8 January

DJ #16: The Weight and Measure of a Lifetime

By Caspian

Hi Folks, welcome to the first design journal of 2016! This one doesn't have any fancy screenshots as it normally would as it's not about what we've added to the world, and is instead about our business model. Over the last few months Chronicles of Elyria has been gaining more and more attention, and with that added attention comes quick judgements, assumptions, and while not intentional, miscommunications. Perhaps the most widely miscommunicated bit of information is how spirit walking effects your overall play time, and how that effects your wallet.

Given that, I wanted to take this opportunity to nail down the specific details regarding the lifespan of characters in Chronicles of Elyria, and touch on the "Death Toll" that's applied to your character any time they spirit walk.

"By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth..." - H.G. Wells

The Elyrian Lifespan

Elyrians are for the most part a healthy breed and while Children of Mann are not human their anatomy and physiology is similar to our own. As a result, the typical Elyrian lives somewhere between 80 and 120 years (averaging ~100 years), based on the genetics of their bloodline.

In addition, you take control of your Elyrian at either age 12 or 15, depending on whether you're creating a ward or joining a family. We assume most people will want to join a family, at least for the first few lives, and so for the remainder of this journal I'll assume you've created a family member.

Given that Elyrians naturally live between 80 and 120 years, and you gain control at age 15, that means you have between 65 and 105 (avg. 85) Elyrian years of play time.

Now, an Elyrian year is 100 real-world hours. That equates to roughly 4 days. Doing the math, that means if I divide both 6,500 and 10,500 by 24 hours per day that ends up being between 270.8 and 437.5 days. If we drop the decimals you're looking at between 270 and 437 (avg. 354) days of play. At 354 average days of play, and 365 days per Earth year, it means you're looking at an average of a week and a half shy of one year of play, per Spark of Life.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Those numbers are great and all, but it assumes your character lives a long, healthy life with no spirit loss. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we all know Elyria is a dangerous place. So let's talk briefly about spirit loss.

To begin with, the base spirit loss for a death is 2 real-life days of play, each time you are forced to Spirit Walk.

So that means that if you are someone who dies very rarely, maybe once per month, and would have otherwise lived an average lifespan of approximately 12 months, then at the 11 month mark you would have shaved off approximately 22 days of play time, ending your character's lifespan. Put differently, someone who dies on average once per month can expect to live an average of 11 months without needing to buy a new Spark of Life.

Now, let's assume you die a bit more frequently, maybe once per week. Each death would shave off the same 2 days of play time. As a result, every 7 days would actually count as 9 days of play time. If you divide the average of 354 by 9, you get approx. 39 weeks. So if you're someone who dies an average of once per week, you can expect to live approximately 8.75 months without needing to buy a new Spark of Life.

Continuing on with the same model, if you died an average of 2 or 3 times per week, you could expect to live for either 7.25 months, or 6 months (rounded to the nearest week) respectively.

Now let's assume you die very frequently. You're out adventuring every day doing extremely dangerous activities. Every day you die once. That means every day counts as three days of play time. The average of 354 divided by 3 is 118 days. That's 16 weeks, or approximately 3.75 months before you need to buy a new Spark of Life.

I know what you're thinking, "3.75 months! That sounds like a very short period of time!" It does sound like a short period of time. However, there's two things to remember. First, that number is if you die every day. If you even skip a day in between deaths, that increases all the way to 5.5 months. So if you don't play 7 days a week, but maybe just 4 or 5, if you die each time you play, or even twice each time you play, you're still looking at roughly 6 months of play.

The other thing to consider is the cost of a Spark of Life. If you only live 3.75 months, then for our currently estimated price of $29.99 per Spark of Life, it still means you're only paying approximately $7.99 per month. That's half the price of a WoW subscription! That's right. If you're an active, daring player who plays every single day and manages to die every single day... you can continue to play CoE for 1/2 the price of a WoW subscription.

On the other hand, if you manage to cheat death, don't play regularly, or do so in the safety of a hamlet, town, or city, then you're looking at anywhere from 9 to 14 months of play... for roughly $30.

The Price of Fame

Chronicles of Elyria is unquestionably a story-based game. We want the world to feel like you're living in a low-fantasy adventure book. But what kind of a story would it be if the main characters died over and over again, with no apparent consequences? Not very believable. It would also make those main characters feel like they didn't have an impact on the world. If someone is special, their presence should be missed and their absence should be noticed.

