Unveiled: Camelot Unchained Newsletter #17 - City State Entertainment
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Team Tidings

-by Max Porter

Happy holidays, happy new year, and happy warm days of winter to those in this part of the world. We hear that some of our Backers “down under” are dealing with even warmer weather than normal thanks to El Niño! Here, the unseasonable warmth of the last couple weeks has given us rain instead of snow in beautiful downtown Fairfax, VA. Perhaps someone is using our procedurally generated terrain system in real life, and has conquered a capture point to change the terrain all around us to match a warmer climate? 

It’s been a good month to end a great year here at City State Entertainment™. The past twelve months have been filled with ups and downs, obstacles overcome, and good fun in a game build that gets better and better all the time. As this year of development comes to a close, we’re looking forward to the next, and the mood in the office is one of determination, looking forward to the march toward Beta 1. This month alone saw significant performance upgrades, some initial concepts added to the U.I., and a great big C.U.B.E. push with tons of improvements, which you can read about later in the newsletter. 

In the office, we’re still amped up from the fun times we had putting out the class reveals, not to mention the other excellent fun we’ve had with livestreams! If you didn’t see it, during yesterday’s crafting reveal and update stream we crammed over 600 Backers and Bots into a small area of dense pine forest with good performance. We’re really pushing toward fulfilling our promise of large-scale battles! Thanks to those of you who were able to show up to watch us live, and to everyone who watched the videos afterwards. The support and interest of our Backers, whether in the detailed crafting system Mark has been working on, the combatant classes, or in anything else we do, really are what make development of Camelot Unchained™ worthwhile. 

This also marks the first complete year of monthly issues of Unveiled. It’s always a pleasure to put together this great big collection of articles, updates, art, news, lore, and other interesting stuff related to Camelot Unchained, so thanks for taking the time to look at it. Read on, and please enjoy this, the seventeenth issue of Unveiled


The past month has seen a number of improvements to the build of Camelot Unchained, from performance to stability to some new pretties, and a great big C.U.B.E. (Camelot Unchained Building Environment) update. You can read more about the updates over the past year in the Tech Central and State of the Build articles below! 

We’ve made some big strides in the performance of our game, as you may have seen yesterday in the stream showing the game's impressive performance even with over 600 Backers and Bots in a dense pine forest. We did that again today, and fun was had by all (videos here and here)! And, as the engineers keep reminding us, “we have not yet begun to optimize!” On top of that, during one of our impromptu tests over the last month we hit 3K Backers and Bots in a small area. Bots which, by the way, are even more resource-intensive than the average player. So things will continue getting better and better and more like the game we all want to see!  

You may have also heard that we plan to have a deep crafting system in our game! We’ve revealed a document that gives something of an overview on how it will work, and Mark spent some time answering questions in yesterday’s reveal stream. Additionally, the massive document with lots and lots of detail on our system will be coming out soon, so watch for that! 
Our latest Stretch Goal, "Send More Programmers!", is still moving along nicely, as Mark would say. We’re really looking forward to achieving this goal, as it means real good things for the studio. As always, this is one of our sensible, careful Stretch Goals, being mindful not to overdo it, in line with our fifteenth Foundational Principle.
The build continues to overcome the many challenges we set before it, and our tests have been going well, showing off the beginnings of what our game will be able to do. It will still be a tough journey to Beta, but with Backers and supporters like you, we’re well-armed for the road ahead. 

We’ve also updated our website with a new image based on the classes concept art! It looks nicer, don’t you think? With the appearance of the classes that we will be working on getting into the game, even our website is looking well-dressed for the new year. It will soon look quite different, but as for how exactly, well, as Mark says, that would be telling. (In fact, check out today's update for a bit of "telling") ;)


-by Jenesee Grey

This is where we talk directly to you, the Community!

Wow, another year has passed already! Sometimes it seems like we started just yesterday, and sometimes it seems like it has been forever! As we approach the new year and spend time with our friends and families during the holidays, it’s a good moment to review where we have come from together as a Camelot Unchained Community family.

We started off 2015 with a brand-new sound engineer, the Hug the World stretch goal, and entered alpha testing. Can you believe how far we’ve come, or that we are now pushing toward Beta 1? Thank you so much for all the support and Stretch Goal love you have sent us over the last year. It’s really been a big help in adding to the classes, team, and game itself. You can now really begin to see (or hear!) the fruits of your support in Camelot Unchained with music, footsteps, ability sounds, and environmental ambiance with dB! And the two new senior engineers have already made major contributions to the engine’s development.

And speaking of environmental stuff, check out these new world assets going into the game!

