We all have that one game that made us fall in love with MMOs. For some, it was Everquest, which was considered to be so addicting at the time that it was affectionately called ‘Evercrack’. For most, however, I’d tend to believe their first MMO was World of Warcraft. However, for people like me, we broke in with a game called Dark Age of Camelot – a game that, even today,causes a massive migration of many older MMO fans.
Unlike Everquest fans who easily moved on to new worlds in World of Warcraft and other titles, MMOs have had a great deal of difficulty in producing a true successor to DAoC. As the game’s diehard fans, we are all cursed to roam the earth looking for that one MMO that can give us the same fix of Realm vs Realm combat that DAoC is so well known for having. Even a hint of RvR gameplay, and we come out of the woodwork in droves trying to recapture the highs we felt while roaming around the frontier. Every time we make this migration, its common that you see forum posts pop up with titles like “ Any ex-DAoCers?”, which was a popular thread topic in Guild Wars 2 forums. Yet we never find that high that we had nor get the same excitement and thrills. Thus, we leave these poor imitations of RvR and begin our migration anew, slightly less hopeful than before.
But “What made DAoC so great?”. The short answer is community, but of course it goes deeper than that. Everyone worked together in DAoC to defend their realm or attack another realm. The game still had its share of power guilds but everyone worked together. The RvR progression was based around killing other players, so you were always looking to get kills or provoke people into coming out to fight. All these things combined created the perfect storm of a PvP game that has not yet been matched. Mostly because MMOs until recently have relied on the two faction model, which often creates serious imbalances in sides. The few games that have used three factions also tend to over-complicate their PvP with too many systems in place or don’t do enough to promote quality skirmishes and exchanges. More than that, DAoC’s communities actually cared about their realm being victorious. Fighting, while fun on its own, wasn’t always done as a simple means of progression toward an obvious goal. Stronger communities meant having a stronger tie to the game and placed a greater emphasis on being a part of a larger whole. Most MMOs that come out now lack the sort of focus necessary to make something like RvR work. These days, they have a million different systems and subsystems to cater to every demographic and playstyle, often resulting in fairly vanilla experiences in their core gameplay. Dark Age of Camelot was at its finest when it was a MMO focused solely RvR, and that’s why I have so much hope for Camelot Unchained.
Camelot Unchained is a game by City State Entertainment, led by the same person who made DAoC: Mark Jacobs. Full disclosure, he was the head of Mythic Entertainment as well, and at least partially responsible for Warhammer: Age of Reckoning. While Warhammer was not the best, many of its weaker elements were directly caused by outside sources that ultimately caused its downfall. While it is certainly easy to put the blame on Mark – and he should have some – to place all the blame on him, as many do, is a great injustice.
In the lead up to Camelot Unchained’s Kickstarter, Mark wrote a series of foundational principles posts that I personally would love to see in every other MMO, let alone CU. If you want to read them you can check them all out on the Camelot Unchained website. I won’t repeat them here, but they are a great read if you take MMO game design as seriously as I do, or are excited for a new RvR game.
I began following CU when I first read Mark Jacob’s Founding Principal #4. I became genuinely excited to play the game that I feel could be DAoC 2. From that point forward, I searched internet communities, hoping to gage excitement and to see if others saw as much potential as I did. Of course, I found many ex-DAoC players like myself excited finally to have a real spiritual successor to DAoC’s RvR. But like Mark says, CU will be niche game: this is not a game for everyone and thats ok. Specifically, if you are looking for a great PvE experience, this game isn’t for you as there won’t be any. But if you are like me and have been desperately searching for a true sequel to DAoC’s RvR, then Camelot Unchained might be that game.
When the reward lists came out, decisions had to be made. I knew I would invest in Camelot Unchained’s Kickstarter, but “how much?” echoed loudly in my mind. After all, how much do you give to see one of your favorite games of all time get its chance at a sequel? What’s the value of a dream that you had already started letting go of with so many frankly failed attempts at fulfilling it? I settled on the higher cost rewards (between $1,000 and $5,000), as they seemed the most interesting, but also reflected the value I see in Camelot Unchained.
The $5,000 reward really caught my attention, at first. Camelot Unchained promises the ability to build various structures for a variety of purposes, so the prospect of owning my own private island to build on seemed really awesome. Being completely private, one of the perks of owning your own island is the ability to let any number of friends hang out there as well, and you get to work with the City State team to customize the island. Unlike a lot of Kickstarter rewards I have seen, this one seemed both unique and really cool.
However, the more I thought about it the less inclined I was to get it. What if my friends stopped playing? This cool and interesting thing might then go mostly unused or, worse, just be a place where I’m a hermit. Along that same line, what if I don’t want to play that faction anymore? There are plenty of questions to be had given the seriousness of owning your own island. When the Kickstarter went live, I had a long conversation with one of my friends about my ‘return of investment’, which is just as silly as it sounds. Finally, the time came to put my money in someone else’s pocket: I pulled the trigger on one of the $3000 rewards.
Obviously, this isn’t a small investment. But games are my passion and my main hobby. I went to school to make them, but life and better paying opportunities took me elsewhere. Still, creating games remains a dream of mine on some level. Plus, this is not something I would do for any other game. I’m really hoping that this game captures some of the same fun I had in DAoC. I would love nothing more than to play this game for many years
It is a worrisome thought that I could NOT like this game – I do stand to lose a decent chunk of my income. Still, I’m hopeful that this game is awesome. I invested to show that I support the ideas behind CU. I fully recognize that I may have been wrong about the world needing a sequel to Dark Age of Camelot. If the game fails to be funded, it shows that my opinion on RvR was actually incorrect. I was in the minority the whole time and people do not want this kind of game, or perhaps it is still not the right time. If CU doesn’t reach its goal, I will continue my trek across the various MMO worlds looking for that experience that I’m very likely to never find again. I will continue to look for that beacon of RvR light in a dark and terrible sea of battlegrounds, two faction combat, and esports.
I won’t ask you to fund this game. I really dislike when people ask other to do things with their money. However, I ask that you read everything there is to read for Camelot Unchained. If you like MMOs, especially if one of those MMOs is Dark Age of Camelot, and you agree with what Mark Jacobs and the City State team have to say about MMO design, then heres your chance. Camelot Unchained’s Kickstarter page is waiting.