The Longest Inch - A Beta Update of Sorts
A year and some change ago Beta was inches away and these columns took less beer to produce, a year and some change later we are inches away from Beta and I’m all outa of beer! (He’s lying, he just opened one) That’s a long inch! Some unchained backers, including this one, may have been wondering how CSE went from being inches away from their Beta to a hundred-mile roundabout March to said Beta. While the answer was not explicitly given, we can look to Ben’s Dose of Design in the latest Camelot Unchained Newsletter for clues.
CAUTION; WILD INTERNET SPECULATION. As they approached Beta they stopped, reassessed what they had, what they wanted to have and where it needed to be before they could get there. They did that again and again. Many iterations later here we are.
CSE is a seasoned studio. They know they will have one shot to make a positive Beta impression. They realize the burden of anticipation so much time has heaped upon this stage of development. More importantly they understand how quickly great anticipation could turn to a snowball of dissatisfaction if Beta doesn’t live up to the backer perceived time investment. As stated prior time passed is not the same as progress made but most casual MMO fans aren’t going to understand that or care if they do. They are customers that paid for a thing they can’t wait to get.
I believe these factors have led to a cycle of development, reassessment and a decision that more progress is needed before they cross the irreversible trajectory of Beta. Good news, this cycle appears to have and clarified end as Ben pointed out Mark has communicated a “vision of what the player experience needs to look like in order for us to open up Beta 1 testing”. The march isn’t endless, CSE knows where they are going, it’s just a matter of getting there one inch at a time.
It’s impossible to imagine what we would do in their situation. Frankly it’s unfair to keyboard quarterback but I just swapped out my desk chair for a bar stool and poured another cold one so let’s play barstool developer! While my methods of communication might differ from CSE’s if I was in their situation I would do the exact same thing, I would keep Beta from launching until I had something word of mouth worthy.
It Beta bombs snowflake backers will melt away but the dedicated will remain, right? Maybe but we often forget games are a business. It’s not just backers that are watching, so is your competition and potential investors. In the pay to test era the long-term ramifications of a spoiled Beta are wider than we tend to imagine.
The long wait might bleed backers away. The lack of hype might lose their interest. A fantastic Beta will bring them right back and more. A bad Beta could ruin your studio, your livelihood and the livelihood of the people you employee. A factor we of the social media age have lost touch with, the human factor.
From a personal, professional and wellbeing point of view waiting makes the most sense, hands down! (Hops off his dev barstool back into his desk chair) But from a simple backer point of view, I want it yesterday! The anticipation is torture! So where does this mythical MJ new Beta tester experience leave us? How close are we? Unfortunately Ben left that part out, by accident I’m sure. I mean, when has giving a date to MMORPG fans ever backfired?
Kidding aside we’ve been over that before. The only dated deadline any developer should ever give is “when it’s ready”. Any developer speaking confidently in absolute dates should get a polygraph and a strait jacket for poking what is nothing short of hibernating chaos. As the old saying goes you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind and MMORPG developers should never give exact deadlines.
Jesting aside we can look back to Ben’s words for some information. Other than banes and boons character creation sounds like it is close to where CSE needs it. That’s good. The first log in doesn’t sound as good. I get the impression the starting areas have a way to go but on the positive side the character comes into the world with resources ready for testing. The first crafting loop happened not long ago which is good but crafter as a profession still doesn’t exist. I want to note resource spawning and interaction is a part of that loop and, in terms of development, a significant addition.
Combat animation has been ground floored but has a long way to go before it’s a skyscraper. Considering CU will have hundreds if not thousands of player made skills I can’t imagine trying to animate this game! Class skill parts are also ground floored but have many levels to go before they can claim being a high rise. The same can be said for siege combat. Overall combat sounds like it’s still at the infantile stage but maybe that is good for testing purposes? Yes? No? Maybe? I don’t know.
They say if you write long enough you eventually start to repeat yourself and sound like an idiot. I threw an axe in that concept by sounding like an idiot from day one! That said I do feel like we’ve been here before. It’s not the same in terms of development progress, but it’s the same in terms of what CSE believes they can let us know and what we want to know and where the game is versus where we want it to be. I feel for you, and for them but I take great satisfaction in knowing CSE and the backers of CU have one unshakeable common bond, we all want CU the enter Beta when its ready and not a moment sooner.