Life Is Pain, Life Is Confusing: Life Is Feudal

I am confused, noble readers. Perplexed. Stumped, somewhat. Running desperately out of synonyms. Not by Life is Feudal: Your Own itself, to give it its slightly odd full title. That’s a fairly cool if definitely-still-alpha-looking medieval-ish hardcore multiplayer sandbox with severe death penalties and all the other survival systems you’d expect. What’s raising my chainmail eyebrow is its popularity. It’s been locked in the top five of Steam’s best sellers list since release despite (perhaps because of?) the wealth of options within its steel-to-the-bollocks brutal genre. It’s certainly a new wrapper for the formula, but the first time indie studio behind it freely admits it’s as broken as the rest of them.

Not that I don’t understand the appeal, I’m just surprised that after one, two or five experiences of big promises and long development times, people are still coming back. Between Kickstarters and Early Access, this is the tenth or so massively ambitious game of its type this year. Big budget blockbuster first-person shooters generally space themselves out a bit better than that, and they’re actually finished upon release. Even those who’ve not been warded off by bad experiences with The Stomping Land et al should have enough regular updates to games they do own to keep them going.

It’s certainly a well presented example, at least. The Steam page is informative, with big warnings that you’re supporting development of something far from release. Updates are regular, with a patch on Friday fixing memory leak issues and assorted other bugs. The trailer is slick too, mostly showing off what’s possible right now and featuring a rather amusing mathsplosion without descending into wild promise territory:

The number is roughly as mighty as the sword, but honestly they just work great in concert.

But that’s not enough to convince me that this one is special, or that it can outdo its peers developed by larger, more experienced teams. It’s hardly cheap either, £24.99 on Steam, with the promise that this will give you premium access to the MMO version of the same game – in the far, far future. Perhaps I am the (23-year) old man, shouting at the cloud he does not understand.

We’ll have alpha impressions next week, but in the mean time, who’s out there playing it and what’s the plate-armoured goss?

54 Comments

Top comments

  1. Tom De Roeck says:

    There will be an RPS server really soon, tonight or tomorrow, in case anyone wants to join, we meet up here, on the forums:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?16167-Rock-Paper-Life-Is-Feudal

    And the server is up! Come and play with us!
  1. bills6693 says:

    It certainly is interesting. People lament about early access and kickstarter failures, or projects being very long. About failures and slow progress in other similar games. And yet when a new one comes out it still finds a huge audience willing to pay handsomely.

    To me at least, it indicates that as much as we may claim that recent failures such as Spacebace DF-9 and lower sums raised on kickstarter herald the beginning of the end for these pre-release models, clearly there is a huge consumer base for this content. And while people will still consume this content, people will continue to make it and the consumers will be running the gauntlet of risk again and again – as is their choice it seems.

    Perhaps the interest comes from people dissatisfied with past attempts and hoping this will deliver where others have failed, or perhaps it’s from still huge levels of interest in the genre as a whole, but I feel there is a lot still left in this story to come! And certainly that the Early Access genre is far from dead and consumers are still willing to take that risk in the hope that one of these projects comes out with the true gem they are hoping for, and the cost be damned!

    • Artist says:

      Im sure the appeal of alpha access games also comes from the repeative boredom of AAA titles. The indies these days are definatly the driving forces of inovations – which is very refreshing for me. And I admit that I regularily fall for the lure of quick access to fresh ideas.

    • Chaz says:

      I think part of the appeal is the gamble. It adds a bit of initial excitement to the proceedings. Will it be great or won’t it. Have I backed a winner or a loser? It’s like a betting shop where a winning ticket nets you a great game.

    • Haxton Fale says:

      The same could be said about the AAA games, which recycle the same things over and over and yet still find enough buyers to justify their continued existence.
      Although the Early Access/Kickstarter system is somewhat broken as it is now (in spite of many amazing releases done with its help), people who care enough about it are probably few and far between, because compulsive buyers, people with too much money to spare, people who give in to the hype generated by some creators, and fans of genres that don’t get an awful lot of coverage otherwise will pump money into the current system fuelling the development, even if in many cases it will do more harm than good as flops become more public than before.
      And, of course, there are things you mentioned – we still have hope in the model thanks to some timely deliveries, and companies like Valve try to improve the conditions for consumers and gamers.

    • Kelron says:

      Haven’t played it, though I’m interested. I think the key here is the presentation, and the scale of ambition. It looks quite nice and while I’m sure the interface could use work, it’s a big step above stuff like Wurm.

      They’re also trying to get this established as a smaller scale multiplayer game with privately run servers, before they go for their crazy MMO plan. I think that gives them a much higher chance of actually producing a playable game before they get swamped under the work involved with an MMO.

