23 February

DJ #19: Pre-Alpha Experiences

By Caspian

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.

Discuss

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Thackeray - 1 month ago

Really looking forward to the coming months. Great job folks!

Count_Emiya - 1 month ago
@Thackeray:

Posted By Thackeray at 6:21 PM - Fri May 19 2017

Really looking forward to the coming months. Great job folks!

Braaaaaaaaains

Rojinn - 1 month ago

Great post. This answered several of my questions. I am so looking forward to this game, but I am also enjoying watching its development and being a part of that. The other games that I currently play have lost a lot of their "flavor"??? because of my anticipation of COE. I am particularly excited about ElyriaMUD. Trying hard to be patient!

RooiKreef - 2 months ago

What a good read! This really gave me a better understanding how the roll-out of the Per-Alpha Experiences is going to work and what to expect of them. For all new comers, I will suggest taking the time to read through this DJ. It will give you a nice understanding of what is about to unfold in the next few months coming. Great work on all the developers. Keep it up.

MIkaido - 2 months ago

when will the pre-alfa open to those who buy the game?

Vilucide - 1 month ago
@MIkaido:

Posted By MIkaido at 5:21 PM - Thu Apr 20 2017

when will the pre-alfa open to those who buy the game?

They'll announce when Pre-Alpha experiences will be available.

Teak - 2 months ago

I've been reading through this game and thinking about a LitRPG book I've read, written by pseudonym Brent Roth. This game sounds a lot like the story and if it's anything close I really look forward to playing it. Like the main character of that book, I look forward to the challenge and expect to start with the basic. Can't wait.

Oracle - 2 months ago
@Teak:

Posted By Teak at 4:22 PM - Tue Apr 11 2017

I've been reading through this game and thinking about a LitRPG book I've read, written by pseudonym Brent Roth. This game sounds a lot like the story and if it's anything close I really look forward to playing it. Like the main character of that book, I look forward to the challenge and expect to start with the basic. Can't wait.

Elyria isn't based on any existing book, film, game title, real life characters etc. Any resemblance is entirely coincidental :)

None of us can wait. It's shaping up awesomely and they have a superb team on board.

Malais - 3 months ago

@RanceJustice

So more information on NPC presence in the CoE universe will be appreciated. I think CoE will lose lots of potential players if it focuses primarily on PVP content to the exclusion (or minimization) of PVE.

You are looking at CoE through old style mmo glasses. In CoE there is no pve or pvp. The entire game is a sandbox with players doing everything from gravedigger to king. NPCs will fill in where there isn't a PC for a specific job. Your traditional pve "bosses" and bandits parts are played by players now including raid bosses like vampires or liches.

You will not be able to tell who is a player and who is an NPC (assume their AI does a better job pathing than most) and will likely interact with them virtually the same.

There will be no artificial safe zones or super NPCs. A player is literally an NPC when offline and a NPC is just a shell waiting for a spark of life ( player ) to soul jack their body. As for losing players SBS has repeatedly stated the game will be a niche game and they are happy with that.

RanceJustice - 3 months ago

Thank you for putting forth these plans! I've a couple of questions that perhaps someone could illuminate me on the details..

  1. What is the cumulative dollar value and/or pledge rank necessary to enter into the "VIP/Concierge/Exclusive Q&A and forum" status? I seem to remember County-owning pledges would qualify one for admission to that group, but I don't remember where I saw that information

  2. With regards to PvE, I am very glad that there is some discussion about NPC kingdoms. You are correct that there are many, players - even Gentry, Aristocracy, and Nobility, d prefer to focus less on PVP, and instead favor PVE elements, roleplaying, and other facets of the game, no matter at what "tier" they play (ie a King, Duke, or Count who may be most interested in making their vassals/ residents as strong thriving as they can be in kingdom management and whatnot, working with other title-holders cooperatively, and competing primarily against NPCs).