We vanquished many bugs with your help, including the Gray World bug (not my favorite name, I confess ;) ), proxy servers spun up and down while you helped us figure out how best to get testers into the game, we went through many Dx.Diags to determine how best to solve problems jointly with your information, we burned down buildings for Rob during testing, and we as a Community welcomed our bot overlords, who became smarter and better at testing with you.
Buildings underwent some massive changes with new textures and blueprint options. We began our Friday Night Fights for large battles, and welcomed our Beta 1 Backers to the game for these and other select testing times. Amazing creations began appearing, created by the Community in C.U.B.E., and we all got more familiar with each other in weekend fights. The world grew bigger several times, with new trees, forests, and lovely terrain, and keeps on looking prettier. 

Our wiki came online, built by our Guardians and fleshed out by you all, our translators got the German website up and running, and we are moving along on an Italian site for 2016 as our volunteer teams grow! We added a Mod Squad to work on the UI, and you will begin to see their work on the patcher and wound UI this year. 

It has been a pretty epic journey for all of us. We had our first convention appearance at Dragon Con, some of us went to “CU Summer Camp” at Gencon and stayed in a Backer-populated house, and we really started getting into livestreaming reveals and sharing work streams while hanging out with you all in Twitch. We revealed thirty classes with lots of new art and a huge crafting document, got tons of feedback, and put together a Beta 1 list of goodness. It was awesome to have your participation in these events.

You helped us enhance the team and growing our CSE family with awesome new team members. We had our very first swag appear in our store and gained a talented new partner, Merchline, for making physical items to send to you in time for Christmas. What do Skrillex and Camelot Unchained have in common? Swag offered from Merchline!

Looking back on all of that, CSE and the Community both have every reason to be proud of all the work we did together in 2015. I am continually thankful to have such talented and helpful Backers, who have helped us have such an amazing year. Looking forward to 2016, I can’t wait to see what we accomplish! 

And now for our featured Q&A question! This one is from the Archer trio reveal. I picked my favorite question and answer from that reveal to feature for those of you who might not have watched the reveal yet, or who just like seeing these things in print! A huge thank-you to Tarsir for his transcription of the Q&A questions. 

Featured Archer Question!

BigScene asks: Will archers have access to melee weapons? Will the weapons available be different depending on Realm?

Ben: They will have melee weapons. We don't list everything, obviously, we're just giving you a few samples in these reveals, so that's not comprehensive of all the things they can do—we're just trying to give a few of the highlights that give you a flavour of what this class is generally going to play like. Everyone can use weapons unless specifically stated otherwise.

MJ: Yup.

Ben: You know, where we say 'this guy specifically can't use this', or 'this guy specifically needs to use this', in the case of some abilities that require specific interactions with specific weapons and things. If you want to pick up a sword as an archer, you can definitely do that, and you probably should in most cases have a backup weapon, even if you're not highly specialized into that like that Blackguard, who probably will want to carry a secondary just so that when somebody gets up on him, he can hit them with a weapon and fight back, which will probably be a lot better then him just trying to point-blank shoot bow abilities back at somebody who's hitting him with a melee weapon.

Hot Topics

Lots of discussion on Realms and changing Realm preferences now that some classes have been revealed, not to mention crafter talk after the stream!

Join the discussion on the forums on our website to bring your thoughts and ideas to the discussion table!

Look What You Did

Awesome, amazing Luchorpán fan art! What a cool, talented bunch of folks you are. We truly enjoyed the incredibly cool entries, and we wish we could just cram all of them in here! However, we’re limiting ourselves to one winner and one runner-up. The winner is Hellminster, with this beautiful entry: 
And the runner-up is Orkbane, with this incredibly detailed work! Jon, our 3D artist, said it reminded him of an old school LOTR style. We dig it!
For our next contest, well, we just had a big crafting reveal stream with a document to match! Write us up the tale of your crafter and one of their greatest constructions or adventures, keeping it under 250 words. Bonus points for mentioning the crafting systems that Mark has talked about for Camelot Unchained! Post your story in the thread you’ll see pop up on the Fan Fiction forum accessible through our website and we will read it with great enjoyment! 

Thank You

Thank you to Jorvald and all of Clan Sverker for this amazing blanket! So cool!
Thank you Ludovic and the Knights of the White Wolf for all these candy ducks!
Thanks to Matt, who sent us these lovely marsupials from Australia! So cute!
Many thanks to Backer Guinness for these many flavors of pie and cake in jars! Absolutely delicious! 
And once again, many thanks are due to Failboat, for keeping us well-fed with these delicious popcorn treats! Yummy as always, Failboat!

