Camelot Unchained Q&A with Mark Jacobs

Updated Thu, Feb 21, 2013 by Xerin

We recently had the chance to sit down with Mark Jacobs, co-founder of City State Entertainment, and discuss their upcoming game Camelot Unchained. Realm vs. Realm combat was the core feature of Dark Age of Camelot, a system that pits three factions against one another in an eternal struggle to control keeps and relics. Learn more about some of the design decisions going into Camelot Unchained and Mark Jacob's thoughts on the industry at large.

Do you feel that your previous work, before DAoC, stretching back to Darkness Falls or even back to the text-based days of Dragon's Gate, still influences your work today? Do you still want to tell stories through your games, or is Camelot Unchained entirely about letting players tell their own stories?

Absolutely. I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of games over my career, and I try to draw on what I’ve learned from all of them in making each new one. Some lessons come at a very high price (Trials of Atlantis), while others are quite positive. I do still like to tell stories, but in the case of Camelot Unchained (still a working title only), I plan to lay the groundwork with a shattering of the world and everything that surrounds it, then let the players really take it from there.

Do you have some thoughts or preliminary ideas on how you'll handle realm balance? With a three realm system one or two realms will fill up while the other one or two will be deserted for a multitude of reasons (realm bonuses, friend trains, aesthetics, life's own RNG) causing balancing issues. While there may never be a silver bullet for the issue, what are some of your thoughts on helping keep servers at a somewhat equal equilibrium?

Aside from the usual stuff (make sure all realms look great, make none truly evil, etc.), we will try to support a greater number of people per realm than we did in Dark Age of Camelot and/or Warhammer. That is one of the nice things about not trying to get a million subs; we can afford to have fewer servers at launch and take a lot more chances during development and beta. Also, with the alpha/beta plans we have, we expect to have a large portion of our players in the game before it launches. We also have some other ideas we will discuss later.

Part of the fun of three realm Realm vs. Realm combat is that the weak can rally together to fight the powerful few. The downside (for some) is zerging, lemming-like blobs of players that pay little mind to strategy or defense. Do you see zerging as a necessary evil or a fun and epic experience? Is it something you'd want to counter programmatically somehow, perhaps by applying a debuff when the size of the blob exceeds some limit?

Zerging for fun and profit is such a part of games like this as well as RTS games that we can learn a lot lessons from them. We certainly plan to have a large map, lots of choke points, many different targets, spells/abilities that are geared to zergs. etc. All of these as well as many other things will show how serious we are about not letting this game become a zerg-fest.

You've mentioned that establishing realm pride is big on your to do list. Do you have any thoughts on how you'll accomplish it and make players feel loyal to one side? What will keep players from hoping over to the winning side? In DAoC it was a very, very long level grind that kept players rooted to their side, what hooks are going to keep players from turning traitor?

"Players who come to the game because they want to fight for Arthur won't just jump to another side because they're outnumbered – not unless we really do a major face-plant off the high dive."

Well, the first thing you need to do is create three realms that people care about, with each one being unique and different from the others. Players who come to the game because they want to fight for Arthur won’t just jump to another side because they're outnumbered – not unless we really do a major face-plant off the high dive.

Beyond this, we need to have systems in place that make it more attractive for players to stick with a side even though it's losing. This may involve bonuses, special grants by the ruler, etc.  Such things might not make it easier for you to win, but they will mean you won’t mind losing as much.

In terms of players' investments in their respective realms serving to prevent them from quickly jumping ship, we'll definitely have a lot there such as each person's basic character, house, standing in the realm, etc. There are other things we are talking about doing, but they're topics  for another interview.

What are your thoughts on the MMO trinity (tank, healer, DPS)? Do you feel that a tank has a place in a pure RvR game?

Funny, we were talking about that very recently. Yes, I do believe that pure tanks do have a role to play in our game. We are actually going to spend a fair amount of time talking about/designing them because in some ways, they are the hardest archetype to get right. They are easy to create, but that's not the challenge. The hard part is defining this role in a manner that makes them both useful in RvR and fun to play.


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