28 August

Dreams and Nightmares...

By Caspian

Hey All,

Welcome to another weekly update for Chronicles of Elyria! This is another light week as the team and I spent a metric crap-ton of time this week in interviews. That isn't a bad thing, mind you. We've had the fortunate opportunity to talk to half a dozen extremely qualified applicants, and we're super impressed with the caliber of candidates that have been applying. I'll admit, seeing industry veterans and professionals come and talk to us about positions is extremely uplifting. And with any luck, we'll have 3-4 new employees starting in September.

That all said, interviewing is expensive and time-consuming. As many of the candidates have been interviewing for our Producer role, it's taken a good deal of time away from development this week. But, it's a cost I'm willing to pay. I firmly believe the Producer, more than anyone else, needs to fit well with the team. And the only way to ensure that they do is to let them spend plenty of time together before we hire them.

That out of the way, there's one other thing I want to talk about before we jump into our usual roll call.

Paper Prototyping

Have you ever had one of those moments where you go 'aha!' and either remember something you'd previously forgotten, or realized something so blatantly obvious you can't figure out why you didn't think of it before? Yeah, well, that happened to me yesterday.

I was lying in bed in the morning, half awake, half asleep, in that dream-like state when a few different conversations I'd had over the week started blending together. Before I realized it, I was prototyping a version of Chronicles of Elyria in my head as a table-top game (Note: that doesn’t mean I’m going to create a table-top CoE game. It just means I was thinking about CoE in terms of a table-top game).

I began looking at the different mechanics in CoE and thinking about the best way to represent them if CoE were a table-top game. What would I use to represent a soul? What about a character? How would they interact?

One idea I had was to have two sheets of paper. One, which would represent the character, would be randomly generated and printed off for easy use. It would be like the character sheets of most pen and paper role-playing games. It would be used to keep track of things like health, movement, skills, Talents, etc. The main difference would be that a lot of it would be pre-generated, like mechs in a mech warrior game, leaving room for additional write-ins.

Part of the character sheet would be a blank square with no content, aside from the word "Soul".

The second sheet of paper would be for the soul. This too would have some pre-generated information, with room for additional write-ins. The soul sheet would be smaller, and designed to lay over top of the first sheet of paper, inside the blank space. The neat thing is the calculations for skills, etc. would require adding values contained on both sheets of paper together.

As you played the game, your character would eventually die. When that happened you'd take a look at your first, second, and third highest skills on your character sheet, and do something like filling in a few extra bubbles for those skills on your soul sheet. That would represent the skill ramp from previous play. When your character died you'd simply take the soul sheet and separate it from the character sheet, making it immediately ready to be played again on a new character sheet.

After thinking about the soul I moved on to the destiny system. How would I represent a system of objectives generated based on your character? One possible solution would be to have cards, separated into different categories. The categories would be things like time, discovery, combat, resources, etc. Each category would represent activities you could perform in the game. When creating your character, you would randomly roll some dice, and then look up a table to see how many of each card type to draw, up to 10. Each of those ten cards would be kept face down, for only you to see. What's on those cards are triggers. Things that either you or other players could do which would activate the card. When activated, you'd flip it over, and read both a quest/objective, as well as the possible rewards.

That would mean that throughout the game, the ten event cards would dictate your play to one degree or another.

I thought about several other mechanics and how they'd tie together. Some required flipping tiles over for exploration; some required having a shared tile for you and the other players on the table. For example, you could have a grid tile which represented the settlement of the players at the table. As you gathered resources, you could build new buildings and populate your settlement. That could lead to party buffs, etc.

That also sets the tone for the overall game. Is it a collaborative game, with each person trying to 'win,' or is it more of a team game? I, of course, prefer it to be a more collaborative game, with no real individual win conditions. That fits the spirit of CoE much better. So I thought about a mechanic along the lines of our 10-year story. Each play session the players would pick their family/characters, set up their settlement card, and then read from a 'scenario sheet.' The scenario sheet would be like an adventure and describe the real objective of the players for the current session.

With that scenario in mind, the players would set off and begin exploring the map, gathering/processing resources, building, adventuring, etc. Every couple rounds you'd uncover/read the next part of the scenario sheet which described a change in play.