Dose of Design

-by Ben Pielstick

Class Construction

Following our recent series of class reveals, ongoing work has continued with regard to refining and increasing the breadth of class ability components and mechanics for the set of classes slated for the start of beta 1. A lot goes into class design, and the continuation of this task will take up a substantial portion of the design work that goes into Camelot Unchained over its entire lifecycle. As such, I thought this would be a good time to provide a brief behind-the-scenes look at how the classes you will be playing when you log into the game are put together.

Generally, I find that class design in MMORPGs finds its origins within a thematic context. That is to say that most often a game has a story or at least a general backdrop of lore or history to take from, that allows ample opportunity to find pieces that can be pulled together to form the beginnings of a class concept. Choosing the right basis and coming up with additional details that round out the theme of a class can be a long and difficult process, but should end up with a clear and appealing concept for the identity of a given class.

Once a strong thematic concept is established, work can begin on expanding that concept from a basic idea into something with tangible systemic features and content. These are created to fit within the context of the underlying gameplay that is meant to be provided by the game. This means coming up with core mechanics such as resources and passive skills and effects, as well as active abilities players will use when playing the class. Most often, a core set of these features is identified and written out in document form for initial iteration and refining, before any implementation into the actual game editor begins. Once this first pass has been completed, evaluated, revised, and reaches a state considered ready to try out, work begins on actually getting it into the game.

The next step is important and challenging, as it is the first time a class moves from a conceptual idea into a playable character. This involves using spreadsheets and proprietary scripting and data entry tools in conjunction with gameplay programming to turn ideas into actual features that work in the game engine. This initial version of a class is never pretty at first, because nothing has been finalized and there are no proper sounds, visual effects, or animations created specifically for the class abilities at this stage. Placeholders have to be used instead, which only provide a bare minimum of feedback that something is happening with generic audio cues, effect particles, and character movements, so that a rough first pass at testing can take place.

Initial class testing involves a large amount of trying things out under controlled circumstances in a limited testing environment, and resolving the large number of bugs and playability issues that inevitably crop up with any first pass at a new feature. As the list of these issues grows smaller and smaller, some abilities are reworked or replaced entirely due to better ideas as a result of testing, or as a result of functional limitations inherent in the game engine. All abilities also get a pass at initial balancing to fix numbers that were initially just guesses, in order to make them relatively in line with how abilities actually perform in practice. Ultimately, this leads to a stable foundational state from which the initial set of abilities can get a real art pass, while new abilities continue to be added and tested to create the full set of things the class will need.

After a few rounds of iteration on all the abilities of a class, including all the custom animations, visual effects, and sounds, a more advanced stage of testing takes place, including a wider range of testers and test cases. This is where the class starts being placed in replicated true-to-life situations such as duels, group vs. group battles, and so on, and handed off to a larger number of testers to gather additional feedback. At this point balance starts to become a much higher priority, as functionality becomes relatively stable and much of the remaining work is collecting metric data and feedback and adjusting numbers. When this process finally settles down, a class is ready to be released into real-world testing by being played through the game as a whole, which will expose it to a lot of unintended uses and edge case situations that will necessitate further iteration and adjustment.

Eventually, once it is decided that a class is working out well in this final stage, it is ready to be released for public play in a live environment. Things of course can and do go wrong beyond this point, as evidenced by the frequent patch notes making class adjustments in virtually every MMORPG ever released, but as you can see, a lot goes into even making it this far. Classes, much like every part of a MMO, are never truly ‘done’ and will see continued development for as long as a game is played.

At present, we are hard at work on the early stages of putting 9 out of our list of 30 classes into Camelot Unchained for the start of Beta 1 testing. These classes are the Black Knight, Blackguard, and Physician for the Arthurian Realm, Fianna, Forest Stalker, and Empath for the Tuatha Dé Danann Realm, and the Mjölnir, Winter’s Shadow, and Stonehealer for the Viking Realm. Over the next few months, these classes will each be getting a lot of attention to bring the concepts laid out on our class reveal page to life in the game. We hope you are all as excited as we are to see these classes step onto the battlefield for the first time, and until then, we welcome you to continue joining the discussion on our forums, accessible through our website.  

Developer Quote

  “I'm working closely with Ben to make sure the biomes play differently. I don't want to just put in another rock. I want to put in a rock that forces tactical decisions that are different than all the rocks in the last forest you were in." - Tyler Rockwell


-by Scott Trolan

Time for an Artitup update!

