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What Seams To Be

By Vye

Hail and well met, Elyrians!

Welcome to another update where I shall regale you with tales of high adventure and keep you abreast of the news across this fair realm. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you might stick a needle and/or antler in your eye (although such things are not recommended). By the end of the post, you may even understand those references! But first...

The End of Updates As We Know Them

Now that the team is more filled out and there's a variety of different stories unfolding within our ecosystem, I think it's time we made an update to how we've been doing our updates. In the before times, Caspian wrote both Design Journals and Production Journals. When I joined, I was able to write the Production Journals, but much of the information in my updates have covered things not directly part of the game production such as Q&A announcements, community spotlights, contests, expo information, and a cornucopia of anything that didn't fit into one of Caspian's Design Journals. With Serpentius and Kaizen now settling in, I'd like to further divide the blog updates we do to be more topically focused.

Blog posts may be one of a few types:

  • Design Journal: Describing Caspian's vision of Chronicles of Elyria in detail
  • Production Journal: Reporting on the progress of Quests being undertaken by the team and any updates about the team
  • Community Journal: Highlighting what's going on in the community and any events to get involved in
  • Soulbound Studios Broadcast: Documenting our journey by recapping on what we've achieved and looking ahead on what's to come

Starting in August, we're going to return to a weekly blog schedule. You'll see at least the same amount of information that the existing updates have given - probably more - only now it will be categorized better and have different authors. In the end, it means more information, more transparency, and more involvement with the overall development of the game!

The Midyear-Update Update

Caspian mentioned that he was preparing a State of Elyria update since we're halfway through the year. He'd like me to mention that it's still coming up but that he found having pneumonia to be prohibitive to progress. Don't fret though - it's still coming!

Chronicles of Soulbound Studios

One wouldn't expect summertime to come with so many illnesses, but we've had a slough of 'em. Along with folks wanting to use their vacation days, and our business internet connection getting the flu as well, there have been rolling outages that have hindered progress like slogging through mud. The parties have still managed to make decent strides on their adventures, despite all this, so I'm awarding everyone extra experience.

Society of Elyrian Ecology

Members: Mudokon, Racronos, Irreverent, Vanimus Prime, Souzou, Wiz, Raevantiel

The Department for Zoology has found a pair of Otter Bears in Titan's Steppe! It is unknown whether they are a mating pair but the Society is keen to study them further - in their natural habitat, of course - to better understand how these omnivores survive in this region. A full movement study is expected to begin in the coming weeks but the hypothesis is that they move similarly to the Ursaphant. Obviously the Otter Bear is adapted to swimming and floating on its back, which no Ursaphant has ever been observed doing, but their size and build suggests that they will walk and run in a similar fashion (i.e. the Otter Bear will share an animation rig with the Ursaphant, with many animations shared as well). The movement studies on the horse and elk have gotten over the hiccup mentioned last update, and are simply polishing up a few things for the League of Extraordinary Locomotion when it comes to riding. The Canis Rabbit has begun its movement study and, by the gods, it's frightening how fast it moves!


Elyrian Otters are Beary nice!

Wiz continues to work on the materials that make up Elyria and progress is coming along quite nicely. It takes a couple weeks per layer since Elyria will have such variety. The end result will be great variety with low upkeep cost and good performance. Standardization will allow 3D models to be converted between tools seamlessly, will maintain PBR (physically-based rendering) workflows across all assets, and allow us to treat shaders as modules that can be modified or applied to 3D models independent of other shaders or textures. To assist, Raevantiel has finished up the soil layer and has moved onto grass. Exciting stuff! Though there's still many layers and textures and materials to go, you can already see improvements in the overall look and feel in the game. I submit these screenshots from the Silver Run Mine to highlight how these relatively abstract ideas turn into the intangible majesty and stylized realism Heat is aiming for.

As for developments of the Anthropological variety, the new skeletal data is in and it's cool. We can create all twelve tribes out of one set of assets! There's a lot of discussion about cross-breeding going on in the forums, so this is an important piece of being able to do that. While this work has made some of the initial equipment that Irreverent created not fit correctly, the work being done by the Proto-Tailors will ultimately provide the same kind of range and variety in equipment that the character models have.

The Tribe Foundry

Members: Caspian, Heat, Souzou

If you watched the Tribes Q&A II last week or have been in the forums, you probably heard that we've made a change to the tribe availability at launch. This discussion brought up some very valid points about the variable method we were going to use to populate the starting continents with tribes. It kicked off an internal discussion where we ultimately identified several issues with our original plan:

