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Sailing Against Time

Tim Eisen Posted:
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I was in the midst of one of my now standard bullet point breakdown columns when I hit a wall of sorts. Not a bad wall or a good wall but a curious wall. One that sent me down a path of many questions. I suppose it’s relating to some things that have been bouncing around in my skull for the last few of weeks. I’ve called time the ultimate ganker. When does it start to impact the designs of Camelot Unchained and does that lead to a crowd funded trademark soft launch? All indicators say they are staying the course but at what point has enough time passed to force a shifting of the sails?

I see a few storms on the horizon that might make CSE consider adjusting. Number one is obvious, money. In some of my first columns I talked about the crowd funded race. Developers get a war chest then race to launch trying to get there before the chest runs out. In rare cases like Star Citizen development itself is what draws new money! They are the minority. Most crowd funded games are racing their chest.

CSE seems to have been exceptionally careful with theirs. I don’t know how full it is but past comments in updates lead me to think they are doing just fine and funds are continuing to trickle in. This might not be a major factor in the near future. Inevitably yes but not anytime soon. What other factors might force a design compromise?

I already noted time. There is a intangible crux that crowd funded and pay to test games face. They need to launch before their fans get bored! They aren’t just racing money, but attention spans as well! I can’t imagine the kind of cold sweat inducing fear trying to keep someone’s attention in the pocket PC era induces… (steps back and looks at what he is doing)

Ok I CAN! A few games recently held their audience right up until launch, after which their niche trickled off into other games. Testing is good but too much testing can lose an audience before you get to launch for a return. I suppose that is why several games now offer purchases in their beta cash shops. Strange times. Maybe launching a game means something else now? Maybe a long paid beta is the new launch? Strange times indeed.

That said those games weren’t exactly killing it and MMORPG history shows MMORPG fans are willing to wait for ages. (pours libations for Darkfall) 8 years! ...Unchained is in a different place. They are trying to get to testing. That mystique might be even more retentive than the testing itself. On top of that CSE has some of the most loyal fans in the genre. Time might not be a compromising factor, at least not in the near future. What else might be?

Ah yes competition. The crowd funded PVP niche is getting quite full. Personally, I hope we see more post-apocalyptic FPS survival games, I think we have room for several more of those. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) The first crowd funded PVP MMO to get out the gate will likely see a big intrigue bump but rather than fear it I think everyone, fans and developers, should cheer for it.

If the first one is a hot pile of rotting garbage it might create waves that hurt the launch of other crowd funded PVP MMOs. If it’s good and social media word of mouth (which MMORPG fans may have invented) is positive, then future games might be met with optimism and launch day buy ins rather than skepticism and scorn. Should CSE launch near or at the same time as another PVP MMO? No, that would probably just split the market, but a competitor having a good launch, that might not be bad at all.

Will there be enough time to implement and test the ideas that sold me on this game? Surprisingly the answer I keep coming to is yes because MMORPG fans are loyal and, despite all surface indicators, surprisingly patient; or at least willing to get mad, walk away then return for launch.

The development plan has always been to try new things and if they failed it would be easy enough to rip them out and lay in standard versions. The ability rebuild timeline had me questioning that notion but in the end, it looks like the pressure to launch is in the eye of the beholder.

I’m not seeing it but maybe you do. CU has extremely loyal fans but how long is too long? At what point does enough time pass and money burn to force a course change? At what point, would Camelot Unchained need to consider a soft launch or standard mechanics? I went into this column thinking I’d be able to work out a time, the only answer I got was maybe they don’t, at least not soon (whatever that means).


Tim Eisen

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