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Dark Age of Camelot Journal One

It's Everquest with PVP

The above statement, with no context, could easily be taken for either an insult or a compliment depending upon the reader's point of view. In fact, I'm sure one could find two reviews of Dark Age of Camelot, one that awarded it an Editor's Choice and another that deemed it Coaster of the Year, and the final summation of either review would be: 'It plays like Everquest with PVP'. Regardless of praise or loathing, no one likes to be reduced to a single description, but that is the fate of DAOC. Much like Tito will always be just Michael's untalented brother, Camelot will always be an Everquest type game with PVP.

I was not in beta long, I got my invite at the tail end. In fact, my acceptance email was so late into beta the game had already gone 'gold' (meaning, the game had been put on a CD and sent off for duplication and distribution). Basically I was just getting to try the game for free for two weeks. I didn't really take advantage of the opportunity except to run through it up to level 5. Beyond that I didn't participate in Camelot's development like I did in EQ, UO or even AO for that matter. It was for the best anyway because the beta forums were notorious for their 'dead horse mentality'. Mythic either did a poor job of beta forum administration or they couldn't be bothered with new testers discussing old issues. Mythic's passive acceptance of old beta testers berating new testers for bringing up old subjects, seemed to be counter-productive to a beta test. In Mythic's defense, every development team allows this to happen to some extent, but Mythic was by far the worst offender.

On the positive side though, DAOC came out of beta more stable than any previous MMOG. It had a rather hideous memory leak, but there was little to no server crashing, log in issues, or client crashes. Of course stability is a thankless achievement because it is one of those things that when it works right you don't notice it. Sort of like starting your car every morning, when it works you don't throw a party and do a little dance, but when it fails to turn over you bitch and moan like you just realized the next Sopranos episode would be Christoper Moltisanti centric.

My early sojourn in Camelot was in the shoes of a Celtic Ranger. I can hear the collective groans already. I know everyone wanted to be a ranger, but I didn't pick the class to be Realm Point Collecting Machine. At the time I picked it based on whimsy. I liked the idea of hunting with a bow and playing a stealth character. I even dressed my character in woodland colors, brown cloak with dark green tunic and legs. I thought I looked pretty sharp, especially since Hibernia is such a pretty realm of vibrant greens and lush fauna and flora.

Many people think the realm design is subpar for DAOC. I'm not one of them. I thought the look and feel of the realms was spot on in its detail and themes. I played in both Albion and Midgard during my year in Camelot, though each realm has its negatives, the positives by far out weigh any downsides. Albion has a great medieval theme, where there is civilization and rural communities, but the land is tamed. Midgard feels cold with the frozen ground and snowy peaks. Hibernia is designed by nature. The structures and settlements are grown out of the land. Aesthetically the realms are fantastic.

Of course all this graphical splendor comes at the usual cost in terms of hardware requirements. I had a modest machine for 2001 and the game ran sluggishly around buildings and tolerable in the wilderness. Encountering other players on the screen would erode performance exponentially as well. Later on when I reached Realm vs Realm level, having 20 players on the screen would drop my frame rate to 5 or less. To add insult to injury, the game shipped with a nasty memory leak. After 30 minutes online, no matter where I was, my frame rate would bottom out and I would have to relog. It took Mythic about 8 months to adequately tame the memory leak monster, but it wasn't until the new client came out with the Shrouded Isle expansion that it was completely done away with, at least for me.

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