Monday, 27 June 2016

Update 34: Kingdoms, Chronicles, and ElyriaMUD

Kickstarter Phase Completed

In the latest update (dated 27th June 2016), Caspian confirmed transfer of funds from Kickstarter which enables Soulbound Studio to get the process of hiring additional staff under way.

Text Based Games (!)

We learned about a new offline single player pre-alpha 'experience' designed to test some of the client features. It will be made available to Alpha 1 backers and high influencers only and also serves as an introduction to the world and the story. The events in 'Prologue: The Awakening' are described as 'quite significant' and take place approximately five Elyrian years before the start of Exposition. At some point before Exposition, Soulbound will make the Prologue available for all backers to play.

Some time after v3.0 of the website, Soulbound intend to release a web-based portal that will allow players to play the Dance of Dynasties.
While we haven't set the full feature set yet, what we do know is it'll enable players to form and change alliances, declare wars, fight for shared resources, and even invest in research.
If that's not enough, an ElyriaMUD is on the cards that will allow the players to get involved with the roleplaying aspects of the game in a text based environment. Caspian assures us that this won't affect the release date of the game since the systems these tie into are being developed anyway.

Character Creation

Work has been continuing on improving the character creation tool and we have a couple of screenshots of work done so far.

It's changing from the original clunky tool with dropdown menu's and checkboxes to a wizard orientated system.

This is an early rendering of the new system and is still under initial development so it is, obviously, very much subject to change.

Character Art

We're treated to some more character art, this time showing us the meshes they've designed for some of the more complicated pieces of clothing. The CoE clothing system is layered with some pieces being able to be worn under others, that presents potential clipping problems and issues having to work out what should be visible or not.

In this early render, we can see how the system brings an enormous amount of flexibility into the clothing system.

Sleeve lengths can be different on each side of the character, peices of clothing can be completely hidden by outer clothing or partially visible depending on the outer piece.

In the 'production' stage, each item is made up of sections (i.e. sleeves, etc.) and each section can be individually cut and dyed or even made of completely different materials. This opens up a lot of possibilities, not only for protective clothing, but also for more decorative items.

We don't yet know exactly how mech flexibility players will have in designing their own clothing, presumably whatever is designed will have to fit within Soulbound's meshes but it looks as if there are exciting times ahead for budding tailors and role players.

Conclusion

Heres the closing quote from the update (read the entire document here).
The main takeaway from this update is that development is steadily moving forward. Systems that will be part of the Prologue but were previously put together as proofs of concept or “rope bridges” are now being polished and cleaned up in preparation for the offline demo.
Likewise, we continue to iterate to bring players the best, most immersive experience possible. And finally, pre-Alpha (alpha 1) will not be the first opportunity players have to experience or impact Elyria. With Kingdoms of Elyria and ElyriaMUD, Alpha 2+ backers and then perhaps more will have an opportunity to write the history of Elyria almost 100 years before, and leading up to, the beginning of the official game.
That’s all for this week. Also, as next week is the 4th of July weekend we’ll be taking the week off from updates. Look for our next Update the weekend of July 9th and 10th.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Project Trinity: Quality, Cost, Time... (and other interesting nuggets)

Funding

In the latest update, Caspian talks about some issues getting their web store running the way they want and advises of a new release date for the store of 5th July. He also issued a reminder that the store will run with the same packages that were on kickstarter from 5th July to 5th August.

Kickstarter haven't passed on the funds yet so Soulbound are unable to start hiring. They have, however, finished the collection of funds from backers and are expected to initiate the transfer of funds next week.

Religion

We learned that there are five religions in Elyria each of which have their own beliefs about the cosmology of the world. The Qindred are the first, and the Virtori are the second. The other three yet remain a bit of a secret. What we learn about the religions is 'in character', so it's basically what you'd expect followers to believe. Which religion is correct, if any, won't be revealed for quite some time.

Background Work

There's been a lot of background work going on getting their existing data ready for the new systems they'll be using. Lots of work on animations and Eddie Smith continues to work his way through the Qindred mythology in order to provide visualizations of the Qin.

CoE Lore

Here's some Lore taken directly from the document:
According to the Qindred, after Angelica granted sentience to Luna, the two of them were inseparable. Where Angelica went, so Luna followed, ever beside her. But as the eons passed by Angelica's needs began to change. Where once she needed a companion, now she needed something else, something more. She no longer wanted just a sister, she wanted a lover.

Rather than turning to her sister, as Luna perhaps would have preferred, Angelica once again reached out with her magic, creating a consort for herself from the very light that created the world. She named him Ao, and he became the Qin of Life.

Eventually, Angelica and Ao would have two children, twins named Terra and Oceanus. In time, the twins would set off to populate the world with land and seas.

