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What's the Story on DAOC?
Dark Age of Camelot was released in 2001 by Mythic Entertainment. Mythic was one of the first companies on the MMORPG scene, and DAOC was their first creation. DAOC was released at a time when MMORPG game designers could afford to integrate innovative gameplay elements into their games, and DAOC is an example of the kind of gaming quality that can be made when a company is not afraid to do something new.
The most innovative feature in DAOC was RvR, otherwise known as Realm vs. Realm combat. The three player factions in the game, Albion, Midgard, and Hibernia, were locked in a battle to the death over dominance of the servers in DAOC, and this was where the gameplay really hit a high point. The RvR in DAOC was implemented in such a way that the playerbase of each realm banded together, forming large groups around planned invasion times, led by players who became legendary in their own right within the server communities. There were great thrills to be had, as your war party went off sieging keeps and trying to stay one step ahead of the hordes of players in the other realms on the server. RvR was what made DAOC great, and no game in history has managed to implement it as well as it was implemented in DAOC.
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DAOC in 2008
It's been seven years since the release of DAOC, and I'm sad to say that the years haven't been kind to this once illustrious game. Many people would say that DAOC's decline over the years is due mostly to new games coming out, as well as to some of Mythic's game design strategies. There were population imbalances on the servers, newly released classes oftentimes were quite overpowered, and many of the expansions to the game took the game in a totally different direction than the playerbase would have hoped for.
At one point Classic servers were released, which took the game back to the state that it was in before the expansions, and this did draw players back to the game. These servers were at full population for some time, but there were still issues such as population imbalances and overpowered classes. I can't help but think that DAOC would still be going strong if these issues had been addressed in short order.
DAOC in 2008 is essentially dead. The servers are barren, and Mythic's promise to create a new server type, Origins servers, doesn't seem to be coming to fruition. We'll miss you DAOC, it was a great run.
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DAOC in its Prime
I think it's only fair to give DAOC a rating for that period of time when server volumes were at the max and giant RvR battles were happening all across the landscape of every server. This was the golden age of DAOC, and most of those who played the game in its hayday will gladly tell you that it was one of the best MMORPG experiences to be had anywhere. I've heard mixed reviews for Mythic's followup to DAOC, Warhammer Online, and I haven't tried it myself, but I am definitely tempted to give the game a go.
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DAOC is Dead, Long Live DAOC!
So, is there any future for Dark Age of Camelot in 2008, 2009, or 2010? We can only hope that Mythic will either find some way to revive the game, or that they will one day release the source code. Ultima Online is an example of a game which continues to exist long after most MMORPGs would have faded away, with a ton of different servers to play on, each with unique rules. Perhaps one day we will see the same thing with DAOC. It would be wonderful if we could some day, and it doesn't hurt to dream of such a thing. Whatever ends up happening, Long Live DAOC! It was a great run.