Welcome to the CoE Weekly Update for the week of September 19th. We don't have any fancy artwork to share this week, and minimal screenshots, however we do have an update full of information.
In preparation for our online store opening October 3rd, as well as to re-iterate some of the topics we discussed in previous updates, the focus of this week will once again be predominantly about the upcoming store release.
That said, there was a good deal of discussion last week in response to some information we shared on our official Discord Server. So, I wanted to spend at least a little time during this update talking again about the responsibilities, commitments, and benefits of being a member of the aristocracy and nobility. That includes a bit of information I hinted to this week about the Sedecim, a special festival held every 16 in-game years.
But before we get to that, let's talk about the online store!
So, back in May we launched a Kickstarter to raise $900,000. That money continues to be used as our seed funding for the development of Chronicles of Elyria. For those unfamiliar with a seed round, that's when you raise enough money to put together a prototype for further investment rounds, such as a Series A.
To entrepreneurs, and to those outside the gaming industry, a strategy of using the money earned in each round of funding to reach the next one is perfectly normal. But in games, especially with crowdfunding, it can make backers nervous to hear that a game isn't fully funded yet. Heck, it makes us a little nervous.
That being said, the $900,000 we raised during Kickstarter isn't enough to finish Chronicles of Elyria. The reality is that Soulbound Studios is going to require another $2 Million more than that to get anywhere near completion. And with server hosting fees, QA work, etc., it would really be better if that was up around $3M instead.
We've been very transparent from the beginning that $900k was all we needed from Kickstarter to get the game done, not that it's all we'd needed. We have, from the very beginning, planned on pursuing additional methods of funding.
For context, here's a Q&A from a Reddit IAmA we did during the Kickstarter, and I believe posted on Kickstarter as well:
Q. How can you possibly make an MMO with only $900k USD?
A. - We understand it will take more than $900K to accomplish all of our goals. That is merely all we need from Kickstarter to help us out. We've invested $500K of our own money & have another $500K committed from friends & family. Plus we'll look for investors for the remaining amount needed.
That said, while we do have strategies in place to help raise the additional money, any funds we raise through online pledges helps reduce that amount and also provides a bit of cushion between now and our next funding round.
It likely doesn't surprise anyone, but between employee salaries, contract fees, medical/dental insurance, license fees, software purchases, rent, other insurances, internet fees, hosting fees, computers and furniture, and taxes, the money won't last forever. As the CEO it's my job to pay close attention to our burn-down and make sure we've got enough runway to reach our next funding goal. With that in mind, every dollar pledged in our online store takes away some of the stress. So if you haven't pledged already, or have but are looking to upgrade, now's the time. Speaking of upgrades...
While we didn't touch on it in our previous store update, all Kickstarter backers will have the opportunity to upgrade their previous pledges when the online store opens. If you've bound your Kickstarter account to your CoE account, you'll see in the online store that all backing tiers at or below your current tier are unavailable. Furthermore, all backing tiers above your current tier will be discounted by the amount of your previous pledge tier.
For example, if you previously backed at the Baron Tier ($250 USD), when you navigate to the online store you'll find that the Astronomer tier is listed at $100 USD, and the Count/Countess Tier is listed at $250 USD. That's the previous price of those two tiers, minus the $250 you'd already pledged.
Also, while Kickstarter allows for over-pledging your backing tier to purchase add-ons, it doesn't actually provide a way to specify which add-ons you want to buy. However, in the CoE online store, on the checkout page, you'll see listed all available add-ons, including the ability to purchase IP directly.
Another thing you'll note is that if you previously pledged above your backing tier, that'll show up as available credit in the online store. You can use that credit however you like.
Let's say you previously bought the $50 Early Bird Patron tier, but pledged a total of $75 with the intent to also buy $25 worth of Influence Points. When you go to the shopping cart page you'll see the $25 IP tier available to add-on to your cart. Once you do, it'll add $25 to your total, however the previous $25 credit will also be there, reducing the total charge price back to $0.00.
Alternatively, let's take the same scenario, but instead of going directly to the cart to buy the add-on, you instead decide to upgrade from your previous Early Bird Patron pledge to the $75 Beastmaster Pledge. In the store that'll be listed as $25 ($75 - $50), however when you go to the checkout the same $25 credit will be applied and you'll be able to upgrade for free.
