Once a project hits pre-alpha testing, the developers have pretty much finalized its core design. The devs continue to fix game-breaking bugs and make minor improvements, but major design overhauls are frowned upon. Such changes are often considered too costly to make at that point. Soulbound Studios doesn’t want to wait until their crowdfunded MMORPG, Chronicles of Elyria passes this threshold to act. In a recent community blog they outlined their plans to get players into the game as soon as possible.
The appropriately named, Pre-Alpha Experiences, will allow the developers to receive targeted feedback before a formal pre-alpha release. Soulbound is planning three distinct Pre-Alpha Experiences for Chronicles of Elyria backers. Each experience is designed to test a subset of 40 different feature areas as well as hundreds of individual features planned for the game. This allows the devs to isolate specific features for testing and feedback before combining them in the main game.
It’s a really interesting idea because not only does it allow for more (and prolonged) community engagement, it also allows players to take part in growing the history of the gameworld.
“By making the events of our pre-alpha experiences persistent—that is, by accepting the events that occur in the pre-alpha experiences as part of the game’s history—it gives players the unique opportunity to be a part of, to experience first-hand, and to drive the history of the world,” Soulbound Owner/CEO, Jeromy Walsh
In the blog, Walsh estimated that by the time Chronicles of Elyria launches, players will have helped shaped the previous 30-50 years of the game’s history. This gives players a deeper connection with the lore they helped create when they come across books or NPC’s who reference past events.
The first of the Pre-Alpha Experiences will an offline playable demo called, Prologue: The Awakening. This first taste is meant to let players try out overall user input, interfaces, and general ‘feel’ of the game. In addition to allowing players to experiment with certain mechanics in a sandbox environment, the prologue will also deliver a pivotal narrative experience. This early build will also serve as test-bed for the developers to add more user-experience based features.
Moving Forward, Together
Multiplayer elements are planned for the second Pre-Alpha Experience, ElyriaMUD. This 2D, sprite-based game will focus on things like; communication, families, reputation, crime & punishment, and the economy. While the prologue is meant to take place over a few days, ElyriaMUD can span between 30-50 in-game years. This way the devs can introduce some of their more interesting mechanics, such as character life cycles.
The final Pre-Alpha Experience is Kingdoms of Elyria. Far lighter in terms of features, this build introduces the social dynamics of Chronicles of Elyria. Now each player’s titles and status will begin to affect the world. Decisions made by the government in Kingdoms will impact events in ElyriaMUD and vice versa. To be successful in Kingdoms of Elyria, the higher-ups must win the support of their followers in ElyriaMUD.
MMORPG’s are notoriously massive in scope and many fail at crowdfunding as a result. As one of the rare success stories ($1,361,435 raised on Kickstarter) Chronicles of Elyria has a lot of backer expectations riding on it. Soulbound’s unique solution is an excellent way to incorporate their community during the long road ahead.
The Pre-Alpha Experiences are still in development with no current release date. You can follow the Chronicles of Elyria blog for updated information.