Natural disaster? A boss spawns? Your settlement is suddenly surrounded by an invading army? Anything would be possible. But the idea would be the players win and lose as a team. If they don't survive ten rounds, or they haven't achieved their scenario-objective by the end of the ten rounds, they'd lose. If they do, they'd win.

Of course, players always want to feel like they've contributed. So each character would have something that describes their objectives. Gatherers, Producers, Explorers, and Champions would each have a different set of goals. Whenever you contribute to your goal, you'd earn Story Points. These would carry over from game to game and could be used by the player in interesting ways.

Ok, enough of the monologue. You get the idea. The reason I'm sharing all this with you is that I realized (or remembered) that when it comes to art assets we have concept art, when it comes to UI/UX we have wire frames, and when it comes to programming we have algorithms and pseudo-code. But what do we have from a design perspective to truly validate the integrity of our work? One solution, as you might have guessed, are paper prototypes.

In case it isn't clear thus far, paper prototypes are a way of describing complex designs with the simplicity of a table-top game. The algorithms have to be easier to describe and understand, and RNGs become a function of dice rolls. Please note, that doesn’t mean we’re actually creating a full pen and paper role-playing game of CoE, nor a table-top board/card game. Paper prototypes are simply a way to test and experiment with mechanics as early as possible in a game-like fashion.

But why spend the time doing all this? Why would I actually spend the time building a paper-prototype of CoE? Because building CoE as I've done above, in a way that doesn't take more than a few hours, gives us a way to very quickly validate the ideas of our game. It answers questions such as: Is it fun to play in a medium other than an MMO? Which mechanics are necessary for the prototype to be enjoyable? Which mechanics complicate the game without adding any real value? etc.

While the designers and I haven't begun (and may not) creating a paper prototype for CoE, it's a compelling idea with the potential to add real value to the design process.

It may just be something I do in my own time as we move forward with the game, mentally determining how I'd design something if it were indeed a table-top game. Or maybe, it'll become a part of our design process. If it does become a part of our workflow, and we do end up making a paper prototype of CoE, you can bet we'll stream ourselves playing it.

Ok, with my musing about paper-prototypes aside, let's move on to the roll call.

Concept & Design

The concept and design team continue to work their way through the Tundra and Taiga, creating creatures in the food chain and gaining a better understanding of the unique play elements of those biomes. This week, they introduced a new creature. It's yet to be determined whether it's an apex predator, or whether something hunts it, but what we do know is that it hunts larger mammals and other animals on the plains of the Tundra. One such animal is the Domino Fox. But what kind of creature would hunt an animal as fast as a Fox? Especially one with 'armor' on its face? A creature that doesn't attack from the front. A creature that attacks from above...

Meet the Pteroguin. The Pteroguin, or 'Terrorguin' as it's called around the office, is a thing of nightmares. It's a Pterodactyl-Penguin. It lives in dens, not nests, along the cliffs in the Tundra. Adventurers dumb enough to get caught out in the open will first hear their shrill cries and then see their shadow looming beneath them. Like Eagles hunting rabbits, anything spotted by the Pteroguin is in a dire place.

They do not land and fight, creating an easy target for would-be champions and explorers. They dive down and strike and snap at their prey until they render it unconscious, and then land near it to rip pieces of flesh away with its serrated, saw-like teeth. Make no mistake, the Pteroguin hunts to kill. If you face one of these baddies, recognize that if you don't get to shelter quickly enough, you'll be following a silver chord back to your body.

Concept of the Pteroguin Figure 1 - Concept of the Pteroguin

Production

As mentioned above, the primary focus of Production this week has been on hiring. However, on Friday we deployed the 2.0.10 version of the website, which brought with it significantly more mobile support. At this point, aside from iPad and a few other weird form factors, the site should be fully usable on mobile devices.

As to the question I know you're going to ask next, 2.1 is our next update, which includes advanced admin and moderation tools, as well as reCaptcha support on registration to minimize the number of spammer accounts created. The following release, 2.2, is the Online Store.

Conclusion

That's all we've got for this week. Animation, Engineering, and Character art are all in-progress on some things and weren't able to get anything showable this week. But next week is a new week. With a few more in-office interviews coming up, the team will be growing quickly, and so too will the rate of new content.

