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Dark Age of Camelot

Dark Age of Camelot 

Round Table Pub (General)  » 12 Years of Dark Age of Camelot - A Retrospective

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  Solicfire

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/11/12
Posts: 110

 
OP  10/10/13 9:03:35 PM#1

 

A very happy birthday to you, Dark Age of Camelot.

Twelve years ago today, hundreds of eager players caught their first glimpse of the newly released MMORPG: Dark Age of Camelot. What was to follow came as a bit of a surprise, both to players and Mythic developers. Follow us on a journey through the history of a game that would go on to leave an indelible impact on a young and vibrant game studio, the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of players, and the entire MMORPG genre.


HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Mythic Co-Founder Rob Denton writes:
“Some parts of the Camelot server codebase and architecture go back over 25 years. In 1986, I started my first game company with some friends and we purchased a franchise to the dial-up, text based MMORPG known as Sceptre of Goth. That whole thing fell apart rather messily and we set out to code our own text based MMORPG. Over the next few years, we wrote the initial command parser, character state system and back-end kernel for a new game known as Tempest. This grew to become a commercial enterprise with 20 phone lines in my house connected to 1200 baud modems where players could dial in and play for $1 an hour. Many of the core Tempest players became the first employees of Mythic Entertainment in the mid 90's!

Tempest evolved into the three-realm, PvP, text based MUD known as Darkness Falls. In Darkness Falls, you could join the realms of Good, Evil or Chaos to fight for supremacy in a magical, fantasy world. The Darkness Falls server and basic three-realm "RvR" eventually formed the server and base game architecture for Dark Age of Camelot.

The graphical client for Camelot had its beginnings with Mythic's initial first person shooter - Splatterball! Splatterball was developed to run on the internet and AOL and featured three teams all fighting for the flag in various, fanciful arenas. Splatterball used a "2 1/2 D" voxel based engine (look that one up!) with sprites to present pretty simple immersive graphics to the player. We leveraged Splatterball to create our next graphical, fantasy based FPS, Magestorm. Magestorm had three teams (see the pattern here?) with characters who leveled in power, fighting over various medieval dungeons to conquer resource pools to defeat the other teams. Magestorm evolved into Spellbinder - and we were finally into the era of actual, model based 3D graphics!

Everquest, the first popular 3D graphical MMORPG, hit the market in 1999 and was far more successful than anyone imagined. We had been discussing the idea of a fully 3D MMORPG for a while and felt the time was right to start development in earnest. DAOC was originally "Darkness Falls 3D" - a three realm, PvP game based on the Darkness Falls text based MUD. Mark Jacobs, Mythic's President, developed the wonderful idea to use the popular myths around Arthurian, Norse and Celtic themes as the base story. We mixed together the server and three-realm RvR from Darkness Falls, the graphical client from Spellbinder, and the story around Albion/Midgard/Hibernia and a star was born!”


Humble is truly an appropriate term to describe our start as a small studio creating some of the first online multiplayer games. Stories of the elder days are still shared with old friends, new employees, and Mythic fans everywhere.

Producer, James Casey writes:
"Any early Mythic employee will tell you the story of their first day. You would be shown in, introduced to a few people then directed to your area where you would find a few packages waiting for you. Your first responsibility as a Mythic employee was to unbox and assemble your desk, chair, and computer. It made for a pretty memorable first day.”


DEVELOPMENT

With an initial team of 12 people, production began on Dark Age of Camelot. By Closed Beta, 13 additional Engineers, Artists, and Designers joined the team to bring Arthurian Albion, Nordic Midgard, and Celtic Hibernia to life.

The realm of Albion was created first, and our expectation in early development was that the well-known lore of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table would make Albion the “hero” Realm, to which most players would give their allegiance.

Senior Producer, Colin Hicks writes:
“The first zone we built during development was Camelot Hills. We used that zone to build out our game engine / terrain renderer as well as prototype our development tools. Of course, at first we had no tools! So I spent a couple weeks building Camelot Hills by hand, via text file, manually entering X,Y,Z, Rotation coordinates by hand for every tree, house, rock, clump of grass, etc. I would walk around the zone in game, finding where I wanted a prop, and writing down coordinates to enter in later. I would enter a bunch of props into the text file, then re-load the game to check my work. It was quite tedious, but also very exciting to see the world slowly take shape. The trees and buildings in Camelot Hills still use the same placement as that first layout.

The terrain itself was painted with a grayscale image in Photoshop – one pixel in the image equaled one vertex of the terrain mesh, with lighter values being higher than darker. This was done by feel and trial and error – painting a bit, then loading the game to check the work, quitting out, then repeat. We did not have a true graphical terrain editor until after the Shrouded Isles expansion. By that time I could pretty much translate the grayscale image to what the terrain would look like in the game in my head. I sometimes still see a grayscale image when looking at terrain in real life!”



