The Game Archaeologist celebrates Dark Age of Camelot's 10th anniversary

Dark Age of Camelot
Last month was a historic occasion for MMOs, as Dark Age of Camelot joined the exclusive Decade Club, turning 10 years old and making most of us sit down heavily and wonder, "Has it really been that long?"

It has indeed. You may wish to invest in a calendar. While it might be a tad tardy, I got the chance to interview the ever-busy Mythic about this milestone... and here it is!

The Game Archaeologist: Could you please introduce yourself, your role on the team, and the faction for which you live, breathe and sleep?

Stuart Zissu: I am Stuart Zissu, producer on Dark Age of Camelot. Asking which Realm I prefer is like asking which child is my favorite, I love them all! They all have their advantages and disadvantages, and each one brings something different to the table. With that said, my first level 50 was an Albion Enhancement Friar (before Enhancement Friars were "viable").

DAoC battle
Ten years -- that's a huge milestone! What's it like being on the team of one of the few MMOs to hit the decade mark?

It's a great honor. It's like being part of a select, secret club of complete awesomeness. If you think about it, when DAoC came out, no such "club" existed. Sure everyone wanted his game to last for years, but 10! No matter how many years we are live, though, Ultima Online always seems to be a few years ahead of us. I'm still trying to figure out how we can pass it.

What's the team doing to celebrate both in the office and in the game?

In the office, we had a birthday party with cake, food, drinks -- you know, the regular. Out of the office, the DAoC team went out for dinner and just talked about how amazing this milestone is and what we want to do to keep things going.

In game, we have our 1.110 patch, our Live Event (which has yet to be released), and some other fun things in store.

It's been a busy year for Dark Age of Camelot, with a new website and several changes to the core game. What's been the focus of the team during this past year?

The focus has mostly been on RvR and the veteran playerbase. Our newest update, Patch 1.110, aims to bring new and older players back into the game with the goal to bring more population to the high end RvR experience. It all comes full circle and everyone wins.

Sparks at night
What are some of the plans for DAoC as it heads into its second decade of operation?

Our plans haven't changed much just because we are 10 years old. In fact, current plans can be seen as part of what got us here in the first place. That said, we are looking at tackling some longstanding bugs and making adjustments to some RvR systems that we feel can be better. In addition, we are continuing work on our website as well as other community related features. More details will come out as we get closer to release on these things.

We're not ready to discuss specifics today, but as we have for 10 years, we continue to refine the awesome RvR systems that define DAoC and made it great. Of course, we'll never stop chasing pesky bugs that inevitably crop up even after 10 years.

Many players still see DAoC as Mythic's high water mark, as a unique PvP title that hasn't been matched since. In your opinion, what makes it so special?

There are many great details that make this game special. After 10 years it's greater than the sum of its parts. The three-Realm RvR is obviously a major contributor, but the community is also a big factor in the game's success. The sense of Realm pride that people acquire over time is unbelievably strong. There are a lot of players (and devs) who have been playing this game for years upon years, and they all bring flavor, story, and a sense of world to the game. It just wouldn't be the same without them. Oh and then there are things like Keep Sieges, Relic Raids, Housing, Spellcrafing, Siegecrafting...

Why do you think more MMOs haven't emulated the three-faction design for PvP (including Warhammer Online)?

I think there are a variety of reasons. First, we are in an age in MMOs when most games try to emulate or beat the frontrunner. When the frontrunner has only two sides, it's very easy to start from there and move forward. Second, PvP is seen as a form of competition, and our greatest comparisons for competition are sports. How many sports do you see with more than two teams playing at once? We work from what we know, and when most of what we know is a certain way, breaking that mold is rare.

Lastly, it's just damn tough! Having three factions, each with different classes and races, means you are doing three times the work. It's three times the balance, three times the comparisons, and three times the investigation when things go wrong. I'm not saying it's not worth it, but when other areas of a game can use the manpower, it gets hard to justify the "maintenance cost" of a system like this.

Even so I wouldn't have it any other way.

What are you doing to get new players in the door?

Have you seen our 1.110 patch? We completely redid the tutorial and the level 1-35 experience. We have added XP and Bounty Points to the Battlegrounds to give people an alternative means of progression. We have made the first 15 or so hours of the game more enticing and informative in the idea that people will come to see what the game with the best RvR has to offer, and then stay!

Sorry, we have to ask: Any plans for a free-to-play version or possibly an unlimited trial? If not, are you worried that this will limit DAoC's accessibility in an increasingly F2P field?

Don't be sorry, be proud! You are a journalist and you should ask the hard questions. Unfortunately, this one isn't so hard.

Making a PvP MMO free-to-play is very challenging, more so than the mainly PvE MMOs that have gone down that path. We do get asked this question a lot. We think about it a lot, but we don't have any plans today. We get asked the same about Warhammer Online, and we recently announced Wrath of Heroes which is a free-to-play game based on some of the best of Warhammer Online. We think that team took a great approach because it's left the community intact for Warhammer but presented a fun element of Warhammer in a separate product as a great free-to-play offering.

We constantly see comments left on DAoC articles at Massively asking about a hypothetical Dark Age of Camelot 2. Is there even a glimmer of possibility behind such a project?

We recognize and love the passion that current and former DAoC players have for our game. Doing something else in that world would be really exciting, and we are always keeping our eye out for an opportunity that would make sense.

Any funny behind-the-scenes stories from your time with DAoC that you'd like to share?

Sure! Here's one. While we were updating Summoners Hall in a previous patch, we did many playtests through the content. During our playtests, we were always having trouble teleporting into and out of the various rooms. It seemed that sometimes the zone line would port us correctly, and other times not at all. It would take multiple attempts to finally get out of the room, and it was definitely causing headaches.

Rather quickly it became evident that we had to look into the system and do something about it. After over a week of investigation and scratching our heads, we finally found our problem: The zone line was not at the portal artwork as we had assumed; it was a few steps before it in the archway leading up to the portal. But what really threw us off was that the zone line was only across half of the archway. So if you walked through the left side of the archway, you would be teleported a second or so later, but if you walked on the right side, nothing would happen. Needless to say that quickly got resolved!

It's always good to end with a motivational speech, a la a general on horseback in front of his players. Lay it on us!

Ten years ago, Mythic embarked on a journey: a journey of RvR warfare, a journey of community, and a journey of passion. These three principles have been the wind in our sails for the past decade and will continue to drive this ship forward in the years to come. We are grateful to honor the original creators of this game and all those who have contributed along the way and made this epic milestone possible. To our players, new and old, we say thank you for being a big part of our success!

Thanks for speaking with us, Stuart!

When not clawing his eyes out at the atrocious state of general chat channels, Justin "Syp" Olivetti pulls out his history textbook for a lecture or two on the good ol' days of MMOs in The Game Archaeologist. You can contact him via email at or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.
This article was originally published on Massively.