenge accepted’ by gating it by time. They want players to have to pick and choose. However, Jacobs added that a crafter can be a solo combatant because it gives them something to do while crafting. You can set your vox on auto and then go off and do stuff because unlike other games’ crafting systems, you’re not spending most of your time and mats grinding junk items to level up. He spoke about how some crafting could take days or even over a week to complete a single item, much like in real life.
I asked him whether all crafting materials were like ones in real life, and he said no. While real-world crafting practices were similar (same materials to make steel in-game as in real life), there were fantasy-based materials that had no real life analogues. Jacobs also said that gathering nodes didn’t produce as many materials as one might expect from other games, but there was also no particular benefit for hoarding mats in storage since they didn’t need to grind junk items to skill up. We concluded the interview with Jacobs revealing a secret of game design. When I asked about how many games cited a technical limit to explain why players’ storage spaces could only be so big, Jacobs said that there wasn’t a tech limit at all. He added that there may be other reasons why a game might choose to limit storage, but there wasn’t a hard technical limit like players have often been told over the years.
So what’s your take on Camelot Unchained and their world?
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