29 June

What Seams To Be

By Vye

Hail and well met, Elyrians!

Welcome to another update where I shall regale you with tales of high adventure and keep you abreast of the news across this fair realm. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you might stick a needle and/or antler in your eye (although such things are not recommended). By the end of the post, you may even understand those references! But first...

The End of Updates As We Know Them

Now that the team is more filled out and there's a variety of different stories unfolding within our ecosystem, I think it's time we made an update to how we've been doing our updates. In the before times, Caspian wrote both Design Journals and Production Journals. When I joined, I was able to write the Production Journals, but much of the information in my updates have covered things not directly part of the game production such as Q&A announcements, community spotlights, contests, expo information, and a cornucopia of anything that didn't fit into one of Caspian's Design Journals. With Serpentius and Kaizen now settling in, I'd like to further divide the blog updates we do to be more topically focused.

Blog posts may be one of a few types:

  • Design Journal: Describing Caspian's vision of Chronicles of Elyria in detail
  • Production Journal: Reporting on the progress of Quests being undertaken by the team and any updates about the team
  • Community Journal: Highlighting what's going on in the community and any events to get involved in
  • Soulbound Studios Broadcast: Documenting our journey by recapping on what we've achieved and looking ahead on what's to come

Starting in August, we're going to return to a weekly blog schedule. You'll see at least the same amount of information that the existing updates have given - probably more - only now it will be categorized better and have different authors. In the end, it means more information, more transparency, and more involvement with the overall development of the game!

The Midyear-Update Update

Caspian mentioned that he was preparing a State of Elyria update since we're halfway through the year. He'd like me to mention that it's still coming up but that he found having pneumonia to be prohibitive to progress. Don't fret though - it's still coming!

Chronicles of Soulbound Studios

One wouldn't expect summertime to come with so many illnesses, but we've had a slough of 'em. Along with folks wanting to use their vacation days, and our business internet connection getting the flu as well, there have been rolling outages that have hindered progress like slogging through mud. The parties have still managed to make decent strides on their adventures, despite all this, so I'm awarding everyone extra experience.

Society of Elyrian Ecology

Members: Mudokon, Racronos, Irreverent, Vanimus Prime, Souzou, Wiz, Raevantiel

The Department for Zoology has found a pair of Otter Bears in Titan's Steppe! It is unknown whether they are a mating pair but the Society is keen to study them further - in their natural habitat, of course - to better understand how these omnivores survive in this region. A full movement study is expected to begin in the coming weeks but the hypothesis is that they move similarly to the Ursaphant. Obviously the Otter Bear is adapted to swimming and floating on its back, which no Ursaphant has ever been observed doing, but their size and build suggests that they will walk and run in a similar fashion (i.e. the Otter Bear will share an animation rig with the Ursaphant, with many animations shared as well). The movement studies on the horse and elk have gotten over the hiccup mentioned last update, and are simply polishing up a few things for the League of Extraordinary Locomotion when it comes to riding. The Canis Rabbit has begun its movement study and, by the gods, it's frightening how fast it moves!

Elyrian Otters are Beary nice!

Wiz continues to work on the materials that make up Elyria and progress is coming along quite nicely. It takes a couple weeks per layer since Elyria will have such variety. The end result will be great variety with low upkeep cost and good performance. Standardization will allow 3D models to be converted between tools seamlessly, will maintain PBR (physically-based rendering) workflows across all assets, and allow us to treat shaders as modules that can be modified or applied to 3D models independent of other shaders or textures. To assist, Raevantiel has finished up the soil layer and has moved onto grass. Exciting stuff! Though there's still many layers and textures and materials to go, you can already see improvements in the overall look and feel in the game. I submit these screenshots from the Silver Run Mine to highlight how these relatively abstract ideas turn into the intangible majesty and stylized realism Heat is aiming for.

As for developments of the Anthropological variety, the new skeletal data is in and it's cool. We can create all twelve tribes out of one set of assets! There's a lot of discussion about cross-breeding going on in the forums, so this is an important piece of being able to do that. While this work has made some of the initial equipment that Irreverent created not fit correctly, the work being done by the Proto-Tailors will ultimately provide the same kind of range and variety in equipment that the character models have.

