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Deeper Insight

A closer look and explanations of game innovations, flaws, systems, concepts, mechanics and progression.

Author: raynforce

Chronicles of Elyria: A Rundown of the Known Systems and Concepts

Posted by raynforce Thursday September 24 2015 at 12:12AM
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Chronicles of Elyria (CoE) is a new highly social dynamic sandbox fantasy MMO in the early development stages by new game company Soulbound Studios. Based on the information currently available, it is a very promising MMO now in development where the entire social (including familial AND commercial), character development, legal, economic and political systems can be fully controlled by the players. All this is simultaneously backed up by a robust server side AI called the 'Soulborne Engine' to deal with the consequences of actions and the subsequent reactions to those events. Want to understand how Chronicles of Elyria works? Imagine every MMO you have ever played and how their in-game rules and engines work. Got it? OK, now throw most of that out the window and you have Chronicles of Elyria.

Almost everything about the game is a new innovation or improved take on how to deal with the way people are immersed in an MMO world. There is Permadeath - but only of your physical body and not nearly so punishing. There is full loot, free-for-all PvP - but designed so that even the most hardcore PvE player will not likely be bothered by it and may even be able to to take advantage of those who partake in it. There are no 'quests' - but NPCs act like player characters and create contracts based on their actual needs. There are no subscriptions - just 'sparks of life' which players purchase to provide them with bodies to inhabit with their souls for usually about 10 to 14 months real time... with some twists. You don't even have to ever pick up a weapon or fight a battle if you don't want to. The game is designed so that any aspect of a fantasy world can be player controlled. Don't have time to play 16 hours per day because you have a job, family or responsibilities? No problem, the game has systems in place to keep you moderately up to speed. To really understand what kind of game Chronicles of Elyria is, you will have to either play it (not an option at the moment) or continue reading on as I try to explain some of the currently known game mechanics, social structures, consequences, laws, and monitization systems found in CoE.

Before you continue, a few words of caution regarding the examples given in this article. All examples use the currently available information as a basis and may not accurately depict the final game as CoE has not been released in any form to the public yet. For example, while we do know that there will be crafting, players controlling tradesman, and titles for nobility and famous story characters, there will be no formally named professions in CoE. This is because 'professions' are simply collections of skills used to perform a specific goal such as 'making a chair'. Specific names of skills and titles in particular have not yet been announced so all instances of such are just placeholders used to better illustrate the systems being discussed. Also, while the examples use current information, they do not take into account the added levels of complexity from systems that have yet to be revealed to the public including but not exclusively; the combat, magic, kingdom building and crafting systems.

Dying Body

The world of Elyria is populated by bodies which typically are born, have children, grow old, and die of old age (permanent death) at a rate of one season per real world day (or one year per four real world days). Each of those bodies are inhabited by one of two types of souls, player character souls or non-player character souls (computer controlled). While bodies get injured, sick, or potentially even become permanently killed, souls are eternal and undying. The body handles personal wealth and possessions, stats (like strength, reason and persuasion), family ties, identity, and skill ranks. When the body dies permanently, most of those things are lost but possessions can usually be passed on to the player's specified heir or beneficiary provided that the character has something to pass on.

Losing a fight in combat or injury does not usually mean permanent death. Most of the time, it will only result in the character being knocked out for a short time, but they can then be coup-de-graced while knocked out which causes temporary death. There are strong deterrents in place to discourage a coup-de-grace without a really good reason which I will touch on later, but even a coup-de-grace is not necessarily a permanent death. When a character is coup-de-graced, their soul gets forcefully detached from their body and thrown into a hazy ethereal realm. While in this realm, the player has a finite amount of time to find their way back to their body. While finding one's body without aid is nearly impossible, characters fortunately have a thin silver line that attaches their soul to their body which can be followed. The amount of time they have to return to their body and how easy the silver line is to follow is effected by a number of factors such as character age, stats, number of previous coup-de-graces, the presence of family members by their body and, most notably, fame, a very critical factor that will be detailed later. Should a soul fail to reach its body before the timer runs out, the body permanently dies and the soul returns to its home in the Akashic Records, ready to be put into a new body of the player's choice.

