This is a hard one. This week I’m going to talk about the pink and purple polka dotted elephant in the room that is the Chronicles of Elyria (COE) storefront. If you read the latest COE update from Soulbound Studios owner/leader Jeromy Walsh then you might be thinking “I thought the Elephant in the room was the website”. I think the elephant is the storefront and I’ll explain why, but before I get into that I want to explain something else.
My obligation is to readers but at the same time the crowd funded MMORPG process has changed my view of “the devs”. Back in my blissfully oblivious days I was happy to consider the devs on par with the Nazgûl from Lord of the Rings. It was US vs THEM! In my mind players were the ring and they used any evil means possible to capture us! Crowdfunding changed that. I saw behind the curtain and it was full of real people! Better yet many of them were fans of MMORPGs living the dream many of us have entertained. The more I learn about the hardworking people behind a company name the heavier my pencil becomes.
I’m not trying to kick Soulbound Studios while they are down but I feel like it would be irresponsible of me not to address this website and especially the storefront situations. We here at MMORPG.com know better than anyone that taking a website down to replace it with a new one is a lot trickier than it sounds! Jeromy explained the technical and decision making shortfalls in great detail.
Essentially he got in too deep but didn’t realize it until it was too late. He stretched himself too thin and tried to do too much and as a result a day long website down time for a storefront addition turned into a week-long downtime that concluded without a storefront. He said the team met and talked about it, what they learned from it and where they can make adjustments to prevent it from happening again.
Obviously this is bad news, especially considering the launch date criticisms Soulbound has taken. How bad is something you have to decide for yourself. I understand a website is outside the realm of a MMORPG studio but the decision making that went into this series of events will apply to COE just as it did the website.
Did it change my view of Soulbound? No, as a new studio, frankly as any studio making a MMORPG, I expected them to stumble and fall, albeit not this hard this soon. It’s how they react to that fall that matters. How we get back up defines us. As bad as this issue was it’s not game breaking, not yet. They fell hard but in the long right it might be good that it happened now instead of 6 months into hard development. Adding some perspective, if you think you were frustrated about the site being down, imagine how upset the studio was! They had a lot of momentum coming off a successful Kickstarter. It would have transitioned nicely into their own storefront and now they lost that benefit.
That is where I am less understanding. The only storefront info we got is on the new website which now says “COE store coming soon” and this from the update itself “Then, back during the Kickstarter, we declared that we'd have a new online shop running right after the Kickstarter which would allow people to continue to pledge, upgrade their pledges, etc. This was the catalyst for the website suddenly becoming not just important, but urgent.”.
I don’t understand how the storefront went from being the catalyst to prioritize the website too unaddressed in the aftermath. A few lines about the status and why it failed to launch would have sufficed. I understand why they would be shy about deadlines after the lesson they just learned but surely there is something more they could have told us. I feel like the lack of store information has left many of us hanging and confused at a time when communication about it is paramount. It’s not the first time communication has broken down. It’s another thing I hope they work on going forward.
Other than those serious issues the rest of the Soulbound update was solid. Progress on the game continues. I said it before but I really like the format of their update and the amount of content we are getting (store info excluded naturally). It continues to give us a nicely rounded view of the number of aspects that have to be forged and eventually bound to create a MMORPG. Their living game guide/project board and form follows function approach to settlements have me especially intrigued. While I’m continuously impressed by what talented people make in free building games, let’s be honest, most of us make eye melting abominations or phallic towers! I once made a giant voxel toilet because I could! Some confines in the name of the game aesthetics are probably a good idea in such a roleplay heavy game. Reigning us in is will be the hard part.
A few columns ago I took some heat for praising Soulbound’s decision to delay the store. From my observations I worried they had too much to prove and too much pressure and that might impact their ability to make an unpopular decision when it was warranted. In that case they made the right call and showed me the kind of decision making I thought they needed to create COE. Unfortunately, a few weeks later when met with the scenario a second time they went a different route and the MMORPG demon defeated them. By my count they are 1 and 1 in battles but MMORPGs are a war of attrition. For now, I’ll hunker down in the trenches and see how the next few battles unfold.