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Chatting with Mark Jacobs on the Delayed Beta

Camelot Unchained Interviews - By Tim Eisen on July 17, 2015

Chatting with Mark Jacobs on the Delayed Beta

With the announcement of the beta delay for Camelot Unchained, Mark Jacobs and his development team wanted to address potential player concerns straight away. We spoke with Mark to give him a chance to lay out the details. Check it out below...

MMORPG: Unlike some of your peers your Kickstarter came with and maintains a refund upon request policy. Do you feel continued delays could turn that policy into an Achilles heel of sorts; meaning are you concerned about the long term ramifications of such a policy or are you confident the majority of your fans will remain loyal?

Mark Jacobs: I’ve always felt that it was important to not only put my money where my mouth is, but also to put my faith in our Backers to take a long-term view of this project. Our policy on refunds hasn’t changed since our Kickstarter days, and while it certainly hurts us financially to give refunds, only a small percentage of our Backers have asked for them, so far. For example, we’ve paid just under 50K in refunds in the last nine months, which, while not insignificant, serves to show that we do keep our promises. We will continue to keep them, going forward. And even with those refunds, we haven’t gone to our Backers begging for more money to make up for those losses, nor have we looked to the sale of new virtual items to bring in additional money. Now, if we were suddenly hit with half of our Backers asking for refunds, well, that would hurt. However, if that happened, it would mean that we failed as a development team to create the game that we set out to create.

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Another thing to keep in mind is that when we had to delay Alpha, we thanked our Alpha Backers by having the Pre-Alpha Tests. This time, we plan on doing something similar for our Beta 1 Backers. While the Alpha Backers are getting extra time in Alpha, we also want to give our Beta 1 Backers some time to play in the Alpha, as well. We will talk more about this when we announce our new Beta 1 date. Between now and then, we will also hold more Alpha tests, of course, especially when we add new stuff or try to “break the build”, as we have done in the past.

MMORPG: Now considering any new hires, would CSE eventually be able to produce Camelot Unchained with its current staff? If so how much of a delay would that create?

Mark Jacobs: As for the first question, absolutely. That’s also why I want to wait two months before laying out the dates for Beta. Based on our current staffing and some outsourcing of art, we can deliver the game we laid out in the Kickstarter, with our current finances. As folks in our Alpha have seen, we’ve begun to spend more effort on building the game itself, and not just building the game’s engine. The next two months, which nearly coincides with what would have been the opening of Beta 1, will see a lot of changes to the Alpha build. The world will begin to resemble the world of the game, and not just a battleground. It’s a real shame, the way the last two months went down on the hiring front. While it still would have been tough to make Beta, the world would have looked so much different than it does today, considering the level and quality of programming we were expecting to have from the new guy. And looking another six weeks forward, a lot of other things would have changed and improved as well, with his help.

MMORPG: Have you considered crowd sourcing to some of your backers?

Mark Jacobs: We’ve been doing that right from the beginning with our UI, and we will continue doing that, going forward. We are also open to putting other bits and pieces out there for folks to help to contribute to the game’s development, but they have to be the right pieces, of course. We have certainly outsourced the work on our wiki, over on Curse’s Gamepedia site (http://camelot.gamepedia.com), and our Backers have been a great help to us there.

MMORPG: Have you considered outsourcing to other studios?

Mark Jacobs: Yep, and we will definitely do that for some of our art needs. When it comes to programming, we are already working with some of Nvidia’s tech, and they have offered to help us out some more. As I said in the video, our problem right now is just the quantity of the code/assets we have produced, not the quality. If the latter was the case, well, we would be in a lot of trouble, but fortunately it is not.

MMORPG: Will this recent delay affect stretch goals (both future and current)?

Mark Jacobs: Only in terms of when they will be delivered, of course. Fortunately, our Stretch Goals have been geared heavily to hiring and post-release content, because, well, we always knew delays could happen, as they normally do when making an MMORPG. L This also shows the wisdom of keeping most of the Stretch Goals far away from “New bright shiny thing to add to the game at launch!”, since that would only have exacerbated the problem.

MMORPG: Would it be possible to work with (not outsourcing so much as working together) other MMORPG studios to share/trade resources?  

Mark Jacobs: While I would be open to working with (not for) the right studio, I don’t think anything like that is going to happen in the near future. And since we are building most of our own tech from scratch, it is even less likely that they could help us. OTOH, if a studio has a couple of really talented programmers they could lend us for the next year, well, I’d love to talk to them.

MMORPG: What contingency plans do you have in place should CSE continue to remain short on staff?

Mark Jacobs: In terms of art, we’ll outsource to fill whatever gaps we might have, but I’m really not too worried about that. Unfortunately for artists, there always seem to be plenty of talented and hard-working professionals looking for a new gig. OTOH, with programmers, it is quite a different landscape, especially as there is so much money being thrown at mobile teams/startups. Based on the team size we have, no, we won’t need to rely on any contingency plans to release the game. It might take a little longer than we would have liked, but we have the right people, and enough people right now, to complete the game. So, if you consider things taking a little longer as a contingency plan, then that’s what we have in place already. :)

MMORPG: People that have not backed CU will see this very differently than those that have. What message do you have for those watching from the sidelines that might be interested in CU but concerned about the delays?

Mark Jacobs: Here’s what I’ve been saying since the Kickstarter funded: if you are unsure about donating to our (or any crowdfunded) game, wait, watch, and then judge for yourself the merit of what we or other developers are doing. Donating to any crowdfunded project comes with a certain amount of risk. However, at least with this game, our Backers can be assured of two things – first, that we are willing to back up our words with our refund policy, and second, that the head of the company is not only not taking any salary, draw, etc., but that he is also putting a big chunk of his own money into the project. That’s the risk I’m willing to take, because Andrew, me and the rest of the team believe in the game’s concept and in each other. We set out to do something challenging and worthwhile, and we are making steady progress, just a little slower than we had hoped.

Tim Eisen / In my columns I walk the line between fan and critic as I document the development of Camelot Unchained, Crowfall, and Chronicles of Elyria.