The Game? Unreleased. The Developer? Defensive. The Funding? Paid in full. The Side Project? On the way. The preceding description could be used to characterize any number of crowdfunded games in development, at any given time over the past decade. The molehill of undelivered Kickstarters has become the mountain. The acorn of uncertainty has become the oak of disappointment. With all that we have seen and heard over the past decade, of broken promises and missed opportunities, we, the gaming community at large, have nobody to blame but ourselves. Another controversy rears its head, so this time I have to ask myself, “Why am I not surprised?”
Camelot Unchained, for those that are unaware, is the sequel to the popular medieval MMORPG known for its three kingdom Realm vs Realm vs Realm gameplay, Dark Age of Camelot. It is also one of many games that exists, and I use the term exist loosely, because of a successful crowdfunding campaign. Recently, the development studio, City State Entertainment, run by visionary developer and CEO Mark Jacobs, announced in a live stream that in addition to Camelot Unchained (CU), they would be releasing a second game, largely referred to as Colossus at times or Final Stand: Ragnarok or simply Ragnarok: Colossus, before development is completed on CU. The backlash from the announcement has been severe as backers of Camelot Unchained disagree with the possible use of their funds to finance another game or delay Camelot Unchained, despite the reassurance from Mark Jacobs that the development on Ragnarok would be equally beneficial for CU.
Over the past decade, developers have increasingly asked for financial backing from followers through Crowdfunding campaigns, and Early Access releases, to bankroll the development of titles that have yet to prove themselves, resulting in massive delays, monetary losses, and in this case as with some others, extracurricular developments that may misuse funds, either perceptually or in actuality. What results is a community that sours on the experience, but rarely does the community at large learn that the behavior Crowdfunded and Early Access studios exhibit hasn’t just been tolerated by we the people, but it has been rewarded time and time again.
Nary half a year ago, Intrepid Studios along with their Crowdfunded title Ashes of Creation, released a battle royale “prequel” titled, Ashes of Creation Apocalypse, which confused and confounded backers, wondering why time was being spent on a glorified technical demo mini-game instead of the full fledged MMO they were promised. Who could forget one of, if not the most notorious of ongoing crowdfunded titles by Cloud Imperium Games, Star Citizen, as it released bits and pieces of their greater vision of Star Citizen in somewhat playable chunks? Need anyone be reminded of Studio Wildcards infamous release of paid DLC for Ark: Survival Evolved, before the game was even out of Early Access? The list of objective failures continues as both Crowdfunded and Early Access titles vie for our hard-earned dollars, whether or not anything of merit prospers from them.
There is a list of poorly managed games and unfulfilled feature lists longer than my D—VI Cable. The problem, unfortunately, does not lie with the developers of these crowdsourced, under developed, ill-defined games. Gamers continue to back Kickstarter campaigns, sending a loud message that crowdsourcing is still a viable way for developers to achieve their goals. Meanwhile, hope, desperation, willful ignorance, unbridled passion, nostalgia, are often where we should place the blame when our better judgement is laid low by another controversy in the long history of controversies that stretch back from the beginning of Crowdsourced Time. As long as we continue to allow ourselves to accept a product with no guarantees, obtuse time frames, and suspect goals, we enable situations where we get to be disappointed, habitually outraged, and subsequently perturbed.
Circling back to Camelot Unchained, Ashes of Creation, and their ilk. There could be some truth to the whole “development of this, helps development of that” spiel. Objectively, Mark Jacobs is a talented, proven, enthusiastic personality who has lead teams victoriously through to release. During the announcement stream, Jacobs even insisted that, backers who disagreed with this second games’ release was welcome to receive a refund. All signs point to Camelot Unchained continuing on its development track. Whether Ragnarok will slow the progress, or if it has diverted it already, Camelot Unchained and its 7 years and counting development cycle does not appear to be stopping anytime soon. While it doesn’t bode well that both City State Entertainments Ragnarok and Intrepid Studios Apocalypse foretell of world-ending disasters, the world hasn’t ended yet for either of them. If the absence of transparency and control during development still bothers you, perhaps you should refrain from crowdfunding in the future.