Honor your enemies because they bring the very best out of you. An old philosopher said something along those lines and it holds true today in the virtual world of Dark Age of Camelot where the three faction conflict between the realms of Hibernia, Midgard and Albion entered its 17th year this October.
But the game’s resiliency by no means assures its future. There’s a sense of concern among the player-base over the health of the last remaining RvR server-cluster, Ywain. Recent data-mined information shows a continued downward trend in player activity in the Frontiers, the virtual battleground for DAoC’s Realm vs. Realm, PvP system.
Broadsword, the team of developers overseeing DAoC hopes to breathe new life into the game with a move to a free-to-play option, called Endless Conquest, and the continued release of new content including the upcoming patch 1.125.
“I think with the right decisions from the developers it can go on another 5-10 years,” said Tald, a current “Knight” who serves as a link between players and the development team. “There are thousands of passionate DAoC players waiting for that next big thing. And there’s also hundreds of thousands players that haven’t heard of Dark Age of Camelot.”
Tald, an adversary of mine who only goes by his DAoC alias, recently discussed his role as a Knight with me. Speaking from New Zealand, he explained that to be a Knight means to possess “a variable understanding of all play styles, knowing how people work, what they do and why they do it.” Having an eye on the big picture, specifically where the game will be in the future, comes with the title. And it was with an eye toward the big picture when Tald highlighted one of DAoC’s biggest issues, what he called “the lack of hype, and promotion surrounding the game and their new content.” While we spoke, DAoC was experiencing a live event, Dark Age of Camelot’s Midsummer Celebration. The event offered players a reason to group up and go explore the world, earn some realm points and loot with friends. But unfortunately, “nobody knew it was coming, because there was zero hype,” Tald said. “It just appeared.”
According to Tald, MMORPGs, like DAoC, work within a specific framework. First, there’s “hype” surrounding the release of new content, followed by the “explosion” of player engagement with the new content, and finally the inevitable “plateau” where players either settle into the content, or move on to the next new thing. This is a pattern that can’t be ignored, and one all developers, even the DAoC devs, have to embrace. It starts by “giving countdowns to events, or big things happening within the game.” Tald said, “I’m not talking about a countdown to the next patch, but a countdown to something that’s already coded. Obviously in the programming world you can’t give a definite timeline,” he said. But, “something that’s already coded and programmed, where all they have to do is flip and switch and it’s on.”
Even a week’s heads up would have given the community an opportunity to circulate the news, Tald said. A post on the Camelot Herald outlining the impending live event would have given guilds, groups of friends, and even the more casual player time to prepare—but more critically, spread the word that hey, something new and cool is happening. Why not check it out?
As a long time player of MMORPGs, I can say the promise of new content is what keeps players subscribed. And while I enjoy being surprised in a MMO relying on the coordination of friends and fellow players is essential when tackling new content. The conversation with Tald shifted to those very players, those of us who make DAoC an engaging multiplayer experience. Specifically, our first introduction to one another, when my group battled it out with Tald’s crew in the Frontiers.
Searching for some late night realm points, I made my way to the Pennine Mountains where our groups battled it out near Albion’s Ruined Maze. Our crews would battle into the early morning hours between the North American and European prime-times, a time when the server sleeps.
DAoC grants players a certain freedom, allowing us to choose how we want to earn realm points and progress in RvR. It’s always been one of the strongest appeals for those us who have stuck with, or returned to Dark Age of Camelot all these years.
“The frontiers is a sandbox for us players,” said Tald. “Everyone has a different reason to go out and RvR. Developers have no game without a player base, so they have to take into account all the mini-games that we players choose to do in their sandbox.”
I really hope Broadsword can deliver on a model that will keep players logging in. Because like Tald, and others long invested in our characters, we believe Dark Age of Camelot at its foundation is timeless. Let’s hope with 2019 approaching Broadsword kicks the hype machine into gear. Maybe they’ll even make it possible for the community itself to play its part in sharing the excitement of new content within its own social circles.
But in the meantime, while we wait to see how Dark Age of Camelot prepares itself for the 2020s, there are still realm points to be made. And to heed Tald’s knightly wisdom, “The community needs to nurture itself and just recognize that we all individually make it a success or un-success in how we choose to act.”
I‘m hungry for more information on DAoC in 2018 and beyond—especially an update on the state of Endless Conquest. But there are still realm points to be earned and rivals to hunt down. You can catch me in the Frontiers.
Article by Jesse Winter
Jesse is a 31-year old gamer, teacher and writer. In the virtual world of Dark Age of Camelot he is known as Enersha. You can find his previous piece on DAoC here and other pieces of writing published by Storgy here.