  1. There might be multiple tribes in a Kingdom, and no guarantees that the combination would make sense, lore-wise. Some tribes make a certain amount of sense to be neighbors and submit to a ruler from a different culture at times, but many of the tribes wouldn't be okay with that and, without knowing this beforehand, it could create imbalance or undue strife in the starting kingdoms.
  2. There would be server-specific tribes at the start that could adversely affect the player population distribution, as well as encourage players to play on a server that does not have an optimal ping for a quality game experience. Essentially people may choose a tribe over their regional server and thereby opt into a sub-optimal experience.
  3. Discovering a new tribe on a server could be anti-climactic if that tribe had been a launch tribe on another server. We always imagined that there'd be a limited set of tribes at launch and players would explore to find the remaining tribes. We realized that the coolness of discovering a new tribe is diminished if it was already well-known on another server.
  4. Some tribes present radically different play experiences and difficulties. While many people are up for the challenge of a nomadic kingdom or a tribe with extreme biome restrictions, because of the order-of-operations on domain selection there's a real possibility that the players who pick last end up with a domain - and therefore tribe - that they really dislike. That can feel more like a punishment to players who backed us at the start and adversely affect all the citizens in their realm as well.
  5. There are some players who identify most with a particular tribe than they do with their kingdom or organization - especially the influx of players that will come in at launch. We didn't want folks to spend a lot of time between now and launch developing lore and attachment to tribes that ultimately don't end up on the server they commit to.
  6. If all the tribes are not all living on the same continent, then there's no reason that they'd have relationships - friendly or not - or even know about another culture in any depth. If a variable set of the tribes were available on the different starting continents on the different servers, then there would be inconsistent lore between the tribes that breaks the fourth wall. Imagine being an Inca and knowing that when the Spanish showed up on your continent that they'd bring disease and slavery that would crumble your civilization. That's an outcome that the players will decide, not our designers, so it's not appropriate that we write lore about it if it's not canon for that server.

This kind of feedback is precisely why Soulbound Studios is being open and transparent about our development, sharing the game design in detail, and including the community in the development process! While we're not going to make knee-jerk reactions or cave to pressure from a vocal minority, that forum discussion called out a flaw in our design that did not support the experience we are working to create. So, after having discussions internally, we decided to make a change in the plan: There will now be a specific set of eight tribes that are available to play at the start with the other four existing in the world, waiting to be discovered.

The specific tribes that will be playable initially are:

This adjustment, along with Caspian coming down with pneumonia and folks taking some well-deserved vacation time, meant that getting the To'resk and Waerd write-ups completed got delayed, but we still expect to have them out before the Tribe Q&A III on Monday, July 10. This is one of the down sides of being a small company: we don't have redundant employees so delays are inevitable when folks are out.

"I pray that mine inquiry will not be burdensome but I am rather curious as to whether dossiers about the four discoverable tribes should still be provided in some form or another?" your eyes revealing simultaneously a hint of fear and desire at the news.

We are still intending to provide information about the other four tribes, but it won't be to the same level of detail as the initially playable tribes. This particularly applies to detailing out their history, culture, sociology, and world relations because those things will be among the most interesting things to discover! We'll still reveal the concept art and physical descriptions, as well as any lore or legends that make sense. We'll hold back the rest of the information for our internal development needs since this decision doesn't change our scope and we're still making all twelve.

Order of the Online Play

Members: Cynax, Tripnull, Glaive, Michael

While Glaive continues to create the bricks, Cynax, Michael, Tripnull, and even Sekmu have been stacking them up. Basic combat, AI, and UI are coming into focus on the MUD client. Equipment pick-up, equipment persistence, physics smoothing while moving, and a shared coordinate system are being added to the Unreal client. There was a brief playtest of something Michael called Chronicles of Ledge Pushing and Jumping. Don't let the name get you excited though, it's mostly programmer art at this point and not suitable for human consumption...yet.

Protectors of the Web

Members: ZRO, Death, Cynax, Scarlet, Serpentius, Kaizen

Kaizen has signed on with the Protectors and is now ankle deep in content organization for the V3 version of the website. In addition to improving the visuals and the back-end, we want to improve the information discovery on the site for visitors both new and veteran alike. He and Serpentius are also working on transferring the tribe posts into Tribe Game Guide pages. A small bug got in the way of getting those out already, further complicated by needing to do a deploy to get the fix out. With ZRO up to his neck on V3 components, we haven't done a deploy for a couple weeks and won't for a couple more. In the end, the tribe posts do exist so it's not a priority to move that content into a static web page, even though newcomers won't necessarily know to look in the forums for such information. We're going to rely on our awesome community (i.e. you folks!) to help make sure newcomers get the information they are looking for. So far, you all are doing a great job!

ZRO has also been toiling to create the full inventory for pledge packages so that folks can see what they own. This also paves the way for account merging, management of account rewards, and redemption of in-game items. Since it has to do with the store and account database, it's very important to do this with extreme care and copious testing! Also there are a few typos that will be corrected in the next deployment.

Scarlet and Death have been iterating on the graphic design for V3 and it's looking great. I feel kind of - I don't know, villainous? - sharing a mockup of the new website on the old website but, well, I'm going to do it anyway. Please note that the images are all temporary placeholders and won't necessarily be the images used in the real version. I wouldn't want to spoil everything, after all...


I am especially excited about Feature Area 2

The Proto-Tailors

Members: Irreverent, Wiz, Sekmu, Heat

Heat is simultaneously providing Neran fashion direction and informing the crafting and adornment system. Last time we had a variety of examples of Neran commoner clothing. This time Heat has dialed it up to 11 with a super-fancy concept of Neran clothing, with all manner of equipment layers and adornments that we'd like to achieve. Ultimately this concept is aspirational, so the crafting system may or may not support 100% of what you see here once the Engineering Guild vets the design, but we'd like to shoot for the ability to make a shirt pattern very plain as well as very detailed. If you look between a basic shirt in the commoner concepts from last time and the shirt here, the basic pattern could be the same and the difference in quality comes from higher-quality materials, more crafting skill, and player creativity!


