Hail and well met, Elyrians!
The team is all back from PAX East and GDC. It was a whirlwind of energy and chaos at PAX, but now we are taking stock of where we are. We always learn a lot when we put our work out there, and PAX East was a concentrated firehose of data for us. In addition to re-addressing tools, processes, and priorities, we've been discussing what we've learned and how we want to move forward. Every sprint, every Live Q&A, every expo, and so on, is another signpost along the overall journey telling us whether we are still on the right path and how to improve.
There are 3 main areas where we learned something at PAX this year: the booth, the demo, and the meta game. I'd like to share it with all of you, since we like to be transparent. Is this interesting to you? Would you like to see this kind of thing again in the future? Let us know in the comments!
Last year, we had just a small, 10x10 booth with 2 demo computers and some stand-up signs. It was very cramped and the 4 members of the team manning the booth never got any breaks. We had an awesome Enforcer though, and had a ton of fun. We decided to improve upon our methods this year and get a 10x30 booth and bring more people to cover so folks could take some breaks and maybe look around the show floor. The booth had 3 areas: the demo area, the stage area, and the reception area. You can see the setup as posted on our Twitter feed:
In the demo area we had 4 demo computers (with a spare PC in case one died) and we decided chairs would be nice so that folks could sit down while playing. We arranged them so that 2 were facing the aisle and 2 were not, with one of the hidden ones being hooked up to an overhead TV so it'd be easy to see walking down the aisle.
The good: People appreciated being able to sit down and we had a steady clump of onlookers while folks were playing. Many players were hyper-focused and the mood and challenge
we wanted to portray came through pretty well.
The bad: The arrangement made it sometimes difficult to squeeze into the 2 back stations and they were occasionally empty when folks were waiting to play. The how-to-play keyboard overlay was also not compelling for folks walking by, but it came up automatically every time the demo reset.
The ugly: We had some awesome music and SFX in the demo that really set the mood, but the speakers from the PAX Arena were aimed right at our booth and blared techno nearly every second of every day, so most people took the headphones off because of the competing audio. This also led to accelerated vocal-strain on the team manning the booth because it was pretty much akin to having a conversation at a concert for 8 hours a day.
In the stage area we had a big TV playing our best videos, a microphone and speaker so we could give presentations at the booth, and several ottomans that folks could come in and sit to watch where Enforcers wouldn't yell at them to move along.
The good: Every time Caspian picked up the mic and started talking about the game, we'd get a nice crowd and the mic saved his voice a lot of effort (especially over the 24/7
techno rave coming from the Arena)
The bad: The area was underutilized and we didn't always hit the mark on giving the booth talks we'd meant to. On Sunday we hardly used the area at all so, in retrospect, it might have been better to have more demo machines.
The ugly: Seating at an Expo cannot be overrated and our benches were a bastion for squatters who had no interest in the game, but were greatly interested in taking a load off. Frequently they were parents of kids playing a nearby demo so they weren't interested in learning about CoE either. It was a distraction for our team and may have dissuaded actual fans from being able to congregate at the booth.
The original plan called for the reception area to be on the left-hand side of the booth, but we ended up moving it into the middle because the stage area felt too constricted.
The good: The stage and benches were much more accessible than we'd planned for and this meant it was easy for folks to gather there. Plus people at the reception table weren't
fighting with whomever was on stage with the mic.
The bad: The original plan was to have the queue for the demo go from the reception station, through the registration stations in the middle, so folks had plenty of time to get signed up while waiting to play after hearing about the game from the reception station. Because things got moved around, the registration stations were on either end of the reception area and caused a bottleneck getting to the demo stations, as well as there being nowhere to queue.
The ugly: We didn't bring physical swag this year, such as T-Shirts. We had buttons, but they were for our Expo Meta Game, Conquest of Elyria, and the bins with those buttons were sitting on the table. Many people were turned away or had their hand swatted away from just grabbing a button, disappointed it wasn't free swag or part of the PAX button stuff.
We had a pretty sweet playable demo that showed off combat and parkour inside the Silver Run Mines. This is a subset of the Prologue experience and it doesn't yet have all the planned features (such as swimming or ailments). You can watch our speed-run of this experience here. We're also putting the finishing touches on a detailed walkthrough video, so look for that soon.
The good: The demo is super beautiful and the parkouring is a totally unexpected feature for an MMORPG. The framerate was good, it only crashed a handful of times over the
entire weekend, and only one computer had an issue with overheating which was quickly solved by swapping it with the backup computer.
The bad: Because some of the features haven't been developed yet, such as swimming, we made some places in the level untraversable through invisible walls or kill-volumes. While those things won't be in the game later on, and were designed to keep people within the developed, playable area, it also caused frustration when a player died doing something they thought would be allowed.
The ugly: Without any signage saying "Hey, this is an actual Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game!" (an oversight on our part), the single-player mine adventure looked a lot like a console adventure game, like Uncharted, up on the monitors. People who would have been interested in what we are doing may have not stopped to play because of that.
