So, Mark Jacobs has announced that after putting out a decent enough iPad tower defence-ish game, March on Oz, his next project is going to be a return to MMOs with Camelot Unchained
Mark tells us that this game is not exactly a spiritual successor to Dark Age of Camelot.
Apart, of course, from being a three way RvR-centred game with Arthurians vs celts vs vikings. No DAoC heritage there at all.
But seriously, apart from the snark there’s another way it resembles DAoC that has me more interested. The original DAoC was made on what was a tight budget even for its time – under $5 million, I believe. The aim for this game is to produce it on a budget of $10 million. That’s a twentieth of what SWTOR is said to have cost, and a fifth of the figures I’ve seen bruited about for Rift, which is generally regarded as the modern MMO paragon of tight project management. The man actually has what looks like a plausible plan to achieve this – by making the game almost purely RvR (with a side of crafting as the main source of gear) and having very little PvE content, he’s de-scoped a lot of the work needed for a more traditional MMO. That’s a shed-load of zones that don’t need to be built, an ass-ton of monsters that don’t need models and animation doing, and a hell of a lot of quests and dungeons that don’t need to be hand-crafted and then tested, tweaked and balanced for every possible party composition. It’s the most realistic plan I’ve seen for making a decent MMO for a smaller budget, and meets the fundamental project management principle of getting the budget down by keeping a firm rein on the scope.
If the future of MMOs isn’t going to be monster blockbusters with millions of players (and the history of everything except WoW suggests that it isn’t) then it has to be niche games built on a budget that the niche can afford. If it works, Camelot Unchained will be a perfect example of that. If it doesn’t, then maybe MMOs don’t have any great future at all because I honestly can’t see a plan C.
Massively has an interview with Mark Jacobs that makes for an interesting read. I’ll be watching this one.