This is one outfit with the proposed three layers of equipment shown in stages, plus a shoulder item (the cloak)

Speaking of creativity, we want pattern-makers to be able to define a lot of different parts of an item they design. Wiz and Irreverent have been working on creating the systems that will allow players to achieve this. Here is an example of the system for customizing the thread stitching on a garment in its current state in development. There's a similar system for textiles being worked on as well.

Such Fine Stitching

League of Extraordinary Locomotion

Members: Strider, Tripnull, Sekmu

With the new skeletal data in place, the variation can begin! The first step is making the female have a bit more movement in her hips when she moves. Due to various team members being out of the office, the jump hasn't been nailed down to our liking yet so Kaizen couldn't finish the video. Folks in the Early Access forum saw a preview but we want to get the jump fixed before putting it up on YouTube.

In the meantime, the animators did a mocap shoot to capture a variety of activities players might perform including hoe tilling, sickle swiping, chopping trees, leaning on a hoe, planting seeds, lifting bales of hay or bags of grain, pulling rope, carrying buckets, and a ton of other tasks. If you'd like to see pictures or video of mocap sessions, you might consider following us on our Twitter since Kaizen is hoping to improve our social media with more behind-the-scenes and studio shenanigans.

Though it sadly didn't involve any mocap, mount riding is now actively being worked on. The horse is the obvious first choice for getting this system working but, in reality, we all want to ride the Dryas Elk here at the studio...even if it'll knock you off and probably take your eye out with it's massive antlers whenever it turns its head.

What About PAX West?

Many of you rooted for us in trying to snag booth space at PAX West this year. There's more demand than there is available space, so simply applying wasn't a guarantee that we'd get a spot. In the end, we were triumphant! We'll be at PAX West 2017, booth #6502, which is on level 6 of the convention center. We have no idea what we are near yet, but now you've got 100% of the information I know. Use it wisely...

All the Tribe Q&As

There are just so many links to keep track of with all the Tribe Q&As, so I'll just make a list!

  • Tribe Q&A Part I can be viewed on YouTube.
  • Tribe Q&A Part I In Brief is available on YouTube.
  • Tribe Q&A Part II can be viewed on Twitch and YouTube.
  • Tribe Q&A Part II In Brief is available on YouTube.
  • Tribe Q&A Part III will happen on Monday, July 10 at 1PM PDT / 4PM EDT / 8PM GMT / 8PM UTC on Twitch.tv.
  • Tribe Q&A Part IV will happen on Monday, July 24 at 1PM PDT / 4PM EDT / 8PM GMT / 8PM UTC on Twitch.tv.

The question thread for Part III will be posted later on, so keep an eye on the forums and Twitter for that!

That's all for this update. Let us know in the comments which Adventuring Party you are most looking forward to completing their quest!

Pledged to Your Continued Adventures in Life, Both Actual and Fantasy,

Vye

If you have been wandering about and have stopped trying to see "what's up?!" with CG lately and not seeing anything, it's because we've mostly kept communications to Discord and in game.

My Discord name is: Kridina#9025 Contact me there to ensure you get a current Discord invite.

I will still keep the website going as it can be useful at times, but truly, it's direct interaction with one another that gets the best results! So, if you hankering for some good times and that ole CG feeling, hit us up on Discord (See the widget on the page!) or pop into the vWOW server we are one (The Elysium Project, Darrowind -NOT the Proxy! - Alliance). The guild is quite busy there. Heck even the mornings has a nice crew going. Being vanilla, there is no real rush to max level and one can enjoy the actual experience of that old glory. Even mount eny. Ugh. :P

And dudes, this is not a damn hardcore guild. Yes, we get shite done, but just come have fun. group up. Dungeon. Chat, learn your role. We will raid, but it's not the "be all end all" of what we are looking for. If that is all you want and you are gonna whine and cry because others are enjoying actually playing a game and being on at times other than raid times, then this guild will not be for you. The guild failed on Phinigel because of the push from hardcore raiders wanting nothing more than their loot. They did not care about the others. That is not what CG is about. You will get your loot, but you will get soemthing even better; the experience of playing with good people.

Play what you want. The rest will work itself out.

Click for Part 1

He had been following her all morning. Normally, such a thing would alarm her, but something within her clenched in anticipation of...what? Times like this brought fresh anger and frustration to her. Lost memories created a void within her and left her at a disadvantage. It made her feel weak and she hated weakness. She made the assumption it was her lack of memories causing the disconnect. As she kept an easy stride among the hawkers and wares of the seaside market of the town, named Trinity according to the insistence of the curt tavern owner - he had no time for idle talk - she fought to keep her sensitive ears relaxed. She found she could learn more if people felt she was unaware of what was going on. It wasn't the first time she had ever been followed in a town. It probably would not be the last. She had gotten good at survival, after all.

A rickety stall caught her attention, suddenly. It was dilapidated. Had to be the worst kept one around! She was startled by it's unkempt appearance. It was rare to come across something that wasn't neat and in good repair. Something that always nagged her, but her lack of memory wouldn't explain why it was bothersome. However, in such strong contrast she almost wondered if it was all an illusion, the wares laid out glimmered with the beauty of master craftsmanship. The best she had seen thus far. <em>Knives</em>. Knives of every sort one like her could ever want for. These were not the knives for a fine table set for a dinner party, though there were some carefully crafted beauties for one's travel sack. No, there were throwing knives, small daggers, bladed fist-weapons, also known as Bagh Nakh, even a bladed cestus, or fighting glove, and a myriad of other weapons. Most were small. This was a stall who blades were mostly meant for the quick and agile and not the lumbering swords-man.