Immortal Soul


Permanent death in CoE is not the ultimate end. While you do lose everything you had in the corporeal word including your family, identity, and possessions, your soul keeps some aspects of your being. First of all, you do not get to keep your skills when you die but your soul does remembers that you for example already lived four lives as an accomplished master blacksmith. Should you chose to start a new life as a blacksmith, your skills will all reset (as they are tied mostly to body); however, your new character will find that they mysteriously have a natural affinity towards being a blacksmith which provides them with a much greater skill acquisition speed and maximum potential for all smith related skills you knew. This is refereed to as 'skill ramp-up'.

The soul also keeps tracks of any achievements from previous lives and also of a very special trait called 'talents'. Talents are rare and special abilities that can even break some of the normal rules of the game. A talent MAY be granted randomly to a soul when it is first created, but is hidden, even to the player. It does not show up unless certain conditions are met and sometimes even requires multiples lives to fully manifest. An example of a talent given by the development team is the unusual ability for a player to enter the ethereal realm when near the body of a player who has been coup-de-graced in order to aid (or more deviously, hinder) them in their journey back to their body.

Finally, a soul has the ability to enter the body of almost any character not already possessed by a player soul in the physical world. While the more traditional way to enter the world is as either a twelve year old ward of the state or fifteen year old child of a family (both of which eventually brings you to the the character creation and customization screen traditionally found in most other MMOs), you also have the option to enter into the body of almost any non player-occupied NPC in the world of Elyria. That's right if, for example, the captain of the guard of a powerful king for some reason has no player character in it, you can posses that body and take on its name, role, skills, possessions, identity, everything. Not only that, but there is no way for players to know you are in that body other than if you make obviously non-AI typical actions. No one can track the previous names, bodies, lives or handles of human controlled characters in Elyria through any in-game means (they may be able to guess who you were though, especially based on achievements if they are viewable).

Social Complexity: A World of Our Own

The social systems in CoE are just as complex as in the real world and are far more deep than the typical 'guild' found in most other MMOs. Your closest social group in CoE is typically your family. A group of four friends could, for example, potentially take control of an existing NPC baker and wife couple in their mid 20s along with 2 of their 3 children. One player could be the husband, the other the wife. They would take on every aspect of those NPC's lives including their names (which can be changed after with gold), skills, possessions and looks (which are only superficially changeable). The other two players could then customize their characters since they are starting as the family's 15 year old children, but customization would not be completely without limit as they must stay within the bounds of their parents' genetics (no blond haired blue eyed black children of the black haired brown eyed white parents). The third child could then be a non-player character which is AI controlled but could be later possessed by a complete stranger if not locked off from the public (which is a possible option for any player's own kids). The married couple would be forced to share all resources, including access to money and inventory, so if you don't want to share, don't get married. An in-game family provides many of the same benefits (and frustrations) as a real family including shared accommodations, taxes, responsibilities, enhanced in-game communication option, and even the supernatural ability to help make a loved one's soul return to their body easier in the case of temporary death.

At the larger community level you have towns and kingdoms. A large group of players could potentially create an entire town populated by their members. Everything from the mayor and his staff, to the farmer and his children could all be one out of game community playing their desired roles in-game. Since CoE has almost no fast travel, being near people you can trust and work well with is an essential ingredient to the potential success of both a town and its people. But be careful when encroaching on a neighboring town's resources as war is just as much a part of CoE as peace is. Very little information is currently known about guilds and schools, but they have been described by the developers as acting more like a social tie to help those with similar skills and interests work towards a common goal (such as in the case of a fishing guild or school of ancient lore).

Contracts: It's All About Needs

Unlike theme-park MMOs, CoE does not have any quests. This does not mean that players have nothing to do however. As Elyria is a living breathing world, it's denizens have all the same needs and wants as we do such as food, shelter, safety, procreation and even entertainment. Everything in the world needs resources, both human and material. As an example (not an actual in game example) If you want a new house, you cannot simply buy it with gold outright. Building the entire thing by yourself is also not likely an option as all the skills required in making a home such as getting the correct permits, building, designing, and furnishing are not likely achievable by a single character. You could however potentially pay someone to make sure it gets built to your specifications. Whatever the case, each time you want something done for you by either a PC or NPC, you must first enter a contract with them. For example, to have your home built you may create a contract with a NPC which outlines the exchange of a large sum of gold for a fully furnished complete home. That NPC may then use that gold to pay many differently skilled players within a certain ability range to build your home, and an interior designer to acquire appropriate furniture. If the interior designer only needs 10 chairs for the home, they will only issue contracts for 10 chairs, potentially only to crafters within a reasonable travel distance with specific skill levels.

