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. Ive been fortunate to make a lot of games over my career, and I try to draw on what Ive 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?
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 wont 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 wont 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.
DAoC's smart handling of crowd control immunity is one of its lasting contributions to PvP gameplay, and we appreciate that DAoC didn't simply turn off the mechanic as other MMOs have done in PvP. But, in general, what are your thoughts about crowd control in a PvP-focused game? Could we see CC-focused classes in CU?
I believe that CC will have a significant role to play in an RvR-focused game such as this one. Balancing it is, as we all know, quite difficult to do. Other than this, no comment yet.
What are your views on progression in a pure RvR game. Should players become more powerful (e.g. Realm Ranks) as they continue to play or should everyone be at an equal footing at all times (e.g. Guild Wars 2)?
Players should become more powerful over time. However, we will not have the kind of power differentiation between levels that other games have had (including Dark Age of Camelot). We want all players to participate in RvR right from the beginning, and thats very hard to do if you have a high level character who can just sneeze and kill a lower-level one. In terms of anything like auto-leveling a character up, we have no such plans.
You've been very outspoken before about the RMT market and gold sellers, how do you feel the industry as a whole should address the problem and do you see yourself designing Camelot Unchained to be resistant to their influence?
Unsurprisingly, my position has not changed over the years. I still support the right of developers to use RMT and of gold sellers to buy/sell gold in games where they are welcome. In the case of Camelot Unchained, they will not be welcome, and I will continue to restrict their ability to damage this game.
Could you give us a sneak peak at what some of your pledge rewards will be for the kickstarter?
Id prefer not to quote any of them now, but I am happy to say we will be talking an aggressive stance in giving our backers lots of rewards. We know we are asking them to back a 2M dollar Kickstarter, which is not a small amount. We will therefore have significant reward tiers to demonstrate our gratitude. As an FYI, the other investors and I are planning to add at least another 3M to the projects funding.
You've mentioned in some comments that dungeons were under discussion. DAoC's Darkness Falls was one of the best things about DAoC to me and was even more fun to PvP in. Do you feel something like that could work in a pure RvR game or would it muddle the focus?
I guess it really depends on how something like that is built for an RvR-focused game, doesn't it?
We'd like to thank Mark Jacbos for talking to us about Camelot Unchained. It sounds like it'll be the dream of every player out there who wants to experience RvR and it seems like it's going to have a lot of well balanced thought into a lore of the core mechanics. Be on the lookout for a Kickstarter starting soon!