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Hurry Up & Wait

Tim Anderson Posted:
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As 2016 approaches 2017 development of Camelot Unchained (CU) continues. I don’t know about you guys but I had a lot less gray hair when I first backed this game. Come to think of it I had a lot more hair when I first backed this game! It’s like it falls off the top and attaches everywhere else! Before this year ends maybe I’ll do a CU prediction column? Or maybe I’ll just drop a few 2017 predictions in every column up until the new year? I’ll start with this one.

First a bold one, I predict beta will happen in 2017! I predict we will see the belated merger of CUBE and Camelot Unchained near the end of next year. Lastly, I predict in 2017 I will run away from a fair fight in Beta only to return when the numbers unfairly favor my side. Whew! I wonder what I will predict next time? It’s hard to say because I’m so unpredictable. ;)

The update this week featured the usual development bullet points with a bit of exciting news. Internally CSE tested the client and held stable with 1,500 bots! While we have seen them test up to those numbers before, we haven’t seen them do it since the world started to fill in. Foliage, lighting and the other aesthetics impact FPS but so far Camelot Unchained is holding firm. To people in the know it’s a huge accomplishment that no other MMORPG not named EVE Online can come close to. Even if things scale back as the game develops it’s looking like 500 player battles will be possible. Gathering, leading and engaging 500 players that will still be a challenge. I consider that a good thing. After years of lag ruining battles I’ll be happy to play a MMORPG where we struggle to max out the PVP capacity.

Despite this good news many fans that backed CU a few years ago, are feeling a bit impatient. My personal view is if we have hung in this far it doesn’t make sense to abandon hope now, especially in light of CSE West. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the feeling. The amount of work that goes into a MMORPG, even before it looks anything like an actual game, is something I vastly underestimated. Small staff considered I’m still in awe of the time it takes to get a MMORPG to Beta, let alone launch.

MMORPG development is a war of attrition. Are you frustrated? Probably. Should you be? Probably. If you haven’t been at least a little frustrated at some point by now you might be a Jedi master. On the other hand, what benefit does frustration have? CSE continues to work diligently and we continue to wait. In doing so we, developers and fans, are doing all that we can with the positions we have. No words or anger can make the process go faster although had we known it would take this long a few of us might have obtained computer programming degrees by now. That might have helped! At times it feels good to voice your frustration. It makes us feel like we’ve contributed to the hustle and gained a molecule of control over the situation, but we haven’t.

A few years ago I naively picked up a game I planned to play until Camelot Unchained launched…Now I’ve got a pile of such games, books, half-finished projects and random discarded hobby’s! Eventually I decided to back a few other crowd funded games with the same naive assumptions. Few of them have launched and the ones that did were unfortunate disappointments. This story is common. My conclusion is obvious. Game development is much harder and slower than even my adjusted estimations accounted for.

I understand CSE or any game development company avoiding public timelines but damn if I wouldn’t love to see one right about now. Beta within 3 months? 6 months? A year? The problem is unknown unknowns (like the ability rebuild) come up and dates get missed or pushed back but that wouldn’t matter to most of us. No matter the circumstances once a developer gives us a peek under the skirt of development milestones we will hold them to those rough estimates regardless. If not knowing is frustrating knowing and watching milestones slip away is maddening.

Even worse than missing a date is pushing out an unrefined product just to say you landed it. Having a public timeline adds onto what is already immense pressure. In my experience there are only two kinds of MMORPG launches; broken or delayed and less broken.

MMORPGs are never finished and ready to launch. At some point, you just have to call them close enough, rip off the training wheels and send them down careening the street. After that there are two outcomes both of which involve falling because MMORPG’s don’t learn to ride a bike on their first outing. The good ones slow to a near stop then topple over in some soft grass. The bad one’s flip over the handle bars into a puddle and knock the wind out of themselves as they thud against the pavement.

For this reason, I digress and return to the purgatory that is waiting for a thing that you don’t want rushed but can’t bear to see delayed. No wonder MMORPGs never live up to the hype, how could they? Thousands of individual expectations over multiple years or anticipation all leading up to an impression forged within hours of launch. I suppose it could be worse, I could be a developer with that weight on my shoulders!


Tim Anderson