Chronicles of Elyria dev blog: Permadeath in MMORPGs


Announced earlier this year, Chronicles of Elyria is a startup sandbox in a sea of such sandboxes, but some of its features are rare even within the MMORPG genre.

Massively OP has been hosting a series of exclusive dev diaries from the CoE team at Soulbound Studios over the last few weeks to further explore the game and solicit feedback and questions, and today we have the next installment. This third such blog, written by the devs themselves, is presented below and focuses on the p-word: permadeath. Soulbound argues that permadeath isn’t over; it’s actually the next step for the genre and even ties into alting and the game’s business model. Enjoy!

Permadeath: The next evolution in MMORPGs

The problem? Killing is automatic

In most MMOs today, killing is the de facto way to handle problems ranging from the magnificent to the mundane. Ancient evil taking over the world? Kill it. A band of highway robbers stealing precious items from travelers? Go slaughter them. The local blacksmith has been shaving gold ingots and keeping the extra gold for himself? Go rip out his entrails.
People are encouraged to use capital punishment for everything. This type of behavior inherently leads to a sense of lawlessness and encourages griefing and other anti-social behaviors. PvP becomes less about achieving objectives and more of an automatic reaction to seeing other characters in the wild. In a world where every quest involves killing someone and all characters neatly respawn without consequence, what other conclusion can players draw than killing (even repeatedly) is acceptable?

How Chronicles of Elyria is different

When we thought long and hard about what we wanted to achieve with this MMO – dramatic story telling, rich, evolving history, a balanced skill based system, etc. – it became clear to us that the only way to achieve that was if characters were constantly cycling. But don’t worry, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we can make the process of death, and birth an enjoyable and interesting part of the game.

In most games death is what happens when your health reaches zero. Generally once dead you are teleported to some nearby recall point and have the opportunity to live again, usually without consequences, so you can continue your quest. In Chronicles of Elyria, there are actually three different things which most games would classify as “dying.” Each of them comes with varying degrees of consequences for all players involved.

However, we know that permadeath is a controversial topic, so we’ve addressed the concerns with several rules.

#1: There’s a difference between death and DYING

During normal play you can get knocked out or receive a fatal wound in which your soul temporarily leaves your body. Neither of those are permadeath. But each time your soul leaves your body your soul’s connection to Elyria gets weaker, shortening your total life span. When you reach your maximum age, you will sleep the Final Sleep and be no more. That’s DYING, which requires a new character.

#2: Heirs set you up for your next character

While you will, after 10-16 months, see the end of one character, your Soul passes on to your heir, providing a boost to that character’s skills. Thus each character you play becomes stronger, faster, with accelerated skills for more advanced play.

#3: Soul costs will be comparable (or less) than other MMORPGs

Yes, you pay for each life you play. Yes, characters will die after approximately 1 year of play. No, you won’t be paying for the cost of a new game at that time. Chronicles of Elyria doesn’t use a subscription model, so you won’t be paying $9, $15, or more per month (and thus $100+/year) to play your hero. Instead, expect to pay similar to the cost of an expansion for a life.

#4: Crime (griefing) is punished in-game

In Chronicles of Elyria, crimes such as attacking other characters is punishable by time in prison. The more time someone spends in prison, the shorter their playable lifespan, the more their skills atrophy, and the less powerful they will ultimately become. So, we’ve kind of removed most the incentive around griefing. This makes play more fun and eliminates some of the concern around player killers.

Stay tuned for more dev blogs from the Chronicles of Elyria team over the next few weeks!

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