Discuss

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Alexander_Miller - 2 years ago

what if someone manages to tame a pteroguin and use it as a flying death-mount...

Kalfax - 2 years ago

the pteroguin looks scary.

Sullen - 2 years ago

The Bionic Sloth, hey there, welcome to the forums. Feel free to poke around, read info, search for something specific or just create a topic or question of your own.

Try watching some of the Bycicle Walrus videos on YouTube that covers CoE (usually welcome made and informative) or stop by Electric Bears on YouTube since he has a few videos of his own.

And if all else fails, read the Dev Journals, they are full of very handy and useful information.

And Sloth, once again, welcome to the CoE family...

TheBionicSloth - 2 years ago

Hey I'm new to the COE Forms!

RaMYaR - 2 years ago

This idea of the soul sheet reminds me of an rare and old mmorpg called the 4th coming. In that game you were able to be reborn, starting your character back at level one. However, in doing so you were able to start off your new character with selected skills that were higher than before. You were allowed to do this up to four times, hence the name 4th coming, with each time being more difficult to get to rebirth. However, a 4x (a character reborn 4 times) level one character was incredibility stronger then a 0x level one character.

Asandru - 2 years ago

Nice update guys

taggjon - 2 years ago

WOW! I Think this article just inspired a great idea ("i think"). I will be starting a new 5thE game soon. I never thought about running a DnD game with a system like this. I was thinking about every time your character dies they get +1 to +3 to wisdom when they (DIE) inhabit someone new (could even be an evil campaign where they get to suck the soul out of whoever they have been watching or whatever). I was thinking about skills, just multiply your proficiency bonus and the # of reincarnations to any 2 skills that overlap. So if you die three times. On two skills you could have a +6 at level 1. But to combat power creep you just say if any stat gets to 20 when you die you go to the afterlife and you make a completely new character. Of coarse this would be nightmare with power gamers but with a good group this could be cool...

VVestern - 2 years ago

I agree with Wolfeguarde, a slide into takeoff is the only way forward.

Fallacy - 2 years ago

I like the concept of the Pteroguin, but I don't think it should be named that in-game. It makes no sense. If Pterodactyls and Penguins don't exist in Elyria, why would a weird word like Pteroguin gain prevalence? If we trace the origin of Pterodactyl, it literally means Ptero- "Wing" Dactyl- "Finger". So the first part of the Pteroguins name isn't too bad. They have wings after all! But if we take a look at Penguin, which scholars think originally came from the Welsh words Pen- "Head" and Gwyn- "White", it makes less sense. That means the Pteroguin translates as Wing White. As can be clearly seen in the concept art, Pteroguins don't have white wings! There's no reason they would be called Pteroguins. This is a minor issue, so I don't actually expect a change to be made, but I thought it should be said.

Cave_N - 2 years ago

I've played a home-brewed skills-based table-top with some m8s for many years. There has always been some balancing issues that have stared us right in the face, taunting us.

The issues haven't been the OP-ness of some races. If you had the chance to pick them, you had obvious advantages over any human or equivalent. Nor was it the magic, which again, was way OP versus someone who did not have it. We did balance the various magic classes to one another on a more recent revision. But magic is still very much a "you cast, you win" scenario for as long as you have the mana to do so. "Winning", however, does not always pertain to combat. Several spells had utility for job-skills making them easier, cheaper or more efficient.

The issues have tended to be how to do the damage for a "called shots" system, where we actually abandoned the traditional Hit Point system. And also, the balance issues we have with bows and guns(when they are available) when compared to the melee-style fighters. Stealth and Camouflage also tend to end in arguments, due to their inherent OP nature when used correctly and the near-inability to combat them. And... of course, the balance of learn-rates over time. Some skills, at the moment, just take more time to learn than others. This forces some players to utilize their bonus skills from gaining a combat level to raise them. This is not intended, but it is enforced by us including "real world logic" for much of the game. But alas, I digress...

The more I read about your ideas for this game, the more similarity I see to the game I've played and been part of development on for over a decade (and no, we have no plans for any future release).

