The day MMORPG.com broke news of Chronicles of Elyria’s development I decided to keep my good eye on it. How could I not? Such bravado, such audacity! A rag tag bunch of developers that had never published a game were throwing their spear to the ground and challenging seasoned developers to step up! Their message resonated because its one many of us have said time and again, the MMORPG genre had lost its way, fallen from the virtual worlds of yore and evolved into a trend chasing theme park full of familiarity that seemed afraid of its own nature.
Elyria was different in that they knew what they were, what they wanted and they were nearly indignant about it! It would call back not just to the oldschool MMORPG’s like Ultima Online but it went even further to the grandfathers of the MMORPG via MUD’s and even pen and paper! It was everything so many have said, everything so many have yearned for and most importantly Elyria had great timing and when you are crowd funding, timing is everything.
As I’ve done before with crowd funded games that tickle my ear, a month or so out from the Kickstarter I dove deep and consumed every bit of Elyria information I could. I went in thinking it was the Ultima 2 we all deserved but never got. I came away flabbergasted! It was so broad and even more bold than what had been so boldly presented!
It was one of those ideas that would either combust and epically fail or combust and be epic! Either way people would remember it! Either way this game would be as explosive as the polarized reactions it was generating! Like driving by a guard lama fighting a wolf, I couldn’t look away! Heck, I was compelled to grab my spear and tackle that wolf so I jumped into the fray and backed Elyria.
The last nine months did not disappoint! It was everything I thought it would be and more. First the bad; Soulbound missed several deadlines and published several confusing updates which seemed to fuel its observers – both for and against. A verbal PVP war broke out. Every time it seemed to be dying down another deadline was dropped or another update reignited the battle. Every Kickstarted MMORPG seems to draw some ire that quickly fades after funding, Elyria’s went on for months. I hadn’t seen a crowd funded game retain such emotion, for better or worse Elyria was special.
The good; good really isn’t the word I’d use. It was quite literally the best year-ish Elyria has ever had! Yeah, they had some bad but the fact that they could even have bad, meaning they funded and existed is incredible! Within months Soulbound Studios went from being a dream to a few developers in a basement to a fully function game design studio! Jeromy himself explained it much better than I. You can read about the journey in more detail at this link. It’s an eye-opening look at the battled that was getting to this point.
He sacrificed money, relationships and even his own homestead in pursuit of this dream! Ironically, it’s as if he had to sim Elyria in real life in order to begin creating it! Many fans have dreamed of starting their own studio to make their MMORPG, its inspiring that he pulled it off.
The ugly; The December 30th update was the first one emailed in three months! Three months! Fortunately, they kept us updated via the news section of their website but I’m not sure why the updates would stop coming to our inbox. I was under the impression the updates were moving to bi-weekly but not that they would stop emailing them. Having them on the website reaches those that seek them or happen upon them, the email update reaches every backer which is something I believe a crowd funded game should strive to do. I’m at a loss as to why they would stop.
One year isn’t a lot of time for a studio to go from near nothing to a Kickstarter to developing. Looking back, it’s remarkable that they could get as far as they have in such a short timeframe. I can’t state that enough. To go from nothing to developing so quickly is impressive and I can’t imagine the kind of herculean effort the staff has put in. Soulbound is fortunate to have people of such mettle and they will need it. After watching development for nine months and continuously being humbled by how complex making these games is I now understand that it will take ten times as much effort to get Elyria to launch!
Good MMORPGs are living entities that seem uncontrollable and it’s as if their development is just as unpredictable. Why don’t we see more great MMORPGs? Because making one is like dumping two different puzzles together, shutting the lights off and trying to assemble them! No wonder publishers don’t want to touch them anymore, they are wild beasts that fight their creators through hell and back like the Balrog. It was a crazy nine months for people following this game and even crazier for the people making it! With just 12 months to launch I expect 2017 to be as impelling as 2016 for those of us that follow Chronicles of Elyria.