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Pitchforks & Betas

Tim Eisen Posted:
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There is no sense in avoiding the demon in the dungeon. Due to a lack of staff CU Beta was delayed until further notice. It’s obviously a disappointment for many backers but it's also a symbol of how much the genre has changed. Back in my day Beta wasn’t “delayed”. Beta usually had 4 stages and concluded with “open beta tests” and most scrubs like me didn’t get in until phase 4, or worst case scenario, open beta. As a vet who has seen his fair share of open betas let me tell you, many a MMOer has called in sick to catch a glimpse of what they had been waiting several years for with the result usually being staring at a loading screen, relogging hundreds of times, lagging a few hundred yards, then crashing only to repeat that process over and over and over again for the next 24-48 sleepless hours (if I stay up late enough I bet the others will go to sleep so I can finally log in)!

L-O-L, silly Timothy from 12 years ago, MMOers don’t sleep, they wait, this is known.

Don’t even get me started on Alpha! Alpha was like a high school rumor about the new kid. Everyone had a slightly different story that they heard from a friend of a friend who had a cousin that went to school with the kid before he mysteriously disappeared and turned up in your school! Alpha was generally friends and family but if you did hit the lottery (blackmail someone) and get in it usually played a lot like open beta but without pretty graphics.

Now here we are in 2015 having to announce Beta has been delayed! The meaning of Alpha and Beta hasn’t only changed but now they come with expected dates and people pay just to participate in them. I’ve already experienced a few games that people played like crazy in “Beta”, then by launch they were over it and moving onto a new game (likely also in Beta). We went from waiting from (mostly) finished MMOs to being content to “play”, yes I said play not test, MMOs in development. The very meaning of what a game is to MMORPGers has changed. Where does this end? Will “playing a new MMO” mean playing the development until the game is ready to launch at which time the developers close it down due to lack of a population? A lot of my MMO brethren are about the journey more than the destination but this is taking it to a whole new level.

Is a game that hasn’t launched still a game? If I’m having fun does it matter? If I’m bored before launch is that OK? If launch day is server shutdown day because the game got stale before it came out was it all pointless? Isn’t all hobby time pointless? Am I overthinking it? Is that my job? What is the meaning of life?...I start to spin and end up daydreaming about what I would do if I could go back in time which always ends the same way, with the entire population of planet Earth united in peace working toward the common goal of hyperspace travel to propel us back to the stars from which our atoms came, all under my iron-fisted rule...

Tangents about the meaning of beta aside, I am a backer and CU beta being delayed did affect me. As someone who has followed this project from the beginning I could almost see the ghosts shadowing Mark Jacobs as he frankly let his supporters know about the delay. For those unaware this isn’t just about a game, at least I don’t think it is, I believe it has a lot to do with the legacy of one of the founders of this genre. If DAOC was “A New Hope” and if WAR was the “Empire Strikes Back” then CU is “The Return of the Jacobs” (story wise, not quality-wise, as we all know Empire is the best actual movie) and I don’t think that is lost on Mark. He has learned from the past and is determined not to let the evil Empire gank him again. This is his redemption song and it will take more than being short on staff to give those ghosts enough power to haunt him again.

Mark isn’t just talking to us, he is talking with us, and that is why when I see him making such an announcement I don’t just see what is but I see what has been, what the community (both devs and backers) have gone through since day one and I understand how frustrating the situation must be for a studio full of gamers turned developers that are determined to make a great game but simply don’t yet have the capabilities to advance it as needed.

That said, I can’t let my relationship with the game affect my view of the beta delay. If it were due to lack of effort, lack of skill, or lack of commitment I would be sliding my pitch fork into the coals to make sure it burned when it went in! That isn’t the case here. CSE has been steadfast in both the development of CU, involvement with the backers and the pursuit of those hires they need so badly. The delay is something that goes beyond the game and resonates with the management of the studio. It puts Mark and Andrew between a rock and a hard place and it’s something I believe few people that have never been in a similar situation can really grasp. Long story short I don’t fault anyone and from my point of view maximum effort was put into remedying the situation. It simply is what it is and it must be overcome in order for CU to become what it needs to be. Fortunately they appear to have a few of those positions filled but wisely they are not going to lock in another date until they know the newbies will last.

I’m naturally disappointed but understanding too. Looking at the amount of refunds I’d guess most of the CU community feels the same way. We are showing it by putting our money where our mouths are (or are we leaving it where our mouth was? No that sounds...wrong). We are still here, bruised but patiently waiting. The coals are cold and the pitch forks are still in the barn. Apology accepted. Now add the new guys to the guild, give them some leet gear, and power level those newbies!


Tim Eisen

I roleplay a wordsmith that writes about the technological and social evolution within the game industry