I especially see many of your mythical creatures as being very similar. If you are a shape-shifter; while you're in human form, your nothing special. But when you change, you become the strongest single target on the battlefield. For us, we use high movement speeds, high reflexes(for higher hit/evade chance) and high damage on our werewolf. But for the werebear, you might expect to find a larger, tougher, stronger foe(albeit slower with lower reflex than it's wolf cousin) that can literally break you in half if it hits you once. When you said you wanted such talents to be so OP that they are a "kill on sight" to the average player, our shape-shifters jumped right into the forefront of my mind.

Good luck in your endeavor! I hope it brings great things. I, honestly, look forward to it.

Wolfguarde - 2 years ago

Someone's done it. Someone's given penguins the one thing they dream of above all else... and now they're freaking terrifying.

Also, SbS: Thank you for introducing the beginnings of a new game plan to me. I now have a plausible means to achieve world domination with an army of dire penguins. Expect good things to come 2-3 years post-release.

Taryl - 2 years ago

I remember when they started designing the economic simulator for Star Citizen it began with a paper game they were 'playing'. That too wasn't an attempt to build a board game. But if you have 2000 counties on a map you could easily run to the same scale as them, regardless of the distance between nodes being measured in kilometers or light-seconds.

Good luck with your hiring.

Astorica - 2 years ago

The making a paper prototype/board game version of video games was actually taught in a game design course I took. It really helped us think more about the mechanics of games and different ways they could work. Glad it's helping you in the same way.

Nice design with the Pteroguin! The teeth look very deadly. One suggestion I'd say is to maybe use a human silhouette to compare the sizes for future creature releases? Would help understand how terrifying some of these will be.

Sir_Skylos - 2 years ago

I love the pteroguin idea.

I would personally like to see slightly bigger claws and maybe less chunky, a leaner meaner version would be cool.

Please note before I get flamed it's my personal preference and I will still be happy to see it.

Second point what's gonna hunt that mean ass???

Artaer - 2 years ago
@Sir_Skylos:

If they hang upside-down, as I enjoy imagining they do, I would imagine their feet would have to be much more dexterous; perhaps opposable even.

Flight would probably necessitate a lighter frame. Penguins have the benifit of water buoyancy for their "flight" and can afford the "luxury" of frigid-water-resistant fat.

In short, I agree!

Zunjin - 2 years ago
@Sir_Skylos:

Posted By Barqu at 6:07 PM - Mon Aug 29 2016

Second point what's gonna hunt that mean ass???

The "Ice Ursumeleon", which are big hairy, bear like animals, that are hiding in the snow, waiting for a Pteroguin to fly by, so they can catch it with their very long and rapidly extrudable tongues. :)

Minihouston - 2 years ago

Thanks for the update. I was thinking a Pterodactyl-Owl combo would have been cool, but I guess I'm just not a penguin fan (Sorry Pittsburgh). The owl would give some cool feathers to the pterodactyl and forget about how cold it is at night, I'm staying inside because of the Pterowl!!!

Artaer - 2 years ago
@Minihouston:

well, if they already merged one bird with a pterodactyl... I see no reason alternate species couldn't exist. I hope desperately they shift it to be the Elyrian equivalent of many different birds. filling many of the same niches.

You could train a smaller breed to hunt like hawks.

Tiny ones like humming birds or sparrows could flock... and devour...

like tiny sky piranhas...

...

randys22 - 2 years ago

And btw not living in tundra now that's for sure.

randys22 - 2 years ago

Its also an update in email to all backers. And most of us love the ideas given.

BebopStrut - 2 years ago

Great news! Thanks for the update!

Darmky - 2 years ago

@Soulbound Studio:

I feel like you force yourself to write as long as possible updates every week. It is counter productive... A waste of time?

Do the majority of readers really need all that information?

Wouldn't it better to keep some information private (competition issues)?

The audience should be the average reader, isn't it?

After so many weekly updates, I get the same feeling... do not force yourself to write updates if it's not worth it! : )

You will read many messages from a few people spending tons of time on the forums and eager of new contents. However, I believe most backers only need the main headlines from times to times. On top of that, going that deep in the details could be really confusing for people who wanna play but not try to understand how you make the game.