The Tribe Foundry

Members: Caspian, Heat, Souzou

If you watched the Tribes Q&A II last week or have been in the forums, you probably heard that we've made a change to the tribe availability at launch. This discussion brought up some very valid points about the variable method we were going to use to populate the starting continents with tribes. It kicked off an internal discussion where we ultimately identified several issues with our original plan:

  1. There might be multiple tribes in a Kingdom, and no guarantees that the combination would make sense, lore-wise. Some tribes make a certain amount of sense to be neighbors and submit to a ruler from a different culture at times, but many of the tribes wouldn't be okay with that and, without knowing this beforehand, it could create imbalance or undue strife in the starting kingdoms.
  2. There would be server-specific tribes at the start that could adversely affect the player population distribution, as well as encourage players to play on a server that does not have an optimal ping for a quality game experience. Essentially people may choose a tribe over their regional server and thereby opt into a sub-optimal experience.
  3. Discovering a new tribe on a server could be anti-climactic if that tribe had been a launch tribe on another server. We always imagined that there'd be a limited set of tribes at launch and players would explore to find the remaining tribes. We realized that the coolness of discovering a new tribe is diminished if it was already well-known on another server.
  4. Some tribes present radically different play experiences and difficulties. While many people are up for the challenge of a nomadic kingdom or a tribe with extreme biome restrictions, because of the order-of-operations on domain selection there's a real possibility that the players who pick last end up with a domain - and therefore tribe - that they really dislike. That can feel more like a punishment to players who backed us at the start and adversely affect all the citizens in their realm as well.
  5. There are some players who identify most with a particular tribe than they do with their kingdom or organization - especially the influx of players that will come in at launch. We didn't want folks to spend a lot of time between now and launch developing lore and attachment to tribes that ultimately don't end up on the server they commit to.
  6. If all the tribes are not all living on the same continent, then there's no reason that they'd have relationships - friendly or not - or even know about another culture in any depth. If a variable set of the tribes were available on the different starting continents on the different servers, then there would be inconsistent lore between the tribes that breaks the fourth wall. Imagine being an Inca and knowing that when the Spanish showed up on your continent that they'd bring disease and slavery that would crumble your civilization. That's an outcome that the players will decide, not our designers, so it's not appropriate that we write lore about it if it's not canon for that server.

This kind of feedback is precisely why Soulbound Studios is being open and transparent about our development, sharing the game design in detail, and including the community in the development process! While we're not going to make knee-jerk reactions or cave to pressure from a vocal minority, that forum discussion called out a flaw in our design that did not support the experience we are working to create. So, after having discussions internally, we decided to make a change in the plan: There will now be a specific set of eight tribes that are available to play at the start with the other four existing in the world, waiting to be discovered.

The specific tribes that will be playable initially are:

This adjustment, along with Caspian coming down with pneumonia and folks taking some well-deserved vacation time, meant that getting the To'resk and Waerd write-ups completed got delayed, but we still expect to have them out before the Tribe Q&A III on Monday, July 10. This is one of the down sides of being a small company: we don't have redundant employees so delays are inevitable when folks are out.

"I pray that mine inquiry will not be burdensome but I am rather curious as to whether dossiers about the four discoverable tribes should still be provided in some form or another?" your eyes revealing simultaneously a hint of fear and desire at the news.

We are still intending to provide information about the other four tribes, but it won't be to the same level of detail as the initially playable tribes. This particularly applies to detailing out their history, culture, sociology, and world relations because those things will be among the most interesting things to discover! We'll still reveal the concept art and physical descriptions, as well as any lore or legends that make sense. We'll hold back the rest of the information for our internal development needs since this decision doesn't change our scope and we're still making all twelve.

Order of the Online Play

Members: Cynax, Tripnull, Glaive, Michael

While Glaive continues to create the bricks, Cynax, Michael, Tripnull, and even Sekmu have been stacking them up. Basic combat, AI, and UI are coming into focus on the MUD client. Equipment pick-up, equipment persistence, physics smoothing while moving, and a shared coordinate system are being added to the Unreal client. There was a brief playtest of something Michael called Chronicles of Ledge Pushing and Jumping. Don't let the name get you excited though, it's mostly programmer art at this point and not suitable for human consumption...yet.

Protectors of the Web

Members: ZRO, Death, Cynax, Scarlet, Serpentius, Kaizen

Kaizen has signed on with the Protectors and is now ankle deep in content organization for the V3 version of the website. In addition to improving the visuals and the back-end, we want to improve the information discovery on the site for visitors both new and veteran alike. He and Serpentius are also working on transferring the tribe posts into Tribe Game Guide pages. A small bug got in the way of getting those out already, further complicated by needing to do a deploy to get the fix out. With ZRO up to his neck on V3 components, we haven't done a deploy for a couple weeks and won't for a couple more. In the end, the tribe posts do exist so it's not a priority to move that content into a static web page, even though newcomers won't necessarily know to look in the forums for such information. We're going to rely on our awesome community (i.e. you folks!) to help make sure newcomers get the information they are looking for. So far, you all are doing a great job!