The Realms of Midgard and Hibernia were developed next, almost in tandem. As designers poured their creativity and passion into the Realms, something quite magnificent occurred: our expectation of the “hero” Realm had been proven false. Albion, Midgard, and Hibernia became living worlds, all three equally rich in feeling, steeped in lore, and with landscapes beautiful to behold.

Senior Producer, Colin Hicks writes:
“The first NPC / Monster encounter built was Mulgrut Maggot, the zombie in the graveyard in Camelot Hills. This was the first NPC that did anything more than just wander around. He had a path he followed, a group of skeletons to help him out, and a treasure table that dropped real items. It was a hint of what was to come, our ability as designers to create an immersive world for our players to explore and interact with.”

Mythic developers gathered regularly to play their content, and from these sessions came many features that are to this day integral to the unique feeling of DAoC’s gameplay.

Senior Producer, Colin Hicks writes:
“The most exciting single moment during development was the first time a group of us Devs were able to get onto the server together, group up and try out RvR action. This was in a test zone, that later became one of the battlegrounds. We divided up into teams and had a howling good time chasing each other around the zone, setting ambushes, and trying to capture the bridge and keep in the zone. It was the first glimpse of the magic that could be three- Realm RvR. We knew at that point that we had something special.”

Engineer, Matthew Doetsch-Kidder writes:
"Players would be interested to know that stick, follow, face, and Q-Binds were suggested and implemented by some Engineers working on Camelot who played the game in development, and felt that the addition of these features would be very useful in both a testing and a playing capacity."

During development, the team certainly faced its share of challenges; Dark Age of Camelot was the largest endeavor to date for Mythic and in a market that was in its infancy. So it followed that our solutions to some of these challenges would set industry standards for the MMORPG genre

Engineer, Marty Brown writes:
"You have to remember what things were like circa 2000. There were not a lot of resources out there for game development and we had to figure everything out ourselves. We were pretty experienced with networked games, but when it came to 3D, we were a bunch of newbies (well, except for Rob).

Case in point: when Rob was working on the terrain system, he asked me to create a skybox. This was new for us, as our other games were either top-down and didn't display a sky or just used a flat texture for the sky.

My first thought was to create a big hemisphere (a Skydome seemed more appropriate than a skybox) that would be attached to the terrain. But I quickly realized that wouldn't work. It would have to be so big that it would always clip in the distance and you would notice clouds getting bigger and closer as you approached the edges and so on. But then I thought if I just attached a small version of the dome to the player and made sure it was the first thing to be drawn, it would look the same and appear to be the same distance away all the time.

It was really an "Aha!" moment when it worked. Since then, it's always seemed funny to me that if you could see actually see other players’ Skydomes in game, everyone would be running around with a basketball-sized dome floating just over their heads."


As Camelot grew in scope, so too did the systems used to polish the many areas of the game. DAoC’s unique and wonderful combat system was inspired in-part by the table-top Role Playing Game Rolemaster. Camelot’s code is layered with years of new features and improvements on old systems. Many portions, including segments of programming borrowed from previous Mythic games, have remained exactly the same since launch. With a keen eye, one may find in Dark Age of Camelot sections of code which were borrowed from Tempest! Yet another example of how systems evolved over the course of development is the Monster Pathing system.

Engineer, Matthew Doetsch-Kidder writes:
"The pathing system in Dark Age of Camelot originated as a way for mobs to move around within Dungeons. Eventually, the system became robust enough that it was put to use throughout the game. The same pathing system is still in use today."

By the end of the summer of 2001, we had completed the three Realms, the combat system, the Relic system, and fleshed out the archetypes and classes for each realm. Dark Age of Camelot was ready for the world.

LAUNCH

In all the excitement, a few things were overlooked. Some of these things were not insignificant.

Engineer, Matthew Doetsch-Kidder writes:
"We were rapidly approaching Beta and Launch, and it dawned on us that we didn't have the servers we needed for a public release. When we approached Dell for the hardware we needed - we were denied. Mythic, it seemed, did not have sufficient credit. This was several hundred thousand dollars of hardware, and it was necessary. We ended up purchasing the hardware we needed out of the studio budget at what was close to the last minute.”

After a successful Beta program, Mythic leadership and our publisher at the time, Vivendi Games, worked to determine the best possible approach to getting Dark Age of Camelot released to the public. Based on the climate of the market at the time, and the confidence they had in our product, Vivendi chose to make a 100,000 unit run of boxed product. They chose to place 50,000 units in stores across the country. This was the biggest event in Mythic’s history, and the whole office was abuzz.