=> I would recommend to create a seperate section on your forum if you really want to expose details of your thinking about the creation of the game.

Finally, I'm rather worried that you share all of the details of your creation. Free softwares are a wonderful things but if it's your intention, you are not using the appropriate business model. That makes me really worried.

Protecting your data is essential so Soulbound Studio is sustainable on long-term.

To continue, I also hope the data access when you hire a new employee is appropriate. I guess Soulbound Studio is aware of such issues that could destroy CoE but data spying is so trendy...

Don't be a carebear company please, we believe in the project. All people especially your competitors may not want your success.

Much love <3

Artaer - 2 years ago
@Darmky:

I can appreciate the concern for our fearless leaders, and their company's well-being, but from the other side, there is clear documentation of the creation of particular mechanics by Soulbound for Chronicles of Elyria.

Additionally, I believe Soulbound wants to foster in its community a sense of cooperation and "in-it-togetherness" that will really make this game shine. By including us in the process, we get to become "uncles" "aunts" and best friends with the game; having watched it grow up.

I for one am grateful for the updates.

Hessan - 2 years ago

I have only one critical observation of the Pteroguin. The talons make no evolutionary sense. If it is going to be divebombing prey and keeping a firm grip on cliff edges, I think it would most likely evolve longer, more grasping talons than the penguin's feet that are designed to minimize contact with the icy ground when standing for long periods of time or walking the long distance to the ocean from their colonies.

I am not saying going as far as reverting to an raptor's foot because they might not be able to handle the cold effectively without becoming damaged. At the very least the "toes" need to be longer with a rear claw for grasping

Artaer - 2 years ago
@Hessan:

I definitely agree with this comment, I believe there should be a bit more intensive evolutionary/technical attention payed to this particular pterror. It represents the groundwork for future flying Beasties.

Blade_of_Bone - 2 years ago

The pteroguin looks amazing. And I can't wait for the store. Really love what you guys are doing. :)

Lentor - 2 years ago

Wow! I really like the penguin! I would have never thought of such a combo! lol

Gnoll - 2 years ago

Oh my gods, it's Sunday. How could I have forgotten an update was imminent? yaaaay! Can't wait to see what happens once the hiring process is complete. And the Terrorguin sounds like it's going to add a whole new dimension to the game. I can see people walking around with spears so they can duck down and fend them off.

Squiddy_la_Femme - 2 years ago

Nono...make it, then offer it in the store. 😉

VVestern - 2 years ago
@Squiddy_la_Femme:

Posted By SquiddylaFemme at 1:37 AM - Mon Aug 29 2016

Nono...make it, then offer it in the store. 😉

I think if there is a game to be made from this we have enough creatives in the community that could put a few heads together to come up with something. I'm pretty sure Caspian and SS have their hands full!

NothiN - 2 years ago

Lol that pteroguin awesome.

Artaer - 2 years ago

I love the pteroguin concept. My only complaint is that without beefier wings or jumping legs it seems it's only recourse for takeoff is tobogganing down the snow... Terrifying... However this means takeoff after mealtimes, foodweight added is unfortunatly impractical unless they never descend below snowline and mountainside. I'm no expert, but animal flight is kind of a hobby. I suppose they could also hang from mountain ledges, out of the weather, and drop like a bat. Do they hang like a bat?

Yours in creative zoology. Chronicler Chimerae.

Takeda_Shinukage - 2 years ago
@Artaer:

Posted By Artaer at 12:42 AM - Mon Aug 29 2016

I love the pteroguin concept. My only complaint is that without beefier wings or jumping legs it seems it's only recourse for takeoff is tobogganing down the snow... Terrifying... However this means takeoff after mealtimes, foodweight added is unfortunatly impractical unless they never descend below snowline and mountainside. I'm no expert, but animal flight is kind of a hobby. I suppose they could also hang from mountain ledges, out of the weather, and drop like a bat. Do they hang like a bat?

Yours in creative zoology. Chronicler Chimerae.

Well it's proportions arent that different then actual bats. The legs are the really only beefier part of it then a bat.