      And have there really been that many “indie multiplayer hardcore sandbox” type games? I’ve seen a few kickstarters that didn’t materialise into playable games to my knowledge. Aside from this it’s basically Wurm, Mortal Online and Darkfall, with the latter two being less peasant simulators and closer to fantasy MMOs.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Why it’s strange? There could be around 1 billion of players around the world. Or maybe more. Some whine, some buy. Works for CoD, works for facebook, works for EA.

  2. Gilead says:

    This is a strange article. It feels like it could be replaced by just the top screenshot, that trailer and some alt-text for the screenshot that reads ‘I don’t really get the appeal, please comment if you’ve played it’.

    (I haven’t played it, because it looks like yet another dreary sandbox killing field. And because it’s £25.)

    • Ben Barrett says:

      Saying that I don’t really get the appeal as a replacement for me saying I get the appeal would be an odd choice.

      • Jannn says:

        It would also be confusing, noble Ben Barret. Perplexing. Stumping, somewhat.

      • Gilead says:

        Sorry, I was probably a bit too sleepy when I read the post for the first time. At the time it just seemed like you were saying ‘It looks okay, but probably nothing special, and it’s in early access so why buy it. Anybody know why these idiots are paying for it?’ I did see the line saying that you could see the appeal, but in the context of the way I’d read the rest of the post it didn’t seem particularly convincing. It seems like a much more neutral article now that I’ve had some coffee, though.

        • RARARA says:

          Now imagine just how much of your worldview is shaped by random chemical reactions in your body.

          Is free will a myth? Are we all slaves to brewed beverages and their ilk?

          • Gilead says:

            Probably, but what you have to consider is that those beverages are delicious.

          • Jannn says:

            Is that you talking or said delicious beverage?

        • Baines says:

          It feels a bit like an article without a point, at least no more point than a boss saying “Write a promo for next week’s coverage of Life is Feudal”.

          It repeatedly explains that the author doesn’t understand why the game is so popular, but the article is neither about the author’s lack of understanding or why others find it interesting.

          It touches on the dangers of buying into unfinished games, but the article is neither about the risk of buying into Life is Feudal nor about reassuring that Life is Feudal is different. It refuses to take a side, just commenting that the game sees regular updates. As if the writer doesn’t want in any way to discourage anyone from buying the game, but at the same time doesn’t want to encourage anyone to buy a game that risks being a future failed or unfinished product.

          Ultimately, the primary point does seem to be to promote a future article about the game. I’m not saying that it bad in its own right, but it does mean most of the article feels pointless beyond the video link and the ad for RPS’s upcoming article about the game.

          • Ben Barrett says:

            I don’t write ads and I’m not really happy with the implication that I’d waste my time or yours on one.

            I was interested in the game’s popularity, in the game itself and wanted to note it had some good to it specifically. The article is middle of the road and non-committal because it is mostly me asking “so what’s up with this?” These are thoughts I’ve long had and I saw an opportunity to express them in a relevant manner.

          • User100 says:

            I’m not really happy with the implication that I’d waste my time or yours on one.I was interested in the game’s popularity, in the game itself and wanted to note it had some good to it specifically.
            Then how about trying to find out why it is that it’s popular, rather than telling us “it is, and I don’t know why”. That is indeed wasting our time, and you basically are asking the readers to your job…

  3. Artist says:

    LIF:YO is definatly no new take on the genre that Wurm Online technically pioneered!

  4. Prolar Bear says:

    They really could’ve given it a better title.

    • dsch says:

      What does it even mean?

      • Ben Barrett says:

        as far as I can tell, “Life is Feudal” is just “this is a medieval set game” with a tinge of “you have to actually live your life/it is a survsim game”

        “Your Own” is a reference to this not yet being the fully MMO part of the game and being playable in singleplayer.

        I think.

        • dsch says:

          That almost makes sense. “Life is Feudal” I can live with, but the “Your Own” is just so, so weird.

          • reyla says:

            Life is Futile: Your Own

            (Mericans pronounce feudal and futile the same.)

          • trajan says:

            “Life is Futile: Your Own

            (Mericans pronounce feudal and futile the same.)”

            We do? I was not aware of that. Will change my pronunciation immediately.

          • reyla says:

            Maybe you are Borg and pronounce it Few-Tile but I digress. The point is the title of this game is a pun on words. Your life is futile..

      • Kong says:

        “Feudal leben” (living feudal) is a German phrase refering to the luxurios standard of nobility when compared to the living standard of the pissants.

    • Geebs says:

      It is pretty pungent.

