Welcome to the Chronicles of Elyria update for the week of September 5th. This was a shortened week due to Labor Day in the US, however, we didn't do an update last weekend for the same reason, so there's still a good amount to cover this week. Actually, while the majority of the team was off last weekend for the holiday, some of us were still working. Either at the office, or in Seattle working the crowd at PAX.
While we didn't have a booth at PAX, we did want to make our presence known here in our backyard. And it was worth it, too! It took our community members less than 5 minutes to spot us coming up the escalators with T-shirts to give away, and man did that feel good! Is it taboo to be working on Labor Day Weekend? Or does that just make it a Labor of Love?
Let's get to the stuff you've been waiting for...
The first, and most significant part of this update, is the announcement that the online store will finally be opening on Monday, October 3rd, 2016. When the store opens we will, for 28 days (until October 31st), be offering the exact same backing tiers, add-ons, and prices as we were offering for our Kickstarter.
To clear up any confusion people may have, this 28-day period is like an extension of our original Kickstarter, not a repeat. As a result, we won't be offering the 'early bird' tiers again, as those were a limited availability and have all filled up.
We will also not be offering the $5 'Contributor' Tier. That had a small number of backers in the original Kickstarter anyway, and was mostly used by people who misunderstood that you can't use Influence Points purchased as add-ons to the Kickstarter Tiers, to later buy a Kickstarter Tier with Influence Points. That all said, the tiers being offered for the next month will be:
In addition, before the store opens we will have an expanded chart of items which you will later be able to purchase with Influence Points in our IP store. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of issuing refunds with tiers that award Influence Points, we're going to hold off on opening the Influence Point store until after the 28 day extended Kickstarter period has passed.
But don't worry, once the new packages go up on November 1st, the IP store will be available shortly thereafter. And, in addition to the new packages, we'll be posting limited-time items each month. These could be things like specific building patterns, a couple unique breed animals, and patterns for specific limited technology. Grabbing these patterns, animals, etc. while they're available will help seed the world with the schools, organizations, and craftsman who have knowledge of some of the more interesting and advanced recipes.
The other slight difference to our original Kickstarter is the addition of server-specific Tiers. Before the launch of the store on October 3rd, we'll be giving a survey to all of the nobility to indicate which server they'll be playing on. Based on that, the Count, Duke, and King tiers will indicate which server they're on, in specific quantities.
For example, it might read 'King (NA-W)'. This indicates that it's a King tier award, on the North America - West server. This is being done as there's a limited number of King, Duke, and Count spots per server. And when they're gone... they're gone. We don't anticipate the Count titles filling up, however it's entirely possible that the Duke and King tiers will be exhausted on specific servers. So grab them while you can.
Another question people have been asking is, 'What about the stretch goals?' As promised, funds raised between now and December 31st, 2016 will apply to stretch goals. Beyond that, funds will be used to hire additional staff, spend more time on improving the quality of the code and assets, etc, but no new functionality will be added to the game. This is being done to ensure minimal feature creep, as well as to make sure any new mechanics which do get added have plenty of time to be tested before the game's launch.
Once the store goes live, we will have an indicator on the site showing how much money has been raised, as well as showing which stretch goals have been achieved.
As many people have asked us what the plan is after the month of 'Kickstarter' tiers, I wanted to give you a brief bit of information. In addition to the rotating IP items I mentioned above, we'll be moving to a set of 12 packages people can purchase with real-world currency as well as Influence Points they've earned in the community.
The 12 packages will be broken up into four categorical tiers. These are:
The first three packages will be under $100 and are mostly for individuals looking to buy in at progressively higher tiers. The second three packages are for families or small groups of friends who want to start with some plots of land so they can begin building their families immediately. The first package in the Gentry Tier will have many of the same things as the old Bloodline Tier from our Kickstarter, including a custom surname. As with the Adventurer tier, each of the three Gentry packages will have increasing value.
The Aristocrat tier is for people looking to start settlements from an early part of the game. The first package of the Aristocrat tier will have many of the same things as the Baron/Baroness Tier from our Kickstarter.
