The Game Archaeologist proceeded to take the hammer back to its makers, the sweat-stained smithies at Mythic Entertainment (now BioWare Mythic), to see whether they thought there was any magic left in the game. Two burly men put down their steel tools and stepped forward to testify, and their names were Colin of the Hicks and Jeff "Soulstriker" Hickman. The air became thick with memories as the duo recalled the early days of the hammer's history, when players were initially adding to its strength with each victory and each crushing defeat.
Pull up a stool to hear their tale, and when you are done, send in your own favorite DAoC memories (100 words max, please) to email@example.com for next week's column!
The Game Archaeologist: Could you introduce yourself, your role at BioWare Mythic and your history with DAoC?
Colin Hicks: My name is Colin Hicks and I am a Senior Producer at BioWare Mythic, managing our stable of live MMOs (WAR, UO, DAoC). I joined the team in 1996 as a level designer and have filled various content design and production roles through all of our games since then.
I served as Lead World Developer for Camelot through launch and the first two expansions before moving on to other projects. In this role I built and populated the first zone (Camelot Hills) before any development tools existing by using a .txt file to place all the trees and rocks, and graph paper to lay out the terrain textures. I managed and directed the team responsible for designing and building all the zones, quests, encounters, etc.
Jeff Hickman: My name is Jeff Hickman -- I am the Studio Executive Producer for BioWare Mythic. I joined Mythic in 2001 as the Director of Customer Service for DAoC. Over the following years I served in many roles culminating in my move to EP for DAoC in 2004. I am currently responsible for DAoC, UO, WAR and other top-secret projects here at BioWare Mythic.
Compared to today's schedule, DAoC's development schedule and capital was almost quaint. What was it like to develop a game back in 1999-2001 versus today?
Hicks: It's really hard for me to even compare DAoC's development to working on a MMO today. We built DAoC with 25-30 people in about two years. Compare that to today where a MMO can typically have upwards of 300 developers working on it for several years. The dynamic of a small team like we had during Camelot's early development cannot even compare to a team of that size.
The landscape of the industry was very different back then. We felt like we were experimenting with something new and exciting. During most of the development of Camelot we felt like we were flying under the radar and it wasn't until the E3 before we launched that we started to realize the expectations surrounding what we were working on.
Hickman: Shrouded Isles is often looked as DAoC's most successful expansion. It was perfect for the game at the time, introduced a lot of great areas to explore and things to do, and didn't drastically alter the RvR game. I remember fondly the times sitting in Avalon or trudging through Galladoria.
It seems like choosing to do a PvP-centric game from the start was a risky notion -- why did (then) Mythic decide on this approach, and what did you have to draw off of to give you an idea that it might work?
Hicks: It was a very natural decision for us. Our previous titles (about ten small online-only games for services like AOL and Gamestorm) had all focused on players competing against each other; you could say it was in our DNA. The concept of three-realm RvR was actually modeled after a text-MUD (Darkness Falls) we had developed and operated for several years, so we had a good idea of what it would look like.
Many Mythic fans have commented that the three realms of DAoC seemed to work better in an RvR setting than the two realms of WAR. What is your opinion on this?
Hickman: I am a big fan of three-realm RvR. I think that it is the perfect mix for DAoC, though WAR has its own design needs and constraints which led us to developing a two-realm system for that game.
What were some of your personal favorite memories while playing the game?
Hicks: Many memorable moments come from internal tests during development. I remember the first time we had the 3-D engine working and could see a zone I had created. The first time the development team grouped up to go adventuring, fighting monsters and completing a quest was also a very cool moment. But the best moment of all was our first RvR test; it took place in a test zone that eventually evolved into one of the Battlegrounds. The entire dev team howled with laughter as we fought back and forth across the battlefield and right then we knew we had created something special.
Hickman: I remember the first time I went out into the Frontiers after the game launched. My guild was racing to level up and we went out at around level 30 to see what it was like. There were not many people who were our level yet and we clashed with the few who were out there over and over until we made it to our first keep. The keep guards destroyed us in about 10 seconds.
Hickman: I think the greatest thing about RvR in Camelot is that it changes every day. Watching the RvR evolve from single player, to guilds, to gank squads to the large Battle Groups and back again was (and still is) very interesting. The ebb and flow of tactics and how the players approach the game is always cool to be a part of.
What does DAoC have to offer the MMO community today?
Hicks: DAoC supports a passionate and dedicated community. The three-realm RvR that is the core of DAoC's experience remains one of the most engaging and unique experiences in the MMO landscape. The sense of pride that our community embodies is special and is the key to what has kept DAoC going so long.
Looking forward the team is focusing on more direct player-developer interactions in the form of developer-run Live Events -- developers playing characters and role-playing live with the players in scripted and story-driven events. We had great feedback on the first one last month, and the second is going on now. It's a very exciting time for DAoC, and I encourage any former players to come back and check it out.
Albion, Midgard or Hibernia?
Hicks: Mids! Though I personally worked on Albion the most of the three realms during development, I really like the darker, more brutal themes of the Midgards. To me, the Troll characters are some of the most iconic and original in Camelot.
Hickman: I love them all (and have played them all extensively), but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Hibs.
Thank you for your time!