Or maybeee it’s just me but really, what’s going on with Shroud of the Avatar, Camelot Unchained and that Pathfinder MMO? Are they still happening, where are they in development and who’s holding their breath? Let’s have a look at some status quos!
Shroud of the Avatar
The assumed comeback of Lord British was successfully funded on Kickstarter in April 2013 and has since raised a total of $4,852,936 according to the official front page. For a while after Kickstarter, there wasn’t much to look at except for some worrying ingame “footage” of its pre-everything development stage, accompanied by an excited Garriot’s commentary. In general, lots and lots of Garriot appearances on twitch hangouts and other outlets. The official forums hit it off ever so slowly, with veterans of UO glory days tossing around ideas about features that should go into this new title (naturally, lots of notorious player killing and housing). Lo and behold, already at the end of last year the first playable build was announced to backers and more updates have followed since. This September 2014, the latest test build was released with promises of new polish and stability improvements. I’ll say no more than that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and SotA should probably suit a diehard UO or Darkfall audience just fine. The game was recently approved for Steam via Greenlight and you can read all about its spin on “single-player narrative meets sandbox MMO” there. According to the Wiki, we are looking at an official release end of 2014.
Camelot Unchained’s Kickstarter followed one month later in May 2013, beating SotA by 300k in funding raised by significantly less backers. After closing, an additional $3 million was contributed to the project by private investors, including $2 million directly coming from studio founder and MMO legend Mark Jacobs. From the very beginning, MJ made clear that this was gonna be a very PvP/RvR-centric title that welcomed an oldschool, non-compromising approach to player versus player. Over the course of this year, features such as the combat and crafting system and the somewhat uninspiring RvR map were revealed to assure the playerbase in wait things were moving. In the latest September 2014 update on their official page, MJ was happy to announce the imminent first round of non-public pre-alpha testing, with access for backers on the horizon soonish. In his words, the team has stuck to schedule thus far and having reached this first milestone, CU finally looks like a “real game rather than an engine build”. While this is probably welcome news to some, it also means that for the time being fans of the project and DAoC-hopefuls must remain patient for any actual glimpses of the game.
Possibly the least visible title of the three, Goblinworks’ and tabletop Publisher Paizo’s Pathfinder Online only just made its second Kickstarter goal in January 2013, raising $1 million. Yes, lots of “fantasy open world pvp sandbox”-funding going on that year! After creating an initial buzz with a fairly decent looking and playable tech demo (also previously kickstarted), dazzling artworks and interesting details such as limited small-size servers, PO soon dropped below the radar. Undoubtedly the last year was spent “doing things”, polling the community on core features like respawns and permadeath, revealing war towers and the crafting system. That last one always seems high on any developer’s list. Finally in June 2014, the first friends & family alpha was announced and a trailer soon followed. After delaying the original date, the Alpha 9 patch finally went live this October 6th with future stress testing and “early enrollment” aka early access in mind. It’s safe to assume that Goblinwork’s FAQ page will see several more updates in terms of the still far off official launch date sometime in 2016.
It’s interesting to see several Kickstarter MMOs that were all crowdfunded early 2013 making their individual journeys. Shroud of the Avatar has taken a clear lead in terms of official launch at least, with Pathfinder Online closing in on that early access. As for Camelot Unchained, fans will clearly interpret slower updates as a sign of the devs taking time that will pay out in the long run. I keep my fingers crossed for everyone curently waiting; having no intentions towards either SotA nor CU, I remain at the most mildly interested in Pathfinder, assuming I can still remember its name in 2016. And then it’s probably still going to feel and look like something that should’ve come out 10 years ago.
Marketing and the Hype
As somewhat of a connaisseur of MMO hype machines, I’m also not convinced the fairly low profile approach all these projects seem to follow is such a good thing. Sure, some players are tired and disillusioned with alpha/beta and MMO launch hypes but keeping things down is risky business (hello TSW) and really takes much of my personal enjoyment in Vorfreude away. Carbine/Wildstar and SOE/Landmark have taken a very different road in making their games visible and transparent to a wider audience early on and that’s still something I personally appreciate. Sometimes the best thing about an MMO launch is the rush and excitement that goes on beforehand. Right now, I’m just not feeling any of these upcoming titles.