Click here to read the original document on Kickstarter.

Friday, 17 June 2016

What we Know so far About Character Names

There are limitations on surnames, beyond the obvious ones like inappropriate words. What we know so far is summarised here:
  1. There can be a (single) space in the surname
  2. There can be a hyphen
  3. There can be one uppercase letter aside from the first letter of each word
Soulbound are planning to add some roleplay elements to the website which will allow people to start 'playing' their ingame characters ancestor(s) prior to launch. So, if you pledged at a level that allows you to reserve your surname, better get your thinking cap on :)

A direct quote from Caspian:
As for cultures, there are several, and Elyria isn't Earth. Don't expect there to always be a 1:1 correlation. If there's a surname you'd like to use, it's best to submit it in the survey or on the website at the appropriate time so we can start a conversation about it.

The thread where Caspian made this comment.


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Post-Kickstarter Survey Information

Here's an update pulled straight from the CoE site (no apology for that, it's important news!):

Just wanted to provide a bit of a mid-week update on our progress toward the post-Kickstarter survey.
First, as I think we've mentioned elsewhere, here's the timeline:
  • June 3rd Kickstarter ends successfully
  • June 10th Kickstarter closes payment adjustment period
  • June 17th Kickstarter funding period complete - no more refunds allowed
  • June 20th-30th Kickstarter funds should arrive in our bank account
We're now waiting on 3 things before sending out the survey:
  • June 17th funding period completes
  • Integration of Kickstarter accounts into CoE accounts where a shared email address exists
  • Website rewards store launched
As you can see, we're approaching the post-Kickstarter survey a bit differently than many projects. We want the situation to be as seamless as possible, so we're going to first integrate any accounts where the same address is used on both Kickstarter and your CoE account. [1]
From there you'll have a few things still to do - answer other questions (custom surname, region preference for server, etc.) and choose any add-ons from the web store with your pledge credits. This would typically be handled by a survey from Kickstarter or BackerKit, but we're going to do it with a straight email and choices on your CoE account.
The website rewards store is getting much closer to completion. The team is hard at work on styles, back end support, and payment processing.
So, all of this will come together in the next week, providing you with the ability to both integrate your Kickstarter pledge with your CoE account, along with the ability to purchase a reward tier if you were waiting for PayPal or other payment options.
We'll email everyone once the store is launched on our site. Thanks for your patience as we dot our t's and cross our i's...err, let's just say it has been a long few days at the SBS offices.



[1] This is causing some concern for people who use different email accounts. I'd bet they'll have a way to change the email address when they send our their survey but if you're concerned about this, it might be worth contacting Soulbound Studios to clarify the situation. Questions have been asked on the support site, we're keeping an eye out for the answer.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Phydra's Great Youtube Video - Ramble: COE, SOTA, MMOs, and PvP/PvE!

Here's a great video talking about CoE, PvP/{PvE, etc. by Phydra, of the CoE community, in which Phydra goes on a ramble about what she sees in Chronicles of Elyria and why it has taken the #1 spot away from Shroud of the Avatar.... and.... other.... things.

Love those ear-rings, btw!


Saturday, 11 June 2016

Update 32 now on Kickstarter: Look both ways before you cross...

A really long and interesting update on Kickstarter.
... before we dive into the details, I wanted to once again thank the entire community for supporting us. A week ago today, we made history. Out of the 301,000 projects funded on Kickstarter, we are the 115th highest backed project to date. Out of the 9,180 successfully funded video games on Kickstarter, we are the 24th highest funded.
 And here's a quote regarding expectations:
Unfortunately, as our outreach team is still relatively small compared to the scope of our project, moving forward we will virtually always have to prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to keeping the community updated.

With that in mind, we'll be transitioning from the roughly daily Kickstarter updates we had during the Kickstarter campaign to roughly weekly updates throughout the remainder of the project. In addition, I know there were questions about the best way to stay connected to our progress so I wanted to list some of the most important sources here in order of regularity, from least to most.
  • Newsletters: Monthly  
  • Media: Every few weeks
  • Kickstarter Updates/Design Journals: Weekly
  • WIPs/Comments/Thoughts: Every couple days
  • Forum Questions: Daily if possible
  • Chat: Daily if possible

Read the rest on Kickstarter.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Lack of Updates Following Successful Kickstarter

I've noticed a few people showing signs of nervousness over the sudden lack of updates following the successful Kickstarter campaign. It would be nice to be a fly on the wall at Soulbound's HQ but, lacking an in-house spy, we have to make a couple of assumptions.
  1. The flurry of updates during Kickstarter were a project management decision taken to keep the momentum up in order to ensure enough pledges to meet the target.
  2. Soulbound currently don't know exactly how much they'll make from the Kickstarter because all the pledges won't have been collected. Until KS hand over the funds, the studio is guessing.
If (1) is true, then it's probably a reasonable assumption that they'll have a few more key updates up their sleeves that they're holding on to until they can get their 'alternative' payment/pledge system in place. As of 9th June (when I'm writing this post), Soulbound Studio are waiting for signoff of their financial system by lawyers, etc. before they can bring it online.