Even crafting the chair itself may require many skills from various individuals (logging to harvest the wood, carving to pattern the wood, sewing to cover the seat in fabric etc...). Once those 10 chairs are made, contracts for chairs will not keep being issued, so furniture crafters could hypothetically need to go look elsewhere for work if they are not fast enough, skilled enough or even physically close enough to snag those requests. The contract system spans into every aspect of the game from requests by a baker for grain and eggs, to requests by a king for able warriors to guard his domain or help train his successor in self defense. It should also be noted that any role previously described can be taken on by either a PC or NPC as the only (currently known) difference between them in CoE is human player control versus computer artificial intelligence control.


Elyria: War and Peace, Choice and Consequence

CoE is a world where conflict can occur and that means the presence of war, deception, murder and theft. During officially declared war between two kingdoms, knocking another player out and also coup-de-gracing them can be done without legal consequence (at least not game controlled consequence). Having your soul ripped from your body is a trying experience however. This results in scarring to the body and a permanent reduction in a stat called 'spirit'. Spirit is a stat that naturally degrades by aging and ultimately results in older players not being able to return to their body very easily in their later years. The instant reduction of spirit through combat mortality can end up significantly reducing a player's lifespan. As a result, taking a kingdom to war is not an act that should be taken lightly.

Knocking a player out and especially killing them is a crime when done outside of sanctioned PvP (such as war). While the details of the criminal system have not been fully revealed, current information suggests that when a player commits a crime, skills(s) are/is used to determine the degree of success of that crime versus unknown checks made by other NPC(s) and PC(s) to discover the crime. If a felony is discovered, the player is imprisoned for an amount of time based on the crime committed. Stays in prison are not experienced by the player, but instead are reflected as an automatic progression of time for their character. This means a shorter lifespan which translates to less time to work on skills such as combat and 'delinquent' thievery abilities. The developers expressed that while it is possible to get away with a crime without being caught, there is always a risk, especially when the player is not good enough and/or the character is not specifically trained well enough in the skill(s) required to commit the crime.

A thief can either opt to simply knock a player out as a result of combat to steal their gold and held items or they could then proceed to outright kill them with a coup-de-gras if they want to go into their inventory or unbuckle their sword belt. Fortunately, the penalty for outright murdering a player is supposed to be, by design, so severe a crime that no thief should consider killing without very good cause, motivation, or pure reckless abandon. Assassination, another form of illegal murder, carries with it the same severe penalties. As a result, most peaceful common players should not find themselves being player killed unless they gave their assailant really good cause for attack. For example, the cruel king of a large nation setting taxes exuberantly high for his own personal gain may find that he needs to always keep a small army around him to thwart constant assassination attempts.

Monitization: Fueling Soulbound Studios with Mountain Dew and Pad Thai

Another aspect completely original to Chronicles of Elyria is its monitization system. So far, two ways a player can spend money on the game have been announced. The first is the main way players will be paying to play, 'sparks of life'. CoE does not have a subscription service but instead opts to have the customers pay approximately the same price as a typical MMO game expansion for a 'spark of life'. This spark of life is what allows the player to fuse one of their souls (as you can have many souls if you so choose) with a body down on Elyria.