Jon and I are creating equipment parts for the human male. Those parts include various sizes of swappable shirts, belts, gloves, pants, boots, skirts, tabards, and capes. We have a bit more of finessing to do on this front, but once complete, these parts will serve as templates for us as we will soon move on to creating new armor equipment. After assessing and approving all of these interchangeable parts, we will migrate all equipment parts to the female model and skeleton. I am working closely with our art intern Chris to catch him up on our rigging process, so that he will be able to assist in the creation of future equipment parts for all other races and genders.

Jon and Michelle revisited the Valkyrie this month. Michelle added a bit more mood to the concept by adding heavy contrast between skin and feathers, allowing the eyes to really stand out. Jon incorporated those design elements and sculpted the new model using our generic female geometry. This adds her to the list of characters properly abiding by our new character requirements of shared UV layouts, polygon budget, and correct scale, to fit on our universal skeleton rig. 

Sandra has started work on creating environmental mood boards to reflect each Realm. Sandra has been tasked to define what signifying elements make up a Realm’s environment. These elements should immediately be recognized by the player as they transition between regions of the world that are occupied by a Realm. As a reminder of what we are doing, TriRealm warfare is perpetuated by seizing land and resources. The terrain will change to reflect the current occupying Realm, so that you as a player will know if you are in territory owned by friend or foe.

Collectively, Sandra and Michelle have been concepting Arthurian, Viking, and TDD crafters for MJ’s Crafting Document reveal. The same treatment is being done for Realm-specific hammer designs.

Sandra and Michelle are working closely with James K. on designing the user interface for the Vox Magus, our universal crafting station within the game. These designs are shaping up to be quite interesting, and should make the experience of crafting pretty fun!

Tyler continues to schedule and coordinate between Art, Engineering, and Design; however, he also finds the time to populate the world of Camelot Unchained with fantastic low poly trees, rocks, grasses, and ground cover textures. Dionne and Chris continue to support him as well, creating props, landmarks, and control points for the game. 

Last month, I wrote that Mike C. has been using Adobe AfterEffects to create new visual effects. This month, he introduced another heavy-hitting application into his pipeline, Red Giant - Particular. This plugin will allow Mike to be very inventive and experimental in the process of animating particles and creating sprite sheets. 

As the year comes to a close, all of us here on the art team thank you for your comments, web links to historical references, support, and inspiration. I can’t tell you how amazed we all are at your C.U.B.E. creations, fan art, and other random acts of kindness that have come our way. We hope you had a great year building this game with us. I know all of us here are looking forward to the next one! 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Tech Central

 -by David Hancock

As a special treat, we have Dave’s high fantasy take on a Tech Central article, written as a knight’s letter to his liege! 

Letter from the Knights of the World Weavers

To our most humble king,
As I write this, another year is quickly coming to its conclusion. It was a year full of both triumphs and difficult trials for our most noble order to overcome on our path to achieving the quest set upon us by you, your excellency. Not all of our ventures ended with complete success, but with new comrades-in-arms we have come out stronger for the battles still ahead, and have achieved great victories in a number of areas.

We now prepare to take a small respite from our duties to prepare for the coming year. This feels like an opportune time to provide you with a update on our noble charge, our order’s work in weaving the foundations of the world into the patterns required to complete the quest placed upon us.

Many fundamental things have come together. The earth we walk upon is now sculpted by a most sacred algorithm that your own most noble order, the Hands of Design and Judgement, can control to enhance the lives of the citizens. We have released into the hands of our citizens the ability to begin building structures using a block-based system, and they have placed millions of blocks constructing grand edifices. The underlying weave that lets the citizens interact with each other has grown and morphed immensely to be able to support more and more folk. 

We have tweaked and enhanced the way the physical world functions, and improved upon the ways in which the citizens can take down their foes in this eternal war we are brewing. The quantity of foliage has risen as our weaves have created more stable and faster pipelines for manifesting these objects into the world, and a sky has been woven into the fabric of the world. 

The foundation weaves have been enhanced further to bring a more stable land into existence, and to produce less strain on those who will use it. 

These things are but the tip of the iceberg of what we have been able to achieve this past year, but as you can see, my most humble king, the quest is continuing on at full steam.

The will and passion is strong amongst the Knights of the World Weavers. We have not allowed setbacks to sully our mission of weaving this grand design, and we shall continue on our quest with our heads held high into the new year. 

With the greatest respect to our king, on behalf of the Lord Protector of my order
Sir David, member of the Knights of the World Weavers


State Of The Build

 -by Brian Green

There was a recent discussion on the forums about cheating and what can be done to stop it. Although cheating isn't an issue that demands immediate attention, it is something we do consider and are preparing for. The Camelot Unchained team has several people who have a lot of experience dealing with cheaters, including myself. I've spent a lot of time dealing with cheats in previous games I worked on, as rampant cheating hurts competitive games.

