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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why I made Camelot Unchained my first ever Kickstarter pledge

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Just recently I backed my first Kickstarter project, City State Entertainment's RvR sandbox MMO Camelot Unchained. What was it about this particular project on the crowd funding site that persuaded me it was worth backing? Read on to find out.

For UK readers of a certain age...

Regular readers will know I played Dark Age of Camelot for several years. There still hasn't been an MMO quite like it, mainly due to the innovative Realm-versus-Realm PvP game that comprised the endgame and the server community that arose due to the never-ending conflict.

So, when Mark Jacobs, co-founder of Mythic Entertainment and the guy behind Dark Age of Camelot announced the formation of City State Entertainment and the new Camelot Unchained project I was immediately intrigued. The more I heard about the game the more interesting it sounded, and this weeks announcement about the housing system was just the nudge I needed to move from interested observer to project backer.

But what is Camelot Unchained, and why should you consider backing it too? Here's a quick summary of some of the major game features.

Camelot Unchained (just a working title) is not a remake of Dark Age of Camelot, but rather a re-imagining that is entirely focused on the RvR aspect. Whilst there is PvE content, you have to progress through RvR action. If PvP isn't your thing then the game probably isn't for you, but if it is there are plenty of reasons to take notice.

First of all the game will use the three realm system pioneered by DAoC. This system has not been bettered since the original game. Guild Wars 2 had a go at mimicking it, but ultimately fell far short. The whole game is based around this central conceit, and even the game engine has been specifically developed to deal with up to 500 players battling it out on screen at once.

This amazing video shows the potential of the Unchained engine

The video above shows an early alpha version of the engine (placeholder scenery and animations), but it is running at over 100fps with 1000 unique characters on screen on a 2011 Macbook. Each character has over 12,000 polygons (there is no LOD in game yet, so even the tiny characters at the back contain all 12,000 polys). That alone is impressive. Later vids in the series show the demo running with full particle effects as well.

Camelot Unchained is based on the same legends and lore that informed DAoC, with some twists. The progression system will be a horizontal one, meaning you can get involved in the action straight away, hopefully avoiding some of the pitfalls of traditional MMO PvP combat with regards to newbie ganking. There will be no instanced areas in the game.


The words Darkness Falls will hold a special significance for those who played Dark Age of Camelot. It was a huge, multi-realm RvR dungeon and it saw some of the most epic battles in the game. CU will have its own version called The Depths. This time however the dungeon itself will change based on the random nature of the Veil Storms and the actions of the players. The best mining materials will be found in the darkest reaches of The Depths, encouraging the realms to fight for these valuable resources. Just the fact that there will be a Darkness Falls style dungeon is enough to get me excited about the game.

The crafting and housing system for CU sounds incredible. Influenced by Minecraft it will require realms to fight for control of mines (these mines are large, persistent areas to be fought over by many players) in order to harvest materials for building. The materials can be used to build cells, which can then be combined to create just about any type of structure (much like in Minecraft). As the developer says, "don't think of it as housing, perhaps a better word is building".


Whats more, structures and prefabs can have blueprints made, which means they can be copied, sold, rented and so on. It also means if an enemy realm leads a raid into your territory and destroys (or deconstructs) your house you can build it again using the blueprints. Blueprints may also be found out in the world as well.

Tie those central ideas (tri-realm RvR, The Depths, a detailed and flexible mining and building system), and add other innovative ideas in the game (control the big bad RvR NPCs in The Depths, use of supply routes in the battlegrounds, siege warfare, able to hire NPC guards to help protect your structures, player run taverns, realm wide approval systems, no auction house (yay! I've been wanting this for ages!), guild emblems, guild houses, guild lands, etc, etc) and backing CU became a bit of a no-brainer for me.

There were two other things that finally clinched it and persuaded me to part with my cash.

First the philosphy of the developers behind the game. CSE have released a series of blogs detailing the foundational principles behind the game systems and the way they want the game to be run. Then there is the list of 11 promises they are making to the players that I believe show they understand what players want from their game providers. Add that to their commitment to roleplay communities (they are in favour of a strictly enforced RP server if there is enough demand), and the vision for the game matches closely with what I want to see.


The final reason that I was persuaded to pledge some cash to the Kickstarter is that it is now looking possible that the game will not reach its Kickstarter target. If that happens it means no game. Right now they have $1,350,000 pledged of the $2,000,000 they need, and the Kickstarter closes on 2nd May, i.e. in only eight days time.

Backing a project like this on Kickstarter is always a risk (but only if it succeeds - if it fails to meet its target no money is taken). However I would encourage you to spend a little time reading the posts and watching the videos on the official Camelot Unchained site. Then have a look at this excellent FAQ about the game.

CU will always be a niche, specialised game. CSE know that. I believe it's a game that deserves to be given a chance. There are so many great and exciting ideas for an MMO that will truly be different that it is more than worth a little risk.

If you think the same then please head on over to the official Kickstarter page and help out.

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