The Beta Ganks Back
By the time you read this one of the finest holidays within the known universe, that of July Fourth (happy MURICA day!) will be upon us. For our foreign friends, July 4, 1776, was when some angry rich guys, sick of being unfairly taxed, decided to take a shot at a King. For once history sided with the rebels! (The Empire did nothing wrong...) America was born from the founding father’s pens and a template to forge a republic along with it.
Speaking of forging something with a pen (or keyboard), in the space between days and weeks lies Camelot Unchained's thrice-delayed Beta. (Fourth time is a walk?) Once again we find ourselves in the long shadow of another missed deadline, if only by inches. With that unicorn being captured during the next few weeks, let's take a look at what it actually means for City State Entertainment (CSE) to reach Beta One.
For the studio itself, in a literal sense, nothing. Beta isn’t a tangible thing so much as a verbalized phase of development. They will show up for work on Monday, shoot some espresso, slide into their chairs (attach their ankle locks) and work will go on as before. In an emotional sense, it will be quite the opposite.
In this social internet, era studios are relentlessly assaulted by fans wielding weapons forged from the shards of broken promises and missed deadlines. Having missed Beta three times, CSE is no different. Reaching this milestone is significant for their reputation and personal achievement. It re-assures their backers not just that they can do it, but that they are doing it. It sends the message that there is a plan and that progress is following it exactly. In short, it sends the message that CSE will finish Camelot Unchained. Once Beta lands consumer confidence and internal moral will skyrocket and game purchases will see a major boost as random gamers jump in to preview the game.
If they can’t land Beta in the next few “days to weeks” internal moral, always teetering on the executioner's blade, will be cut asunder. Consumer confidence will be next in line and after that, refunds. Looking at other crowdfunded games offers us many insights into just how damaging a surplus of failures can be. To the hardcore fans, nothing will change. (Change is for casuals!) MMORPG’s, often more religion than hobby, have some of the most blindly loyal fans in all of entertainment. Developers give us memories and we happily give them our allegiance.
This phenomenon is studio specific. Not all of them have cultivated a cult of personality (CM PUNK! CM PUNK!). You can only cross so many bridges of failure on the journey to irrelevance. The crowdfunded games that lacked a loyal base were berated, hated and became examples of everything wrong with the crowd-funded concept. CSE doesn’t have to worry about losing everything. Due to the incredible experiences Mark Jacobs, CSE Co-Founder and MMORPG legend has given us he will never be without his base. The question is how much does missing Beta a fourth time wound the general backer supply? With refunds still optional “days to weeks” becoming months could mean serious trauma. The kind that requires a hot orange blade pulled from the forge in the Depths itself to cauterize. (Blade of Oompa Loompa?)
CSE would be crippled but not likely killed. The hardest stone to replace would be trust. You only get so many resurrections until you run out of mana. The pool size of every studio differs and CSE has a large one based on thirty years of experiences. It would require substantial developmental progress to cast a spell back over the general fans but as long as the gameplay is sound we have always been willing to re-bend a knee. (I SAID KNEEL!) CSE knows this, it’s exactly why they refuse to bow to our pressure and release prematurely.
This time I have no doubt they will hit that somewhat vague deadline. It’s nothing more than a gut reaction, a feeling (truthiness?) based on the sense I got from watching Mark “Not the fashion Designer” Jacobs and Andrew “Many of many hats” Meggs during their Beta delay announcement. (Is that a metaphor?) Unlike past failures this one felt different, it looked different and they sounded different. Calm, relaxed, even jovial to a point; Mark and Andrew seemed more than comfortable in their “days to weeks” estimation. Perhaps Beta, for the first time, truly is just inches away
This Fourth of July let’s not just celebrate the birth of America, let’s remember that George Washington found himself in a precarious situation. After the war, while he still controlled the army, he was asked to become the new King. Unlimited power was within his grasp and he chose the harder path, he gave his power to the people and for that, we should be eternally grateful. America wasn’t just forged by rebellion, it was allowed to exist because one man did what was best for his people, not himself. That is leadership.