Phew. This is quite a topic. :-) Yesterday night I spent about four hours struggling to answer the questions in this thread in a number of different ways. I really didn't like any of the approaches. So today I'm going to try it a bit differently.
What I've seen from reading over this topic and all the posts is a re-occurring set of questions which seem to all stem from a few assumptions, which once clarified, make most of the concerns disappear. So, let me begin by identifying what I see are the main concerns from this topic (and all posts), and then we'll address each of them.
- The 'first-life vs. second-life' fallacy
- Skills and skill ramps
- Extending life as a spark
- Raising small children
- Random strangers in the family
- Accessing previous dynasties
- Killable NPCs
- Soul Binding across lifetimes
- Age limit on having children
- Age ranges by roles
The 'first-life vs second-life' fallacy
The first thing I want to address is this idea of a first-life vs. a second life. In both the new and old system, characters live a range of years between 40 and 60 weeks, with the average being 50. This is based on genetics and has nothing to do with how many deaths you have. And again, it's the same in the old and new system.
In the old system, those 40-60 weeks amounted to 70-105 Elyrian years. Add 15 on to that and because every character began at age 15, you were looking at a typical Elyrian lifespan of 85-120 years. This also corresponds with the maximum lifespan.
With the new system, those 40-60 weeks amount to 40-60 Elyrian years. Add 15 to that and you're looking at a default Elyrian lifespan of 55 to 75 years, with the average being 65. What I mean by default is, that's the lifespan you'd get if you started at age 15. That's what 90% of players will do their first lifetime.
That's not unlike our own world. While many people like to think we commonly live to our 80's and 90's, the data suggests that still isn't so. According to the 2010 US Census Data, out of the 308 Million people in the United States, only 53,00 are over 100. Only 371,00 are between the ages of 95 and 99. That's only .1% of the population. There're only 1.5 Million people from 90 to 94, and if I jump all the way down to 80, only about 3.5% of the population is over the age of 80.
Furthermore, the average/mean age of someone in the US is 37. That also happens to be the median. Additionally, the standard deviation ranges from 14 to 60. So basically, most people in the US are between 14 and 60, with some being slightly older but less than 4% being over 80. That sounds... almost exactly like Elyria.
What's throwing people off is, while 55 to 75 (Avg. 65) is the default lifespan because people can begin as an older character it shifts the typical lifespan slightly higher. That is, we expect players to start playing their characters between 15 and about 35 years old (Avg. 25). That means that the typical lifespan is 55 to 75 + 10 years. In other words, the typical lifespan of an Elyrian is actually 65 - 85 (Avg. 75).
How do we know that's the typical? Because that's what we're designing for. Most people assumed there was an incentive to living to 104. There isn't. There're only disincentives for doing so.
As we talked about previously, in the 'younger' years of a life, say, until about 45 years old (note that's 30 years from age 15), your character develops muscle and speed normally. After about age 45, it becomes harder and harder to maintain the same physicality. Your character gets weaker and starts to fail at physical skills.
However, around the same time, they start to develop mental attributes such as reason and focus more easily. Likewise, their Intuition and Leadership increases, while their Persuasion decreases.
So there's a trade-off in the later years of a character, which lasts until they're 75 (note that's 30 years from 45). At that point, stuff starts going bad everywhere. All your stats, physical, mental, and social begin to drop - slowly at first, and progressively faster as you get older. So there's no statistical advantage to living beyond 75. Not coincidentally, that's the average age of our typical Elyrian. Which is to say, most people, on average, will die when all advantages to living are gone.
So you see, people will live, die, and restart between about 15 and 35, live their lifetime to 75-85 and die again, to restart the process over again.
The only reason - the only reason people would want to start as an older character and live beyond 75-ish, is if they had no choice. The only ones that apply to really are the Nobility because they care more about holding onto their titles than they do about their stats.
All other players (maybe RPers, can't forget them), are incentivized to begin as early as possible, to stay under the 75-85 range. Let's get back to our bulleted list.
Prime level range
There was the concern there would be a prime level range. But as we've shown, because stats start to degrade as early as 45 for the physical and 75 for the mental, and characters can live from 15 to 75, they can experience the full range of skills in each lifetime. That said, it's true that it's not in your best interest to start with a 45-year-old if you're a warrior. But, that's true not matter what role you pick. Aside from nobles, it's literally never good to start as a 45-year-old if you can avoid it.
Forced age ranges
Not sure where this idea came from, but no, we're not forcing players to play in any particular age ranges.
Skills and skill ramps
We talked about this briefly above from the perspective of how your skills are affected by your attributes. But there's also the question of how your skills carry over to your soul. It's simple; your skills only carry over for the time you're living in your body. The longer you spend in your body, the more skills you'll accumulate, and the higher your potential in the next life.
Extending life as a spark
No. There was a lot of talk about this, but as we've shown, extending your life beyond 75 provides only disadvantages, and it leads people to want to be able to extend their life beginning earlier, like 35.
But this leads to people playing like madmen, throwing themselves at danger and dying in their 30's, and then buying a spark to extend their lifetime. This enables players with more disposable income to play more carelessly. If those risks lead to better gain, it does provide an in-game advantage to those who have more out-of-game wealth. We're opposed to ever allowing players to buy to extend their lifetime.