But, what caught Kridina's avid appreciation was a well displayed war fan. It was actually a little smaller than others she had seen. It was gorgeously made, with the cloth covering it so beautifully woven she wondered how any one would dare to bloody it in a fight. By this time she had completely forgotten her shadow as she gazed upon the fan with a mixture of yearning and chagrin. Not only did she have no use for something purely ornamental, she doubted she could afford to purchase it. She had money, but she was never sure when the next influx would be coming in, so tended to weigh her purchases very carefully. "It's prolly enchanted to stay clean" came a deep purring voice and she nearly jumped, so startled was she at the sudden approach. Damn! How could she have become so careless and enamored of a bloody fan?!

Her head snapped towards the owner of the voice and she was unable to help the sudden dilation of her pupils when she realized who it was. Even her mouth stood agape for just a moment before she clamped it closed. Her eyes narrowed as she stared the fellow Tiger down. The only other one of her kind she knew to have golden stripes such as she. "V'eenier" she drawled out slowly, "Why the hell are you here? Was it <em>you</em> that was following me from the tavern?" He ignored her question and the waspish tone of her voice to continue on. "See here?" He lifted the fan from it's display stand and flipped it over "Yes, I was right" he pointed to a small design nestled into the base of the fan on one of the blades; "It's been marked with the symbol for mojo, or charm if you will". He turned to her, a brow raised as if they had been doing this all along and he pressed the fan into her hands. "It is perfect for you, Kridina".

She was so angry, she was nearly shaking with it, but V'eenier gave her a nearly innocent look as if he did not deserve her ire and had no idea why she would be upset at his sudden appearance by her side. "Vee...." She tried again, this time making an attempt to calm her reactive nature, but when she caught the glimmer of amusement in his eyes, she actually growled under her breath. "I hate you" She snarled and practically threw the beautiful war-fan on the vender's worn and ugly table and stalked away.

From the Dev Blog. Can also watch their video for a recent live Q&A if you don't wish to read! I recommend at least skimming over it, though.

DJ #19: Pre-Alpha Experiences

By Caspian (February 23, 2017)

Hail Elyrians!

Welcome to Design journal #19: Pre-Alpha Experiences. The last Design Journal we had was back in May of 2016 and was over 4,000 words! Well, sit back and relax because this one is longer. While it has been a while, the time has come to return to our origins and once again spend some time talking about what we're doing differently in Chronicles of Elyria and why it'll make for a better overall game.

Given that our last DJ was on Kingdom Management, and that we first mentioned our Pre-Alpha experiences back in June of 2016, it should be no surprise that in this DJ we're going to dive into those Pre-Alpha experiences in greater depth. So let's get started.

What is a Pre-Alpha Experience?

In most modern MMOs the developers spend a non-trivial amount of time in research and development experimenting with different engines, taking their existing engine and re-purposing it for a new game idea, and creating tech demos to verify the validity of their ideas before even beginning production.

Once production begins there's generally still months (if not years) of early development to get to a point where they feel comfortable showing it to the world at large. This 'Pre-Alpha' milestone is an indication that, while the game isn't yet feature-complete, its overall direction, features, and visual style are more or less 'locked in'. At that point, all that remains is implementation of the remaining features and iteration on the current ones until they reach a state of quality that the studio feels comfortable calling them complete.

The problem is, by the time a game hits pre-alpha it's often too late to make any significant changes to the design of the game. Aside from cosmetic, easily-altered items or things so game-breaking that the game would be lost without it, modifications to the core design are often viewed as too costly to change at this stage of development.

In a formulaic game that sticks close to the typical features of a genre, this is generally a safe bet. But Chronicles of Elyria is anything but typical. With the vast number of new, never-before-seen features and the re-imagining of several well-established ones, it's extremely important that we have an opportunity to change tack on anything which could jeopardize the overall fun of the game.

Our solution? Pre-Alpha Experiences. Put plainly, Pre-Alpha Experiences are opportunities for players to jump into some form of the game as early as possible - even before pre-alpha, to provide feedback.

This has many advantages to us (and to you) beyond the obvious. Let's look at them a bit shall we?

Why have pre-alpha experiences?

Early Feedback
Perhaps the most important reason is the opportunity for early feedback. Obviously, the sooner we get feedback from our target audience, the more likely we are to be able to make changes in a timely fashion. There's nothing mysterious here. The key is finding a way to get feedback from players before development progresses too far!

Community Engagement
A slightly less obvious but equally important reason is community engagement. For an MMO to be successful it requires a certain 'critical mass' of players. For existing intellectual properties or well-established companies it's still difficult, but possible, for them to gather that critical mass of players within the few months leading up to the launch of the game. But a grass-roots game like Chronicles of Elyria requires a slow, rolling boil. It's going to take between now and launch with us continuously reaching out and growing the community for us to hit our target numbers.

But all the outreach and evangelizing in the world is useless if players come to the site, see the game is in-development and then immediately bounce. We need a way to capture and retain players throughout the development process. The pre-alpha experiences give players something to do in the interim. This also has the pleasant side effect of preventing players from becoming idle. So it serves as not only a good tool for maintaining player engagement, but is also just a good cure for boredom.

