PC Interview

Dark Age of Camelot

Adrian Hutchins chats to Matt Firor about the forthcoming release of this MMORPG...

Mythic Entertainment's next generation massively multiplayer online roleplaying game, Dark Age of Camelot has gone gold, and is expected to hit stores imminently. We'll be reviewing the full game shortly, but as a precursor, we thought we'd get you salivating about what is promising to be first rate romp through Arthurian times... ("Ok, first me and Sir Luke leap out of the Rabbit...")

Ferrago Magazine managed to track down Matt Firor, recovering, no doubt from several binges after putting the final touches to Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC as we rpg'ers call it) to get the run down on why DAOC is threatening to shake up the online RPG craze.

First off, quite remarkably, DAoC is on schedule for your release date. I'm sure every other developer would love to know how on earth you managed this? Whips? Programmers and Artists chained to their desks, or what?

We use more enlightened methods, such as threats of bodily harm, extortion, and occasionally resorting to "culling of the herd". Seriously, though, we have a lot of experience making online games, and this has helped us throughout the project's life. We already had a head start on the graphical engine for the game (modified from the one that we used in our FPS, Spellbinder: the Nexus Conflict). Our server technology also was pre-developed for lots of other games from Magestorm up to and including Spellbinder. With all these pieces in place, we had a big head start on the project even before we started.

Given the fact that you're on schedule, what would you say to answer concerns of the players out there who have been burnt by those recently released Massively Multiplayer Online Games that were, shall we say, "Released in a not entirely ready format"?

We plan on continually adding more content to Dark Age of Camelot as the game matures. This means that we are launching with a stable base, and enough content to make a viable, fun game. With this stable base we can continue to add more features (quests, models, monsters, sounds, animations, etc.) without too much worry about other stability bugs.

From the mood we've seen in the various online communities, Camelot is poised to threaten the long running supremacy of the "big three" (Ultima Online, Asheron's Call and, of course, Everquest) What elements of those games do you believe were of significant influence on DaoC?

In general we took concepts we liked from those games, as well as others, and then changed them to suit Camelot. The game with the most impact on Camelot is Darkness Falls: the Crusade, a Realm-based PvP text-based MUD that we (Mythic) created a few years ago. Most of the concepts from that game are incorporated wholesale into Dark Age of Camelot.

While we're on the subject of the other online RPGs what, in your opinion, has be learnt as "What and What Not to do" with regards to the game environment?

The greatest asset of making a "second generation" online RPG is that we have the luxury of learning from the examples of existing games. Probably the largest lesson we've taken to heart is to not underestimate the value of customer support. As such, we've devoted a ton of resources to getting our CS staff set up prior to launch with as much firepower as we can devote to them.

In this reviewers opinion, Everquest is the game to "beat": It's longevity, fresh content, and thoroughly immersive environment all make up a first class game, one that has kept its players enraptured for literally years. What can you promise that DaoC will do to attract and keep a loyal player base?

We hope that the ever-evolving Realm vs. Realm strategic combat will provide a lot of fun and keep people playing the game for a long time. We will also follow other games' examples (including EverQuest and Asheron's Call) and add new content (weapons, monsters, quests, etc.) over the lifetime of the game.

Although I dislike comparing DaoC with those that have come before, one has noticed an alarming trend for online roleplaying games to favour the caster class in terms of power and long term stability. DaoC has touted that Melee class, Warriors, Fighters and the face to face combat types, will not be likewise disadvantaged, how do you think Camelot has coped with this shift away from "Caster Power"?

We have lots of different options for all our classes, and have designed each to have a critical role in Realm vs. Realm Combat. A team of casters will have no luck against a mixed group of different classes - just like a group of pure melee fighters will have a chance against the same mixed group.

One thing I'm sure most of our readers will be asking is "Can I solo?" In my understanding, grouping and fighting as a team will still be the safest and "best" way of advancing, but in addition, you are allowing for players to solo, albeit, not as efficiently as they would do in a group. Can you explain a little more about this important element?

Yes, you can solo. You will never be able to earn experience as fast soloing as you can by adventuring with a group, but you can do it. You will have more "down time" soloing, and will probably die quite a bit more often.

While we're speaking about game dynamics, the other concern of many RPG players will be "What steps are being taken to ensure my class is not a second class citizen in the end game?"

Since each class has a role in Realm vs. Realm combat, this concern should be taken care of. Everyone has a place - whether it's sneaking into an enemy Realm, healing friends, protecting mages, or many other roles.

Camelot takes place in 3 distinct realms. Each of these Realms can wage war against each other forming the player vs player or "PVP" element of Camelot. What considerations have been given to those people who don't want to engage in struggles versus real opponents (i.e. other players)?

There's plenty of "PvE" (player vs. environment) gameplay in Dark Age of Camelot. Players that do not want to participate in Realm vs. Realm combat have a huge world to explore, that fully supports playing up to high levels. There are dungeons to explore, high-level monsters to kill (some that require lots of team strategy) and many other things to do.

Since the NDA has been lifted, I hear some very impressive things about the trade skills, weaponsmithing, armor making and so forth. We'll be looking at this very closely in our final review, but I was hoping you could tantalize our readers with some juicy snippets.

Our "in by game release" crafting system allows players to create items that are usable in combat. So, you can create armour and weapons of all types and strengths. The better you are in crafting, the better the items that you can create. In the future we'll be putting in support for magical crafting skills that let you imbue weapons and armor with additional magical enhancements.

What do you think is going to be the true feature that will end up setting Camelot apart from other online games?

The "three Realm" setting of the game is probably the most unique feature of any time. Is it a game based on Arthurian Legends? Is it a game based on Norse Mythology? Is it a game based on Celtic Legends? In actuality it is really three games in one, where players of enemy realms are really your enemies. This is a great concept and will go a long way towards separating Camelot from the other games that are out there.

I hear you are the man to ask: Who would win in a wet T-Shirt contest, Guinevere? Or Firiona Vie?

Just going from the historical perspective, I'm sure Guinevere bathed about twice a year, so I'll have to go with the Elf. Of course that Vulcan Science Officer from the new Star Trek series wins hands down (as a wild card entrant).

Thanks again for your time, Matt, we here at Ferrago.co.uk wish you and the rest of the team the very best for a successful release, and look forward to seeing the finished article.

E3 Trailer