And finally, the three tiers of Nobility will include Count, Duke, and King, and in the case of Count and Duke, will likely be significantly more expensive than they were previously. So if you're considering a Count or Duke title, make sure to get them in October.
The last thing I wanted to touch on with respect to the store and website is that version 2.1 of the website will be launching next week. Among other things, this version sees the return of private messaging, in addition to other useful new tools for admins and moderators. Stay tuned for that next week.
Over the last couple weeks, the concept team has continued to work with design on the introduction of new animals to the Tundra and Taiga. This week we're showing off the latest primary consumer. This is another plant eater like the Flower-Cup Porcupine, however unlike the Porcupine, this latest creature is primarily a source of fur for clothing, rather than food to eat.
But the fur isn't the only benefit the Dryas Elk provides, there's also the massive antlers. While still spending most of its time out in the open tundra, the Dryas Elk has no fear of the Pteroguin, as it's over-sized rack makes it an unattractive target. Don't be surprised if you see Northerners walking around with pieces of those on their head and body for protection.
Speaking of Northerners, while I'm not allowed to give away any details yet, I can let it slip that the design team has been working on the different Tribes of Mann (previously called bloodlines). Each Tribe represents a group of Mann that has gathered in a single biome or region and through a process of evolution and adaptation, has acclimated in the best way possible to their surroundings.
While there's nothing official yet, the work we've been doing on the Tribes this past week is pretty exciting. Once we've nailed down the design of the current Tribe we're working on more completely and have got some concept art to share with you, we'll let you in on the first publicly announced Tribe in Chronicles of Elyria.
Ok, moving on to the Production roll call. The last two weeks have continued to be spent primarily in hiring. On the positive side, we've finally cleared our initial list of candidates and we've got some super talented Engineers and Producers lined up for offers. Once we get employment contracts signed and get people here in the office, we'll have the new folks introduce themselves.
In addition to the HR work, I've been working with the team leads on sprint and milestone planning. This is a time-consuming process that involves identifying the user stores for the upcoming milestone, based on feature areas we want to tackle or do some R&D on, and then making a list of all the tasks that need to be done across each discipline, costing them for time, and then prioritizing them in the backlog for the upcoming sprints.
The takeaway from all of this work we've been doing on sprint and milestone planning is that I can't wait to have a Producer in-office who can do this for me. :-)
In preparation for the new Producer I have officially switched the team over to using JIRA for our Sprint and Milestone planning, as well as our bug reporting software. While I'd been testing it previously, I've migrated us over to a production server this weekend and moved all of our issues and spaces into the new server. It feels so good being organized.
The Engineering team has moved away temporarily from their production work to do a bit of R&D on the Vulkan API. The Vulkan API is a new rendering and compute API by the Khronos Group, the same group that oversees Collada, as well as OpenGL. Vulkan, original named OpenGL Next, is a next-gen Graphics API that sits on top of modern video card drivers to deliver even better performance than OpenGL and DirectX. In early benchmarks, Vulkan appears to consistently provide about a 20% performance improvement over the other two APIs.
This is extremely important to us, as the vast number of materials and objects we're rendering at any one time leads to performance issues due to a large number of draw calls. While we can institute constraints on the number of objects on screen at one time, and while we can design around some of the performance issues, leveraging Vulkan going forward means we won't necessarily have to, and can continue to provide an interesting, object-rich world for you to look at.
Finally, the animation and character teams continue to work on the female models, rigging, and animation to get the full set of female models into the game.
In addition, the animation and character teams are in the middle of discussion on rigging and modeling of the unique physical characteristics of the different Tribes of Mann.
And finally, the team continues to work on modeling, rigging, and animating the many new creatures you'll encounter in Chronicles of Elyria.
That's all for this week folks. The store is opening up in just a few more weeks and the team is pushing forward, transitioning from Pre-Production into Production with the development of new workflows, rendering R&D, and finally, the introduction of new creatures and the female into the world.