    • Scurra says:

      They really could’ve given it a better title.
      Oh, I don’t know. It’s one of the more pointed bits of political satire I’ve seen for a while (outside of, say, John Oliver.) I’m actually slightly disappointed to learn that it’s just a medieval-sim; I had hoped it was a late-capitalism sim instead. (But apparently I’ve got Destiny for that. Or GTA.)

    • Vinraith says:

      Seems like a pretty solid bad pun to me, doesn’t that make it the official game of RPS?

  5. RARARA says:

    I like the bit at 2:07 where he cut a man open and maths came out.

  6. Rizlar says:

    You can’t put a price on dreams.

  7. klops says:

    The logo is strange.
    The formation system is interesting.

  8. Sc0r says:

    Looks like a better Wurm Online without fantasy and realmoneysink to me

    • Scabmastah says:

      Graphics and combat are better, everything else is worse, and its v0.2 Alpha so everything is broken on top of that. Still waiting for a proper successor to Wurm.

  9. Tom De Roeck says:

    There will be an RPS server really soon, tonight or tomorrow, in case anyone wants to join, we meet up here, on the forums:

    link to rockpapershotgun.com

    And the server is up! Come and play with us!

  10. dysomniak says:

    And here I was hoping for a follow up to my first ever RTS…

  11. Warwise says:

    Why wouldnt it be interesting? We have been craving for a sandbox medieval multiplayer experience for ages. The last great thing IMHO was Ultima Online. No other MMO since UO had the same game mechanics, and every single one of them these days is a WOW clone.
    I hope they suceed. We need something like this. Fortunaly if they make it someone might create a AAA MMO similar and a new era may begin.
    And with the sucess of DayZ and its clones, it was just a matter of time for something similar with a diferent theme to arise.

    • SAM-site says:

      SWG did, and took it a little further before the baying of those who didn’t understand that it was a sandbox prompted damaging system-wide changes.

      The linking factor between the two games – Raph Koster.

  12. Universal Quitter says:

    This isn’t a mystery at all. Only dipshits view DayZ and Rust as being in development hell. It hasn’t even been a year for most of the games in this genre..

    And the reason games like this are still selling is that we really want this genre to succeed. We want publishers to get the message that we’re tired of CoD clones and remakes of old games. Multiplayer in an open world sandbox is a dream the gaming community has been collectively having for decades, and it’s about damn time it comes to fruition.

    Frankly, RPS, shouldn’t you be on the side of these projects, at least until they start going belly up and running away with the Early Access money? Where’s the excitement? Hell, half a year ago you guys were running pieces like the Saline Bandit! What happened?

    • Warwise says:

      I think its unfair do blame RPS. There has been a lot of hype on most of these games and some of them ended up being total failures (like Stomping Land). So the media also has to warn people about the dangers of Early Acess and impulsive consumism.

      • Universal Quitter says:

        Survival sandbox MMOs are hardly unique in that respect. That’s a Kickstarter/early access/pre-order business model problem.

    • notenome says:

      Uh, RPS did everything but throw a parade for Dayz when it began. The site was absolutely obsessed with it. I think few gaming news vehicles give more attention to this genre than RPS.

      • Universal Quitter says:

        I think they’ve handled Dayz very nicely, aside from falling into that “Dean is leaving ZOMG,” nonsense back in spring, along with everyone else in gaming journalism.

        I was complaining about a specific aspect of THIS article, and it’s off hand remarks about the genre. Either way, I’m not seething. I just think it was unnecessary and shitty to complain about the popularity of something we’ve really never had before.

  13. notenome says:

    Alrighty,

    According to Steam I have sunk 22 hours in this game (I wish there was a way to hide the numbers). So here goes:

    Life is feudal is basically a combination of mount and blade and Wurm online. It is in a very, very early stage of development with basic things like deconstructing buildings still not implemented. The idea is that this will actually be two games: Life is Feudal: Your Own, ie your own version of Life is Feudal, be it single player or a hosted multiplayer server, and Life is Feudal:MMO, a large sandbox Wurm Online 2.0 kind of game.

    The actual gameplay is kind of a weird mix. Combat has Mount and Blade’s four different kinds of swings and speed damage bonus, being contact based (so if you hit them, you hit them). On the other hand the building is very much so Wurm based, so you plan a building (or furniture etc) place it down, rotate it etc. In this sense its different from the voxel games (minecraft and space engineers), where there’s a real kinetic impact on the world. You can tunnel or teraform just about everything, but the process is different: instead of making a small hole and gradually turning it into a bigger hole, you repeatedly do the same action until the desired big hole appears (in mining), queue chop command until the tree falls down etc.

    The game uses a skill system with a skill cap. Basically no character will be able to master all the skills, not even close to it. The idea is that this will force players to be interdependent, with a blacksmith, a farmer, a carpenter etc etc etc.