    With this in mind, throughout not just the pre-release elements, but roles will PvE content play in the fully "Live" version of CoE? Will this range from NPC bandits and monsters for individual players to fight against , NPC traders in various cities etc.. all the way up to full NPC kingdoms or other land grants? Will there be both "monstrous/enemy/evil" NPC kingdoms that generally exist in opposition to all sorts of PCs, as well as a variety of "Player-Like NPC" Kingdoms in and to which players can live, swear their loyalty, ally etc... and will generally be very similar and open to the same sort of behavior at all levels as PC kingdoms? Are there plans to put NPC Kingdoms exclusively in their own locales to start or will there also be NPC controlled lands within ostenstibly PC controlled Kingdoms; that is to say, a PC King has both PC and NPC ruled Duchies, who in turn have both PC and NPC Counties etc... which would make for interesting play, but will have to have some good mechanics in place to ensure that PCs don't immediately attempt to overthrow their fellow "nearby" NPC peers because its easier than going after another player.

    So more information on NPC presence in the CoE universe will be appreciated. I think CoE will lose lots of potential players if it focuses primarily on PVP content to the exclusion (or minimization) of PVE.

Thanks

MysticDream76 - 3 months ago

Alpha 1 access was the old Astronomer tier at $350, and now it's the Magistrate tier. Not sure of the price, but I think $500?

From there, there is Alpha 2 access, Beta 1, and Beta 2. Mixed up with all this is prologue, then KoE/CoEMUD, and then Exposition, then launch.

Currently, there is no access before Alpha 1 that I know of, and that is not currently accessible.

VictoriaRachel - 4 months ago

Everyone who buys the base game will get access to all three eventually. However, as with everything they will need testing and that means those who have bought tiers that have access to those tests will get to play them sooner:

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.

From the OP

I think Wicked was confusing the Prologue and Exposition (which is not a pre-Alpha experience) when he mentioned the $350 tier. Though access to Exposition is from the $120 tier so maybe they are mixing it up with something else. Anyway you do not need to buy more than the base game to get access to all three experiences as long as you are patient.

Florencus - 4 months ago

But HOW can I get acces to the pre-alpha experience. HOW can I get acces to Elyriamud and HOW can I get acces to KoE.

Takeda_Shinukage - 4 months ago
@Florencus:

Posted By Florencus at 3:52 PM - Tue Mar 07 2017

But HOW can I get acces to the pre-alpha experience. HOW can I get acces to Elyriamud and HOW can I get acces to KoE.

To get access to prologue you need to buy the tier associated with prologue. I think it is the $350 tier.

I think Elyria Mud and KoE is available to everyone when it is released but to test it BEFORE release you need the alpha test tier purchased.

Florencus - 4 months ago

Every time i look something up I get this dj. I have so many questions and this does not help.

Stoutheart - 3 months ago
@Florencus:

What questions do you have. I am new to the game but have been doing a lot of research in it, I may be able to point you in the right direction.

Caspian - 4 months ago
@Florencus:

What questions do you have?

Abuncha_nada - 4 months ago

Can we get a Dev Journal about the music and sound of CoE? I'm hearing music in Q&A's, and gameplay but you've never directly discussed them. Music and sounds are integral parts of gameplay, and as a musician I'd love to see them get the recognition they deserve!!

MarcoDarkwings - 4 months ago

Hi there!

When will be another DJ? I'm so excited... Can't wait 'till the release of the game :P

Sharielane - 4 months ago

I think you may be a little confused Eruhin. There are no PvE "zones" in CoE. NPC kingdoms are not PvE kingdoms, they are simply kingdoms not claimed by PCs so instead have NPCs in the leadership roles in their place. If anything these NPC kingdom will have even more PvP disruption on them as players will be actively trying to consume them as part of the Dance to make their own territory larger come Exposition.

RanceJustice - 3 months ago
@Sharielane:

That';s one thing I too was concerned about. However, I imagine that if the devs wanted to (and I think they should) there are ways they could encourage PVE even in such a situation. For instance, if the idea that there are NPC owned Baronies/Counties etc... that are sworn to the same Count/Duke/King (PC or NPC) than the system should be set up to for the most part, encourage peace between them.

