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Las Vegas Roundtable Report

Dana Massey Posted:
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The Fans

Our Hosts

Dave Arneson

Never Too Young To Loot

Coloring Lessons With Woody (Trust me, it didn't help!)

Costume Contest, guest hosted by former MMORPG.com writer Richard "Kunou" Duffek

Mr. & Mrs. Asplund

Dark Age of Camelot Las Vegas Roundtable Event Report

Mythic Entertainment hosted their largest event to date on September 23rd and 24th

Twice annually, Mythic Entertainment holds a Dark Age of Camelot Roundtable. This year’s west coast event in Las Vegas, Nevada was their largest yet, with over 350 players on hand. Held in the Rio, the event offers fans the chance to meet with the development team, learn about upcoming changes to the game and – perhaps most importantly – meet each other.

Not to be confused with their frequent Roadtrip events, the Roundtables are much larger endeavors. Typically, the west coast event takes place in Las Vegas in the fall, while the east coast fans gather in Washington in the spring. On Friday, the festivities got under way with dinner, raffles and games.

Several groups participated in Mythic’s take on Family Feud, a Dark Age of Camelot quiz show where participants try to guess the top five most frequently given responses in a game-related poll. The winners received a top of the line video card from Nvidia, the highlight of the various prizes given out that weekend.

On Saturday morning, Dave Arneson provided this year’s keynote address. The co-creator of the original Dungeons and Dragons, Mr. Arneson currently teaches video game design in Florida and recently retired from a computer company he had run since the late seventies. Although seemingly unfamiliar with Dark Age of Camelot, Mr. Arneson delivered a talk on the place of story in games, his own personal involvement in the creation of Dungeons and Dragons and his issues with the evolution of the RPG as a video game genre.

For those who do not know the name of Dave Arneson, he touts himself as the father of role-playing and was the co-creator of the original Dungeons and Dragons. His contributions to D&D include the twenty-sided dice. His talk centered on his belief that both pen-and-per and many MMORPGs have lost their way.

“Role-playing is about playing a role,” he said. “Not rolling dice and killing stuff.”

He went on to explain how quite often players know too much, killing the sense of mystery. In one anecdote, he explained how he would often tweak fundamental D&D rules in his games, such as monster hit points, just so people stay on their toes. Luckily, he can back it up, “I say I’m changing a rule and it’s an official rule change,” he quipped. “Really, anyone should be able to do it.”

Speaking in front of a very hardcore crowd, he also delivered a message on elitism in RPGs. His core point was that RPGs need new blood to continue forward and that it is partly the responsibility of the player base to make sure they help people and keep them involved. To illustrate this, he mentioned that at least half of the players he brings into his own D&D games at various fan gatherings need to be brand new players.

In an interview later on in the day, speaking exclusively in a video game context, clarified that he believes combat to be a large part of any game. He laments only that it often is the only part. For a game to be a success, he believes there needs to be a careful balance and rewards for those who do follow the story. Although, he emphatically points out that a game cannot freeze out those who simply wish to fight and ignore the story.

Dark Age of Camelot Executive Producer Jeff Hickman followed Mr. Arneson with a speech on the game’s future and Darkness Rising, their upcoming expansion pack. It tied quite neatly into Dave’s speech, as Jeff began by pointing out that they had consciously tried to get away from what was typically present in an MMORPG expansion: new classes, areas and monsters. Instead, Darkness Rising focuses in on a story and exploration of it. There are new areas, but no new classes. Highlights of this expansion include mounts, champion levels, sub classing, upgraded Darkness Falls graphics, champion weapons and an epic quest to uncover it all. This speech, as well as an interview with Walt Yarborough, will be the focus of a Darkness Rising preview next week.

Beyond Darkness Rising, Jeff also looked to the future of DAoC. Beyond the obvious plan of fixing bugs, Jeff outlined ideas floating around the office, none of which he can promise will ever happen. They included several new server types:

  • Evolution Server: The most radical idea, in this server they would eliminate all the game’s classes and re-assemble new ones, probably eight per realm. This server would feature a redesigned combat system, possibly slowed down, and a host of intrinsic gameplay ideas would be re-examined. This alternate rule set would not be in place of, but as an alternative to, the classic game.
  • Battlegrounds Server: In this server, players would start from their capitals and strike straight out to a battleground. Through RvR, they would be able to buy equipment and advance.
  • Home Invasion Server: The name says it all. A very goal oriented server, it would also contain ways of “resetting” the battlefield, but at its core would be about allowing players to break through and battle deep into the three realms.
Mr. Hickman went on to reassure fans of Mythic’s long-term commitment to Dark Age of Camelot. It is their flagship and will be active and evolving for years to come. After promising a free copy of Darkness Rising to everyone in attendance, he went on to explain how the expansion will be available through a digital download to regular players, or as part of their new Epic Edition that contains all expansions, including Darkness Rising. To go along with it, Prima is releasing a digital download version of a Darkness Rising strategy guide, as well as revised guide that covers the entire game.

Three “breakout sessions”, where fans get a chance to grill developers on specific aspects of the game, dominated the remainder of the day. These sessions, often heated, seemed quite important for Mythic. A neat aspect of the weekend is that with only 350 people in attendance, almost everyone got some one on one face time. What is more, every Mythic employee carried with them a notepad where they wrote out suggestions and ideas sent their way. Watching the breakout sessions, it was clear that they never stopped scribbling in their notepads.

Further games included the “70 Plat Pyramid”, a take on the old game show where one constant must make the other say a specific word without using it; a costume contest, with a men’s, women’s and child’s category and assorted raffles and prize distribution.

Vegas would not be complete without a wedding. A young Minnesota couple, Travis and Christina Asplund tied the knot the day before the event kicked off. Together for four years, they play side by side on Merlin in the Midgard realm. Travis, aka “Venomkitty”, asked Christina, aka “Saanna”, to marry him a week before the trip, then shocked her by making it official in the Rio chapel on Thursday. In the works for a year, Travis saw the Las Vegas Roundtable as the perfect time.

Mythic knows how to put on a good show. This, their largest and by all accounts best event remained small enough it to have a personal feel. If you are a hardcore fan of DAoC, it is highly recommended that you catch a future roundtable. This one at least seemed well worth it.

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Dana Massey