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Camelot Unchained Column: Impossibly Driven By Hope?

By Christina Gonzalez on April 15, 2013

When it comes to Camelot Unchained, a lot of people supporting the game want a return to a ‘true’ RvR game. The game proposal is for a PvP-focused game that lets players have an impact on things, employs a rock, paper, scissors approach instead of a mirrored, balanced class system, and wants to take a more old school vision. Plenty of people are excited about the project, which has raised over a million dollars out of its $2 million goal in just over a week. But some might see this project with nostalgia glasses and, even with the knowledge that this is not another Dark Age of Camelot, might have hope for a similar feeling after all. And the fact that Mark Jacobs is heading this up with CSE and the clear inspiration that game has for CU, things could wind up going a few ways in terms of the game’s community, if it is funded.

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With this being an RvR game, with a player-driven economy, holy trinity, and a lack of PvE content to affect balance and distract from the meat of things, one wonders about just how the community will form and grow. I think some people are so starved for an RvR game in which their choices are meaningful and their classes aren’t always balanced to hell against one another. That bit of a more freewheeling style was prevalent in the earlier years.

Going back to DAoC, it was a funny place for a person like me to get a start in MMOs. I’m admittedly not so great at PvP and am more of an explorer, but that game still captivated me personally with all the possibilities. Turns out that I got caught up often in the world, in PvE content and in working together with others. When it came to sieges and trying to maintain or take keeps, I was never on the front lines or anything, but it always felt good to have a sense of collective purpose. Victories could be for a while after decimating a force that came thinking that we had some holes in our armor. It was exciting. It was massive and sometimes chaotic, and everyone was up and down, winning and losing, rebuilding and guarding.

For many, it’s obvious that a sense of collective purpose has been missing for some time. That’s what “realm pride” really is, and foremost, it stems from the community. Soldiers on the same side work better together when they know their squads. That’s what PvE content offered earlier MMO communities – a building block. With all respect to those backing this project, who are for the most part, more than aware they are backing a project that may or may not come about, a quote from Stephen King’s The Gunslinger comes to mind: “The world has moved on.” Many gamers play differently now. Voice chat reigns over text chat. Lots of people solo. Many games support this. In my first MMO days, including in DAoC, leveling up or even getting to cap was an event people would congratulate you for from across the server. You went through much together throughout. People grouped together, helped each other out, roleplayed. It created a great environment overall to find yourself in and gave more reason to get in there and fight for your side than just being on that side.

With the hype over CU, I wonder if some who seek that invigorating feeling of being a part of something bigger might be glossing over how much having gone through rich PvE content together fostered realm pride. I’d wager more than simply battling on the same side. That’s not to say that games can’t be centered on three-faction conflict. PlanetSide 2 does this, but does that game offer immersive community within? That’s debatable.

Even Mark Jacobs acknowledges that this is a niche title. That is a good thing. The game will attract a certain slice of the MMO community. As a sub-based game, CU is not likely to attract a lot of MMO tourists and mainstream players. If the game is funded and made, the chances that the community will be made up of those seeking a modern yet throwback experience, MMO vets, DAoC fans, and those generally interested in a challenging, PvP-oriented game (Darkfall players, for example) is high. But even if the community has a high percentage of like-minded players and supporters, that may not be enough to generate the sort of community aspect that I suspect many of these players also want to recapture. The game might wind up being great or a disappointment, but recapturing a certain older magic is elusive.

In other words, maybe vets are so starved for that meaningful RvR, interdependence, and a sense of real player impact that hope generated hype is too high. You still have a lot of community based stuff like crafting, which will be represented in both a class and as a way to engage with others, since all items will be player-made. Transactions will be between players again. There are many people who want to recapture the feeling of games they loved once with a modern game.

From the things I’ve read about this project, those that back it seem to feel like it’s going to almost solve MMO issues for them. There just seems to be a lot of hope centered around this project. The most I’ve seen in a while, perhaps since Guild Wars 2 (yet for somewhat different reasons). However, I’m watching Camelot Unchained with a curious eye. Yes, RvR is great; it gives everyone that goal to work toward, that purpose. But without a full world, without good PvE content, could a community grow as before? EVE Online is an example in the affirmative.

There is a market for niche games, and CSE is aiming for that. Camelot Unchained is a working title, so further distinguishing it from DAoC is a good thing. Unveiling an actual title and revealing more ways for players to interact and go through experiences together other than building forts and having dependence upon crafters is important if CU wants to give a sense of community importance. I hope the project is funded so we can ultimately see just what kind of game it turns out to be. Kickstarter is home to many nostalgia projects, and indeed, these often seem to the ones getting funded much of the time. Never underestimate people’s good memories and great experiences. But sometimes, maybe the world really has moved on.


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