As far as (2) goes, we know that Kickstarter can take anything from one to three weeks to transfer funds and pledger details - this depends on how quickly they can collect the pledges. Since Soulbound Studio wants to link the pledges with the players accounts, there's not a huge amount they can do until they get that information. We're currently less than one week from the end of a successfull Kickstarter, it's far to early to be getting worried.

While it's nice to get lots of updates and constant interaction with the community, I think we have to realise that all the time they're spending talking to us, they're not working on the game. At present, since they don't even know exactly how much money they'll get from Kickstarter and their followup campaign, it's unreasonable to expect them to be hiring and making big decisions that lead to exciting updates. My guess is that they'll just be quietly getting on with their respective tasks while waiting to see how much they end up with.

If you look at comments made from other Kickstarter campaigns, it's normal for developer updates to drop off markedly after the fund collection phase. That's when the developers knuckle down and resume work after all the KS excitement. It's also natural for the fans to get withdrawal symptoms but we do, at least, have a pretty good community active on the CoE forums and we can keep ourselves amused while the devs get on with their work.


If you're watching out for updates, a few key places you can do this are listed below. Others include the CoE forums and the various fansites and blogs, of course.
CoE Reddit
CoE Discord Channel (details in the thread)
IRC Chat (gives details of how to join the channel)

Caeoltoiri has created a stickied and locked thread on the official forum as a place to post updates. That's a good one to keep an eye on. Soubound have indicated that they are moving from a daily update (during the kickstarter campaign) to a weekly update with the first one due on the kickstarter site on 10th June.


In summary:

Chronicles of Elyria #5: Skills For Skills! (Youtube video posted by Frithgar)

Here's a great little video from Frithgar. It was published back in November 2015 but is well presented, still very relevant and has some really useful information. Great both as a refresher and as something to keep your spirits up while waiting for the devs to build the game!

Published on 12 Nov 2015
In this episode I'm taking a look at how the skills in Elyria require actual player skills to develop. The mad queen makes a brief visit and there is even talk of game fights and guitars!


Monday, 6 June 2016

Limited Resources in Chronicles of Elyria

Interestingly, Chronicles of Elyria is going to be an unusual MMO in that resources are limited; once they're gone, they're gone. This applies to pretty much everything that is collectible, even hunted animals.

What this means in practice, is that players will have to carefully manage the resources around them. Hunt the local wildlife too heavily and there's a risk of wiping it out leaving people hungry. Work the nearby mine to the last fragment of ore and the town depending on it may have to move. This is in marked contrast to other MMO's where animals magically pop back into the world a few seconds after defeat and ore nodes reappear in the same spot over and over.

Utlising SpacialOS, not only do the player's characters breed, age and die but so do the computer controlled characters around them, including the animals they hunt and the plants and trees they rely on for crops and wood for building, crafting and cooking.

The possibility of running out of resources in an area creates an interesting quandry for the players. Do they go cap in hand to their resource rich neighbour and try to strike a deal or do they go in mob handed and try to take what they want, risking war? It's going to be really interesting seeing how all of this plays out.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Post Kickstarter Options

Post Kickstarter, as the elation subsides, we remind ourselves that there's a long way to go before Chronicles of Elyria becomes a reality. The community has done it's bit, for now, and secured the funding requested by the studio to alow the game to be worked on for the foreseeable future.

The funding stage is not over yet though. If you missed the Kickstarter or were not able to use a payment method acceptable to that site but would still like to get involved in securing funding for this new MMO, you'll get a chance very soon. Soulbound Studios are working on a 'shop' on their site which will allow people to buy into the game with the same tiers that existed on Kickstarter (minus the earlybird tiers) for a period of 30 days. After that, the tiers will be changed.

We don't yet have a date for the opening of this alternative payment option. It appears that most of the work has been done but Soulbound are awaiting sign off by the legal team before they can bring it online. Watch this space...

Friday, 3 June 2016

Kickstarter Completed - Chronicles of Elyria Successfully Funded

On a day that could prove to be the turning point for the MMORPG industry, startup indie group Soulbound Studios, successfully completed another major step in getting their new MMO Chronicles of Elyria off the drawing board and into the world's living rooms.

The Kickstarter Campaign, with a relatively modest $900,000 goal completed successfully with well over 10,000 backers and, as a result, we're one step closer to realising our dream MMO.