Player-investment in History
Next, one of the biggest challenges any MMO - or really any RPG – faces, is connecting players to the rich history of the world. This is often done by placing books in the world for players to read, or creating quests and story arcs that talk about the history of the world. When players feel a sense of connectedness with the past, it naturally makes them more concerned about and responsive to potential futures.

By making the events of our pre-alpha experiences persistent - that is, by accepting the events that occur in the pre-alpha experiences as part of the game's history - it gives players the unique opportunity to be a part of, to experience first-hand, and to drive the history of the world. There's no stronger connection to the past a player can have. By the time launch happens, players will have been responsible for writing the history of the previous 30-50 years. So, when the books and NPCs talk about recent events in history, those players who were part of it will feel a stronger connection.

Tempering Expectations
Speaking of recent history, one of the things we've learned in the last year is how important it is to temper expectations and to prevent a NMS (Not Much t'See) situation. By that I, of course, mean years of us talking about the features and mechanics of the game only to have you get into the game and discover none of it is there. We prevent this by gradually adding the mechanics to our Pre-Alpha experiences. This should increase confidence in what we're doing and give you all a strong impression of what is and isn't going to make it in the final game.

The Pre-Alpha Experiences

Ok. With all of that out of the way, let's dig in to the three Pre-Alpha Experiences for Chronicles of Elyria. Note that each of the following - Prologue: The Awakening, ElyriaMUD, and Kingdoms of Elyria - each provide a different user experience and are designed to best meet the objectives outlined above as quickly as possible.

One of the main objectives is, of course, to get feedback on the different features of the game. So the main thing to know as we move forward is that each of the three pre-alpha experiences are designed to test a subset of the roughly 40 different feature areas and hundreds of individual features of the game. When I talk about each experience I'll highlight some of the most important feature areas we'll be testing.

Prologue: The Awakening

The first of the Pre-Alpha experiences I wanted to talk about is the Prologue. Put as succinctly as possible, the Prologue is an offline, playable demo (desktop UE4 client) of Chronicles of Elyria. But, like many of our approaches to game development, game mechanics, marketing, etc., the Prologue serves a dual purpose.

As an offline demo, the Prologue provides us, and players, an opportunity to jump into the world to experience the 'feel' of the game. While it's somewhat difficult to define the 'feel' of a game, what we mean is the overall user input, user interface, user experience, and responsiveness of the game. Some of the main feature areas we'll be testing with the Prologue are:

  • Access Restriction (Taboo locations, Locked doors & objects)
  • Artificial Intelligence (animals)
  • Character Creation
  • Characters (mechanics & rendering)
  • Combat
  • Crafting
  • Equipment & Inventory
  • Locomotion (Physics, Movement, and Parkour)
  • Navigation
  • Skills
  • Survival Mechanics
  • Transportation
  • World Interaction

There are likely to be small amounts of features from other feature areas, such as Identities but, as some of the Pre-Alpha Experiences provide more direct opportunities to test these features/areas they'll only make a cameo appearance in the Prologue.

Now, in addition to being a sandbox in which to experiment with the aforementioned game mechanics, the Prologue also provides players an opportunity to experience a pivotal moment in the history of Elyria - The Awakening. Thus, the Prologue provides a narrative experience which will take players from the town of New Haven, down to the mining village of Silver Run, and back up again. Because of the subset of features provided, as well as the narrative story arc, Prologue should play like a short, single-player RPG.

While not a stand-alone game, and initially limited to a small set of crafting professions, combat trees, etc. the Prologue will continue to be iterated on throughout development, and will act as a test-bed for new user-experiences as they're added.

By the time players complete the Prologue, they should have a good idea what the 'feel' of the game is, but will still be lacking an understanding of how the multiplayer elements of the game will work, as well as the features of the dynamic story engine. To really understand those requires jumping into the second Pre-Alpha Experience.

ElyriaMUD

The second Pre-Alpha experience is ElyriaMUD. When we first talked about ElyriaMUD about nine months ago we initially described it as a traditional text-based MUD. However, in December of 2016 I took a trip over to London to visit with Improbable. While there, Herman Narula, the CEO of Improbable and I sat down and had a conversation about the scope of the Pre-Alpha Experiences. He made a compelling argument about the accessibility of a text-based RPG and how likely we were to get the player-engagement we wanted.

At the same time, I realized that providing ElyriaMUD as a 2D, sprite-based game would allow us to further test the positional queries of our game. Things like 'If I'm within X of this building, provide Y passive bonus.' The result is that we've transitioned away from perceiving ElyriaMUD as a text-only RPG, and instead intend for it to be a richer, more accessible 2D Graphical MUD. Instead of using a traditional MUD client, we will instead build a simple 2D game client - likely using Unity.

Ok. So where Prologue is a single-player RPG experience, mostly focused on the UI, UX, and 'feel' of the game, ElyriaMUD is the exact opposite. As a multi-player game ElyriaMUD will focus first and foremost on the multi-player mechanics of the game. Things like:

  • Communication
  • Contracts (Explicit)
  • Crime & Punishment
  • Economy
  • Families
  • Identities
  • Organizations
  • Parties / Grouping
  • Reputation / Fame

In addition, where Prologue is designed to take place over a couple in-game days, ElyriaMUD is intended to span anywhere from 30 to 50 in-game years. This allows us to incorporate other mechanics which aren't available in the Prologue. Things such as:

  • Achievements
  • Artificial Intelligence (NPCs)
  • Ecology
  • Dynamic Environments
  • Character Lifecycle
  • Souls
  • Story-Engine

And, of course, like with the Prologue, ElyriaMUD will have cameo features as well, such as survival mechanics, combat, crafting, etc. These are there as necessary elements to test the other intended features of the game, but aren't there to validate those specific mechanics. In many cases, such as combat, they exist in ElyriaMUD as a shadow or completely disassociated version of the final system. I.e. Don't expect combat in ElyriaMUD to work like it does in Prologue / CoE. Likewise, while there will be crafting in ElyriaMUD, it's more to validate the overall system of gathering resources, converting them into crafting materials, crafting components, and then constructing them into objects. The user experience of crafting will not be the same as Prologue / CoE.