Credits, as with everything from the previous Kickstarter, are now non-refundable, however you can use your credits however you like, in a single trip to the online store, or multiple.
On a final note, if you purchased a tier previously with the $25 or $50 merchandise credit, that too will show up as a Credit in the Online Store. Use that now, or save for when we have our physical merchandise listed. The choice is yours.
Another thing I wanted to talk about was the topic of layaway. This is one of those questions we get asked quite frequently and wanted to provide a definitive answer. The answer is yes; we provide a layaway option! Actually, we provide two different layaway options. Which layaway option you use depends on what it is you're wanting to layaway for.
In-Game Items: If you're wanting to save up for the purchase of in-game items, etc., your best bet is to simply buy Influence Points (IP). In most circumstances, IP can be purchased at an exchange rate of 10 IP per $1 USD. However, during the month of October (and later as we dictate), you'll have the opportunity to purchase IP on a sliding scale. The scale in October is as follows:
That all said, as I'll explain a bit later, it's not possible to use IP purchased from the online store to purchase backing/pledge tiers. That leads to the second form of layaway.
Pledge Packages: If what you're saving up for is a pledge/backing tier, your best bet is instead to use the credit/over-payment option on the checkout page. Like the overpayments people made during the Kickstarter, over-payment in the store will result in a credit showing up on your account the next time you visit the store. This credit can then be applied to any package upgrades you might want to make. Note, credit can still be used for anything. So if you change your mind later and decide to convert all your credit into IP or something else, you still can.
Along the lines of the layaway question, another topic that frequently comes up is the question of gifting. The short answer to this is yes, at some point after November 1st we will create a way for people to gift items, backing tiers, and IP purchases to other members of the community. However, we won't be providing that option during the month of October.
In many recent Kickstarter campaigns, the project owners created a way for a single individual to fund an entire guild. However, we didn't want to put the full burden of purchasing and investing in a guild upon a single individual. Not only is it expensive, but a lot of people don’t want to send money to some guild leader over the internet.
For this reason, we introduced the Villager / Guild Tokens. The idea was that each community member could optionally, at their discretion, purchase a single Guild and Villager token to be traded to a single Guild or Aristocrat.
In this way, a settlement or guild could grow proportionately to the number of contributing members it had. Unfortunately, we think some people may have misunderstood and either over-pledged during the Kickstarter as a way to buy multiple Villager / Guild member tokens, or under-pledged when they would really have liked to contribute to their settlement or guild.
If you were one of the people who over-pledged, don't worry about it. Wait until we open up gifting and instead use your credit to buy parcels of land, etc. and send it to your guild leader.
And if, now understanding how the villager / guild tokens are meant to be used, you wish to purchase one, you can do so as an add-on when the store opens on October 3rd.
Ok, while we're in the giving mood, let's take a break really quick and talk about a few unpleasant topics.
First, and this has always been true but perhaps not communicated effectively, is that purchased IP is intended for buying in-game items, not backing tiers.
While nobody has expressed any desire to do so, and nobody seems to have had this plan previously, the fact that IP was being sold at a sliding scale meant it would have been theoretically possible to buy IP at a discounted rate, and then turn right around and buy a backing tier at up to a 25% discount.
As an example, the Baron tier is priced at $250.00 USD. The intention was that people spend that money to pledge for that tier, and then buy/earn IP which could be used for purchasing additional in-game items to help build out their settlement.
That being said, the savvy person might have noticed that for just $200 USD you could buy 2,500 IP (valued at $250 USD). This would have effectively allowed you to, once the IP store opened, purchase the Baron tier for just $200 rather than $250.
To re-iterate, IP purchased in the online store can only be used for in-game items. Not physical items, and not pledge packages.
And again, nobody has expressed an intention to do this, we just wanted to make sure it was clear. If you previously over-payed in the interest of buying IP to then purchase a backing tier at a discount, keep in mind that your credit can still be used to purchase IP or to upgrade your backing tier, but not one via the other.
