Evening Update – Monday, July 20th, 2015
Greetings, all! Today’s update is mostly just a recap of what we announced on Friday, during my live stream update (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qL8HEbXwDCw) and articles on MOP (http://massivelyop.com/2015/07/17/mark-jacobs-explains-camelot-unchaineds-beta-delay/) and MMORPG (http://www.mmorpg.com/gamelist.cfm/game/926/feature/9900). However, since this is an important update, and has some new information, please forgive the length.
First, we announced earlier this summer that we had hired a very talented senior programmer from Riot Games™. We were incredibly excited to have him join our team, and we eagerly awaited his contribution to our push to Beta. Unfortunately, two days after he joined us remotely, he sent me an email to tell me that he had to leave the studio to take another, life-changing opportunity. I received this email the day after my wife’s surgery. Well, as I said in the stream, we were quite surprised by this, especially after I spoke to him twice on his first day.
I was both embarrassed (having told you folks about him), and, well, angry at the lost months of recruiting effort, cost, etc. Even more, I was just sad that we were going to have to repeat the time-consuming searching, interviewing, and hiring process all over again. As I also said in the stream, I’m not going to jump up and down, scream, or yell at this guy (and neither should you folks, please). I think he is a very talented programmer, and, well, he saw an opportunity to improve his and his family’s life, so I won’t take him to task for that decision.
Unfortunately, as we’ve been saying for the last year, our success in staffing has been less than we hoped for (more on this below, it’s not all bad news!), and because of that, the amount of work that we have been able to do has, as a result, been less than we hoped. While we knew that it was going to be difficult to get to Beta on time, the loss of a senior programmer, along with the loss of the work that went into finding and hiring him, really put us behind the 8-ball, Beta-wise.
So, I regret to announce that we are delaying the opening of Beta 1. We will announce the new date in September for the reasons I laid out during the stream on Friday. I will reiterate them again later in this update, but I do want to first apologize, most profusely, for this delay. While it happened for all the right reasons (lack of quantity of work, not quality), nobody is unhappier than I am about the delay.
Before we go into more detail on the delay, I want to take a moment to mention some of the good news: Over the last month, even though we lost one senior programmer, we have added three new full-time people to the team.
The first to join us was a new character artist. He is a talented guy, and as soon as he sits in his chair here (okay, I’m being superstitious now), we’ll talk about him in detail, as he is currently working remotely for us. I think you’ll love what you see from his work in our game and his digital sculptures. He’s a nice addition to the team, and I’ll say it again: you’ll love what you see from him.
The second person to join us is a junior artist, who, in her own words, has a dark side (hmm, wonder what she’ll be working on?). Hopefully she’ll be working here in the studio by the fall, but for now, she is also working remotely.
The third and most important signing for the team was the senior server engineer we bagged (note that the one we lost was a graphical engineer). This is one of the two must-have senior programmers from our stretch goal, and he will be joining us in early September. The best news? Although he was originally going to work remotely, he and his significant other liked so much of what they saw from us and beautiful downtown Fairfax, Virginia (we secretly showed them Paris, France instead, I hope they don’t catch on!), that they are moving to the area. This is a nice win for us, as having a senior programmer working remotely is great, but having that same guy here is even better. So, even though we lost one, we added three new team members, and hopefully, we’ll have another hiring announcement real soon now. 🙂
In terms of our Beta delay, before talking about what comes next, I want to remind everyone that we are a small team. We only have eight full-time programmers, and well, losing one and not being able to hire as many programmers as we have slots has slowed things significantly. These are simply the reasons for the delay: we are not here to make lame excuses. During the live stream, Andrew taped a note to the window of the conference room with a quote from the Great and Powerful Shigeru Miyamoto: “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.” Thanks for the pep talk, Andrew!!!!!
While I hate the fact that we are delayed and I will, once again, apologize on behalf of everybody here at CSE for it, I hope our Backers remember that we are attempting to do something quite difficult here. We are building a high-performance game (not just rendering) engine, and a great game at the same time. That is a difficult thing to do under any circumstances, but when we can’t fill out our team’s open slots, the challenge is increased. The great news, however, is that we are still under-budget for the game. So, while we are late, we are not over-budget. Something to keep in mind as we move forward.
However, a reason and an apology is not enough for us. We promised we would do better than simply saying “Sorry, we’re late. Thanks so much for paying, ha! Buh-bye!”, and we will do better. The first part of keeping that promise is something I’m happy to announce today. Just as we did with our Alpha Backers when the start of Alpha testing was delayed, we plan to do lots of things for Beta 1 Backers.
The first thing we will do is give all our Beta 1 Backers access to C.U.B.E., so that you too can get into the C.U.B.E. fun, as well as the chat system. We will also step up the volume of tests that Beta 1 Backers can participate in, so while you won’t be playing in the Beta just yet, you will be playing in more Alpha tests than you would otherwise have been able to participate in. We’ve been talking about 1K+ Backer and Bots battles in our current build, and we really want our Beta 1 Backers to help us replace some of those damned Bots in our testing cycles. CSENet hasn’t become self-aware yet, so we need smart, devious, clever, and dedicated testers to help us test and break stuff, especially tech.
And for our Alpha folks, we haven’t forgotten you either! We’ll be spinning up our servers more often, and for longer periods of time, to make sure all of our Alpha Backers have plenty of opportunities to access the varying builds. We are also going to begin streaming more, so that all of our Backers can see the progress we are making, and to further reassure our Backers that all is well. Slower than we wanted, yes, but well.
We will announce the new Beta date in September, as all the new team members come up to speed. That’s when we’ll be able to give you a realistic date for the start of Beta. Until we see how the new folks perform, it would be silly to announce a date. I really don’t want to do this again unless I have to, and I certainly don’t want to end up in a difficult situation due to being overly optimistic. I hope you understand, and this interim waiting period for the new date is one of the reasons we will stream more. Going all Willy Wonka now and hiding behind our walls would be the wrong move, especially as we want to show off how things are going.
But wait, is there more? Yep, and we’ll talk about that as we move forward. We might be a small team that chose a difficult path, and yeah, we don’t have $85M, but we can still treat you Backers right, and that’s why the last part of this update is an important one.
From the Kickstarter onward, we said that we would give refunds to our Backers that were unhappy with the game we were delivering. I also said that we would treat your money respectfully and carefully, and we have done that. And so, if you are so unhappy that we have to delay the Beta that you still want a refund despite our current and future attempts to make it right for our Beta 1 Backers, all you have to do is ask. Now, we really wish you wouldn’t, of course (we’re excited about the progress we are making).
Even though this policy has cost us $50K in refunds since last August, and I’ve processed a few today as expected, we trust in both our Backers’ faith in us and the game we are making. So, if you want a refund, you know what to do. Please keep in mind that while $50K is a lot of money, it is still less than 2% of our total donations, so, it’s pretty small piece of the funds raised. No matter what, we thank you for your support, now and forever.
That pretty much sums up the live streaming update, plus the addition of the first part of the Beta Delay plan. While you might think the future seems a little shakier now, nothing could be further from the truth. Our Vine postings, our Alpha tests, our upcoming streams, and our willingness to back up our words with our refund policy (which makes us one of the very few crowdfunded games that gives a refund, especially a full refund), should speak volumes. I hope it does, because after my two-hour live streaming session, I’m a little talked-out right now. 🙂
I hope everybody got or is getting through their first day of the work week in one piece, and I’ll see you on our Forums, MOP, MMORPG, IT Chat, and so on. And again, please accept our apologies for the delay.
As always, our thanks!