After all, that's how Feudalism worked for the most part. Its one thing for border areas to clash - say duchies or counties that border on another hierarchy/kingdom etc.. but generally, the Nobility wanted peace in the realm and their bannermen to not spend time infighting for no good reason. Sure, it happened, but it was relatively rare that someone would breach the King's/Duke's/Count's peace to attack their neighbor and it would not be without severe repercussion. Building those systems into CoE too will help to mitigate that issue.

Now of course that's for "fully integrated" NPCs. I do think its also worthwhile to have "NPC Bad Guys" - such as bandits (on the basic, on the ground adventurer level) and hostile kingdoms ( on top, management level) in which players can't normally spawn etc... until there's a major upset like the PC kingdoms banding together and the server-wide "raid victory" of taking down one of these kingdoms and allowing it to be opened to PCs and part of the "civilized world". These will provide an existential threat especially to borders of the "civilized" world, give PvE players something they enjoy, all while teaching them the basics of Kingdom-level warfare without having to go up against Players who have a lot more to lose.

Of course I'd like to see other PVE content on every level, from the aforementioned bandits, to lurking "monsters" and threats, to say... a coven of necromancers or something threatening a Barony, so the Baron would call sworn Knights and take on citizen levies and adventurers to put a stop to it... providing a reward that can be then dispensed as he sees fit. But what's this... an ancient tome the necromancers were using. Will the Baron give it to the local church to be destroyed? Send it to the University (or whereever magic might be studied) elsewhere in the County, so its "gifts" can be imparted to the province? Will the Count object and overrule the issue, claiming the risk of a pestilence is too high to be worth its study? And on and on it goes on all levels of the game..

There are plenty of opportunities for engaging PVE experiences and I hope to see many of them in CoE. I see other MMOs (one, notably) that is similar to CoE in some ways, but in others it is putting the bulk of its content mostly on PVP which I think will drive away a large audience that could come and help make the world much more immersive and engaging. All of the "throne war" elements can still happen and thee can still be upsets, but providing for pure PVE content and having areas that are not totally safe but are more conducive to those who want to play this way . For instance, Kingdom A is an "anything goes" PVP friendly kingdom where various Nobles don't mind the struggle for power among their subordinates etc. Kingdom B on the otherhand is made up of Nobles who don't permit this kind of squabbling and only approves fighting against enemies of the kingdom etc, which is more favorable to PVE types. Now, some of those enemies of Kingdom B may be both NPC and PC owned lands, but the players can choose (or, are "encouraged" / ordered) to help defend the border zone or try to roust the Kingdom's enemy on an official incusion if they wish. However, they can also stay on the "interior" to mostly have to deal with the aforementioned NPC cultists, bandits etc.. Sure, thieves,an assassin or murderous band of PVPers could find their way into Kingdom B's lands and its citizens may be affected, but there would be bounties, trials, jail time, fines etc... so it wouldn't be "tolerated"" the same way they would be in Kingdom A.

So yeah..lots of potential for depth. PVP and PVE are equally important in a title like this.

Eruhin - 4 months ago

First off, thanks for all the hard work and thought as to the best ways to implement and roll out the game and make it enjoyable for the players.

As someone who games for fun and much prefers PvE over the stress of PvP as a means of relaxation, I like the fact you are increasing the number of PvE areas so they will act as buffers between kingdoms since I find building and industry much more enjoyable than the PvP aspects of games.

Has there been thought given to what happens if/when a PvP based kingdom grows big enough to consume the NPC buffer regions and directly threaten PvE-based kingdoms?

Are any explicit game mechanics planned to help support PvE based kingdoms, or is the plan to leave this up to player negotiations, alliances, trade treaties, etc?

These questions become especially important since I agree that early involvement of the player base in game development should significantly increase the base, and provide much more manpower for kingdoms to expand and control NPC areas.

Gorawyn - 4 months ago

This is a fantastic way to engage the community in the development process. I am very excited to see how it all works out in the end. While I have not purchased a title yet, I am hoping to in the near future. Great post!

Grapefruitkush - 4 months ago

Awesome can't wait for all this to go down , I'll be paying off my baron/astronomer title soon !

The_White_Mask - 4 months ago

It seems as though you have separated "crime and punishment" and "laws". One will be tested in the MUD and the other in KoE. How can you test one without the other?

