Where Are They Now? Episode 1: Mark Jacobs
Welcome to the first episode in a new series called, "Where Are They Now?"! Being a gamer since the days of Pong, I thought it was long past the time when someone should take a look at famous game developers from days gone by and find out how (and if) they're still involved in making the games we love to play.
Most of the developers highlighted in this series will certainly have one thing in common beyond video games, and that's the reaction their names evoke within individuals and today's is no exception.
Claim to Fame
Mark Jacobs is most well known for being the Lead Designer of Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online. Quick to jump on the mistakes of our one-time heroes, many gamers throw up their arms in despair at the mention of Mark's name and go on to gripe about everything they thought was horrible with Warhammer Online. All the while, of course, failing to acknowledge that Dark Age of Camelot was an innovation in itself and the father of all Realm vs. Realm MMOs since.
Dark Age of Camelot came about in a time when there were only two real powerhouse MMOs in the land - Ultima Online and EverQuest. UO wasn't a 3D title and EverQuest had begun to stagnate. Enter DAoC - gone were the extreme lengths of downtime regenerating mana, gone were the extremely blocky graphics of EQ's start, and we were introduced to a new level of graphical wonderment as well as a new style of gameplay - Realm vs. Realm combat. To this day, it's widely agreed that no other game has managed to equal the success of RvR like DAoC had though many continue to try.
Warhammer Online may have had a number of issues at launch and later (of which Mark freely admits), but it took risks and landed at least a few touchdowns with new innovations. Public quests were something that hadn't been seen in such a manner before (Tabula Rasa did them first, but WAR gave the concept proper branding), but has since quickly become a norm for many MMORPGs of today. As ambitious as the title was, it began to fail quickly when players started dropping from the game as they grew frustrated with various RvR keep mechanics that were essentially broken at launch. Once players started to drop, there were rarely enough players in any given area to be able to complete the local public quests, killing another integral part of the game.
Where Are They Now and Why the Hell Should I Care?
If you're into Realm vs. Realm combat, you're going to want to pay attention. Mark is going back to his roots and started a successful Kickstarter campaign to create a game called Camelot Unchained. This will be an RvR game catering to... RvR players. I know that sounds less than exciting, but in reality, it should get some of you jumping up and down for joy because over the years, Mark has learned a few lessons and one of them is that he's tired of having things in a game for the sole purpose of attracting a bigger audience. Camelot Unchained will be a game strictly about RvR. He and his crew are throwing the MMORPG bible out the window and creating a game that he expects to peak with fewer than 250k players (DAoC's peak).
Mark clearly acknowledges that he will piss players off with some of the things they're going to do with the game. And you know what? He's ok with that. Guess what? So am I. RvR is not my cup of tea, but I cannot possibly begin to express how irritated I get with developers that try to cater to everyone. Developers and publishers need to start accepting smaller player bases, and in the process, create a game that those players go crazy for. Kudos, Mark. I wish you all the best of luck!
If you have a suggestion for a game designer, art director, creative lead, or any other person intimately involved with a game's completion that you'd like to see highlighted, hit me up on Twitter or send me an email here!