So, in my last post I mentioned that Mark Jacobs and City State Entertainment are working on the “not DAoC honest so please keep EA’s lawyers at bay” Camelot Unchained. Since then, Mr Jacobs has been busily posting his ‘foundational principles’ which are probably what a business school graduate would call a ‘vision’ or ‘mission statement’ except they’ve got a lower level of buzzwordy bullshit than most of the MBA-generated mission statements I’ve had the misfortune to encounter. Which doesn’t mean I buy into them one hundred percent, but at least they don’t talk about strategically leveraging the synergy of exploiting neglected player dynamics in new and innovative ways…
Anyway, as the descriptions of these principles, are long, detailed, enthusiastic and occasionally almost incoherent, I am offering a Tremayne’s-eye view and summary of each of them here. If you like it, you can thank me later. If you don’t like how I’ve summarised them, take it up in the comments section (which I get to moderate :D ) If you don’t like the principles themselves, go have a pop at Mark Jacobs on his own blog if he ever gets around to updating it. I’m reliably informed that Mr Jacobs is big enough and ugly enough to stand up for himself :)
Foundational Principle #1 – Be willing to take risks, even if fortune doesn’t always favor the bold. In summary – they’re going for a niche and not including features just because it will increase player numbers if it doesn’t fit. The aim is to make a game that is the best fit for the style of game they’re making, and if that means it lacks appeal to players who like other sorts of game then so be it. The Tremayne view – I like niche games as long as they recognise that they’re niche games, budget accordingly, and actually find a big enough niche to pay for that budget while still being a small enough niche to be well-defined.
Foundational Principle #2 – RvR isn’t the end game, it’s the only game! In summary – there’s no PvE apart from a few very limited areas such as newbie training zones. It’s RvR or GTFO… apart from crafting and housing, both of which will be RvR-related in some manner. Tremayne view – it’s a niche game and it’s going to stick to its niche. Seems fair enough to me, and I’ve met enough players who are happy to live in RvR zones (or the GW2 WvW equivalent) that it looks like it could be a viable niche.
Foundational Principle #3 – You should always hold the hands of your little children while crossing busy intersections but… In summary – old school game that will dispense with a lot of modern conveniences that arguably have over-simplified games in an attempt to please the ADHD kiddies. Also known as the “damn kids get off my lawn!” school of game design, examples of things that will NOT be featuring in a Camelot near you are ‘follow the big glowy arrow’ quest helpers, overly informative in-game maps (go learn the terrain the hard way!), auction houses and free and easy respecs. Tremayne view – I’m all for designing a game to be challenging. I’m less keen on throwing babies out with the bath water, so while I like the principle in principle, care needs to be taken that some of the good ideas of the last ten years of gaming don’t get junked just because they were thought of after DAoC went live. I’m particularly ambivalent about not having an auction house per se. Yes, restricting the sale of crafted items to player shops adds immersion and might help build community, but it also makes it harder for a realm warrior to quickly tool up and hit the battlefield. Although I suppose it does create a niche for an enterprising middleman to set up a one-stop-shop weapons and armour supermarket for the slayer on the go…
Foundational Principle #4 – Choice Matters! In summary – lots of options for customisation, and consequences rather than flat-out prohibition as a way of restricting players. So unlike many other games your mage CAN wear a suit of plate armour, but it’s heavy (and you don’t have the strength to cope with it that a warrior who works out every day has) and encasing yourself in metal and then flinging lightning bolts around might not be the smartest idea ever. Tremayne view – this is another one I like in theory, but it’s devilishly difficult to get right without making some choices much more effective than others, in which case they stop being real choices and just become a “gotcha!” trap for unwary players. That goes double when allied with “limited respecs” as it can leave a player feeling stuck with a crappy build and wanting to quit. There’s a good reason that games have been moving towards making all player character creation choices cosmetic, and it’s because balance is hard. Kudos to City State Entertainment if they can make real choices that are balanced enough to feel like choices – and no matter how good a job they do, players will still zero in on a few builds that their theorycrafting ‘proves’ are slightly more efficient and that anyone who doesn’t choose them is a gimp.
Foundational Principle #5 – I Still Hate Gold Sellers In summary – ’nuff said, really. Tremayne view – me too. However, any game is going to have people who want to “buy win” and others will turn up willing to take their money, and who really don’t care if they shit all over the game to make that money. That being said, a niche game is less likely to be worth a gold-seller’s time, especially if the easiest ways of making gold such as farming PvE mobs aren’t available. Expect to see some attempts by the RMTers to monetise this game though, such as creating ‘easy kill’ bots that can be farmed for RvR kills and hired out to their customers, or straight power-levelling services.