Earlier today, we asked the Chronicles of Elyria team for a statement regarding a tip we’d received about layoffs and salary cutbacks at Soulbound, and presumably in response, the studio has published a fresh letter to the community addressing some of the rumors. Turns out they’re true, and the studio has indeed suffered a round of layoffs.
Jeromy “Caspian” Walsh explains that over the course of the last year, his team had “nearly doubled” in size, but that size was unsustainable, as the company was hoping to have secured a publisher or additional investment but hasn’t yet done so, necessitating the staff reduction.
“As a result of our change in focus, we adjusted our resources accordingly so as to be sustainable solely through sales from our online store,” he says. “Unfortunately this meant parting ways with a few of our team members. This was painful for all of us as we had developed a close bond with everyone in the studio, but it was a necessary action to move forward at the velocity and cost we need to succeed.”
A year ago, Chronicles of Elyria had crossed $2 million in fundraising. Today, that amount sits at over $3.4 million. Still, some players worry that the game might not have enough in its coffers to get the big release that it should, especially without the backing of a publisher.
While Soulbound Studios was touting its independence from publishers back in September, the studio’s CEO allegedly is trying to shop the game around and is finding difficulty in selling the sandbox’s concept. “During last nights multi-hour impromptu Q&A, [Jeromy Walsh] expressed some frustration in his attempts to market Chronicles of Elyria to potential publishers,” one forum poster reported (the Q&A chat room is a locked voice chat). “He described publishers that refused to read his eight-page comparison of COE to other MMOs, publishers that wanted loot crates and micro-transactions, and publishers simply not understanding the appeal COE has for so many.”
What is Chronicles of Elyria? We first learned about the game and its goal to redefine the MMORPG genre back in 2015. Since then, CoE has been developing steadily, especially after the huge influx of capital gained through Kickstarter and then on-site crowdfunding. Folks could follow the progress through numerous dev blogs, videos, and even the chance to test bits of gameplay at various PAXs. Some bits of that development, however, have raised questions; prospective players have voiced concerns about the pay-to-win and gankbox stigmas, the complex tribe system, and the admittedly broad scope of the game.
I sat down with Executive Producer Vye Alexander and CEO/Creative Director Jeromy Walsh at PAX West to discuss these issues and more.
One of the fun things we implemented on the site this year is a database of quotes from developers (among other entries) that are relevant to the MMORPG industry. In the spirit of the end-of-the-year posts that we’ve begun rolling out, today’s Massively Overthinking is a simple but fun one: I asked our writers to submit a favorite or memorable MMO developer quote from 2016 and explain why it matters. When we’re done, we invite you to do the same in the comments! (And yes, the best ones will be chucked into that widget for posterity!)
Chronicles of Elyria has a long blog post out today, and while this one is unlikely to generate a flurry of confusion like the last edition, it does dive into the potentially controversial influence point system. Future players generate influence points via “purchasing things in [the] store, positive contributions in [the] forums, tracking down bugs,” and so on. Jeromy “Caspian” Walsh explains how a segment of those points are calculated as “spendable IP” that can be used by players to purchase things to “seed the world”:
“We use the IP store as a way to seed the world with the settlements, guilds, schools, merchants, and crafters of the world. As a result, when the IP store opens, what you’ll find are things that allow us to fulfill those objectives. You’ll find things like parcels of land, starter packs for different roles, animals for breeding, mounts for riding, building patterns for settlements, resources for developing your skills, and even patterns and techniques so you can become a skilled artisan who others will look to when they want to advance themselves.”
Walsh also discusses the launch of the store, the store’s fraud protection, the layaway system, package gifting, the time cost of new “design experience” items, new hires, and the otter bear — don’t mix those last two up. And don’t forget the recap of last week’s panoramic living world trailer. “We’re still a long way out from the release of the game, but the video does show that we’re making progress and the world is gradually coming to life,” Walsh writes.
Yesterday evening, following the news that indie sandbox Chronicles of Elyria hoped to raise an extra $3 million in addition to its Kickstarter funding, we reached out to Soulbound Studios for clarification on that announcement.
Intriguingly, studio founder and CEO Jeromy Walsh told us he was taken aback at the reaction — or more specifically, the “financial” part of the announcement that sparked the fuss.
“We didn’t view this update as any kind of financial announcement,” he told me. “We’ve always said that we put up $500k of our own money, were working with friends and family who’d offered another $500k, were raising $900k off of Kickstarter, and would further work with private investors, angels, etc. to raise the rest of the money. Ironically, we thought people would be put off by the notes on IP policy and refunds. We never imaged people would be surprised by the news the game would require more money to finish. That section of the update was simply intended to remind people that MMOs are expensive.”
Read on for the complete interview!
How does one create a brand-new MMORPG from scratch? One method is apparently using “paper prototypes,” or using the format of a tabletop RPG to test out various systems in a much more controlled environment.
Lead Designer Jeromy Walsh wrote a new post in which he explains how the team is using such a technique in building Chronicles of Elyria: “In case it isn’t clear thus far, paper prototypes are a way of describing complex designs with the simplicity of a table-top game. The algorithms have to be easier to describe and understand, and RNGs become a function of dice rolls. Please note, that doesn’t mean we’re actually creating a full pen and paper role-playing game of CoE, nor a table-top board/card game. Paper prototypes are simply a way to test and experiment with mechanics as early as possible in a game-like fashion.”
To help keep fans up at night, wetting their beds in terror, he also released concept art for one of the unholy creations that the team has dreamed up in its labs: the Pteroguin. Yes, it’s half-penguin, half-pterodactyl, and all out to eat your juicy eyeballs (or so we assume).
Soulbound Studios has just announced that Chronicles of Elyria will team up with a tech startup called Improbable to make use of its SpatialOS platform. CEO Jeromy Walsh says that the platform is how the studio will “get a hundred thousand players spread across the largest geographic area in a video game to date” in a timeframe that is “faster than most people think possible, and with a smaller team.”
“SpatialOS is a distributed operating system that enables developers to create simulations inhabited by millions of complex entities, and allows game worlds and other simulated environments to run seamlessly on thousands of servers in the cloud,” reads today’s press release. “In order to create the dynamic and immersive MMORPG experience in Chronicles of Elyria, Soulbound Studios will be building their Soulborn Engine and the rest of the Chronicles of Elyria back-end on the foundation of SpatialOS. With support for load balancing, recovery, replication, and cross-process communication, SpatialOS provides the core fabric and infrastructure required for Chronicles of Elyria.”
The game’s Kickstarter is set to successfully fund later this week. Massively OP’s own Andrew Ross explored the game’s anticipated features and mused on its challenges in a long-form piece yesterday.
Source: Press release