In terms of game-play, where the Prologue has a narrative story intended to expose players to The Awakening, ElyriaMUD will leverage the Soulborn Engine to expose characters to a dynamic, evolving story-line in which they have control of the narrative.

And like Prologue, not all feature areas and features will be available as initial release. Over time we'll continue to integrate new features and functionality into the Graphical MUD.

Finally, ElyriaMUD takes place before the events of the Prologue in the overall history of Elyria.

Kingdoms of Elyria

The final Pre-Alpha Experience we're working on is Kingdoms of Elyria. This is, in some ways, the lightest in terms of its features and mechanics but, in many ways, has been (and remains) the most difficult to design.

In Chronicles of Elyria, as players shift in social status from adventurer to aristocracy to nobility, their play experience changes, quite necessarily. Where once they focused on their individual deeds - whether that be exploration or crafting - their focus now begins to shift to something larger than themselves.

As a member of the Aristocracy - Mayors & Barons, the focus of the game grows to include concern for the welfare and development of their settlement. This is everything from ensuring that it has the necessary resources, to making strategic decisions about the benefits to inhabitants. In this way, it plays a lot more like a settlement simulation (SimSettlement?).

Likewise, as someone moves from Aristocracy to Nobility their scope continues to increase. Counts must now be concerned about everything that goes on within the boundaries of their county. That includes resource management, roads & infrastructure, trade between neighboring counties, and the shared wealth of the individual settlements.

Dukes must also care about the safety and security of each of the counties within their duchy, and must enforce the law to protect its inhabitants from thieves, murderers, and other miscreants.

Finally, Kings and Queens must determine the overall trajectory and win-condition for the Kingdom.

In all cases, each tier of aristocracy and nobility are responsible for setting laws and tax rates within their domains and settlements so they have enough resources to complete their objectives. As you can see, as you move up the hierarchy of Nobility the game plays more and more like a Kingdom Management game.

Taking all of the above into consideration, Kingdom of Elyria focuses on the following mechanics:

  • Government
  • Laws (Implicit Contracts)
  • Research & Technology
  • Settlement Building
  • Reputation / Fame
  • Economy

It should be noted that while there will again be cameo features in KoE, they're significantly fewer in number. Instead, there's shared features with ElyriaMUD which are intentionally added. This is because the two games, while potentially different game clients, are linked. Reputation & fame, government conflicts, broken laws, and the changing economy are all shared between the two games.

But what is the actual play experience of KoE? We're still iterating on it. At the moment, the plan is for KoE to be a top-down, 2D graphical overlay game - likely built with Unity, much like a traditional Kingdom Management game. From this birds-eye view, the players will be able to open up the UI to change laws, alter manufacturing goals, set new tax rates, and specify technology to research.

In the event that someone was to obtain a casus belli, this perspective allows someone to direct markers to indicate where the armies should mobilize. It even allows the players to send couriers to mobilized military to change their orders.

Direct markers? Send couriers? Why not just issue the commands to the mobilized military directly? When I first mentioned Kingdoms of Elyria back in June I said 'Kingdoms of Elyria is intended for the nobility and aristocracy. But what about the gentry or other players...' After which I proceeded to talk about ElyriaMUD. What might not have been obvious is that these are not just sort-of linked, but intimately linked.

When a Count changes the tax rates on their map in KoE, it changes the tax rates of the people who call the same settlement home - in ElyriaMUD. When a Duke issues commands in KoE to a mobilize a military unit on their map, it's a request to the members of their duchy to mobilize at that location - in ElyriaMUD! And when a Duke sends a courier to a staged army on a nearby border telling them to cross over and attack the neighboring duchy - it's a request to those people stationed at that encampment to engage. A King, Duke, Count, or Aristocrat's success in Kingdoms of Elyria is based largely on the support of their followers in ElyriaMUD.

Pre-Alpha Persistence

One of the advertised goals of our Pre-Alpha experiences is to allow players to alter the history of their world. But to do this, the actions of ElyriaMUD and KoE must be persistent. This naturally raises questions about what can and cannot be done in KoE and ElyriaMUD. So let me take a moment to talk briefly about that.

First, let me dispel with peoples' concerns right away. Kingdoms of Elyria and ElyriaMUD are prequels to Chronicles of Elyria. When you purchased a title from our online store or Kickstarter you were purchasing your opportunity to be a King, Duke, Count, or Aristocrat at launch of Chronicles of Elyria. This means that you cannot / will not lose your titles either through playing or not playing KoE or ElyriaMUD. These are entirely optional play experiences.

That said, what you didn't buy during Kickstarter or through our online store was a domain of a specific size. As previously advertised, counties, duchies, and kingdoms come in all shapes and sizes. Nobody is guaranteed the largest (or the smallest) of the domains.