Why do cheats exist and why aren't they fixed as soon as they are found? The reality is that dealing with cheating is a trade-off; in order to fix a cheat you sometimes have to make a compromise in another place. Fixing a particularly tough cheat might require a lot of time that would have otherwise gone into new game systems. As much as we all hate cheating, some people will prefer to have new game systems to keep the game interesting instead of eliminating every single cheat, no matter how obscure.

In addition, there are performance issues to consider. A lot of older games were notorious for having "radar" applications that would let you see the location of everyone and everything in a location. This was often done by either intercepting network traffic or examining memory on the client. Our network communication encoding is pretty hard-core and tough to decipher, but memory attacks are still a possibility. We could obscure values in memory, but that would create a performance hit on the client, potentially making it feel laggy and unresponsive.

There are other performance issues as well. Radar cheats come about because the server sends more information than is strictly required to render the world. Sending information takes time and latency hurts gameplay. If the server didn't send extra information, then going over a hill where 200 people were fighting in a valley beyond would make the server send you 200 player information and make your client load up 200 players, likely creating very poor performance for most people.
Or, consider this scenario: an enemy is hiding around a corner. When you walk around that corner, if the enemy has a better connection and faster computer, they'll be able to attack you before you even know they are there. If the system sent you information about the person hiding around the corner before you were in direct line of sight then you'd be able to at least react to them being there, but then cheaters could exploit this to be able to "see through walls".

So, there's a trade-off between letting honest people have a better experience or making people who will cheat have a harder time. We will have to figure out what is the right balance for the game based on things we can't even measure yet. There are no easy answers, but as I said, this game is lucky to have a lot of very experienced people to make the best decisions we can.

And now a selection of patch notes to cap out a great year:

Lots of C.U.B.E. improvements:
  • Added a bunch of new materials for buildings.
  • Blueprints have been increased from 20x20x20 to 80x80x80 (64x larger).
  • CUBE files (blueprints, config) now saved to your LocalAppData directory.
  • World and character art has improved significantly since our last CUBE release.
  • We have a level of detail (LoD) system based on prioritization. Higher prioritized objects in the client will have a higher level of detail.
  • New texture array system further improves the rendering system.
  • Changed to a Gamma correct rendering pipeline so the colors on the client should look better.
  • Changed to using a higher quality normals format.
  • Re-exported all textures, converting to more appropriate compression formats for how each material is used.
  • Improved UI system to allow sharing of mods between the live game servers and CUBE.
For the main game, improvements include, but are not limited to:
  • Added belt, skirt, tabard, and cape slots for equipment.
  • New wounds UI! Shows a visual representation of the character and body parts. Should work smoothly as we introduce more body parts in the near future.
  • Lots of building improvements to allow more buildings on the server. (see: https://vine.co/v/iWY7YBbuJx0)
  • Building plots are now controlled with a similar system to how the control game works. Claim that building for your Realm!
  • Replaced the ducks in the control game with the most adorable fearsome dragons our artists ever created.
  • Added a new compass UI widget to tell you where you're going. More or less...
  • Fixed the notorious chat server crash. Now the server can take the massive amount of messages our testers generate!
  • Also lots of improvements for buildings on the client, fixing missing polys from mesh simplification and greatly improving performance.
  • SNOW! OMG OMG OMG SNOW! It falls from the sky. It covers the ground. It comes down from the north, and covers elevated locations first. Then it melts! It's pretty cool.
As always, these are just a sampling of our patch notes. Head over to our user stories section to see just how much we really have got done lately! 

Overall, it's been a tremendous year of progress for the game. Our improved server stability and capacity to allow us to have several hundred bots and players all fighting at once with smooth performance, even while adding a lot of new gameplay features and an entirely new map system. This is an amazing accomplishment for the game at this stage of development, and things will be even better in the new year.

Have a great holiday season, and a wonderful new year!

Backer Spotlight

-Jenesee asks Zeroumus

This month’s Backer Spotlight is on Zeroumus, who is an artist in C.U.B.E., and has been very helpful with feedback on how to keep making it even better.
Q: Why did you become a Backer?
A: I first heard about this game halfway through the Kickstarter. The simple answer for backing this game was the founders principles, the reputation of DAOC, building and the custom engine. The complex reason would be far to much to expand on here, but there was a magic between the lines that really resonated with me. I could tell the team was going to really try something different, and that the team was really going to push engine technology that was fit for purpose for MMOs.