Because of this, CoE uses a multiplier system in order to increase the death toll for more famous or impactful characters. Intuitively, this makes sense. If some unknown farmer dies, it probably won't have an impact on the overall story or plot. However, if a king (or queen) dies, it should ripple across the whole continent.

Given all that, Chronicles of Elyria breaks up fame into 7 different categories. These categories ultimately identify what the multiplier is. The categories and multipliers are:

  1. Unknown (x1)
  2. Notable (x1.5)
  3. Prominent (x2)
  4. Famous (x4)
  5. Renowned (x8)
  6. Exalted (x16)
  7. Legendary (x32)

So in the previous examples of a person who dies once per month, once per week, 2-3 times per week, or daily, that all assumed you were a largely Unknown player. If you've become tightly integrated into the story however, your impact on the world makes you more susceptible to spirit loss. Someone who's Legendary, for example, could die no more than 6 times before they'll have to re-roll a new character (more on this in the next design journal).

Gaining Fame

So, we know the more famous you are, the higher the death toll. But how do you gain fame? Well, you can think of fame or notoriety as how likely people are to know your name in the same village or town, the same county or duchy, or even throughout your kingdom or continent. Given that, there's a ton of things that can grant you fame, from owning/leasing a sizeable amount of land in your village to others, to becoming an architect people travel hours to buy plans from, to slaying a creature that's tormenting the county, to being the champion of the colosseum, all the way to being a notorious highway robber.

Among the most direct, though not necessarily the easiest way to gain fame, is to hold a position of power in the local, regional, or national government. These positions of power automatically grant you fame up to some base level, which maps as follows:

  • Elder or Village Council: Notable
  • Mayor/Town Council: Prominent
  • Magistrate/City Council or Baron: Famous
  • Count or Sheriff: Renowned
  • Duke: Exalted
  • King: Legendary

As you might expect, this means that if you're the king and someone manages to get an arrow between your eyes or a knife between your ribs just six times... "The king is dead, long live the queen!"

Before you start throwing red cards on the field, it's important to note that the fame/reputation in the land is graded on a curve. If everyone suddenly becomes notable... well, now they're no longer notable. It's as if they're all unknown again. In this way, the multipliers count not only as the amount of spirit loss you suffer when you die, but is a rough approximation of the relative fame you need to move up to the next level.

So a notable person is someone who has roughly 1.5x the average fame of an unknown person. Making it to Renowned means gaining roughly 8x the average fame of an unknown individual. Getting up to those higher levels of fame isn't as easy as it sounds - but if you do, it has its advantages as well.

Toll Caps

The last topic I wanted to touch on in this design journal are Toll Caps. Toll caps are limits on the amount of death toll you can pay in a specific period of time.

The first toll cap we're considering is limiting one toll per 2.5 hours (1 Elyrian day). This means that if you're out in the wilds and get killed by someone twice (or more) in a short period of time, there's no additional Spirit Loss, even if you're forced to spirit walk more than once. We're doing this because we recognize that if you get put into a bad position, such as being camped by others, or getting trapped near an especially dangerous enemy, it could wrack up several deaths in a short period of time.

From a story standpoint however, those all kind of act like the same death. That is, "person walks into dungeon, faces evil bad guy, nearly dies, but recovers and defeats the evil being" is just as interesting as "person walks into dungeon, faces evil bad guy, nearly dies, but recovers, nearly dies again, but recovers, nearly dies again, but recovers...and finally defeats the badguy."

You see, the stories are really the same. What happens in between the first "Spirit Walk" and the last are just details best overlooked.

The second toll cap we're looking at is during wartime. If you're on a battlefield and get coup de graced you're likely to get killed again as soon as you wake up. I mean, it's a battlefield. So while we'll talk more about the mechanics of realm vs. realm combat in a later design journal, one thing we are doing is capping it to one toll per 10 hours. However, battlefields are dangerous places and we don't want people to take up arms frivolously. As a result, the first death on a battle field will likely come with a 4x multiplier anyways. The end result is that people will try like hell not to die, but when they inevitably do (most likely more than once), it won't come with any additional penalties.


Well, that ends the design journal for now. But the fun doesn't end there. We'll be following up with another design journal in just a few short days. Our next design journal aims to ease peoples' concerns about dying while nobility, and also talks about our new "earn-to-play" model. Until next time!