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Building the perfect fortress in Camelot Unchained [Updated]

The Camelot Unchained team has just released a new video dev blog for Kickstarter backers outlining some fairly ambitious plans for mining and construction in the upcoming PvE-free sandbox. The system will involve combinations of custom and prefab cells in which players so inclined can build up the empires and trading posts and fortifications of their dreams. And in a nod to games like Minecraft, the construction mechanics are built on a foundation of supplies procured through co-op mining gameplay.

Ahead of the reveal, we asked City State Entertainment's Mark Jacobs a few questions about the systems he's proposing, from the influence of Mojang's popular sandbox to whether mining will become my new part-time job. Read on for the complete interview!

[Update: As of Monday, CSE has also released the document form of the housing plans.]

Massively: Do you think your hardcore old-school playerbase will embrace the Minecraftian resource-management building game as opposed to the more standard "build siege weapons and smash them into keeps" scenario common to other RvR games?

Mark Jacobs: We'll find out over the next few weeks, that's for sure! We considered doing a fairly standard building system, but since we have a crafter class, I thought we should embrace the concept to the fullest. We're not trying to get core RvR-players to embrace crafting; we're trying to give core crafters a system that will excite them.

Is there any benefit to using prefabs cells versus custom cells? Is the key difference simply that one is easy to whip up while the other allows you the freedom to build a pony princess palace and/or the chance to create a surprise layout to trick your enemies?

Prefabs allow the players to create structures more easily, and we will also have certain ones that will allow them to do more with a structure than they could using the cells. I think the combination of the two will make it more interesting for all the realms when it comes to building traps, strange layouts, etc. I'm intrigued by how it could work.

Will players be able to see the structures in each cell going up as they are being constructed? How long will an average cell take to build out?

Yes to the first, and as for the second, we truly have no idea yet. Building a structure will take time. It can't be as short as in a game like Minecraft, but it shouldn't take hours either. That will be part of the next two years. I believe the system's concept is solid, but the details will need to be worked out, of course.

How, precisely, will the mining mechanic work -- what will players do, and how will you stop it from being boring? Will it be a minigame or public quest or something done while players are offline (like SWG harvesters)?

It may be a combination of harvesting through an intermediary (NPC or device) and some solo mining until one becomes wealthy and skilled. Right now, the plan is to make it a minigame and fun, but that too can change over time.

How possible will it be for a small guild or even an individual to build cells? Is there a limited number within each "zone"? Must groups formally agree to attach their cells together, or can a loner unilaterally place his cell near someone else's land?

Individuals can build cells and then use them to build structures. You wouldn't need a guild to build cells or small structures. Groups will be able to cooperate both on structures and the sharing of their plots of land. We don't know the dimension of plots yet (of course), but the biggest will be large enough to allow more than a single player to build on one.

What's to stop players from griefing their own realm-mates by scuttling mines and structures? Are you relying on social pressure to police such behavior?

It won't be possible to scuttle a mine unless certain conditions are met, and some may be scuttled by the realm itself, not the players. Individuals will always be able destroy their own structures that they have permission for. Unfortunately, I don't think we can rely on social pressure alone to prevent griefing. If we tried, all that would happen is that some people would relish this role. We need to rely on other methods to limit the amount of intra-realm griefing as much as possible.

What does realm approval entail in regard to blueprints -- does that mean the server gets to vote on whether you can build, or is it like a rating system in other PGC systems?

It will be a combination of those as well as our approval. Realm-approved blueprints will come with a certain stature and revenue stream (in-game only, of course) and possible other perks from the ruler, like having success in RvR will for the defenders of the realm.

When you note that heading deeper into warzones results in better-quality rewards, does that apply to mining as well? Will miners who risk their necks by mining in enemy territory haul in more materials?

Absolutely! Miners who want to get the best materials will have to be escorted out to the mines and protected by the RvR players. RvR players who want items made from those materials will be motivated to do just that.

Upkeep costs have traditionally been a sore point for MMO gamers. Can you give us an idea what percentage of time per week players can expect to spend merely paying down their eternal mortgage? Is this the sort of thing that is cost-prohibitive to small groups but trivial to the big ones?

Way too early to even think about upkeep costs at this point. While I want to be more old school, a major part of my design philosophy with this game is also to look at some things that were present there and not include them -- frankly, because they were not a lot of fun. Upkeep costs in Dark Age of Camelot and many other MMORPGs were there to help keep the economy balanced by taking money out of it: in other words, the classic money sink. In other games, they were used to ensure that players would keep their accounts active so as not to lose the house. Because CU is not a PvE-focused game, that will be much less of a concern since you won't be able to grind mobs, raid, etc. and generate a lot of excess cash easily. I'm hopeful that by doing this, we can remove/dampen a lot of the traditional money sinks such as upkeep costs.

Thanks for your time, Mark!

When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!