ShadowTani - 4 months ago
@The_White_Mask:

Posted By TheWhiteMask at 5:24 PM - Sun Feb 26 2017

It seems as though you have separated "crime and punishment" and "laws". One will be tested in the MUD and the other in KoE. How can you test one without the other?

Also realize that KoE and ElyriaMUD will work in unison, they will be tested together, and what happens in one will affect the other.

Caspian - 4 months ago
@The_White_Mask:

Posted By TheWhiteMask at 08:24 AM - Sun Feb 26 2017

It seems as though you have separated "crime and punishment" and "laws". One will be tested in the MUD and the other in KoE. How can you test one without the other?

One is the ability to enforce laws, the other is the ability to create/change them.

Daynen - 4 months ago

I deeply appreciate how SBS is willing to break down the development process like this. The continued transparency and honest verbage of this team is going to win over a lot of people. Time will tell how long they stay; I'm definitely enthusiastic for the long-term future of this game.

ChipsAhoyMcCoy - 4 months ago
@Daynen:

I agree! Most AAA companies nowadays like to keep themselves in the dark, away from the public, where lies and miscommunication can spawn. They have handled themselves well, and they deserve acknowledgement for that.

Grapefruitkush - 4 months ago
@ChipsAhoyMcCoy:

Agree , I just hope they are as good at developing games as they are at handling/producing them and this game will be the best MMO to ever be created !

Kittik - 4 months ago

Wow, that was a lot of information. So much so, that I don't even know where to begin or even where I'm allowed to begin.

Primon - 4 months ago

I really appreciate your DJ, you can keep writing longer ones and i won't complain. My concern is about the influence points we can earn at ElyriaMUD and at KoE, if some players start gathering too much influence you could possibly start rising the prices of all stuff in the exposition. I have seen that in a ton of games and it's really unfair. A easy way out is to limit the amount you can gain a day or week, or simply not rising the prices haha. Thank you.

ChipsAhoyMcCoy - 4 months ago
@Primon:

I can see where you are coming from. But from my personal perspective, if you were to limit the amount a player gets per day then that might deter players for playing longer periods of time if that player cares a lot (or only about) their influence points.

For example: If the cap is so much and it is rather easy to reach that cap, then a player may grind for that progress but then quit once they reached that cap.

I understand a lot of people are not like that and they might enjoy the game for what it is, but it is a thought to keep in mind.

Primon - 4 months ago
@ChipsAhoyMcCoy:

That's right, i also want to get as much influence as i can and keep playing these amazing experiences, but it's just a concern that it can happen.

Mako Steele - 4 months ago

Right on SBS.

Shadowstealer22 - 4 months ago

Great read! I personally really like the info in these developer's journals. They give the player base a good look into the process's behind the massive undertaking of an MMO. While I am sure several in the community are well aware of the intricacies of programming/developing a game, I personally do not. Transparency is a rare thing these days and it's enjoyable seeing it from a crowd-funded enterprise. In a sense, I see these dev. journals as more of a meeting with your shareholders, than bland info. sent from some large corporation to its player base. Thank you, and as always, looking forward to the next update (and an official launch date).

Wraith - 4 months ago

How much information is going to be released prior to settlement/domain selection and family name generation regarding local and regional geography of settlements, cultural features such as language, mythology and theology, and the local flora and fauna that is central to daily life i.e. animals that are eaten or used for construction or clothing. I got the impression from the Q&A and journal that most of this information except for tribes (which could contain everything listed above) and a basic overview of local resources will be unavailable before the initial names are locked in.

The reason I ask is that this kind of information helps in the creation of immersive names for settlements and families; personally, I have tried not to think too much about this kind of thing until I know for sure where my settlement will end up.

As cool as it is seeing the kingdoms come alive on the forums it seems that they all fit with the medieval northern European look and feel of the new haven/titan steppes area and, if I’m not mistaken, most of these kingdoms will be in vastly different biomes.

Adventsblood - 4 months ago

I'm beyond excited to be a part of this amazing game. I hope it lives up to expectations of all it's fans. I have no doubt it will since it's in the capable hands of gamers who share our passion.

