[Updated 4/28/2021 With COE Response]
In the latest Chronicles of Elyria blog post from Soulbound Studios’ CEO Jeromy Walsh (Caspian), some core features of Kingdoms of Elyria were touched on as part of a “preview” of Milestone 2. The post dives into very specific characteristics of Kingdom of Elyria’s contracts and NPC personalities systems, which Soulbound Studios plans to implement over the next couple months.
The embattled MMORPG that has transitioned to a standalone Kingdom-Management simulator (at least temporarily) has continued to push through to a playable alpha state, and Walsh is determined to get the alpha into backers’ hands for playtesting soon. The initial plan was to have some form of Kingdoms of Elyria available for playtesting in April of 2021. As of this article no date has been set for the first alpha test. We’ve reached out to Soulbound Studios for confirmation on a planned alpha date, and will update the story when we receive a response.
In the Milestone 2 Preview, Walsh expands on the features that were outlined in Kingdom of Elyria’s roadmap that was provided by the team back in February of 2021. The implementation of Contracts for Kingdoms of Elyria will be an adapted application of the Contract system that was built for Chronicles of Elyria, adjusted to fit the new style for Kingdoms. The system means to make engaging with NPC’s possible, allowing players to have NPC's gather and build on their behalf. The system will purportedly also provide an underlying drive to the NPC’s so that they manage their own goals such as surviving autonomously so that players don’t have to micromanage these features.
On the second part of Milestone 2, Soulbound plans to delve into NPC personalities, which will provide some advanced functionality to their survival “instincts”. Traits, Gossip and Zoning are three additional advancements that will further the relationship that your NPC’s have towards you, and define how, and in the case of zoning - where, you interact with your kingdom in the future. Walsh plans for more updates related to KOE next week, as a potential alpha test looms somewhere in the distance. The near-weekly updates to development are a stark change from the approximately 7-month information hiatus Soulbound Studios went on from April 2020, to December 2020 on the official Kickstarter page, and the official Chronicles of Elyria blog.
The premise of going dark was almost as worrying as Walsh suspending development, as early on in Chronicles of Elyria’s development, Walsh seemed to brandish an understanding that crowdfunding was risky, and that transparency was key to keep players invested:
“Just as we provide design treatments, pitches, proposals, and planning documents to the publishers, it’s the developer’s job to be transparent with the backers. Transparency builds confidence and makes supporting the project safer for backers.”
- Jeromy Walsh CEO Soulbound Studios, Chronicles of Elyria
Of course, the best laid plans of Chronicles and Kingdoms often go astray, and despite a successful Kickstarter campaign, and a subsequent funding campaign combined totaling over 8 million dollars, Soulbound Studios could not deliver on the initial visions of the project. With Better Business Bureau complaints dating back to March 25th 2020, which is the day after Walsh announced a cease in development of the game and prompt closure of the studio, a lawsuit quickly emerged in just a few weeks following. Chronicles of Elyria appeared to be poised with some difficult decisions ahead. In December of 2020, Walsh returned to the development stage with an interview clarifying the development position of the project, but that transitioned by February of 2021 to a stand alone product titled Kingdoms of Elyria. The premise is that Soulbound Studios’ development on Kingdoms was an "always planned" piece of the game and will be mutually beneficial to the future development of the original crowd funded project. As such Kingdoms will be delivered for free to backers at the Elyrian level or above.
Walsh has been adamant that progress is being made, posting developmental updates often, while it has been reported that the defendants of the COE lawsuit, Soulbound Studios and Xsolla, still need to decide whether to challenge the complaint against them. Xsolla, who handled payments for COE, at one point was accused of solely preventing refunds, and “stonewalling” customers, even those that had recently made purchases just weeks prior to the announcement of the studios’ closure. Despite the hardships, Walsh still intends to provide something in good faith, as development continues. The community of Chronicles of Elyria, on the other hand, feel differently.
In response to the update on Reddit, comments began rolling in, excoriating the project. Many of those still following the game are teetering between mild pessimism and blatant hostility:
I have no faith in this project, and this update will not change my mind. – Bgabbe, Chronicles of Elyria Reddit
Nothing is being developed. They're just avoiding a lawsuit by making "development" go on indefinitely. – Hollowsong, Chronicles of Elyria Reddit
"Development" is continuing because lawsuit was filed. This game won't be finished.” -ZzadistBelal, Chronicles of Elyria Reddit
Despite many community members having little faith in the ongoing development of the game, and a Class Action Discord for COE, there is really only one way to determine the life of the ongoing project, and it lies in the hands of Walsh and whatever team he employs as he continues to follow his ambitions. It seems whichever way Chronicles or Kingdoms goes at the moment, whether it continues its development cycle, or goes back into hibernation, it may be a losing battle with the community. Still, with an alpha test purportedly on the way soon, public opinion could always change.
A representative from Chronicles of Elyria has replied to the request for comment on the date of the Alpha Release. below is the response:
"In our Road Ahead blog, we stated "The first opportunity to alpha test will include the contents of Milestones 1 and 2 and is expected to be available around April," and in our latest blog, we discussed in the Milestone 1 retrospective the 'deaths' we suffered during development."The technical obstacles faced due to fog of war as well as the pathfinding will impact the schedule slightly. Firstly, we're now targeting May for the release of the first Alpha Test."Based on the above, we've been transparent on multiple occasions as to our goals, and where we've slipped slightly as a result of obstacles we've encountered. While we're currently aiming for May as previously revealed, we'll give a firm date as soon as possible."
-Chronicles of Elyria Representative
With May just a few days away, and more information planned for sometime this week, those still interested in the Kingdoms of Elyria alpha will have to wait, at least, a little longer.