Throughout Kingdoms of Elyria, the actions of the players will dictate the previous 30-50 years of history of the Kingdoms. This includes the positions of the borders. It is possible, through KoE, to grow & shrink the size of your domain. We recognize that not all players like the idea of directly engaging with enemy player-kingdoms and would be much more comfortable playing against NPCs. We also recognized that with 100% of the kingdoms, duchies, and counties in a region occupied by players, your only option would be direct PvP with other players. So we've gone ahead and mitigated this.

Domain Counts Change

When we first announced our intentions to allow people to purchase titles and to govern lands we were basing it on a system of a random distribution. That is, we were planning to have 3-5 kingdoms per continent, 6-10 duchies per kingdom, and as many as 50 counties per duchy.

We did this with the idea that players would quietly sit in the forums for the next year and talk with anxious excitement about the game until Settlement / Domain selection. At that point, they'd go ahead and form alliances, enemies, etc. In short, we expected the Dance of Dynasties to begin with Settlement / Domain selection. We were wrong.

People started dancing the Dance immediately and, within a short period, there were well-established Kingdoms and Duchies and a slew of Counties that had already pledged their allegiance to one Duke or another.

That was great, but it did cause a problem. With random distribution of numbers there were no guarantees that the number of domains in a region would accommodate the number of players that had pledged to a liege lord. For example, early on Adam Burrfoot came to me as said 'I've got 8-10 dukes pledged to me, how many duchies will my kingdom have? I need to know so I can make sure I've got room for everyone.'

I couldn't answer him. All I could say was 'We'll find out during settlement / domain selection.' But the longer I thought about it, the more I realized that it was counter-productive to the community building the players were doing and that we were encouraging. I needed to find a way to solve this.

After spending several months thinking about it, last month during the Exclusive Q & A with the high-level backers I proposed my solution in order to get feedback. The proposed solution was to change from a random distribution across servers to a fixed number of domains per region.

Once I had decided to lock in the numbers of Kingdoms, Duchies, and Counties per server it was just a matter of knowing how many. My first response was just to take the averages of the ranges we'd previously defined. That would have resulted in about 4 kingdoms per continent, 8 duchies per kingdom, and around 36 counties per duchy. But then I looked at the store purchases and realized that there were far fewer counties being purchased than I expected, which would leave a lot of empty, unowned land.

At the same time, I realized there were more kingdoms being purchased than expected and worse - people buying two kingdoms and duchies! So this suggested I should move up to the maximum number of kingdoms & duchies and the minimum number of counties, which would have resulted in 5 kingdoms per continent, 10 duchies per kingdom, and around 16 counties per duchy.

This was a reasonable approach, but then I remembered Kingdoms of Elyria. It occurred to me that if I increased the number of Kingdoms, Duchies, and Counties a bit it would result in slightly smaller starting sizes, but would give players the opportunity to attack and engage with their NPC neighbors. This would allow them to once again grow their domains back to their original - and perhaps larger size. This seemed like a win-win to me. The players got more control of their final domain sizes, and players who didn't want to participate in KoE would likely hold onto more of their domains due to buffer zones.

As I said, I presented these ideas during the January Q&A with the high-level backers and got mostly - aside from the Oceanus server - positive feedback.

So moving forward, the domain sizes are fixed per server and have the following numbers:

  • 6 Kingdoms per Starting Continent
  • 12 Duchies per Kingdom
  • 24 Counties per Duchy

This gives everyone room to breathe and grow during KoE, and lets you be the masters of your fate. Keep in mind again, it's impossible to lose your domain, but it is possible for it shrink or grow - potentially even consuming neighboring NPC domains entirely!

But what about ME?!

I know, I know. It'll be ok. For those of you out there who do not currently have titles, I don't want you to feel left out. Kingdoms of Elyria & ElyriaMUD are exciting opportunities for player engagement, collaboration, teamwork, and community growth.

Thus, we'll be offering Store Credit (and Influence) for certain activities and participation in KoE and ElyriaMUD. This means it's theoretically possible for someone to gain enough credit to purchase a title they didn't previously own. We don't expect this to be a hugely common occurrence, but it is possible for new Mayors / Barons to emerge from KoE. It's extremely unlikely, anyone could earn enough Influence / Store Credit from KoE to become a new Count.

Who can play the different pre-alpha experiences?

As you might guess from the name, the Pre-Alpha Experiences are just that, pre-alpha. As a result, they're very early iterations on many of the mechanics. We'll be rolling ElyriaMUD, Prologue, and KoE out first to the Alpha 1 backers, then Alpha 2, then Beta, then Beta 2, and finally to those people who've purchased only the basic game.

Note that events in ElyriaMUD and KoE only become official once it's rolled out to all paid players. The earlier waves/releases are for testing and stabilization.

Minimizing development overhead

We've spent a large part of this DJ talking about the different Pre-Alpha experiences, as well as the benefits of the Pre-Alpha experiences. But what about the costs? Surely there's a ton of work involved in the development of these extra games? Wouldn't we be insane to try and do three games in addition to Chronicles of Elyria?

If we were attempting to create three additional games we would be. But we're not. It's important to note that, aside from the UI and the inexpensive 2D graphics we're adding for KoE and ElyriaMUD, all the mechanics and functionality for these three Pre-Alpha experiences are already required for the complete version of Chronicles of Elyria. All we're doing is detaching the features from the final game in a way that allows us the benefits listed above. But how?

