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City State Entertainment has raised $15 million to fund games with massive medieval battles using a new game engine.
The Fairfax, Virginia-based company was founded a decade ago by Mark Jacobs, who previously created Mythic Entertainment and its flagship game Dark Age of Camelot. He sold that company to Electronic Arts in 2006 and then EA shut Mythic down in 2014.
Now Jacobs is back with City State Entertainment, which is making the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Camelot Unchained and the medieval battle royale Final Stand: Ragnarök. Jacobs started the company with cofounder Andrew Meggs in 2010.
Both are using the Unchained Engine, which Jacobs says can be used to create massive battles with up to 1,800 (at the moment) players in the same confined battle space. Those soldiers can fight it out in real-time multiplayer combat, said Jacobs in an interview with GamesBeat. It so happens that this kind of intense online experience — which I have seen in demos — is key to metaverse experiences.
For instance, rivals such as Hadean and Improbable have raised big venture rounds on the promise of creating metaverse-like experiences with thousands of players in the same arenas, making possible huge battles or concert experiences in virtual worlds.
“We definitely want to take to the next level,” said Jacobs. “We’ve solved that the hardest problems, like networking and rendering, and we’ve got it running fast.”
City State Entertainment’s achievement with its game engine is impressive, considering real-time battle royales like Call of Duty: Warzone 2 are confined to around 150 players in a match, or given server instance. Jacobs didn’t say who the minority investors are, except to note that the group has one new lead investor.
“As this is the largest funding round that the studio has received to date, I am extremely grateful to our
investors, and long-term backers of Camelot Unchained who share our vision for both our games and
the cutting-edge engine that we have created,” said Jacobs. “We have already reaped some of the benefits from this funding round as we continue to take our development and leadership team to another level. With the uncertain and troubling economic times in the world, knowing that we can continue to work on our games while adding the people and talent we need to deliver on our current games is quite comforting.”
Each demo Jacobs has shown has gotten progressively better, with more players in a given space.
Jacobs added, “I expect that in the coming weeks, based on the number of people already in the
hiring pipeline, we will accelerate our business activities. City State has continued to stay the course on
focusing on massively scalable games and the technology it takes to build them and that will not change
on my watch.”
Unlike many of the companies getting funding, City State Entertainment is not making a blockchain game, Jacobs said, as he doesn’t believe it can bring value to the MMO.
“This additional funding will allow us to continue to develop our engine, an engine that already delivers
a variety of experiences not seen anywhere else in the industry from massive real-time online
interactions in procedural player-built worlds to hand crafted multiplayer battles where heroes can
engage armies of thousands of enemies at a time,” said George Davison, CTO and founder of City State Entertainment’s Seattle studio, in a statement. “I am looking forward to growing our team to polish and expand our cutting edge technology stack.”
Besides Dark Age of Camelot, Mythic also made Warhammer Online. And Davison worked on titles over 22 years such as Destiny, The Lord of the Rings and Hob. Davison is the architect and lead engineer of the Unchained Engine.
The engine will be able to produce the densely packed fantasy battles with terrain such as a verdant forest full of high-resolution images, Jacobs said. But he acknowledged that it isn’t easy to do, as you might have tradeoffs still between speed of play and high resolutions such as 4K.
“I want people to know just how powerful the engine is,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said that you won’t need the highest-end graphics cards in a client PC to run the games. Several generations of Nvidia graphics cards will be able to run the titles, he said.
Camelot Unchained and Final Stand: Ragnarök are being designed for the PC, but they may eventually be ported to the consoles, Jacobs said.
The company has about 38 people and it is hiring more. Most of the employees are veterans of the industry but they didn’t come from Mythic.
“We’ve been working on Camelot Unchained forever, but now we’ll be able to hire more people and can speed it up,” Jacobs said.
In time, City State Entertainment hopes to gather resources to create a platform that it can license out to other game makers, who can make use of the technology to build massive games with densely packed player counts in other genres, Jacobs said.
“We could [license the technology], but we can’t do that today,” he said.
Jacobs said he hopes to get a version of Final Stand: Ragnarök into the market in a number of months, so the company can prove that its technology works.
As for the metaverse, Jacobs believes that the real-time technology that would make it possible to bring large numbers of players together in a confined space is doable. It isn’t easy to do, as current servers have limitations on real-time simulations. But Jacobs belives it isn’t in the distant future. Still, at the end of the day, Jacobs isn’t selling the tech as a metaverse play.
“At the end of the day, it’s an MMO,” he said. “That’s what we can deliver on. With the right funding, we could absolutely have a metaverse. We’re going to be focused. And our focus has been on building an engine that can drive large-scale battles,” Jacobs said.
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