Ruminations: Bullet Run, Wizardry Online and Camelot Unchained

Two things I wanted to quickly cover:

Sony Online Entertainment’s Experiments on Bullet Run & Wizardry Online

You may have seen the news that Bullet Run was cancelled by Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) after only having launched about six months ago. For many this was the first they’d heard of Bullet Run, a conversion of another title called Hedone (both developed by German studio Acony) that SOE picked up, did little to promote, then canned it when it failed. (According to Acony’s website, the closure of Bullet Run also means they close too.)

Acony's closing message.

And so ends another minor game development studio.

Although not particularly novel news – game publisher closes online title, see you all same time next week – I really wonder why SOE would launch a free-to-play (F2P) FPS in the same year that they were launching their own F2P title in PlanetSide 2 while also giving it nearly no promotion. There’s a chance that SOE got a really good deal out of it and are now just cleaning house (Bullet Run goes, Pirates of the Burning Sea gets the heave-ho) but why would SOE even go down the path of taking on a mediocre FPS multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) at all?

I think (and I’ve got no way to prove this) that SOE was conducting an experiment with Bullet Run and seeing how a more recent competitive FPS worked out. Sure, they’ve got PlanetSide, but that’s old and set in its ways. Bullet Run was a fresh launch with new players that gave them a practise run before PlanetSide 2 came out. It was prototyping of sorts, using an existing title that was probably pretty cheap to pick up. And now the experiment is done, with PlanetSide 2 launching successfully, SOE doesn’t really need Bullet Run. It’s not performing financially well enough to stand on its own, so down it goes.

Which brings me to Wizardy Online, developed by Japanese studio Gamepot and published in Western markets by SOE. It’s a hardcore MMORPG. SOE is currently working on its own allegedly hardcore MMORPG called Everquest Next. SOE have a lot of collective MMORPG experience, but it’s been a while since they went hardcore. They could go into extensive beta testing, have players try out various iterations of the EQNext world… but that could cause a backlash or give rise to an “EQNext sucks!” mentality. So it would be much cheaper and safer to take and existing title and throw it out there, observing what works and what doesn’t. And if it sinks, hey, no big loss – it’s not the SOE game that they really care about.

We’ll see how long Wizardry Online lasts once EQ Next launches.

Camelot Unchanged

The other news out recently was City State Entertainment’s Mark Jacobs announcing Camelot Unchained (working title) that uses the public domain IP of Camelot and in no way should be considered any way linked to his ex-studio’s title, Mythic’s Dark Age of Camelot (DAOC). That’s just a coincidence.

The cover of Camelot 3000, an old DC comic

Hint for City State’s next title after Camelot Unchanged: CAMELOT…. INNNN…. SPAAACCE…

The news of this title got a lot of people’s nostalgia glands drooling overtime, but I can’t help but see this as yet another MMO that is going to be a swing and a miss. Jacobs and Mythic built up a lot of hype around Warhammer Online (WAR) and that was a title that bombed hard (although Jacobs is now claiming that he didn’t have the kind of development budget on that title as he implied at the time). He’s a big talker, but delivery on titles since DAOC have been weak (WAR) or non-existent (Imperator).

Camelot Unchained is going low budget (target budget of US$10m) and is going to launch a Kickstarter in March to fund part of that. In order to get people to pledge money, watch pretty much all of Jacob’s interviews from here on out mention how this new title shouldn’t be linked to DAOC and won’t be DAOC Next, but will still contain a lot of mentions back to DAOC. “Camelot Unchained won’t be like DAOC, but remember DAOC? We do.” will be an underlying thread.

Jacob’s repeated mentions of Camelot Unchained’ ‘Realm versus Realm’ (RvR) combat will be part of that spiel, because RvR is recognised as DAOC’s strong point and Camelot Unchained is completely unlike DAOC. But that stirred a memory in me – didn’t Mythic slap down Auran’s MMO Fury for using ‘realm versus realm’ as a term in its marketing? Why yes, yes it did, because Mythic trademarked ‘Realm versus Realm’. And apparently that’s a trademark that’s still live (you can look for it on the Trademark Electronic Search System). I wonder if EA’s lawyers will be in touch with City State.

Jacobs also announced that Camelot Unchained will use a “[m]ulti-tiered subscription with no free-to-play option but with (maybe) some cosmetic items for housing”. I’ll wait and see what “multi-tiered” means in reality, but I think that there’s a bit potential for Camelot Unchained to end up a lot more niche than Jacobs wants under such a model. ‘Free’ holds an awful lot of power, even if it can potentially end up costing you more in the long run.

I’ll keep an eye out on the Kickstarter (and maybe complain about that, but if I wrote about all the video game Kickstarters that seem off to me, I’d be blogging 24/7), but the start of this tune seems awfully familiar and I remember how it ended up last time. It wasn’t good.

6 thoughts on “Ruminations: Bullet Run, Wizardry Online and Camelot Unchained

  1. I found the use of RVR notable as well. I’m not aware of any other studio to use that particular term, and combined with the similar setting (Camelot), premise (3 faction PVP), and all of the talk about DAOC, the name almost feels like lawsuit bait. Is getting sued by EA part of Jacobs’ plan to get some free media exposure for his Kickstarter campaign?

  2. When Bullet Run first launched, it did so with myriad bugs, literally no balancing, and with a heavy emphasis on microtransactions (At the risk of plugging my own shit, I put up something of a gameplay highlight reel for the game on YouTube back when it first launched on Steam, for anyone who’s curious what this game looked like). I would consider it more of an experiment in seeing exactly how many people are willing to “pay to win,” or otherwise blow their money on a low-quality product. After all: If people are willing to spend money on shit, think of how much they’d be willing to spend on something of quality.

    It’s worth noting that the game had close to no support post-launch, even during the crucial first month. It’s almost as if SOE were setting the game up to fail before it even launched.

    • I was trying to think of a reason why SOE would have picked this up, given the all round mediocrity that was Bullet Run. Your video shows it off well – no anti-TK function? In a competitive shooter? How does THAT get past QA in 2012?

      Either Acony had something else SOE wanted (much like the reason SOE picked up The Matrix Online to get the DC MMO license) or there was some other reason. Using it as some form of dry run for PS2 makes sense (even just from a technical side).

  3. Pingback: Wizardry Online: Permadeath In All Things, Especially Launch « Vicarious Existence

  4. Pingback: SOE Shuts Down Four MMOs; Plus A Wizardry Online Conspiracy Theory | Evil As A Hobby

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