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Weathering the Storm

Tim Eisen Posted:
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Oh, the weather outside is frightful...as we know Chronicles of Elyria will have an underlying survival mechanic that is more pronounced than in most MMORPGs but likely not quite as pronounced as in the survival FPS games. I’m glad they will have survival but I hope it’s not a MMORPG version of ARK because, selfishly, I’ve had my fill of extreme survival! It was fun while it lasted but from DayZ to RUST to H1Z1 to ARK I went on a survival game binge and the only thing I learned was I better hope a solar EMP doesn’t hit because my survival skills are severely lacking!

What I loved about them is the same sort of thing I loved about my early MMORPG experiences, the sense of lawlessness that often leads to experiences-the kind we forge memories from. Long story short I love that Elyria has some survival built in but hope its tones down a bit compared to the games mentioned above.

An aspect of Elyrian survival that I already like the sound of is weather playing a major role in the survival mechanic and the overall game. From players to crops to animals weather is being worked into the core design so that its’s consequences can be felt across all of Elyria. This week we got to see some of that weather in a series of screens and it’s looking good. “Um, it’s just some effects…” I get that but looking at how few games embrace weather, or even feature it anymore, it’s nice to see Soulbound going to lengths to feature it visually and especially mechanically.

Seeing snow blanket things intrigues me. I don’t recall a MMORPG that was able to pull that off in real time. I’ve played snowy zones but I don’t recall a game in which snow falls and progressively adds up over time. I’m wondering if Soulbound is indeed attempting something like this for Chronicles of Elyria. It was implied by the screenshots where it begins to snow, adds up, covers everything in a white blanket then disappears as spring returns but it wasn’t outright stated. If they can make that work to the degree seen it would be a first for me and it could have some very challenging ramifications both to code and per PVP and survival.

Of course, there is a very good reason prior games had opted to ignore or cut weather altogether, it causes lag. It’s a nightmare for FPS so it will be interesting to see how much Soulbound can push weather while featuring more players on screen. If they can make rain that turns into floods I would be downright giddy but I don’t think I’ve seen any game pull that one off! I’ve heard water physics have made some great leaps in recent years but I have yet to see many games experiment with it.

I wasn’t sure how much Soulbound had developed prior to their Kickstarter. I believe the rumor was the studio had been slowly building for a year or two and some of the tech had been in the works for many years before that. Being a long-time MMORPG fan I’m naturally skeptical about anything developers say. Looking at the progress in the early screen shots puts them further along than I assumed.

Thinking back, I’ve seen the empty word evolve into a world with plants, now some wildlife and even some weather. I still wonder how many players are able to hop into what they have built. So far as I’ve only ever seen 2 players in a small area at the same time. Maybe what they are building right now is a test slice focusing on the environment and not the multiplayer aspects?

I’ve watched MMORPGs be built both ways; in regional sections then later assimilated into one mass world and from the ground up as one mass world, I can’t say I know if one is superior. Each seems to have their own set of banes and boons but even those differ based on things like studio size and game direction. I suppose the one that works best for your team and your budget is the best one for you. Whatever method Soulbound is using seems to be progressing quickly.

As speedy as things are looking I’m still skeptical of getting in the MUD, the pre-game and the game all with thorough testing by the December 2017. I’ve only seen one MMORPG go from beginning to end in this timeframe, Star Wars Galaxies. I don’t know how big their budget or studio was but I know they had to invent a lot of tech as they went because it simply hadn’t been done before. I’ve read Raph Koster’s blog enough to know it was often a fly by the seat of your pants adventure.

Then again even Galaxies launched at least 6 months to a year early! While that was frustrating at first, it turned out to be interesting because we received what nowadays would be considered big content patches throughout the first year and it kept the game fresh.

I’m not saying I’m already moving to believer status. I’m not that easy but I’m saying it’s been done before-kind of. I’d like to think making a MMORPG has become easier than it was way back before 2003 but recent game’s lead me to think that’s not true. My point is there is a chance. They’ve recently surprised me, maybe they will again.


Tim Eisen

I roleplay a wordsmith that writes about the technological and social evolution within the game industry