Oracle - 4 months ago

These questions are very specific, and could probably be answered in one word. Is this all possible?

  • I begin as a Count, selecting my county seat as a Civilian settlement.

  • My brother joins the county, as a Baron (his backing tier), selecting a military settlement.

  • He joins as part of my family.

  • Other family members // friends join as family members.

  • As a Count and a Baron, my brother and I build a small hamlet each, as a supply / gathering point, ie within 20 mins of our main settlements. These we buy with EP as personal holdings.

  • In the (hopefully not) event I happen to be displaced as a Count, I expect to lose my county seat. Presumably however, my personal holdings (including the small hamlet), I would continue to own, as would my brother, if he lost his Barony?

  • As family members, to retain a non-abandoned state on the local lands, any family member can visit them?

  • Re: County lands, I am assuming any agents of the county can patrol the lands to keep them visited, and this would not have to be literally the Count constantly patrolling his domain? :)

Stoutheart - 3 months ago
@Oracle:

I think the answer to your questions are yes. This is from my research into this game, which I think is going to be great. You should keep your personally owned lands even if you lost the title. From my reading in the DJ's any family member visiting you property keeps it from becoming abandoned.

Logain - 4 months ago

When you mention 'Artificial Intelligence (NPC)', does that include 'offline character scripting' (default and custom), or is that not going to be tested in the pre-alpha stage?

Abuncha_nada - 4 months ago
@Logain:

I'm also curious about this. It seemed a major part of their initial promise to people was the ability to do meaningful things in the game with a constrained time schedule i.e. a lot of time offline because LIFE. I would hope that the two would be developed in conjunction, hopefully we'll see more as the MUD comes to be.

Mixras - 4 months ago

This game looks kinda fantastic but I have to ask, Will it be translate to Spanish?

Gromschlog - 4 months ago
@Mixras:

Posted By Mixras at 10:28 PM - Fri Feb 24 2017

This game looks kinda fantastic but I have to ask, Will it be translate to Spanish?

or... will there be translations to any language? or will the game be in elyrian only? translations need to be quite good, if i want to make contracts with someone that doesnt speak my language. best would be that contracts are written in elyrish/elyrian and every language needs to adapt :P I cant give someone a contract written in german, spanish, portuguese if the target person only speaks english and chinese... just wont work.

Stoutheart - 3 months ago
@Gromschlog:

Very good question?

Bieito_Skybourne - 4 months ago

@Caspian One question that came to mind during the Q&A yesterday I had I thought I would share here.

On a multitude of occasions my wife and I (as well as other friends/guild mates) have discussed that game X or game Y should have waited to release the game and worked out the bugs/mechanics rather than rush to release. So with that in mind, is the intention of SBS to truly test the different game mechanics and functionalities to a higher level of satisfaction irregardless to the release date of the game?

Thanks again for sharing your DJ and being so upfront with the community. This is a rarity and greatly appreciated. It shows your willingness to share your successes and failures alike and being open with the community. That in my mind shows trust and integrity. Thank you.

cumberbuckle - 4 months ago
@Bieito_Skybourne:

I second this comment and question!

Greykhan - 4 months ago

Great and interesting news! I just miss some commitment on high level release dates. I'm aware of delays which cannot be predicted but at least referring e.g. to 4Q 2017 or so would set some realistic expectations. For now, when I speak to individual people, they predict dates starting with summer 2017 and ending with game release in 2021. That is a bit huge range, isn't it?

Ironside - 4 months ago

I cannot wait! Hypezilla!

CaptainSeli - 4 months ago

This is super exciting Caspian! I think Prologue, ElyriaMUD, and KoE will bring in a lot more players and retain more in the long run as people will have tangible things to play with, which are connected to the main game!

And now that ElyriaMUD is going to be 2D and not simply text base? That's going to be much more exciting for a lot more people!

malachid - 4 months ago
@CaptainSeli:

And less so for those of us that were fond of (and looking forward to) the MUD.