Interface-Driven Development. Consider a microwave oven plugged into a wall socket. A microwave oven is a fairly complex piece of equipment with microwave emitters, electronics, mechanical components, etc. At the same time, the system of infrastructure on the other side of the wall socket is equally complex. You've got a full house of wiring and grounds, local substations, and complex power stations.

So you've got two sides of a complex system that depends on one another to provide value, but neither of them really care what's on the other side of the wall socket. In theory, you could plug a high-powered battery into the wall behind the wall socket. So long as there's an AC adapter on it, the microwave oven won't care you're missing the wiring, substation, or generator. It needs power, it's getting power, that's all it cares about.

Likewise, while you could plug a microwave to the wall socket, you could just as easily plug in a lamp, game console, or a cell phone charger. Either way it completes the circuit and draws power from the back-end.

The key point here is that the wall outlet creates an interface between the two complex systems.

An MMO is much the same. On one end of a network you've got a client and on the other you've got a complete back-end server. Both require the other to function properly, but neither really care - if done correctly - what lies on the other end.

While we are developing our Prologue as an offline demo, we're doing so with the knowledge of our future plans. So rather than developing the offline demo to, for example, pull the list of characters you've created directly from disk, it does so through an implemented interface. This interface, in the case of the Prologue, hides a system behind it which pulls the character list from local storage, but the Prologue doesn't know that. This means that by replacing that hidden component which pulls data from disk with another component that pulls data from the cloud, the client continues to function the same.

Similarly, while we're writing our back-end server as an engine on top of SpatialOS, our engine uses a well-defined protocol for receiving messages. So long as the messages come in the correct protocol, it doesn't care what kind of client is sending them. It could be the Chronicles of Elyria game client... or it could be a 2D Graphical MUD client. The presence of a network layer creates a sort of 'wall socket' for us that allows us to make forward progress without caring about what's on the other end.

When will the pre-alpha experiences be available?

The final question I want to address is when will the Pre-Alpha experiences be available. We don't know yet. We continue to make progress on all three of them simultaneously and, once we've reached a critical turning point in their development, will have a more solid idea of when they'll be available.

What I can say is that our order of development hasn't changed. Right now we're primarily focused on the implementation of the Prologue and ElyriaMUD, however we're also focusing heavily on World Generation and the web for the purpose of Settlement Selection.

Our next major milestone is Settlement Selection and after that, the Prologue, ElyriaMUD, and KoE are likely just a few months away.

I know we've been lax keeping the site updated, but it's so easy to do everything on Discord. However, it can be difficult to track information if chat gets rapid, which does happen! Anyways, here is a little tidbit to get the gears going and we will endeavor to get more content on the site!

The Sunfire Tigress Chronicles: New Town, Same Place

Kridina dropped lightly off the small boat to land easily on the dock. Without thought, her nose was already raised just a bit to test the air. For some reason, it always surprised her how clean these sea-side fishing towns smelled. Some would blame her feline heritage and a love for fish, but she actually despised the stuff. Casually, she slung her bag over her right shoulder and made her way across the creaking boards of the pier.

The occasional murmur or stare as she passed by was something she took in stride these days. She had stopped worrying months ago at the reactions of others. Sure, her people we not unheard of, just none had seen golden stripes in so long some doubted they had even existed.Their curiosity was no match for hers, however. Her first memories came into being just over a year ago. Everything before was a blank. And not just a blank slate. There was a void within her so full of emptiness it was nearly painful. In the beginning it felt endless and unbearable. These days it was merely an ache. Something she just lived with.

As the slosh of water against boat-sides began to be overtaken by the squawks of goods-men and townspeople, Kridina carefully made her way through the throng on the wide sand-packed street leading from the piers. The day was already well in hand, the sun quickly running towards the first true heat of the day. Her tail tucked close, people had a tendency to smack into it without looking, she turned left at the fork towards what appeared to be an area suited for lodges and some food.

Good food, she surmised as her eyes darted quickly about and her nostrils flared with appreciation. Just as every other town she had come across since she was first awoken, this one was neat, clean, and kept in excellent repairs. This experience conflicted with the scrolls and books she had come across in the scattered libraries during her travels. It seemed most towns described in stories were dirty, full of wretched souls, and with smells known to bring tears to your eyes. And not tears of joy. It was a mystery that nagged at the golden striped Kridina, along with wondering where she came from and what her purpose was. She did not even know what kept her moving. All she had was the name provided to her, and she had no security in that. She did not remember that name, or any name for that matter.

Tossing such thoughts to the side, the grim looking tigress slid through the swinging doors into the welcome coolness of the tavern. The sign had declared it The Tigress’ Den and she had been unable to withstand that call. An amused smile flitted across her face, causing the golden stripes of her body to glimmer for the barest moment. So quickly did both the smile and glow fade, not a single patron that might have actually caught either would have thought it more than the lingering brightness of the shifting sun of a swiftly closing door. Not even the tigress herself would have believed it.

Except, one did notice.

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The pace is picking up for COE. You will begin to see more organization over the next week or so.
Artroz here. I'm playing a 105 Paladin on FV these days (Zannin). Feel free to stop by anytime!
Most are not playing EQ, though some are. Got a lot waiting on COE and we play various other games while we wait. Feel free to join the Discord to reconnect and see who is doing what.
I has same question as Cinnabar :)
Anyone coming back for agnarr tlp?
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