Similarly, each of our packages above $120 included bonus IP. Another way to think of that is, we gave each package an amount of IP to allow some degree of customization on what that package meant to you. For the same reason as above, this IP cannot be used to purchase backing tiers. We previously referred to this as 'No wishing for more wishes.'
As an example, the Merchant tier comes with 225 bonus IP. That's 125 for the Merchant tier itself, plus 100 IP for the Bloodline tier. You cannot turn around and use the 225 IP (valued at $22.50) to get just $2.50 away from the next backing tier.
If you want to go up to the next tier, you either need to pay the difference, or make up the difference in IP through other means.
On to 'uncomfortable topic' #2. We've struggled long and hard in deciding what our official refund policy was going to be. In the end, we even looked to what similar Kickstarter backed MMORPGs were doing. In almost all cases, others, and now ourselves, have a 'No Refund' policy.
The reasons we have for this are the same as the others, with a few additional ones. First and foremost, this is an in-development game. That means, unlike with a published retail game, revenue isn't going to some bank account to be paid as dividends to investors.
The money we bring in through our online store is immediately earmarked for license fees, salaries, MoCap software, taxes, etc. That means it's effectively spent shortly after receiving it. For example, once we hire an employee based on the money in the account, we have to pay their monthly salary regardless of refunds. Had the money not been there in the first place, we might have made a different choice.
Aside from the reason above, our desire to award people IP when they recruit a friend, in addition to awarding people IP as part of backing tiers, makes it extremely difficult to process refunds quickly.
For example, let's say Person A backs the game at a reasonable amount, and lists person B as the person who referred them. This causes person A to get an amount of 'Bonus IP' and also causes person B to get 50 IP.
Now let's assume person A buys several things with the IP they got, person B goes off and buys stuff using the 50 IP they got for the referral, and then Person A requests a refund. To put it mildly, #$%^&!.
Now we have to track down and remove the IP purchases person A made, and what do we do about person B? Do we take his/her new item away as well and give him back the IP? Headache.
This of course is also combined with the fact that if Person A backed at $350+ they already got access to the Early Access forums, downloaded any exclusive content we might have had available, etc.
For all the combined reasons above, refunds will not be given except in extreme, life-altering situations. These can be a result of loss of jobs, deaths, births, natural disasters, medical emergencies, etc. In those instances, we'll work with backers on a case-by-case basis. While we want to be able to plan effectively, we never want to put our supporters in financial trouble.
Finally, 'No refund' brings with it a stigma of additional risk. But of course, we'll do just as our competitors are doing. In the event that Soulbound Studios is, for some reason, unable to complete development due to a lack of resources, we'll make available our balance sheet so backers can see how the money was spent.
This should provide all the confidence we can that we're not just taking your money and running. Our passion is this game. We're not walking away.
Ok. With all that 'serious talk' out of the way, I did want to briefly re-iterate something that was said in a previous update, but seemed to have been consistently misinterpreted.
While our pledge packages will change in November, we will continue to apply revenue we get from now until the end of the year toward stretch goals. We do that so there's another three full months to restore features to the game that had to be yanked for accounting purposes.
Once January comes, however, it'll be too late for us to smartly add new features to the game before launch, no matter how cool they are. And we'll have to move forward with the features we have.
Earlier this week, as well as in past Q&A's, we've talked about the responsibilities and commitments of the Nobility and Aristocracy. With the Online Store opening in just a week, I wanted to re-iterate some of the requirements and also provide a bit more details about the duties and benefits of both.
To begin with, each level of Nobility and Aristocracy is designed to provide a slightly different play experience, and each is designed for people who are specifically interested in that style of play.
To start with, with only 3-5 per continent, Kings in Chronicles of Elyria have substantial power and a huge impact on the server. When playing a King in CoE, you're effectively playing a kingdom management sim.
You have the ability to set kingdom-wide laws and tax rates, to (at least partially) control the fate of your Dukes, to declare wars on neighboring kingdoms (with a Casus Belli), to determine areas of research and technology, and even to drive the culture of your kingdom. Heck, through your influence with the national religious institutions, you even have indirect influence over the predominant religions in your domain.
Like most kingdom management games, how you define success for your kingdom, be it military, economic, cultural, or technological, is up to you.