Kaltfeuer - 4 months ago

i would like to know how many skills and skilltrees the Prologue will be reduced to (if it is)?

in regards to combat, and more importantly (for me), to crafting. can we test every craft, or is it just one to see how it can work?

will taming/farming be in it?

annfrank - 4 months ago

okay, well i am very impressed, and this has really helped me get hyped. (as if i wasn't hyped enough already.) now i should probably start working on my towns recruitment page... gotta get some troopers to help expand the county. ty for the update.

Moonlynx - 4 months ago

Ok, a question about Prologue. I know that it is just a short demo, but will we be able to replay it multiple times? I have played full featured rpg games multiple times over each with a different way (Character class and race). I know CoE doesn't have set classes, but I would like to play it as a crafter, an explorer, possibly different tribes to see what I prefer. Granted, I realize that because of already pledged to liege lords for CoE, I might not have an option to play different tribes in CoE as the tribes are likely region locked, but I am still curious to maybe play something other than the regional tribes.

Caspian - 4 months ago
@Moonlynx:

Posted By Moonlynx at 02:37 AM - Fri Feb 24 2017

Ok, a question about Prologue. I know that it is just a short demo, but will we be able to replay it multiple times? I have played full featured rpg games multiple times over each with a different way (Character class and race). I know CoE doesn't have set classes, but I would like to play it as a crafter, an explorer, possibly different tribes to see what I prefer. Granted, I realize that because of already pledged to liege lords for CoE, I might not have an option to play different tribes in CoE as the tribes are likely region locked, but I am still curious to maybe play something other than the regional tribes.

Hey Moonlynx, while the Prologue can technically be played multiple times, you won't find as much replay value as you might with fully finished games.

For example, we'll likely have mining, smithing, lumberjacking, carpentry, and maybe a handful of other production / gatherer skills depending on how different each crafting profession is. That said, we won't have even half of the available crafting professions as CoE and more to the point, there will be a limited number of items that can be crafted.

This is to give you an idea of what crafting feels like. But in the absence of a player-economy, trainers spread around the world to learn new patterns and techniques, it's not like one could just be content being a "crafter" for the prologue.

Likewise, while you could be an Explorer in the Prologue to go off and find some interesting encounters, in the absence of a full party of adventurers the encounters won't be nearly as interesting as in the actual game. Similarly, one of the primary goals of an Explorer in CoE is to find the locations of unique or rare materials so the information can be sold to gatherers. But w/o other players to sell it to, the information is less useful.

What I'm getting at is that the Prologue isn't intended to be an opportunity to try CoE in different roles - that requires the full multi-player experience.

Finally, unlike most single-player RPGs, one thing that is true in the Prologue is that it is still event-based. Success or failure is predicated on you completing the necessary objectives in a timely fashion. Wander off too far, too long, and the story will proceed without you to one conclusion or another.

As for tribes, while there will be other tribes present in the demo, and you could potentially play as a few region-specific tribes, they don't change the play so significantly that it would be worth re-playing just to experience a different one.

Xanxus - 4 months ago

great news

TheRef26 - 4 months ago

Great info, thanks for all your hard work. I can't wait until we get Prologue. Things will really start to become a reality then!!

Doctinator - 4 months ago

Another great update! I can't wait to get in and start helping to give feedback!

TheGuardian - 4 months ago

Oy-vey. My head is bleeding. I suddenly have a supersized respect for the monarchs of this game.

Bradtastic - 4 months ago

Can't wait to test it out ^3

Llewelyn_Disgyndwr - 4 months ago

I am finally feeling like I have backed a "winner". It's been a long time in coming.

Chroniclesofalias - 4 months ago

When I read "NMS" I thought No Man's Sky lol

Caspian - 4 months ago
@Chroniclesofalias:

Posted By nashoxx at 5:52 PM - Thu Feb 23 2017

When I read "NMS" I thought No Man's Sky lol

I can neither confirm nor deny whether that was my intention or not.

Dleatherus - 4 months ago

@Caspian

what mechanics, if any, are in place for a Count or a Duke who is on layaway, and hasn't completed his/her layaway come Land Selection time.

are they SOL or would they be able to claim an NPC County/Duchy if any are still in existence at the time they complete their layaway?