Engineer, Marty Brown writes:
"Just after launch, I recall a few people running down to the local game stores to see the games being purchased by players. It was a very satisfying and exciting time to see the results of our hard work and creativity.”

The folks in the office were watching too. We looked on in anticipation as the numbers on the servers began to climb.



And then…



And up and up!



Within five days, the first run of box copies had flown off store shelves. Dark Age of Camelot was sold out! Our servers were filling to capacity, and things were running smoothly. Our Publisher immediately released the remaining copies, but the limited stock and slight delay came as something of a blessing.

Engineer, Marty Brown writes:
"We sold about 50,000 units within the first five days. We had not expected such a positive response, so our publisher (Vivendi Games) had made a limited run of boxed product. This, I believe, contributed to our very smooth launch. We did not get slammed all at once as do modern MMO’s, rather we enjoyed a very steady and gradual increase in players which allowed us the time to respond from a development perspective."

A few weeks later, Dark Age of Camelot proved to be the best selling PC game of October, 2001. Thousands of players were pouring in, and we added additional servers to meet the demand.



In December of 2001, the Camelot Herald went live and thus began the flow of information from Mythic to our players and from our players back to Mythic. The overwhelming majority of this information cycle came via our beloved Community Manager, Sanya Weathers (née Thomas).

Through its twelve years, Dark Age of Camelot has seen five expansion packs, countless large-scale feature-updates, and innumerable small fixes and additions. The number of players to experience the Realms of DAoC numbers in the millions and in 2010, Dark Age of Camelot received Ten Ton Hammer’s “Best PvP Game of the Decade” award.

While working on Dark Age of Camelot we knew that we had converged on a moment in space and time which would result in something truly magical. This feeling has stayed with us through the years and still echoes in the halls, meeting rooms, and offices of Mythic. Indeed several other developers have attempted to combine Dark Age of Camelot’s ingredients in a similar way in hopes of producing the same success, but in the estimation of many (ourselves included) no other MMORPG can match the magic of Dark Age of Camelot.

----------

Producer’s Post Script:

The history of Dark Age of Camelot’s success cannot be told without paying tribute to Mythic Founders: Mark Jacobs and Rob Denton as well as all of the Mythic employees, too numerous to mention (many of whom are still part of the Mythic family), who helped pioneer the MMORPG genre by bringing DAoC to life. I have been a part of the Mythic family and culture for several years, and in that time I have had the honor and pleasure of working alongside so many of these excellent people. I have also had the opportunity and pleasure of working closely with the Dark Age of Camelot community who are in my estimation, the finest community of gamers to be found.

I am currently the custodian of what is to so many, a great deal more than ‘just a game’, and it is quite simply a dream come true. I never tire of speaking with members of the original launch team and hearing their accounts of the early days of DAoC and Mythic – the game and studio I love so dearly.

I hope you have enjoyed this retrospective as much as I have. Let us raise our glasses to all those who have served Dark Age of Camelot over the years, to our wonderful community of players, and to many years of Realm vs. Realm action yet to come.

Faithfully yours,
Talal Saad
Producer, Dark Age of Camelot








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  Vladamyre

Novice Member

Joined: 2/03/07
Posts: 241

10/10/13 9:28:39 PM#2
By far the best mmo ever made. Its just too bad you had to go with New Frontiers, as that was the killer for me.

In a world of sharp knives, you would be a spoon.

  Solicfire

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/11/12
Posts: 110

 
OP  10/10/13 9:59:00 PM#3
Originally posted by Vladamyre
By far the best mmo ever made. Its just too bad you had to go with New Frontiers, as that was the killer for me.

 

It's still good fun with the New Frontiers and It's good when Caledonia event comes out every month, that's kind of like the Old frontiers.

We still have a lot of players who play the game and the population is healthy but would be awesome to see more new and returning players. :)

  Vladamyre

Novice Member

Joined: 2/03/07
Posts: 241

10/10/13 10:28:41 PM#4
Originally posted by Solicfire
Originally posted by Vladamyre
By far the best mmo ever made. Its just too bad you had to go with New Frontiers, as that was the killer for me.

 

It's still good fun with the New Frontiers and It's good when Caledonia event comes out every month, that's kind of like the Old frontiers.

We still have a lot of players who play the game and the population is healthy but would be awesome to see more new and returning players. :)

New Frontiers was never fun, not even when it was on the testing server. I told people then it would be the end of fun RvR and I was right. One of the top guilds on Lancelot just stopped playing after its release. Remove it, then the game becomes fun again.