ZRO has also been toiling to create the full inventory for pledge packages so that folks can see what they own. This also paves the way for account merging, management of account rewards, and redemption of in-game items. Since it has to do with the store and account database, it's very important to do this with extreme care and copious testing! Also there are a few typos that will be corrected in the next deployment.

Scarlet and Death have been iterating on the graphic design for V3 and it's looking great. I feel kind of - I don't know, villainous? - sharing a mockup of the new website on the old website but, well, I'm going to do it anyway. Please note that the images are all temporary placeholders and won't necessarily be the images used in the real version. I wouldn't want to spoil everything, after all...

I am especially excited about Feature Area 2

The Proto-Tailors

Members: Irreverent, Wiz, Sekmu, Heat

Heat is simultaneously providing Neran fashion direction and informing the crafting and adornment system. Last time we had a variety of examples of Neran commoner clothing. This time Heat has dialed it up to 11 with a super-fancy concept of Neran clothing, with all manner of equipment layers and adornments that we'd like to achieve. Ultimately this concept is aspirational, so the crafting system may or may not support 100% of what you see here once the Engineering Guild vets the design, but we'd like to shoot for the ability to make a shirt pattern very plain as well as very detailed. If you look between a basic shirt in the commoner concepts from last time and the shirt here, the basic pattern could be the same and the difference in quality comes from higher-quality materials, more crafting skill, and player creativity!

This is one outfit with the proposed three layers of equipment shown in stages, plus a shoulder item (the cloak)

Speaking of creativity, we want pattern-makers to be able to define a lot of different parts of an item they design. Wiz and Irreverent have been working on creating the systems that will allow players to achieve this. Here is an example of the system for customizing the thread stitching on a garment in its current state in development. There's a similar system for textiles being worked on as well.

Such Fine Stitching

League of Extraordinary Locomotion

Members: Strider, Tripnull, Sekmu

With the new skeletal data in place, the variation can begin! The first step is making the female have a bit more movement in her hips when she moves. Due to various team members being out of the office, the jump hasn't been nailed down to our liking yet so Kaizen couldn't finish the video. Folks in the Early Access forum saw a preview but we want to get the jump fixed before putting it up on YouTube.

In the meantime, the animators did a mocap shoot to capture a variety of activities players might perform including hoe tilling, sickle swiping, chopping trees, leaning on a hoe, planting seeds, lifting bales of hay or bags of grain, pulling rope, carrying buckets, and a ton of other tasks. If you'd like to see pictures or video of mocap sessions, you might consider following us on our Twitter since Kaizen is hoping to improve our social media with more behind-the-scenes and studio shenanigans.

Though it sadly didn't involve any mocap, mount riding is now actively being worked on. The horse is the obvious first choice for getting this system working but, in reality, we all want to ride the Dryas Elk here at the studio...even if it'll knock you off and probably take your eye out with it's massive antlers whenever it turns its head.

What About PAX West?

Many of you rooted for us in trying to snag booth space at PAX West this year. There's more demand than there is available space, so simply applying wasn't a guarantee that we'd get a spot. In the end, we were triumphant! We'll be at PAX West 2017, booth #6502, which is on level 6 of the convention center. We have no idea what we are near yet, but now you've got 100% of the information I know. Use it wisely...

All the Tribe Q&As

There are just so many links to keep track of with all the Tribe Q&As, so I'll just make a list!

  • Tribe Q&A Part I can be viewed on YouTube.
  • Tribe Q&A Part I In Brief is available on YouTube.
  • Tribe Q&A Part II can be viewed on Twitch and YouTube.
  • Tribe Q&A Part II In Brief is available on YouTube.
  • Tribe Q&A Part III will happen on Monday, July 10 at 1PM PDT / 4PM EDT / 8PM GMT / 8PM UTC on Twitch.tv.
  • Tribe Q&A Part IV will happen on Monday, July 24 at 1PM PDT / 4PM EDT / 8PM GMT / 8PM UTC on Twitch.tv.

The question thread for Part III will be posted later on, so keep an eye on the forums and Twitter for that!

That's all for this update. Let us know in the comments which Adventuring Party you are most looking forward to completing their quest!

Pledged to Your Continued Adventures in Life, Both Actual and Fantasy,