HolyAvengerOne - 4 months ago
@Dleatherus:

Posted By Dleatherus at 8:51 PM - Thu Feb 23 2017

@Caspian

what mechanics, if any, are in place for a Count or a Duke who is on layaway, and hasn't completed his/her layaway come Land Selection time.

are they SOL or would they be able to claim an NPC County/Duchy if any are still in existence at the time they complete their layaway?

I do believe it was said in the past that any title on layaway that wouldn't be complete by the time land selection happens would be converted into store credits.

Ironside - 4 months ago
@Dleatherus:

SOL = Servants on Leave. :-)

Thebeast123 - 4 months ago

Sounds amazing :D

Oracle - 4 months ago

Would have been good to know if the same growth principle that applies to counts in KoE was being applied to dukes and kingdoms. ie some counties and duchies begin as neutral - success in KoE helps to determine which they begin loyal to..

Caspian - 4 months ago
@Oracle:

Posted By Oracle at 4:52 PM - Thu Feb 23 2017

Would have been good to know if the same growth principle that applies to counts in KoE was being applied to dukes and kingdoms. ie some counties and duchies begin as neutral - success in KoE helps to determine which they begin loyal to..

It's the same in both. With now 12 duchies per kingdom, any that have not been claimed by KoE can be expanded into to increase the size of an existing duchy.

Atlas Forgiven - 2 months ago
@Caspian:

@Caspian

Sorry for tagging on a little late but does this mean that Entire counties could potentially disappear (if they are NPC) from one dutch and end up in another or would County A from Dutchie A simply decrease in size as Dutchie B grows in size?

And What about taking Counties, and Dutchie from other kingdoms? Same thing as above?

Oracle - 4 months ago
@Caspian:

Posted By Caspian at 01:47 AM - Fri Feb 24 2017

Posted By Oracle at 4:52 PM - Thu Feb 23 2017

Would have been good to know if the same growth principle that applies to counts in KoE was being applied to dukes and kingdoms. ie some counties and duchies begin as neutral - success in KoE helps to determine which they begin loyal to..

It's the same in both. With now 12 duchies per kingdom, any that have not been claimed by KoE can be expanded into to increase the size of an existing duchy.

Excellent. Thanks. Will provide motivation for the higher backers too now ;)

Chronicles_of_P2W - 4 months ago

First, nice post!

Second, a question, what if some king is killed few times during MUD? Does he lose opportunity to continue growing his Kingdom?

Or deaths hold no such impact during MUD?

Novaki - 4 months ago
@Chronicles_of_P2W:

Posted By Gothix at 4:46 PM - Thu Feb 23 2017

First, nice post!

Second, a question, what if some king is killed few times during MUD? Does he lose opportunity to continue growing his Kingdom?

Or deaths hold no such impact during MUD?

Death do not hold impact in the MUD. Caspian's reason he stated in the Q&A was since this is history, this basically translates (for your scenario) "The king had a lot of frequent naps and constantly woke up with new scars around his neck. "

Mesis - 4 months ago

Great reading as always. I am happy to see that the offical launch will be same for everyone.

Gromschlog - 4 months ago
@Mesis:

Posted By Mesis at 01:36 AM - Fri Feb 24 2017

Great reading as always. I am happy to see that the offical launch will be same for everyone.

I think you forgot exposition ;) Things happening in exposition will carry over to launch, but not everyone will take part in exposition.

Elhamer - 4 months ago

Nice post!

Falendor - 4 months ago

Another great DJ. Always good to hear the how and why when it comes to the games development.
Looking forward to the, often eluded, tribes DJ.

Thor - 4 months ago

Any number of settlements/towns/baronies per county?

Kitlandria - 4 months ago
@Thor:

I am REALLY eager to know how many cities we can have per county as all of the barons & mayors in the county I am a part of seem to have backed at a higher tier (Governor or Magistrate). If we can have as many cities as we want, I may up my pledge to Magistrate or Governor to start with a larger settlement.

StrawHat - 4 months ago

FIRST !!

edit : DAMN YOU ANCONIA

VVestern - 4 months ago

twitch brought me here. LOL