For anyone who frequents the MMORPG Universe and isn’t aware, last week Chronicles of Elyria (COE) officially funded on Kickstarter. If you know one thing about COE it’s probably that it will feature a volatile concoction of permdeath, survival mechanics and PVP! “Uh, that was 3 things.” Good job sunshine, glad you are paying attention, now try to keep up because I’m about to drop some bold words! Ready?
COE might be the first MMORPG since my beloved Star Wars Galaxies to equally appeal to playstyles ranging from Luke to Jabba to (especially) Lars! Why do I say especially Lars? Because the Lars of the world have been neglected for years and if the current COE community is an indication, whether Soulbound Studios (developers of COE) planned it or not, COE might actually appeal to them most of all! (As the PVPers reading this recoil in disgust, I suggest you re-watch Episode 4 wink wink…) But what exactly do I mean by a “Lars” playstyle?
To quote one fantastically bearded writer, “COE isn’t a PVP game or even a survival game. Yes, it has those features and I’m sure it will attract those players, but at its core are the castaways of MMO past that might have finally found a home for the first time since the early 2000’s. The core of the community are the role players, MUDers and pen and paper fans that have been ignored for far too long.” For the record that quote was my own…
Let’s get serious before the 3 readers that haven’t left finally leave. When SWG (and other virtual world games) died or devolved I believe they left a unique niche within the MMORPG community without a game. The social MMOers if you will (I’m looking at you Cantina Crawlers). They were farmers and creature handlers, musicians and entertainers, interior designers and artisans and even simply guys who “knew how to get things”. Yes, kids, once upon a time these games were so broad and so deep you could specialize in knowing where to find things!
They didn’t really PVE or PVP but they spent as much time in their games doing…whatever it was they did, as anyone who ever unlocked Jedi or hit max level! It sounds like some fanatical dream doesn’t it? Once upon a time games allowed you to go beyond what was labeled and create content for yourself. To become who you wanted to be in a universe that you loved to be in, to live in…(wipes away a tear)
Their games might have been different but their story is the same. An entire niche of players is wandering the MMORPG desert looking for an oasis upon which to build a home because no matter how hard they try, no game from the WOW era on has been able to capture that sense of reality within virtual reality they crave. The hope for a return of that worldliness is what brought me to COE…that, and the irresistible fascination that comes with a MMO that has such a high potential for turmoil and drama!
Before you think this is a sales pitch, it’s far from it. I gank shills for breakfast! (Or maybe it’s that I eat taco shells...) I’m not saying COE IS the game we are looking for. At this point that is impossible to know (but looking over Soulbound Studios Owner/CEO Jeromy Walsh’s design journals I believe he remembers that era and I think he wants COE to relate to it). My current thoughts about COE aren’t all nostalgia and light sabers. Honesty is an aspect of writing about MMOs that I take very seriously. SpatialOS technology considered, I believe COE has an uphill battle from the start because of their ambitious launch date. When it comes down to it a date is easy to move but you only get one launch to establish the reputation of your game. December of 2017 is a deadline that MMOs only focusing on PVP would shy away from and COE will feature PVE as well features never before seen nor tested inside a MMORPG!
I believe they could release a game by that date, I just don’t think COE as described can make it, not with a proper layer of polish and careful testing. My hope is if push comes to shove Soulbound won’t be afraid to swallow their pride and keep this bun in the oven until it reaches maximum scrumtrulescence! Then again, I might be completely wrong (as is often the case). I’m certainly no developer nor would I pretend to understand such things, I can only make observations and predictions off of my own experiences based on 12 plus years as a dedicated MMORPG player. Looking back, I feel comfortable with my prediction but would be thrilled to be proved incorrect.
Beyond the due date I don’t think it’s fair to get overly critical of COE because, like Kickstarter MMOs before it, much of it is still ideas on paper. Many of those ideas haven’t been attempted since MUD’s which makes them both exciting and unpredictable. For me that is another part of the allure. It turns out I love watching MMOs develop as much as I love watching them evolve post launch.
I plan to stay embedded with COE and keep any readers that give me the privilege of their time honest coverage as the story of this game’s creation unfolds. When those ideas turn to reality I’ll be as critical of them as I was the deadline above because that is a respect we owe the developers of the games we are funding. Honest, constructive, critical thinking. Beyond our wallets it’s the most valuable asset we can offer. Their game and the fate of our entire genre might depend on it.