I briefly mentioned in the last update that we created a meta game for the Expo called Conquest of Elyria - a resource-trading and kingdom-battling webapp we threw together in order to hand out virtual prizes for participants. People at PAX could join a virtual-kingdom (named after the real NA-E Kingdoms) and trade resources with other players to build weapons used to fight the other virtual-kingdoms. The virtual-citizens of the virtual-kingdom that won the battles for the day would win exclusive in-game items. The individual who gathered the most resources would win a sweet, real-life prize. If we got enough new registrations, we were also going to give everyone an in-game item. This was all instead of giving out things like T-shirts, buttons, or other swag.
The good: People who played the meta game seemed to really enjoy it and folks went and recruited others into the game, helping drive interest to the game and the booth. While I
wouldn't say it was viral, it was at least contagious.
The bad: We had some technical issues on the first day and had to have our team release some bug fixes several times throughout the day since people were having trouble with the location-services and camera permissions that we were using for scanning the resource codes. We ended up missing an additional bug with the battle calculation on Friday that caused us to announce that Virtual-Vornair won, when it was actually Virtual-Bordweall.
The ugly: When we removed the location-lock on the webapp, and non-virtual citizens of NA-E Kingdoms learned about the game, we had some non-PAX-goers join the game and see if they could participate. This led to a rumor that actual-kingdoms were cheating and the integrity of the real game at launch was called into question. While non-PAX-goers did get into the game, only PAX-goers were actually counted in the battle tabulations and only PAX-goers will receive the prizes.
We are still debating internally what we want to do with Conquest in the future. While we could develop it into a super-sweet app, that might take too many resources away from creating the actual game and we aren't sure that will be worth it in the long run. This app was an experiment we threw together in a short time that was primarily developed by our web team, whom were not burdened with other tasks on the playable demo. Also, simply handing out t-shirts or item codes probably would have caused less turmoil in the community from the rumors!
Also at PAX, Caspian gave a talk about the game called A Living Legacy: Designing Chronicles of Elyria. This ended up being a great meet-up for people to trade resources in Conquest of Elyria, which was cool. We recorded it, too, for everyone who wasn't there! You can watch this here on YouTube. The slides are a little washed out, so maybe just close your eyes and let the smooth sound of Caspian's voice wash over you. We ran out of time to go over everything in depth (there's so much!) but we're going to make sure that all the information gets covered in future Design Journals, into the Game Guide, or is otherwise documented on the website over the coming months. Enjoy!
There has been much discussion, as of late, about the servers and their kingdom availability. We've designed Chronciles of Elyria as a game of finites; finite resources and finite rulers per server. Thanks to our amazing community, we now have tens of Kingdoms bought-and-paid-for, while others wait in layaway. Whether you backed us from Kickstarter or the Monarch tier from our own store, we want to give our royalty a fair shot at their desired server. When Domain & Settlement Selection happens, the server, lands, and names (for family surname, region, and settlements) will become locked in, but we're not there yet.
In the meantime, I wanted to make clear the way this selection will occur so there is no confusion. Players will first be given server selection and then domain selection when the time comes. Priority for server is given to those players who took the bigger risk and backed us earlier. But, within each server, the land will be selected in order of influence.
We will open server selection ordered by date-of-purchase and tier level. Once the servers are chosen, Kingdom-holders will pick their Kingdom ordered by total influence. If the server you wanted is full, you can choose another server, but we will also be creating a new package as an alternative. If a player so chooses, he or she can convert to a Double Duchy instead of a Kingdom. Anyone at the Kingdom tier can convert to the Double Duchy and be among the first to pick their Duchy(s) on their chosen server. This mirrors the opening placement of Risk. Note that other package rewards such as the Design Experience or Weekend of Gaming would still be granted if a player converts to the Double Duchy package.
Consider 3 pretend players who have purchased a King/Queen or Monarch package:
The order for server selection would be: Epoch > Millenium > Slowpoke.
The order for domain selection on the server would be: Millenium > Epoch > Slowpoke.
We will use the final purchase date and NOT the layaway date for determining server selection order. If you currently have either the King/Queen or Monarch package on layaway, be aware that others could complete their purchase first and secure their order during server selection. I've previously mentioned that you don't get the rewards of a package on layaway until it's paid off, the same way a store won't let you walk out with one leg of a pair of pants you put on layaway. You can only wear those pants once you've paid for the entire thing!
Started by Emery and discussed in this post, the community has been doing a great job of keeping track of the current landscape of titled landholders in this spreadsheet. Even the order of purchase is in the Influence tab.
In the last update, I announced the date and topic for the next Live Q&A. We will be holding our next Q&A on Survivial on Wednesday, March 29th at 12PM PDT / 3PM EDT / 8PM GMT!
The most pertinent Design Journals to read up on beforehand can be found here, here, and here. We will be taking questions from this reddit thread. Head on over and post your questions or vote up the ones you want to hear answered in the Q&A.
For those who miss it, the recording will be watchable on Twitch.tv for a limited time afterward and on our [YouTube channel]( http://www.youtube.com/c/Chroniclesofelyria) forever. So even if you can’t make the live session, your question from reddit may still be answered.
Please follow these rules when posting questions for the Q&A.
Don't forget, many of the most common questions about CoE can be answered by reading over our design journals. If you're new to CoE, there is a wealth of information to begin with there.
We hope you'll join us Wednesday, March 29th at 12PM PDT / 3PM EDT / 8PM GMT!
Pledged to Your Continued Adventures in Life, Both Actual and Fantasy,