    One of the themes of the game is that the systems tend to evoke a sense of realism. For example: when you mine ore you need to take it to a furnace. Then you need to heat that furnace to the required temperature, and maintain that temperature. This requires the constant use of bellows and log billets and takes about 10 minutes until the ore melts and can be made into bars or lumps etc. So despite being a huge pain in the ass, it attempts to evoke the smelting process.

    Basically, that’s more or less it. It’s very early (but there’s a lot that can be done, if with great wonkiness). As far as stability is concerned I’ve only had one crash, which is a miracle considering how early the game is. The game look’s very pretty for what it is, nightime is very, very dark and the day/night cycle gives the game a pleasant rhythm. Also, the game gives servers a lot of leeway, allowing them to decide how high the skillcap goes, how long days last, quantity of animals, how long crops take to grow etc, which is nice.

    Hope this helps, and if anyone has any specific questions I’ll try to answer.

  14. notenome says:

    I sunk 22 hours into this game (damn you steam). It can best be summed up as a combination of Wurm/Mount and Blade. I wrote a long ‘review’ of it but for some reason the site simply decided to not show it. Guess it got lost in Horace’s infinite belly. But if anyone has a question I’ll do my very bestest to answer it.

    EDIT: Also, the name of the server most RPS people are playing on until the RPS server gets sorted is called Life is Pain. Is this a coinki-dink or an intentional reference?

  15. fenriz says:

    ooh that’s a load of carpentry…. but it’s good!

    Ok that is ONE system forming a multifaceted sandbox world.

    Now to show us the JUST AS accurate and hefty sorcery system, what with months you have to spend at a university the hogwarts way, studying books in underground libraries, summoning crap, all simulated, real-time, non wow-clone quests.

    …aaand that’s ANOTHER one system inside a multifaceted complex that’s a sandbox online game.

    Next i wanna see the agriculture system. And next i want the thieving, murder and piracy system, a huge world-controlling underground sect, with simulated politics, free-masonry and all. What next? How about a political system, parliament, aristocracy, constitutions.

    yeah, like life has many layers, and they’re all a world apart, a sandbox game does it in fantasy or sci-fi.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Now to show us the JUST AS accurate and hefty sorcery system, what with months you have to spend at a university the hogwarts way, studying books in underground libraries, summoning crap, all simulated, real-time, non wow-clone quests.

      Sounds like you might enjoy DartMUD. I didn’t have the patience for it myself.

  16. Kong says:

    Great title. Translated into German and back it means: “Life is good”

    A little strange when looking at the medieval age, but “Feudal leben, wohnen” refers to the living standard of nobility compared to that of the peasants. Still works, becoming more meaningful every day.
    German austerity politics…soon we will be living in a capitalist feudal system. The rich grab all the land they can get before the mother of all bubbles implodes.

  17. Telkir says:

    Looks like a very interesting game, though I’m not sure I would want to drop $35 on it at this stage. Does anyone know if the price will be changing at some later stage in development?

  18. derbefrier says:

    I was interested in this game but then I saw the combat looked like mount and blade. I know lots of people love that type of combat system. I am not one of them. Had this been first person combat, it would have been an instant buy.

    • Behrditz says:

      How is first person combat different than just putting the camera into first person? Do you mean youd rather it have the melee system of first person shooters, where the knife/whatever is just a gun that fires 12 inches?

  19. Polifemo says:

    Its more than just “Its another ufinished multiplayer sandbox”, it probably the closest game to the collective hivemind´s ideal of a sandbox world. An ideal that has been forming since before Minecraft (everyone was making castles, swords, etc).
    Furthermore, the systems in place are very much “hardcore” in nature due to the amount if effort you gotta do and the whole “skill point limit” makes it more so which appeals to the people that have been aching for a hardcore MMO exerience since Everquest or Darkfall. Im not saying its proper hardcore, but the systems certainly lend themselves to that idea.
    I think its much more than people not learning their lesson, but that this particular game is pushing all the right buttons with the right people and for one looks polished enough at this stage as (oposed to something as clunky as DayZ or Rust at the start of their early access (and even now)) that people are willing to have a go at it.
    Being able to change various time values per server certainly helps to appeal to both casual and hardcore crowd.
    I suspect this might yet become something very very big and in a “good ol minecraft” sense and not a “oh its another griefer fest ala DayZ” sense. Which is inmensely appealing.

    Do note that I have not actually played the game, just watched videos and articles and this is all an impression based on those.

  20. Behrditz says:

    Im pretty sure this is so popular because guys from Wurm Online started this thing YEARS ago, and during all that time, the entire player base was kind of hyping up for this to be Wurm 2.0, fixing all the problems that it had and making it actually look like a modern game, on top of making it personally run. So all the popularity is coming from those people and their friends.