Yes. You can make your grandchild your heir. If for some reason you've managed to make it up into the 80's, feel free to skip a generation to get back into the teens.
Raising small children
We believe having your child in-game, being able to teach them, instruct them, guide their learning, etc. builds a closer connection to them - as we said before. However, it's not a requirement. It's perfectly acceptable to have your child, set up their room for them, and then forget about them. Their AI will take over, and since they can't die or be killed, they'll wander around the house, find something to do to occupy their time, etc.
This isn't the Sims. You don't have to ensure their fed or their diaper is changed. That said, if you take the time to interact with them, and guide them, it'll lead to a better-established heir in your next life.
Random strangers in the family
This hasn't really changed much from before. Previously, if you started in Exposition, you had no control over your siblings. You still have no control over your siblings.
After exposition, any siblings you had would remain NPCs forever. Now, someone could become a PC sibling later in life. Cool. More people to help grow your dynasty. Maybe you'll make a life-long friend this way. Maybe you'll make a temporary enemy. Dramatic situations.
Previously, if you had children who you decided would become NPCs, they remained NPCs. Now, all children are NPCs by default and if you want to allow players to join your family, just unlock the child, and other people will join. 'Strangers' can't join your family unless you allow them. The only difference there is that 'strangers' could join your family while your children were less than 18, but not after. Now, you can continue to have strangers join until your children are 52. But, chances are good they'll be siblings by then, not children.
Accessing previous dynasties
If members of your previous dynasty have their children or grand-children unlocked, they're opening them up for anyone to join... that includes former dynasty members and complete strangers.
Having a view that shows the open positions in your previous dynasties just gives a quicker way to join them. Remember, dynasties are a lot like guilds in other games. If you've got a child unlocked, it's an open invite to anyone - past guild members and otherwise. If you don't want that, lock all the descendants and create an invitation process where you give out NPC codes.
NPC children less than 13 years are untargetable and immortal. This is done to prevent us from being banned in countries where such killing - even of NPCs is prohibited. From age 13 to 15 you can incapacitate an NPC child, but not coup de grace them. After age 15, all bets are off.
Soul Binding across lifetimes
Soul binding is intended to be permanent and carry across lifetimes. You marry someone, soul bind, and you're done. When you die, one of you will select the family heir and continue the lineage. The other will join a different family and then marry back into the family.
As for incest, we won't prevent it. but remember, your genetic sampling comes from the same set, but with a chance of mutation. Your mileage may vary.
Age limits on having children
The plan right now is to limit having children to 45 years old. Post 45, you're too old to have children. This reduces the number of under-age children in the world and encourages players to be mindful of if/when they want to have children.
Age ranges by roles
The final thing I want to touch on, which I've seen several people raise as an observation but which hasn't received enough attention, is that the age ranges we've been working with are sans deaths. The problem is when you talk about the game sans deaths you look past the typical and start talking regarding extremes.
What I mean is, we were talking about the typical life span of the new system as being 65 - 85 (Avg. 75). But that's only true if you suffer no deaths.
The people who are going to be suffering very few deaths are the Producers, who stay comfortably in their settlements. It makes sense that the backbone of the economy, the crafters, would live longer lives. It's also more important they reach 45 years old for the purpose of the mental bonuses, etc.
But as you change roles from Producer to Gatherer, to Explorer, to Champion, the expected lifespan naturally goes down.
A Gatherer, who's out in the wilds a bit, is more prone to bandits, pirates, or other forms of highway robbery. Also, each time they go back to their favorite mine there's a risk that something has moved in. So, a Gatherer might die in-game once per week.
That reduces their expected lifespan down to somewhere around 45 to 60 years, with an average around 53 years. So if they have a child at 40, their kid is just 23 when they die. Easily capable of picking up the mantle and continuing the family business.
Explorers lives are even more dangerous. They're constantly wandering in the darkness, traveling into caves they shouldn't, and going places where nobody has been in quite some time. They may die 3 times per week. As a result, they may only live to be between 35 and 50 years old, with the average being around 43. If they had a child at 25, the child is just 18 when they take over. But as explorers naturally need to be more physically fit, that works out nicely.
Finally, Champions may die 5 times a week. They may live as little as 30 to 40 years. If they have a child at 25 years old, their child will be just 15 years old when they die. Ready to dive head-first into the life of a warrior, like their mother or father.
And again, these numbers are all samples and examples. Your mileage will vary based on your skill level and the choices you make. Not every Champion will die 5x per week.
The takeaway from this is as follows. There's no split lifetime, there's just the one. Everyone wants to live as young a possible. For most people that's never a problem. Under the new system, you'll just go from life to life, playing your parent, then playing your child in a natural circle of life.
In the odd chance that you find yourself without a child, there's plenty of other choices for you to choose from, but in 90% of all cases, the only people who will find themselves in such a situation are the Nobles. And to them, it's less about which character they play next, and more about ensuring the integrity of their dynasty. It is, as they say, the Dance of Dynasties.