Q: Have you crafted a lot in other games?
A: No as I have only maxed out a crafter in 2 MMOs, SWTOR and FFXIV_ARR. This is likely the first MMO I will play where I am considering a crafter as a main. There is 3 reasons why a crafter is very appealing to me in this game, building, having a role in front line action and crafted items mattering. What more could I ask for?
Q: Have you had a chance to play in the new C.U.B.E. push? What do you think of the new materials. performance, blueprint size from the last one?
A: You bet! The variety of new materials make a big difference. It’s possible now to make structures that look like they really fit in the game world. The performance increase is massive when compared to the very early versions. The geometry optimizations are a lifesaver. The BP size increasing from 20^3 to 80^3 has also very helpful. Most builds can fit in 1 or two of these now.
Q:How do you decide what type of building you want to make?

A: There is 2 buildings types I usually make, small practical builds that I hope will be useful in the actual game by players for housing. I will usually make these when I stumble on random images on the internet. The other type is modular systems, and these are inspired by their ease of use and usefulness in RvR. It’s my hope that building will be fun places to fight in and around, and not just to fight for.
Q: What helps you visualize your creation before you make it?

A: I usually build my buildings with the frame first. I find this allows me to get the proportions inside correct. I think this is important since when we fight in these buildings, we will be doing some of it inside.
Q: Are you taking territory, defensibility, location, etc., into account?

A: At the moment most of my builds are cosmetic. But when the times comes for useful buildings, you can bet that functionality will be the most important factor. For RvR purposes, buildings will be dynamic extensions of the land they sit on. Their purpose will change as the RvR fight changes. Buildings not fit for purpose will fall. My hope is that clever designs will affect the fight just as much as combatants do. "New".
Q: Does your favorite race/Realm influence your design?

A: I don’t think I can hide my Arthurian Human preference for building. Arthurians Rule! I do wonder however, what would St'rm and Golem buildings might look like? Maybe they will have buildings that look like another style I like.

Q: Are you taking territory, defensibility, location, etc., into account?

A: At the moment most of my builds are cosmetic. But when the times comes for useful buildings, you can bet that functionality will be the most important factor. For RvR purposes, buildings will be dynamic extensions of the land they sit on. Their purpose will change as the RvR fight changes. Buildings not fit for purpose will fall. My hope is that clever designs will affect the fight just as much as combatants do. "New".
Q: What would you say to others who might be interested in Building. Where should they start?

A: Start small. a 30 x 30 house for example. Try to get the proportions right. Don't be afraid to dive into the angled pieces during a small build. Learn to use them on a small build first. Its easy to build too big and find yourself in over your head and have no time to learn the little things. Another thing you can do is try joining the city projects, you will see creativity from a variety of builders and surely learn things by looking at their builds.  

Lore Corner

-by Max Porter

A new story to grace the hallowed halls of our game’s lore! Written by Loremaster Max Porter under Mark Jacob’s expert guidance and vision for Camelot Unchained.

 The Becoming - Gargoyles Part 1

The old stones of the ruin seemed to crack and change shape in the shifting, orange light of sunset, as if crumbling in the wind. Angry clouds, bent on destruction, gathered above the tumbled walls and hanging archways. However, they had stood this way for many years. If the ruin survived the storm, it would be many years more before the last stone was buried in grass. 

The stark shape was the only shelter the roaming band of Gargoyles could see on the wide, rolling plain. Holding their possessions close as the first rumbling rolled over the hissing grasses of the plain, they ran to the old building, broken colonnades dark against the orange sky. 

They burst through the creaking door of the old building eagerly, shaking droplets from their slate skin. Some went to explore the darker corners of the ruin as the shadows lengthened, while others kindled a fire for the evening meal, humming as they blew the flames to life. A white, shuddering flash of lightning brought them together. They huddled against the roar of thunder, so loud it seemed to crack stone. 

One of the elder Gargoyles raised his head. Looking at the younger folk, gathering close as the thunder shattered the air around them, he smiled. A myriad of tiny cracks appeared on his face, like a map of the surrounding countryside. “Settle down now, or the evening’s tale will never be told.” 

The younger folk glanced at one another in the flickering firelight, droplets running down their faces like glittering gems. One by one, they produced instruments from beneath their robes and began to strike up a warm rhythm, cutting through the hush of rain hitting the tattered roof. 

The elderly Gargoyle cleared his throat. “I sing it now, beneath the clouds...I sing the song of the watchers, while thunder crashes loud...I sing of those who are no more, a song of seekers, wayward wanderers, I sing of those who came before.” 