In a world of sharp knives, you would be a spoon.

  Ender4

Hard Core Member

Joined: 5/18/08
Posts: 2094

10/10/13 10:33:20 PM#5

Darn shame that this game failed on so many levels. Releasing with so many completely broken features from the RvR balance, to the keeps being broken, to the lack of itemization on almost anything high level. They followed this up with completely broken team balance, completely broken CC that they had to try to fix later on with RvR abilities. Then they were subject to massive map hacks that made the game almost unplayable for the honest player. Finally they tried to fix the PvE with the expansion and it was a complete failure. This game was screwed at almost every turn. I know some people remember it fondly but most just remember all the issues it had at every turn that stopped it from being a true AAA MMORPG.

Obviously not as bad as WAR which was DOA. During beta it was obvious that WAR would struggle to survive as FTP because the PVE was so awful and the combat was so beyond clunky.

  Solicfire

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/11/12
Posts: 110

 
OP  10/10/13 10:34:56 PM#6

Well in the next patch the New Frontiers will become smaller, so hopefully it will make it easier to find fights. It's still not the Old Frontiers but at least their doing something on revamping it cus its needed it for a while.

 

  Vladamyre

Novice Member

Joined: 2/03/07
Posts: 241

10/10/13 10:40:53 PM#7
Originally posted by Solicfire

Well in the next patch the New Frontiers will become smaller, so hopefully it will make it easier to find fights. It's still not the Old Frontiers but at least their doing something on revamping it cus its needed it for a while.

 

Only way I'll ever come back is if they actually created that origins server, or remove NF and ToA and everything else that came afterwards. The only good expansion was Shrouded Isles, which I got to beta test. Everything that came after SI should be deleted.

In a world of sharp knives, you would be a spoon.

  Solicfire

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/11/12
Posts: 110

 
OP  10/11/13 8:03:12 AM#8

Sadly I don't think they will make a origins server. I think we going to remain with the servers we have at the moment but I do agree it would of been great if they brought it back.

But do try out the 14 day trial to see what you think of the game, some things may of changed. :)

14 day trial link: http://www.darkageofcamelot.com/downloads

 

  Nadia

Elite Member

Joined: 7/26/03
Posts: 11491

10/11/13 8:09:42 AM#9

worth noting

Everquest used to show server population on login window too

 

but when DAOC launched, SOE removed that info

  Groot

Apprentice Member

Joined: 2/18/10
Posts: 87

10/11/13 8:27:51 AM#10
Nothing but a "sigh" can be expressed.  I miss it.
  Solicfire

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/11/12
Posts: 110

 
OP  10/11/13 9:14:26 AM#11

I can tell you the server population

 

All Times are CET

28.9. 17:50
Alb: 361 (All), 120 (NF), 21 (Lab)
Mid: 328 (All), 78 (NF), 20 (Lab)
Hib: 423 (All), 132 (NF), 37 (Lab)

28.9. 22:50
Alb: 457 (All), 155 (NF), 20 (Lab)
Mid: 416 (All), 125 (NF), 27 (Lab)
Hib: 523 (All), 201 (NF), 35 (Lab)

29.9. 12:30
Alb: 217 (All), 63 (NF), 14 (Lab)
Mid: 226 (All), 85 (NF), 15 (Lab)
Hib: 319 (All), 93 (NF), 16 (Lab)

29.9. 21:20
Alb: 495 (All), 213 (NF), 23 (Lab)
Mid: 494 (All), 177 (NF), 59 (Lab)
Hib: 605 (All), 221 (NF), 57 (Lab)

 

But this was recorded a month back but the numbers are kind of the same, if you wish me to keep an update on this then I'll be happy to keep producing server population statuses for you guys.

  Vladamyre

Novice Member

Joined: 2/03/07
Posts: 241

10/12/13 10:31:23 PM#12
Originally posted by Solicfire

Sadly I don't think they will make a origins server. I think we going to remain with the servers we have at the moment but I do agree it would of been great if they brought it back.

But do try out the 14 day trial to see what you think of the game, some things may of changed. :)

14 day trial link: http://www.darkageofcamelot.com/downloads

 

I have an old account with all of my level 50 characters, but I can't get a 14 day free trial on it.

In a world of sharp knives, you would be a spoon.

  User Deleted
10/12/13 10:41:41 PM#13
A much better game in memory than in reality.
  Solicfire

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/11/12
Posts: 110

 
OP  10/12/13 11:16:41 PM#14
Originally posted by Vladamyre

I have an old account with all of my level 50 characters, but I can't get a 14 day free trial on it.