That all being said, you'll need to keep a reasonably careful eye on your neighboring kingdoms, sending out spies, etc. You'll need tax collectors to collect taxes from your dukes, and you'll need to work with scribes to set laws and tax rates as necessary. Some of these are non-trivial and a King should expect to spend maybe 6-8 hours per week managing their Kingdom. This is in addition to the time they spend managing their duchy, county, and settlement.
Dukes in Chronicles of Elyria are almost as influential as kings, and are responsible for maintaining the safety and lawfulness of their duchy. As a result, in addition to setting any laws or tax rates for their duchy, they're also responsible for sponsoring barons and knights within each of the counties, to raise and maintain defenses and a standing militia.
If a King ever declares war, or if there's ever an attack on the duchy, it's the duke's responsibility to raise the militia and knights and to march onto the battlefield at the head of their battalion.
In addition, dukes are responsible for appointing sheriffs and judges in each of their counties, to ensure law and order is maintained. Between maintaining their own spies and scouts, tax collectors, and reports, a duke should expect to spend maybe 4-6 hours per week managing their duchy, in addition to any time spent managing their county and settlement.
Once you reach the level of count the game plays less like a kingdom management game and more like an RTS. At this point you've got a number of settlements spread throughout your county, each needing safe passage between one another and outside to other counties. This is done through the development of roads and other infrastructure.
In addition, there's mines and other natural resources that need looked after, and the resources of those sites need to be carefully distributed to the different settlements to ensure the most productive use of resources.
And of course, land needs to be distributed in a way that'll be most productive for the county. As a count, you can expect to spend a percentage of your time writing local laws and collecting property taxes from the landed gentry, and negotiating income tax from the different mayors and barons of your county. Aside from that, you'll be working side-by-side with the Sherriff and barons to maintain law and order, minimizing the impact of thieves, poachers, and pirates.
In addition to managing your county, which you should expect to take between 2-4 hours per week, you should expect to spend another 2-6 hours per week managing your individual settlement.
The last title we're going to focus on today are mayors and barons. And, aside from the fact that barons are sponsored by dukes and are given both resources and authority to keep the peace and maintain defenses, they're effectively the same. Both pay income taxes to their count, and both are able to grow their settlements largely how they please.
When you reach the level of mayor/baron, you're no longer just an adventurer or landed gentry. Now you're playing a bit of a settlement sim game, as you need to collect income taxes from the different business within your settlement, as well as provide certain services to your citizens. You're in part responsible for the zoning and production goals of your settlement, and are ultimately responsible for its defenses. At the same time, if you're not a baron, you're responsible for passing judgement with the help of the other members of the town/city council.
I say that because only petty crimes can be tried in the Common Court, limiting the responsibility of the Town Council. Meanwhile, capital offenses are tried by the Kings Court, and are presided over by either a baron, or a duke-appointed judge that resides within a town or city.
Between collecting taxes, managing the zoning and construction of structures, and communicating with your spies and other representatives, mayors / barons should expect to spend anywhere from 1-5 hours per week, depending on the size of their settlement.
If you've been doing the math in your head, recognize that there's some overlap between each of the duties, allowing for some multi-tasking. As well, we're hoping to provide an online / phone based app that'll allow you to perform many of your duties remotely. Even still, managing a kingdom, duchy, county, or settlement takes commitment, and with great power comes great responsibility.
By our estimates, when we sum up the amount of work required to govern the individual domains, it creates totals that looking something like the following:
Note, these aren't hard & fast numbers. They're our best guess at this point about how much time an entitled individual should expect to spend managing their domains per week.
Keep in mind, nothing prevents the nobility and aristocracy from delegating their work to others, nor going on vacation for a while. But between all the people involved, the responsibilities will need to be divided up. Failure to do so could leave your citizens without protection or direction, and you may ultimately find yourself replaced with someone more dedicated or suited to the task.
As we mentioned before, and given what you've read above, for those people who aren't interested in maintaining their titles there are other options.
First, you can give some/all of your titles to others. For example, if you're a duke you can forfeit your county in its entirety to someone else to manage, thus passing your count title to them.
