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May 4, 2016

An MMO Where Your Character Can Grow Old And Die

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No one lives forever. In Chronicles of Elyria, even video game characters’ days are numbered. Now there is something that we haven’t seen before.

In this age of survival games like Ark: Survival Evolved and Rust, plenty of large-scale multiplayer games have made death a thing of grave consequence. Usually, though, it’s pretty binary: you’re either alive or you’re (perma) dead. In Elyria, even if you decide to tend a shop for the whole of your existence (TOO REAL), you’ll eventually drop dead.

Here’s how it works:

“Characters age in-game over the course of 10-14 real-world months. During that time your character will grow old and eventually die, leaving their mark on history. But while alive you must choose your actions carefully, as each in-game death reduces your overall lifespan (by approximately 2 days) and brings your character that much closer to permadeath. However, if you’re an influential player (the king perhaps), each in-game death is more impactful, leading to permadeath in just 4 or 5 times.”

Aging changes your appearance pretty dramatically. Skin wrinkles. Hair recedes. Muscles wither. You gain some weight. Your back even hunches, making you appear slightly shorter. It’s an interesting prospect given that most popular fantasy MMOs exist in a state of almost dissonant perpetuity. Kill the baddest villain in the history of Azeroth (and its neighboring dimensions)? No worries, he’ll be back next week, same trans-reality dragon time, same trans-reality dragon channel. Not so, apparently, in Elyria.
That’s not the only way Chronicles of Elyria is seeking to be different. The game world is dynamic, meaning that environments can be destroyed, quests will be based on NPCs’ actual needs at the time (some aren’t repeatable), resources will be finite, and national conflicts will continuously arise. You’ll also be able to forge contracts and families with other players, and your character will persist (and continue to age) running a shop or training skills even while you’re offline.

Even the business model at least gets points for ambition. “Chronicles of Elyria utilizes a new business model never before seen in MMOs,” the game’s creators wrote. “CoE hearkens back to the coin-op arcade model where, for $30, players buy a Spark of Life that grants a soul the opportunity to live for between 10 and 14 months, before establishing your Soul in a new character of your choosing. Note: 1 Spark of Life comes with purchase of the game.”
“The Spark of Life system also helps reduce griefing,” they added. “If you kill another character in-game, your face goes up on a wanted poster and a bounty token is created for you. This not only keeps you out of cities, but also means you can be taken to ‘jail’ which significantly reduces your lifespan, adding real financial repercussions to your in-game decisions.”
Chronicles of Elyria sounds like a fusion of traditional fantasy MMOs, EVE Online, and the still-unreleased Camelot Unchained. It comes from developers who’ve worked at places like SOE (now Daybreak), Bungie, and Pandemic, and they’re asking for $900,000 on Kickstarter.
Will it all work out like that in practice? You never know when actual human beings are added to the mix. We’ll see.

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