Camelot Unchained’s beta will launch on the 4th of July; we interview Mark Jacobs

You can go ahead and order extra sparklers because you’re going to need ’em this July 4th. That’s the auspicious day that Camelot Unchained’s beta one will finally launch after three years of delay, City State Entertainment has now announced. The studio has further confirmed that the “feature lock” date for the crowdfunded RvR MMORPG will be June 12th – at that point, everything for the beta will be set, save bug-fixing. And yes, everything that has been promised for the beta will make it for that launch (that doesn’t mean everything going into launch will be in beta – expect more builds going forward over the expected year of this beta).

CSE’s Mark Jacobs spoke with us just a few weeks ago to announce that the company had taken on a large external investment to speed up development of the game; he’s done the same this time ’round to answer our questions about beta and what to expect between right now and the 4th of July when those beta gates open. Read on!

MassivelyOP: Are you at all concerned about summer demographically — will you have enough testers in the summer months to make the rollout then useful? Or is a slow build to the fall peak exactly what you’re looking for?

Mark Jacobs: No, not concerned at all. Our early Beta 1 testing is going to be focused mostly on weekends and the Impromptu Tests during the week. While some folks will certainly be traveling during the summer, a lot of other folks will be out of school and at home more, so I think it will balance out nicely. Plus, it’s Beta 1 and we don’t expect the kind of turnout we will get for our Open Beta. This is also one of the reasons we decided to use the Saturday Night Siege scenarios a lot during Beta 1. In an open world testing environment, if you have a low turnout, there’s a lot of walking around with very little action. OTOH, with scenarios not only is it based on having lots of action, but the NPCs/Bots can fill out the tests in a meaningful way.

As to the slow build, that certainly doesn’t hurt but it didn’t factor in at all to our thinking primarily because we are going into Beta 1 and we know that attendance will be sparser than in Open Beta.

Does the date affect the 2019 launch plans at all? Can you sketch out the vague testing plans between beta and launch – as in, how many beta phases?

Not at all, the date is well within where I thought it would be when we made the deal with our new overlords, I mean investors! Right now the plan is to have three full Beta stages before we have an Open Beta. During each stage we will use scenarios to test specific aspects of the game and gameplay as well as some open world testing. We will go into feature lock before we go to open beta (duh, right?) and use the open beta period for the final shakedown of the game before we go LIVE.

What specifically is the team working on between now and the beta launch?

The biggest challenges for us over the next few months are the stability/destructibility aspects of our building system and the amount of UI work that we need to get done before Beta 1 begins. In the case of the former, no MMORPG that I am aware of has our combination of blocks, true physics (no floating blocks), and structural stress/integrity. That’s always been a pretty tall order for us, but we are confident that we can solve it, even if we do it in stages. In the case of the later, it might seem silly of us to list UI as a risk factor versus other things, but the fact is that building a great UI takes a lot of time from a number of different people and disciplines (art, design, and engineering). And since our programming team is still small by MMORPG standards, this is a significant risk for us. Fortunately, unlike some other items, if we go into Beta 1 with a more bare-bones UI our Backers will be quite understanding of it versus say not having any siege engines in our Saturday Night Sieges!

Is there anything that could shift the beta date?

Yep, there sure are which is why we add some padding to our Beta 1 date. We know that things will go wrong between now and the planned opening of Beta 1 and we hope the extra-soft padding will envelop these things in its extra-softness so we don’t break the date. Our biggest risk factor though is probably our stability/block destruction system for our buildings which is why it is going to be getting so much attention from us between now and Beta 1.

What types of gamers would be most helpful in the beta – you need real testers, right, not looky-loos who will only be disappointed? What’s your plan for dealing with that influx of opinions and leaks, given that your beta is a real beta and not just a showpiece/preview?

Looky-loos won’t be joining us for Beta 1, I suspect, because we are going to change our refund policy for new purchasers once it is ready to start. We’ve had a bunch of people who have cost us money doing that during Alpha test (get the highest tier possible, refund with the first couple of days) and we are not going to allow that to happen during Beta 1. We’ll be doing lots of streaming but we will actively discourage people from buying a tier just to try the Beta 1 and then refund.

In terms of real testers vs. “fun in the sun” folks, I want them both. Beta 1 is when testing the actual gameplay of Camelot Unchained begins anew. We will need both hardcore testers as well as folks who just want to run around and check things out. As to our plan for dealing with them, we’ll do what a lot of folks do, ignore them. In all seriousness, we hired a CM earlier than expected so he could get up to speed well before Beta 1 starts. We’ll be doing more surveys, we’re building an in-game bug reporting system, as well as other things to make the experience better for both our players and our team. And, as always, yours truly will be on the Forums talking directly with our players.

Will you be rewarding testers for actually testing in any way?

You mean more than just a laurel and hardy handshake? Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and we do intend to reward our players in meaningful and fun ways, including that all time favorite, cash.

Did you get a new couch yet? And what do we say now instead of “beta when”?

Nope, no new couch. As to “beta when” how bout “OMG, you nerfed left axe again!”

Finally, during my last talk with Jacobs, he sketched out CSE’s plans to revamp the game’s pledge tiers and properly compensate the earliest backers for the long delay and change in plan to take on a new and large outside investment. At the time, those plans had to be redacted because they weren’t yet set in stone. Jacobs tells me that though the beta date is locked in, the pledge tier revamp isn’t ready – there’s just not been enough time. But it’s coming! What that means for readers is that we’re still not quite sure how money you’ll need to ante up for a pledge if you have your heart set on testing and aren’t content to just wait for the full launch next year.

As always, we’d like to thank Mark Jacobs for speaking with us! The team’s announcement stream is over now but archived on on YouTube below:

Don’t forget to check out our massive interview with Jacobs from last month about how CSE will be putting that extra $7.5M in investment dough to work.

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