Kickstarter can be a cruel mistress. The website that allows fans to fund projects has seen a tirade of ambitious, exciting games pitches, but once the money has been pledged and the goal reached it becomes a nail-biting affair. Will the money be enough? Will it come out on time? And even trickier, will the game match up to expectations?
Star Citizen immediately springs to mind when it comes to Kickstarter titans. Incredibly ambitious, but swamped with controversy about working conditions, management of resources, and how realistic its release date is (at the point of writing this article the single-player campaign currently doesn’t have a firm release date). Writing this is somewhat hard because I simply can’t believe that as of December 7, 2017, a whopping $172,909,181 has been raised for Star Citizen. That’s not because I think it’s a preposterous amount - what strikes me is the humbling dedication of its fans, who clearly adore the prospect of playing a space simulator game with a kind of devotion that’s somewhat intimidating.
Star Citizen is ambitious, there’s no denying that. But in terms of sheer, jaw-dropping, are-you-kidding-me ambition, I’d like to introduce you to the Chronicles of Elyria. A crowdfunded MMORPG, the features it promises have never been seen before in major games - but they’ve probably been dreamt about. Currently it’s raised $3,361,283 on kickstarter and its own website, over 300% more than their $900,000 goal.
I’m not here to belittle the team behind Chronicles - in fact, there are almost weekly updates on its progress, which is a promising sign to say the least - but there are so many innovative and unique elements of Chronicles that I do feel a slight twinge of disbelief (and a glimmer of hope) that it could ever be made. And my god, if it’s a success it’s going to have a place in the stars. So I’ve summed up the ten key features of Chronicles for you to gasp at and quite possibly start dreaming about.
You’re character will age - and die, but ...
When you start Chronicles, you’ll have 10-14 months to do as much as you can with your character before they wither and die. So you’ll start as a child, grow up into an energetic young adult, then age to become hunched over, wrinkled, and only then will you finally expire. By the way, each in-game death reduces your overall lifespan by 2 days, so make sure to stay safe. But death is only the beginning. Because after you die…
…You’ll be reincarnated
Your soul will be sent to the Akashic Records where you can choose to either live on in one of your descendants (I’ll tell you how all that works in the entry below), join a new family, or become a ward of the state - i.e. an orphan. Your soul retains everything you’ve learnt in your previous life, so with each death you progress more and more. You can either continue to refine the skills you learnt in a previous life, or if you want you can use your new character as a chance to begin a brand new life and master some of Chronicles’ other trades.
Want children? You’ll have to sign a contract
There’s nothing more romantic than deciding you want a little one in your life… and then getting all the paperwork ready to usher it into the world. Yes, I said paperwork. If you want a child, you’ll have to first marry and then sign a contract with another player - just a reminder, not an NPC, a real person - to have a child with them (for same-sex marriages, you’ll have to find the equivalent of a sperm or egg donor in another player). You’ll start a dynasty with your spouse and pass on estates, titles and wealth to the children you have. Plus, remember: once you die, you can live on in your children quite literally by choosing them as your next player character.
Fellow players can be business partners - or hired as assassins
If you’re a blacksmith, carpenter, or straight-up trader, you’ll need some sort of import/export mechanic so you can, you know, make money. To do so you’ll have to sign a contract with another player to run the business together, where one of you ships your products and the other sells them. Or, if you want to get rid of a pesky baker who keeps stealing your customers, you can even hire an assassin to do the dirty work for you. And yes, that means another contract. No idea what happens if you fail to fulfil your end of the bargain though, apart from starting a straight-up feud.
There’s no world map or mini-map
Yes, you read that right. You only start off with a map of your immediate area, so if you want to see more of the big wide world you’ll have to turn to cartographers to help you out or make one yourself. But maps aren’t always accurate and they can be forged, so you’ll have to keep your wits about you. Locations can be renamed too meaning that maps can be out of date, so what is the delightful village of Heatherbottom one week might end up being renamed Heatherbehind (or something a bit ruder).
Players give out quests, not NPCs
There aren’t any quest hubs, so most of the quests look like they’ll be entirely unique. A blacksmith could ask you to go and get 50 iron ore chunks, and then ask someone else to grab a hammer from the closest village. The contract system would be used to make sure you stick to the quest and don’t leave a fellow player hanging. These quests are also non-repeatable, meaning you won’t see six other players doing exactly the same quest, which does have a tendency to break your immersion.
You can destroy anything
Don’t like that castle? If you have the resources, you can trebuchet it to hell. Been irritated by a local Duke? If you get enough people and manage to find a catapult, you can go and destroy his manor. You’ve guessed it: the world is fully destructible. However, that could lead to some… interesting situations. I’m sure there won’t be any wandering groups of vigilantes demanding protection money or they’ll just happen to accidentally let their siege engine loose on your quaint little cottage.
An AI will run your character when you’re offline
Because no-one wants their local carpenter to suddenly disappear when the player decides to go and have a sandwich (or sample real life), an AI will be programmed to run your character when you’re offline. What that means is while you’re out in the real world, your character will be training in skills, defending themselves, or run your shop. But I have no idea what that that means if someone tries to rob or stab you while you’re AFK.
Wear a cloak or disguise, and become incognito
Identity theft is something that can definitely happen in Chronicles. If you want to commit some high-level espionage, with some work you can create a disguise which perfectly matches the outfit of someone famous, then don it to frame them for something dastardly. Or you can wear a hooded cloak which obscures your nametag - but you will draw attention if you’re wandering around looking shady.
Players can create their own dungeons
So you’ve been out adventuring and you’ve managed to find a gob-smacking haul of gold, jewels, and relics. But thieves can be hired, your house can be broken into, and chests can be unlocked, so where do you put them? Answer: in your very own, custom-built dungeon below your house. Complete with a secret entrance and multiple rooms, along with hired goons (other players) or trained animals (train them yourself, or employ a professional animal-wrangler) to patrol the corridors, you can create your very own lair. If your treasure is particularly tempting, you could even become a defeatable boss for enterprising treasure hunters.
The list of features Soulbound plans to include goes on for even longer, but for the sake of my quickly growing word count, I’ve skipped over a few. The current release date is 2019 - hold your horses though, because there will be a three-month period called Exposition before it can be played in all its MMORPG glory. During this time the world will be populated with buildings that can be built or customised by players (reminder: there will be very few NPCs). So it’ll give time for blacksmiths to build their forges, merchants to set up their stalls and shop-owners to stock their wares. During Exposition players will begin their stories and find their feet in the gradually-expanding world around them, to prepare themselves for the game starting in earnest.
Chronicles sounds like a social experiment waiting to happen. Plus the creators know it, as the tagline on the mobile website is “Will you save Elyria or burn it to the ground?”. Not only is its content on the Icarus side of ambitious, but Soulbound is going to be putting a metric ton of faith in its players to regulate the world. Mind you, the success of EVE Online has proved that it isn’t as far-fetched as it once seemed. EVE even has a real-life parliament, for god’s sake! We’ll just have to wait and see whether Chronicles becomes a monument to player harmony or a smouldering pile of ashes.