Dynamite or a Snare?
Boy, this game is escalating quickly and it’s not even a game yet! Soulbound Studios is trying to solve a game time issue by changing an Elyrian year from 4 to 7 days. Sounds simple enough right? In some games yes but not in a game with as many deeply woven concepts as Chronicles of Elyria (COE). It also means character lifespan changes which means a whole bunch of other things and decisions and we all know anytime anyone anywhere makes a decision because of things other people will be angry about it.
I could try to briefly explain the situation to you but if Jeromy (Souldbound’s Owner/CEO/lots of things) failed to do it in his “Rabbit Hole” Update Number 38 then I sure as hell can’t! Side note, such depth is rare and I greatly appreciated it. He certainly put a lot of time into trying to explain the concept to us. It was one of the best backer updates I’ve read among several projects I’ve backed. That said, frankly I’m still not sure I understand it but more on that later. If you want to get the nitty gritty I suggest reading update number 38 or heading the forum thread in which Jeromy himself added another page or information further detailing this change. Such is life in the ever contentious relationship between developer and customer in the MMORPG genre.
I’m less interested in why people are mad and more interested in the solution Soulbound came to but first an old story. Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away some engineers had a powerful engine that was bolted to the ground. Unfortunately, it shook terribly! As a result, it kept tearing up its restrains. The engineers stood around it unsure of how to fix the problem. As they did a janitor walked by and said “golly, someone ought to suspend that thing from some chains so it stops making a mess of my floor”. The engineers simultaneously went AH HA! After reading the massive update from 2 weeks ago I was left feeling like Soulbound could use a janitor to solve their aging problem. Sometimes intelligent people that are close to a problem only see complex solutions and they don’t see how those solutions further complicate the problem.
There is great risk with a system that is too complex, it can confuse the heck out of your players both current and potential! Based on nothing more than my experience as a long term MMORPG fan and writer I foresee continued problems both mechanical and user based.
This is hardly scientific but I suggest that if a foundational game mechanic takes a small novel (even a good one) to explain then maybe it’s too broad for its own good? Don’t get me wrong it sounds like a great concept, very interesting, but I feel like an entire single player game could be made from it alone! Soulbound has a whole MMORPG universe to build on a budget within time constraints! I’m not saying it needs to be cut, but maybe it needs to be redesigned into something more manageable with a deeper system added post launch.
In some ways I feel worry experience bias is overtaking me. COE is the latest in many crowd funded rodeos that I have been through. I’ve had teeth knocked out and dirt kicked in my face in all of them, unfortunately it’s part of the process. My naïve has been replaced with skepticism. Hope with fear. I can’t help but think that effects how I view the development of this game just as it’s changed how I view the others.
That said I still believe all of that complexity has to translate into one single word that has killed more MMORPG’s than WOW, fun and no matter how great it sounds or how complex you make it fun is not guaranteed. I like that COE is a deep game but maybe in this case it needs to scale things back a bit. If the MUD ideas weren’t already giving me the feature creeps watching the aging concept expand certainly has.
In the last column I talked about the value of unbiased (or close to it) fan feedback. I didn’t think that kind of feedback was really needed until testing but in this case I feel like many fans could offer up some ideas on the problem. I’m not saying I have a great solution but I feel like part of giving constructive feedback is trying to offer more than a yay or nay. It’s easy to criticize when you aren’t offering up your own idea for the cutting bored. Here is mine.
What if in the COE universe people age differently than real life? Maybe a kid ages slower than an adult, or maybe years 20-50 go faster or years 50-100 slower? Couldn’t a solution like this work around the issue without making it even more complex? For the record I’m not against complex solutions. I’m just not for using a stick of dynamite to kill the rabbit when all they needed was a snare! (Sorry but if I was Alice I would have clubbed that rabbit, took it home and made a nice stew!) As a kid that story always scared me.
I submit to you a deep dark scary thought of my own that has been haunting me since I read this update. What if what we mistook for developers being lazy or not trying to evolve might have been what Soulbound is coming to terms with. That mechanics of this grandeur have been tried before but never succeeded for the very same reasons I note above - fun, complexity, money and the greatest PVPers of them all, time. No matter how incredible an idea is, if it can’t holdup to those four qualifies it needs to evolve. I’m interested to watch it develop and see how aging in Chronicles of Elyria contends with each of them.