Artaer - 2 years ago
@Takeda_Shinukage:

Posted By Wicked FlamezZ at 2:50 AM - Mon Aug 29 2016

Well it's proportions arent that different then actual bats. The legs are the really only beefier part of it then a bat.

very true, In this case however, I was attempting (and failing it seems) to point out that a creature that large would need either "jumping" legs, or stronger arms to be able to lift off. As a predator that often lands on the ground to feed, (mentioned in the creature's description) It would need a reliable takeoff mechanism. At larger sizes, I would think that it becomes more of an issue as greater structural support adds more weight. As I said before though I'm no expert.

Wolfguarde - 2 years ago
@Artaer:

Posted By Artaer at 6:53 AM - Fri Sep 02 2016

Posted By Wicked FlamezZ at 2:50 AM - Mon Aug 29 2016

Well it's proportions arent that different then actual bats. The legs are the really only beefier part of it then a bat.

very true, In this case however, I was attempting (and failing it seems) to point out that a creature that large would need either "jumping" legs, or stronger arms to be able to lift off. As a predator that often lands on the ground to feed, (mentioned in the creature's description) It would need a reliable takeoff mechanism. At larger sizes, I would think that it becomes more of an issue as greater structural support adds more weight. As I said before though I'm no expert.

Personally, I'm in favour of them doing the classic penguin slide off a mound or sheer elevated space to get back in the air.

Artaer - 2 years ago
@Wolfguarde:

Posted By Wolfguarde at 12:42 AM - Fri Sep 02 2016

Personally, I'm in favour of them doing the classic penguin slide off a mound or sheer elevated space to get back in the air.

That's why I suggested it initially, I love the sliding takeoff.

And it would relegate the terrorguin to snowy mountains, away from most human habitation.

VSFree - 2 years ago

I fkin LOVE pteroguin xD

Corin - 2 years ago

It's nice to see all these updates. Will private messaging be returning in 2.1?

Maulvorn - 2 years ago

That bird is Happy Feet on steroids.

Caspian - 2 years ago

Hey all,

I got a chance to listen to part of BW's Live Panel earlier today, as well as read the comments before this. In many cases, it seems there was a misunderstanding that we were working on a production pen & paper RPG game of CoE, rather than toying with the idea of creating a paper prototype to test our design ideas.

In either case, I went ahead and re-wrote a section of the Update on Paper Prototypes to fix the tense, and make it more clear that this is a design tool, and not a source of revenue or something that would detract from our development.

If you've already read over the Update, you may want to re-read the section on Paper Prototypes, as I believe it's much more clear now.

Thanks!
-Caspian

Polite - 2 years ago

Excellent to hear the hiring process is proceeding smoothly, it should be a testament to your proof of concept so far that you're getting the talent you are.

The paper prototype sounds like it would be a great aid to hashing things out in the design process saving you valuable man hours before being able to discard an idea as a dead end.

If possible can we get a size confirmation on Pteroguin? Is it the size of an Emperor Penguin in our world or the size of a full grown man?

Drefan - 2 years ago

I really dig the destiny idea, I think it will add a nice individualized player experience. What I'm confused about is you randomly get up to 10 cards from across the 4 profession categories. Wouldn't the possibility of you only getting 0 or 1 card of your preferred profession. I'm just saying that wouldn't be ideal when your friends are getting 8 or 9 cards.

Expectorate - 2 years ago

While I like the concept of an Elyrian pen and paper game, I've already got D&D character ideas I'm not going to end up using.

Swooping penguins sound great! But...but...another dangerous animal that isn't a drop-bear. Sadness. Also awesome, but I still want drop-bears.

Scottish365 - 2 years ago

Sign me up for a tabletop game that ties in. It could be a good marketing tool for people who aren't too hyped about the game yet. I absolutely could get my gaming group to play the tabletop, and maybe encourage them to get into the game when it launches more easily. Let's playtest this as a community!

Mundilfare - 2 years ago

I'll have that bird as my pet or my lunch by the end of this...

VVestern - 2 years ago

I would be super interested in an online version of the paper prototype! It would make for great community building :)

Mandos - 2 years ago

Wow that pteroguin looks both adorable and vicious at the same time. Good job!

SirCatiganz - 2 years ago

;)

Takeda_Shinukage - 2 years ago

That penguin tho, holy genius!