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Crunch Time Interview with Mark Jacobs

Tim Eisen Posted:
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MMORPG: Alpha, Beta or even that oddball Omega, does anyone really know what any of them mean anymore and how frustrating has it been to explain and re-explain a term that has become so debased in recent years?

MJ: Yeah, it’s pretty frustrating, but part of that is my fault. Keep in mind that back in the Dark Age of Camelot development days, I broke down our testing periods into segments/numbers, and many people (and some journalists) were very upset with that, saying it was a pure marketing gimmick, as no other MMORPG had talked about testing periods the way we did  (publicly, at least). So, some of the credit/blame for the confusion can be traced back to me. Thus, I can’t complain about how other studios do it, can I? 

MMORPG: Relating, have the fan's interpretations of what to expect in each phase been hard to manage?

MJ: That has been hard. We have gone to great lengths to explain to people what Alpha/Beta meant to us, but we still get complaints that the game isn’t in the shape that people expected, even when they acknowledge that we did tell them not to expect much. We had the same problem with Dark Age of Camelot back at Mythic, so this isn’t new to me. It’s funny, we continue release a ton of information about this during development, much more than most (not all) developers, both publicly and in our Forums. Yet, every so often, we hear complaints from people that they couldn’t find any real information about the game, even though we have a website, wiki, our newsletters, updates, livestreams followed by long Q&A session, etc., and we’re not even in Beta yet. However, as always, none of this is unexpected.

MMORPG: Would you like to take a moment (because I’m sure you have so much time right now) to once again clarify what a traditional Beta 1 is and/or what backers can expect?

MJ: Like our Alpha, our Beta 1 is not like people have come to expect in modern MMORPGs. Our Beta 1 Backers will start with three classes per Realm (fighter, archer and healer) and a pretty bare-bones world. Each of these three classes (nine total), have to be different from each other, as we are sticking to our non-mirrored class promise. When we believe that these nine are fun (not balanced, just fun), we will then introduce other classes.

The servers will not be available 24x7, but we will have lots of scheduled and impromptu Beta tests on a weekly basis. The basic crafting system will be in, but it is truly basic, in every aspect. It will also be sped up considerably: pretty much instantaneous, though players will see the time it would normally take to purify (refine) ore, make an item, etc.

Part of Beta 1 testing will also be “break the build” tests, as we will continually try to make the engine crash, or at least beg for mercy. Players will be able to build their buildings in safe islands as well in the contested islands. The safe island building is intended to help stress the systems, by having lots of players build and change their buildings without worrying about them being destroyed. We want to see lots of elaborate, unusual, and even strange buildings, in order to test everything from our building stability to our rendering system. We’ll have version 0.1 of our plot ownership and permission system in, so people will be able to take and hold their own plots.

I’d love to say that players will see a very stable build all the time, and while our Alpha has had the fewest crashes that I’ve seen with any MMORPG, things get much more complicated in Beta, so anything is possible, including more crashes. There’s a lot more of course, but that’s an overview look at Beta 1.

Thanks, as always, to Tim, Bill, and MMORPG.com for their interest and support of our efforts here!

MMORPG: And a big thank you to Mark Jacobs for taking the time (because he has so much right now) and offering such in depth answers and a thanks to everyone at CSE for going into crunch mode on the march to Beta!

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Tim Eisen

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