On a wide plain crisscrossed by great ravines, a few villages had sprung up, making their living by farming and husbandry. One of their greatest resources was the plentiful stone, good for building and carving, which could be found and quarried all around. These folk were known for their grand buildings, great spired constructions dedicated to the glory of their gods. 

One of their cathedrals, mightier than the rest, rose tall above the largest village. Many-tiered towers draped in stone curlicues stood like a grand gesture to the sky. Rows of windows across the front of the building seemed to call a welcome with their cornices like fine embroidery. 

In this village there was born a child called Goji. On Goji’s fifth birthday, his mother presented him with a tiny lute. Goji treasured the thing, and didn’t break it, as his father dourly predicted. He plucked the strings with his clumsy fingers, and became fascinated. Coming back from the market, his mother was astounded to hear him playing the lullaby she used to sing him to sleep with at night, plinking from the kitchen window. Goji had climbed up on the table and was frowning his tiny face over the notes. She closed the window against the rain and picked him up to lovingly crush him in her arms. 

It became Goji’s obsession. In the shadow of this great cathedral, just under the decorative stone shelf that ran around the edge of the roof, Goji practiced his music. Day in and day out, whenever he wasn’t needed somewhere else, he could be found there, singing to the reverberating walls. 

Goji grew into a tall, very handsome boy, with long brown locks and a honey voice that could melt the coldest hearts. Goji took his harmonies very seriously, and even as a young child, he practiced night and day, seeking to master all the instruments and songs that he could. 

His parents doted on Goji, and provided him with all the materials and instruments he could need. They hired the best music teachers from the villages round about, and Goji’s skills increased to match his love of harmony. He felt music in his bones, and loved becoming better and better.

A few young, aspiring musicians came to Goji’s side as he practiced long hours in the shadow of the cathedral, forming a group of eager young minstrels. Though they were children, they grew to respect Goji’s seriousness about music, and loved him for his commitment to the rhythm and the sound. 

With so many wanting to practice with him, Goji could choose the best and most dedicated to stay. As his talent and fame grew, so did his pride. He began to believe that he was special, destined for greater things than anyone who could not match him in musical skill. Music and song became more important to him and his cadre than anything else in the world. They formed a group of their own and excluded the other children, refusing to join their games. Stone-hearted to their entreaties, Goji and his picked comrades continued to play their music in the shadow of the cathedral, letting none of the others play or even sit nearby. 

Eventually, they devised cruel jokes in the form of rhymes or songs that they would chant when children outside their group came near. It worked, for as the limericks caught on about the village, the others found it much better to stay away and avoid the hurtful jibes that the young musicians came up with. Goji and his compatriots got their wish; they were able to practice on their own, and increase their musical skill like the prodigies they were. 

The storms first came in Goji’s fourteenth year. That was when the Veil was Pierced, and the First Breaking of the world came upon the world. The sky rained fire, scorching the earth to its bones, and the land of ravines cracked and shattered as upheavals tore it apart. Many villages perished whole, swallowed by the tortured earth. 

In the largest village, the young musicians continued to play their music, refusing to acknowledge the end of the world. Their compatriots tried to pull them away, but Goji refused. “Nothing will make me leave this place!” he cried haughtily in his melodic voice, “I have been playing music here my whole life. This will pass, but my music will live on.” 

Spurred on by him, his friends stayed as well, even as the first terrible Veilstorms rolled in. 

Goji clung to the masonry of the cathedral walls, while the rest stuck close by. The storm raged all around them, magic ripping and lashing with wind and rain. There was something different about this storm, something that made it worse than the previous Veilstorms. There was a terrible intelligence in this storm, something that bore the world a deep ill will. 

They did not know it, but this magic storm, marked by an incredible pressure in the air, would come to be called a Malevolence. This was one of the first, or perhaps the very first, to strike this unlucky world. Succumbing to its power, most of the villagers who hadn’t fled were killed, or became howling abominations that ran off into the ashy night. 

But a stranger fate awaited Goji and his closest companions. As they clung to the walls of the cathedral, the magic and the rain lashed at them in unnatural fury. Something shifted under the beating of the storm and the stone walls began to soften beneath the children's’ fingers. Goji gasped, the thick air painful in his lungs, as the stone began to ooze from the wall, flowing like mud down his hands and arms. He tried to pull away, but the wind and the weight of the others only pressed him forward, and he wasn’t strong enough. The young folk screamed as they felt the bubbling stone cover them over, shaping them in ways they couldn’t understand. 