Hopefully other studios will take notice of what Soulbound Studios are doing and realise there are people out here who want this sort of game and are willing to dig into their pockets to support the developers. This can only be a good thing for MMO development in the future.

A toast to a visionary, Jeromy Walsh and his band of merry developers, without whom we'd all still be floundering in a sea of banality...


Second Stretch Goal Reached

When I crawled out of bed this morning, the first thing I did was turn my PC on to see how the Chronicles of Elyria Kickstarter was doing. I found that we'd passed the amount required for the second stretch goal. That means we get Wards of the State at launch...more importantly for CoE though, it means an additional programmer on the team. This is excellent news.

If you want to support CoE via the kickstarter, time's growing short. The campaign ends in about 12 hours (from the time of this post) but Soulbound Studios have confirmed they're working on a 'shop' on their site that will allow people to continue to contribute to the project with the same rewards as the Kickstarter for an additional 30 days, using different payment methods. After that period the rewards will change. Please note, we don't have a start date for the 'additional payments system', it's not guaranteed to start immediately after the end of Kickstarter.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

World Interaction Technical Preview

Here's an interesting (pre-alpha) video showing a thief at work in Chronicles of Elyria.


SpacialOS Answers the Fundamental Question...

Shamelessly copied from CoE's Kickstarter page...
This partnership [with Improbable] answers the fundamental question, "How are you going to build a world this large, with a hundred thousands players, and all these never-before-seen features?!" The answer is SpacialOS.
SpatialOS will act as the fabric that our game is built on. It's the server technology that will allow us to support millions of entities in the world. Built first and foremost as a scalable, distributed operating system for games, SpatialOS means we don't have to spend time developing the things that generally take the most time when building a new MMO.
We don't have to worry about networking on the server, load balancing all the entities in the world, replication of entities across multiple server nodes, cross-process communication, collision detection of millions of entities, etc. In short, we don't have to worry about developing any of the technology that makes an MMO, an MMO.
Instead, we get to focus all of our resources on developing the game mechanics that makes Chronicles of Elyria truly unique.


That actually helps to answer one of the main questions people have been asking on various forums about Soulbound Studios: How can they build an MMO in such a short time and with such a small budget?
Well, there's the answer...by not having to reinvent the wheel.

If you're interested in the techie stufff, take a look at Improbable's Youtube Channel.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Soulbound Studios and Improbable Announce Partnership

Soulbound Studios and tech start-up Improbable have announced a partnership agreement to utilise SpacialOS for Chronicles of Elyria. It uses a distributed operating system where thousands of servers in the cloud enable simulations to run concurrently, enabling up to a hundred thousand players to exist on just one game world, one of the largest in gaming today.
"Instead of using the time and resources normally allocated for creating core server features, Soulbound Studios, relying on SpatialOS, can instead focus on bringing players the innovative gameplay mechanics that won Chronicles of Elyria the “Best Indie MMO” Award from MMO Games when it debuted at PAX East. Using SpatialOS to underpin the game’s engine will allow many more players to interact in a persistent, developing world where choices can have lasting consequences."
SpatialOS is an operating system that enables developers to create worlds that continue to simulate entities such animals and characters (player and npc) even when players are physically logged off. It also enables the creation of much larger worlds than is normally possible thanks to its method of distributing the processing power across multiple servers via the cloud.

Here's a quote from Soulbound Studios:
"People have been asking us how we plan to get a hundred thousand players spread across the largest geographic area in a video game to date - this is it," said Soulbound CEO Jeromy Walsh. "With the help of SpatialOS, we can do it faster than most people think possible, and with a smaller team. We've been talking with the folks at Improbable for nearly six months now, evaluating the platform, speaking with their CEO and team, and experiencing first-hand how committed Improbable are to helping make Chronicles of Elyria a success.”
More details here.



About Improbable

Headquartered in London, Improbable is a technology company dedicated to solving the toughest problems in computation and in reality, by allowing developers to build and understand complex worlds and simulations. The Company’s proprietary platform SpatialOS is now available for development teams of all sizes to sign up. Founded in 2012, Improbable received $20m in Series A funding from Andreessen Horowitz in March 2015.

About Soulbound Studios

Founded in 2015 by industry veterans Jeromy Walsh (Microsoft, Pandemic Studios, Liquid Entertainment) and Eddie Smith (Microsoft, DeNA, Sony Online Entertainment, Bungie), Soulbound Studios is a growing team of talented game developers that have banded together to create something truly inspiring. By challenging what it means to be fun, re-imagining what is possible, and re-defining "immersive", Soulbound Studios aims to create games unlike anything ever seen before. Chronicles of Elyria, Soulbound Studios’ first game, is scheduled for release in late 2017.