Most players who live a normal life to old age should expect somewhere between around 10 to 14 months of playtime per spark of life. There are four known exceptions to this however. First, if you are constantly getting killed for some reason such as by choosing a dangerous life (like that of a mercenary for hire) you will end up with a shorter lifespan depending on how often you are coup-de-graced. The second is if you keep getting caught for crimes and thrown in prison as previously mentioned. The third is that a player can become immortal through extraordinary means such by becoming a litch or vampire, but these methods come with currently unknown consequences. Lastly is if you chose to take on the role of an important story character in the world of Elyria. Story characters such as kings, mercenary leaders, headmasters and guild leaders are assigned a certain amount of fame based on the importance of their role in Elyria. Fame causes characters to receive more spirit loss than normal when killed, sometimes even to the point that a single successful assassination attempt (such as in the case of a king) can result in permanent death. Players choosing to take on such roles should prepare accordingly by making sure that their lives are never put in harms way. With greater fame comes greater risk.

The second monitization system in place has yet to be fully explained by Soulbound Studios, but the general idea is that players can pay a certain amount of money to have access to better than normal 'offline only' jobs which earn them a greater than usual amount of gold while not logged in. This allows players with a little extra money but not a lot of time to at least keep up a moderate pace with those who can be online for long hours. The system is by design less useful to players who can stay online. The developers have ensured that while this should help players without time keep up, it should not be more lucrative than earning gold by playing the game online as normal.


While my opinions of this game are largely positive so far, I have had a few small concerns which I believe Soulbound Studios will work out eventually. First is the ambitious nature of this project for such a small team. So many ideas for CoE are so radically new and, more importantly, AI intense that I believe that the Soulbound Studios team has a much more difficult than normal development path ahead of them; However, considering the breakneck speed updates have been coming out lately and the superior quality of their work so far, the team is proving to be more than capable.

Second, this game has such a different take on what is PvP, permadeath, and monitization that I have already seen potential players turn away before taking the time to understand that none of those things are like what they have grown to know in other MMOs. Once again, provided that Soulbound Studious continues on the same track as they have so far, I am not too concerned as the quality of the game will eventually speak for itself and doubters will be forced to take a more detailed look at the game.

Last is the role of fame and how it can potentially lead a player to being instantly and permanently killed if they are not careful. While many people willing to take on major story roles in Elyria will be prepared to pay for a new spark of life should they fail, players with less disposable income may feel restricted from even considering to become a famous player in CoE. Despite potentially great leadership or other relevant skills, they simply may not be able to afford a new life should they be killed while playing a major story role. Perhaps such an issue could be avoided if sparks of life become an in-game trade-able commodity that is still purchased with real cash or, even more simply, can be gifted, but no solution has been officially offered so far.

The Verdict: Innovation and Progress Worthy of Attention

The info I have provided up to now is but a glimpse of what Soulbound Studios has planned for Chronicles of Elyria. The game studio has stated that they have not even began to scratch the surface about their most innovative and intriguing parts of the game such as the implementation of magic, the combat system, and the crafting system. While the developers over at Soulbound Studios have graciously taken the time to read over this article for accuracy before its posting, it should still be kept in mind that all of the information mentioned above is for a game that is still in it's early development stages and as such, changes can and will be made. If you have taken interest in CoE as I have, now is the best time to join the official CoE forums while your input about the game still has the most impact on the development process. The staff at Soulbound Studios are always on the forums and social media, ready to read feedback and answer any questions that they can about the game.

Despite being largely unfinished, CoE has had considerable progress made already. ALL images shown in this article are from 100% in-game renders using the Unreal 4 engine. Rudimentary servers are already up and running with the first public test of the login and XMPP based chat server (functional both in-game and out of game) slated for limited public testing starting October 15th of this year (2015). If that is still not enough to interest you, Soulbound Studios expects to have videos of in-game footage very soon and even intends on having a playable demo available in time for Pax East in April 2016. All this and the game has not even announced the date for their upcoming crowd-funding campaign as of yet. In the meantime, I will be continuing to provide news about Chronicles of Elyria as it becomes available. Check out the links below for more detailed information about the game directly from the Soulboud Studios team. For now, spread the word about CoE, start planing those cities and kingdoms, and I'll be seeing you in Elyria soon.

Official Webpage:
Use friend code 709C0E when you register if you enjoyed my article.




Elyria Echo (The best non-official source of CoE info):

Special thanks to the Soulboud Studios team for personally putting up with all my questions, and the community members who gave me precious feedback, especially 'Liva, Fairy Queen of Zygethia'.