Sadly you can't get 14 day trial on you're old account. You have to create a new account if u want the 14 day trial which I do recommend to players that just want to check out on how the game is doing.

  Dr_Negative

Novice Member

Joined: 8/14/07
Posts: 47

10/13/13 1:16:19 PM#15

Originally posted by Vladamyre


Only way I'll ever come back is if they actually created that origins server, or remove NF and ToA and everything else that came afterwards. The only good expansion was Shrouded Isles, which I got to beta test. Everything that came after SI should be deleted.
 

You pretty much nailed my exact thoughts. I played since Beta - 2007. One thing the article left out was how Mythic messed with perfection, well almost perfect anyway, and how it bit them.

Too much has really changed to go back now. It's like an old love, your time together was great, but both of you have changed too much now to ever be together again.

They know Origins would more than likely cause a renaissance so to speak, but the skeleton crew just don't have the resources to make it happen and EA just wants to milk every last cent from the lifers before pulling the plug.

I love the pre-TOA nostalgia though, great times.

  Kekekehh

Novice Member

Joined: 10/15/13
Posts: 1

10/15/13 9:00:59 AM#16
He quaiffs down a queif. HAHAHAHAHA
  Lakytus

Hard Core Member

Joined: 7/07/04
Posts: 57

12/29/13 9:51:24 PM#17
Originally posted by Ender4

Darn shame that this game failed on so many levels. Releasing with so many completely broken features from the RvR balance, to the keeps being broken, to the lack of itemization on almost anything high level. They followed this up with completely broken team balance, completely broken CC that they had to try to fix later on with RvR abilities. Then they were subject to massive map hacks that made the game almost unplayable for the honest player. Finally they tried to fix the PvE with the expansion and it was a complete failure. This game was screwed at almost every turn. I know some people remember it fondly but most just remember all the issues it had at every turn that stopped it from being a true AAA MMORPG.

Obviously not as bad as WAR which was DOA. During beta it was obvious that WAR would struggle to survive as FTP because the PVE was so awful and the combat was so beyond clunky.

This was one of the first 3D massive online games. They had a minimal team and time to make the game. There is no way they could know or be able to balance a game of that scale. Everything was new, and no one really knew how to do it yet.

I remember the dungeons with no items in them. They had to push the game out. Making a game of this scale is not an easy task, especially 13 years ago. They eventually did add the loot tables to all the dungeons.

The game was not screwed or messed up. Some things were broken, but it was a pioneer game. You can't expect something like that to be polished to the degree WoW was when it launched. DAoC was an amazing experience and world; it transcended being just a game for most people, including me. It was a world and community you were part of. We were pioneers in new territory. New MMOs today are basically just a bunch of mini games slapped together. There are no longer vast worlds to explore and things to discover. Everyone is hand-held and there is no character attachment. It's all dailies and bland loot creep. If I could go back to any time, I would go back to the DAoC launch and appreciate it more.

  olepi

Hard Core Member

Joined: 1/15/07
Posts: 1003

1/06/14 6:40:23 PM#18

DAOC was my first MMO, and I remember it fondly. I started when it first came out, and loved the SI expansion. RvR was fun. And then ToA came out, and the game became a giant chore to play. Multi-hour raids that had to be done just so, the squabble for loot. So in 2004 I moved on, and never went back.

Shame really, but that's life.

------------
RIP City of Heroes. One of my favorite MMO's.

  Comaf

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/13/10
Posts: 1134

I want an mmorpg where pvp matters, my enemies are not my race or class, and community matters.

1/06/14 6:46:21 PM#19
And no one ever cloned this gem.  And in a way, I feel that frustrating, considering there is no DAoC 2, in the works.

  Comaf

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/13/10
Posts: 1134

I want an mmorpg where pvp matters, my enemies are not my race or class, and community matters.

1/06/14 6:48:45 PM#20
Originally posted by Solicfire

Well in the next patch the New Frontiers will become smaller, so hopefully it will make it easier to find fights. It's still not the Old Frontiers but at least their doing something on revamping it cus its needed it for a while.

 

Now if they could recall the value of realm pride, and at least push the realm timers from 6 minutes to one hour.  One should not be able to say, "Oh, looks like Albs are mopping up Emain, let's log off Hib and get on our Albs...," and do it 6 minutes later.  Nonsense.

 

Secondly, the fact that Mythic at one time had the go-ahead for Origins, the return to the old style of play, server, and then hushed the concept and pretended it never occurred (no apologies to a loyal population that asked for so darn little, i.e., not graphics/UI upgrades, rather, one extra server that folks could start over on), is shameful.

 

 

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