The young musicians were covered by the liquid stone, their fearful shouts muffled as the flowing stone dripped over their mouths. Goji felt the terrible weight pressing on him from all sides, covering him in a new skin. He struggled in pain and fear, but it was far too late. As if focused on a single purpose, the stone wrapped him round, fusing with his body. The magic caused him excruciating torture, forming a new skin. As the wind and rain fell over the children in sheets, the stone grew denser, hardening into the new visage of their change. 

None of them were themselves any more. They only barely resembled humans. Horns, wide eyes, gaping mouths, pointed wings, and many other strange additions had been made as the storm changed them. They had become twisted, comical mockeries of their former selves, monsters in silent stone. Somehow, their appearance seemed carefully planned, as if each feature had become a detail drawn by a mad artist, revealing the way they had become inside. Staring at one another out of the stone prisons they had fused with, the children would have screamed if they could have moved.
The storm slowly lost its terrific force as the night progressed. The sun rose, bringing steam from the splinters of broken houses and the dead bodies that had been washed away in the unstoppable flood of rainwater and magic. The villagers tried to gather together. Much of their town had been destroyed, or simply carried away. Nearly half of the townsfolk were dead...or worse, changed into the abominations that had run off howling and shrieking. 

Among the dead were Goji’s parents, lying broken by the fallen timbers of their ruined home. No one could find Goji or the other children at first. Then one old woman noticed the twisted mockeries in stone that had appeared next to the cathedral. 

Though she had been stoic through all the horrors up to this point, she finally broke down in tears as she pointed out the features of the changed children to everyone. The eerie and unmoving statues made silent, painful howls with their open mouths, and only seemed to mock the townsfolk and their frailty in the face of the storms. No one knew what could possibly be done about it. So far as they knew, there was no magic that could bring back the town’s lost children, though their loss was keenly felt. Eventually, as they struggled to rebuild the town, some workers dragged the statues inside the cathedral and left them there. 

Many years passed, rolling into decades and then brushing against centuries. The nature of the statues was forgotten as the world turned, and the storms wore on. The cathedral survived, though it started to look battered and run-down, with cracks in the stones and timbers worn by the weather. 

Among the survivors of the other scattered villages was one Romain, a boy who grew up and came to the largest village. He was a kind man, and a good leader, endlessly patient with rebuilding and reorganizing the village after every storm tore most of it down. When the work crews finally got around to repairing the cathedral, Romain had them place the ancient statues upon the roof, as guardians of the hall. He turned it into a school, teaching the children of the town the knowledge that had been threatened by the Breaking of the World. 

The children’s choir would come every week and practice, their voices soaring high among the arches, a forest of stone rising to the sky. Silent and still over the door, the statues listened. 

More storms came, and the children were often rushed home before disaster could overtake them, for the world was still in great turmoil after the Piercing. The rain and wind ran over the statues, and they would gurgle or whistle as the storm went through their open mouths. 

Romain heard them as he took shelter in his cathedral late into the night, and he began to call them “gurglers.” The children, delighted at the imposing yet humorous appearance of the statues, took up the name. Over the years, as they grew up and other children learned the tradition, it became “gargoyles”. Stumbling as they ran and played, singing snatches of the songs they were practicing, just as Goji and his friends used to do, only more carefree. 

The world grew and changed, even as these children grew up and new children came to learn from Romain. 

The stones baked in the heat of summer, or froze in the white winters, and still the sky spun over Goji, while he watching with wide eyes and gaping mouth. He learned, frozen in time but not in mind. 

The gargoyles watched, perched eternally on their walls. They watched the horizon, the travelers who came and went, trading and rebuilding in the ruined world. They watched as the children grew up and built their own homes in the regrowing town, or braved the storms and went off over the horizon themselves. The gargoyles watched as the ravines filled in or burst farther apart, the land still feeling the endless aftereffects of the Piercing. They watched as Romain helped his village grow, and as more townsfolk came to fill out the town. More and more houses spread out from the cathedral under the watchful eyes of its guardians, and Goji saw their lives play out. He began to learn life’s tides and winds, as innumerable songs were sung to their end below him, endless poems of the everyday played out in the streets of the town. 

A story came to be told among Romain’s students, passed from one child to another until it was legend. They believed that the appearance of the gargoyles was slowly changing. At first, it was only a small thing, like changed fingers or a mouth opening wider, but then their horns or wings shifted or disappeared entirely. They were becoming new creatures. Goji wondered if it were true, but he could not turn to look. He could only listen to what the children said of him.

Watch this space for Part 2!

Bonus Image!

We couldn’t let you go without showing you the exterior of another one of Zeroumus' C.U.B.E. buildings! Pretty cool town under construction!
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