Second, you can simply exchange your title for additional IP to use on in-game purchases. Note that the amount of IP you'll receive for a title isn't finalized yet, but you can expect it to be somewhere around 1/2 the price difference between your current backing tier and the previous one.
For example, a Duke ($3,500) is $1,000 more than the Artificer Tier ($2,500). Dividing that in half would give you $500 USD. Multiply that by the 10x IP ratio and you get roughly 5,000 additional IP instead of your Duke title and benefits.
And speaking of benefits, what do you give up if you forfeit your title? This was posted on the forums earlier this week and should answer that question:
- Baron/Baroness/Mayor Title in-game
- Choose your town/stronghold & name it
- Cloak identifying Rank (Would have a Founder's Cloak instead)
- Access to expanded crest items - mantle & name (these are only on the crest of a Baron+)
- In-game decorative statue (the statue is in your settlement)
As you can see, you lose quite a lot of the Baron/Baroness title if you forfeit the title. Because, well, that's kind of the point of that tier. Also note that Mayor/Baron of a small settlement doesn't require much work. I don't recommend people forfeiting this tier's title rewards unless they absolutely have to.
- Start the game as a Count or Countess. Select your County & name it
- Create your noble crest with expanded access to a helm
- Cloak identifying rank (would have a mayor/baron cloak instead)
- Start the game as one of a limited number of Dukes or Duchesses. Choose your Duchy in the world of Elyria & name it
- Cloak identifying rank (Count cloak instead)
- Start the game as one of a limited number of Kings or Queens. Choose your Kingdom in the world of Elyria & give it a name.
- Design your Crown with the dev team (Only Kings get crowns)
- Design your custom Crest with the dev team (Custom crests are reserved for the Kings)
The last thing I wanted to touch on with respect to the nobility were servers. Earlier this week I sent out private messages on the forums to Kings/Queens and Dukes/Duchesses asking them which server they planned to be on between the potential two North America servers, two European Servers, and one Australian Server.
This was done in order to get an idea of how many noblemen were currently planning to be on specific servers. As you know, for game balance reasons, there's a limited number of kingdoms and duchies on the first continent.
Please note, while I asked them which server they expected to be on, this doesn't mean a firm commitment. This was solely so I'd know if I needed to put a limit on the number of King/Duke tiers for any particular server.
At the moment, there's precisely one king/queen per server, and the dukes are likewise well-distributed. So for the time-being, there's no caps being put in place.
That being said, the prices for different pledge tiers will be going up after October, with the Count and Duke titles seeing the biggest increase. So if you do plan on pledging to become a Count or Duke, you'll want to do so in October.
Ok! We're about done with this long update, and the last topic I wanted to address is one of my favorites! Earlier this week in the Discord channel I hinted at something called the Sedecim.
In Chronicles of Elyria, the nobility, aristocracy, gentry, and best craftsman of a continent all get together every 16 in-games years (approx. 4 real-life months) to hash out the land boundaries and trade agreements, to arrange marriages, and to purchase and sample wares from the best craftsmen. Weddings and festivities are held, and there's temporary booths set up so merchants can show off their goods.
Furthermore, each Sedecim is hosted by a different Kingdom and Duchy, with a bid being submitted by each of the interested Dukes and Counts at the preceding Sedecim.
Having the nobles, craftsman, and tourists within your Duchy and County, even for a real-life week, can result in a dramatic increase in wealth and production.
That being said, while festivities, food, and drink are a major part of the Sedecim, ballroom dancing isn't the only dancing that will be done. There's always a difference Dance being played.
Sound exciting? Can't wait for your first royal gathering?! You won't have to wait a full Sedecim. In addition to the 16-year gathering of the nobles, every four in-game years is a Tournament of Champions, where the Dukes and Kings gather with each of their favorite Knights to determine who's the most gifted warriors of the realms.
Like the Sedecim, the host of each Tournament of Champions is a bid presented at the preceding Tournament by the interested Dukes.
Ok all. This has been a massive update. It contains tons of information and clarifications about the upcoming store and also sets the stage for the Sedecim and Tournament of Champions.
The team here at Soulbound Studios are super excited to see the drama already unfolding within the different regions, domains, and organizations, and we hope you'll keep us updated as your own stories start to unfold.
See you next week!