Ealdorlight is a procedural storytelling fantasy RPG

Ealdorlight [Kickstarter page] generates a world, the history of the locations in that world, the histories of the people within the locations in that world, and then it lets you wander around taking on quests. Some of those quests will involve hitting people. Combat is turn-based but there are no hit points. Instead, you can punch someone right in the…skin?

“Instead of using hit points, the game uses realistic damage, modelling bones, skin, muscle, hearts, brains and limbs.”

Well then. The project has just hit Kickstarter and is the work of Chris Parsons, who made the flawed but fascinating Sol Trader. This picks up some of the ideas from that game and looks to put them in a more enjoyable and comprehensible structure.

The ultimate goal in every kingdom that Ealdorlight generates is to replace the current king and take the throne for yourself. Depending how you play, you can do that by winning the support of nobles, creating and/or exposing a scandal, or through force. Before worrying about any of that though, you’re going to be exploring and questing and collecting and crafting. Here’s a handy summary of what’s involved from the Kickstarter page:

You start by travelling between villages and towns on the edge of a randomised kingdom map.

You might craft simple items and farm crops, selling them at the market, all the time asking for information about your family from tinkers and travellers passing through.

You can take on quests from the townsfolk, and be rewarded with reputation, gold, and ancient items. Alternatively, you can steal money or items from them.

Work for someone with the right contacts, and you might also gain introductions to more powerful characters.

Impress the right people, and be granted lands and titles as you get ever closer to the King.

You can recruit characters with different skills, abilities and contacts to aid you in your struggle.

Along the way you may discover who you are and where you came from, and why you cannot remember your past.

Parsons says Ealdorlight is built on the technology used in Sol Trader and if you played that game or followed its development, you’ll probably agree that the procedural generation was the strongest element. Not in terms of generating places or quests, but an entire social fabric across which the necessities of questing and the rest were stitched. Unfortunately, the entire game involved navigating menus within that social fabric, and as much as I admired the concept, I felt like I was playing with numbers rather than people and spaceships.

Ealdorlight looks like it might address that issue head on by having maps and fights and actual characters interacting with the world rather than piles of menus. I really want to see these ideas translated into a game that appeals to me in practice as well as conceptually.

The Kickstarter goal is £40,000 and Parsons says he has the advantage of starting crowdfunding early in development so he can react to comments and feedback.

20 Comments

  1. robby5566 says:

    Seems weird that something is trying this hard to imitate Dwarf Fortress’ Adventure Mode, without ever giving the game as much as a passing mention.

    “Building off” that a whole lot more than Sol Trader, that’s for sure. It’s one thing to borrow an element or two from another game, but when you’re pretty much reskinning someone else’s game it just seems like good etiquette to acknowledge it.

    • phanatic62 says:

      Perhaps they’re trying to avoid the inevitable disappointment when their game fails to live up to the DF comparison.

      Is it better to lay out what your game is and let others make the comparisons, or to market your games as being inspired by other specific games and chance not living up to those expectations?

    • Someoldguy says:

      It’s possible that the designer has never played DF:AM? Generating an entire world story is certainly very DF, but they’re not the first to do it even if they took it several stages further than any predecessor. Procedurally generated quests have been around far, far longer and of course this game has a very different look. It’ll be for the reviewers to draw links with previous games when (if) this game actually develops enough to see what it is.

      I’m interested enough to risk £15 to see what it becomes.

      • frightlever says:

        The developer is a regular on the Bay12 forums. While I can’t say for certain that he’s played Adventure Mode, he’s definitely a fan of Dwarf Fortress.

        FWIW Sol Trader wasn’t good at launch but he diligently patched it a couple of times over the next ten months or so, and it is now less bad.

        Personally, speaking as someone who’s been following the thread over at the Bay12 forums, and who pre-ordered Sol Trader, I wouldn’t touch Ealdorlight until it’s released. But, ya know, some people liked Sol Trader. It has 29 positive reviews on Steam!

    • Chris Parsons says:

      That’s a fair point – credit where it’s due. I’m a big fan of Dwarf Fortress and Tarn’s vision for his game. I’ll add a note into the campaign to reflect the inspiration.

  2. Renton says:

    Those characters look like they were ripped off of Curious Labs’ Poser 5.

  3. Dave Mongoose says:


    The Kickstarter goal is £40,000

    This seems a worryingly low budget for a very optimistic game…

    Parsons says he has the advantage of starting crowdfunding early in development so he can react to comments and feedback.

    And this is equally worrying – at the moment this is a really cool, really interesting idea but it has no substance beyond what he’s done with social networking ideas from Sol Trader (which itself has a pretty mixed reception).

    • frightlever says:

      From memory Sol Trader was a side project to his full time job. I would guess the Ealdorlight Kickstarter is probably to judge interest as much as anything.

      Again, FWIW, some fairly bold claims were made about Sol Trader, but it ended up a deeply flawed game. I wouldn’t let stated ambition influence you too much.

    • Chris Parsons says:

      £40k isn’t the whole budget, it’s about a third of it. If the Kickstarter makes it’s goal and no more, I’m planning on funding the rest from part-time consultancy work, grants, and a publisher deal.

  4. Scelous says:

    As soon as I saw the word “Kickstarter,” I immediately lost all interest.

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      Drib says:

      Yeah, screw those people who need funding to make games! The jerks!

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      Minsc_N_Boo says:

      And yet here you are, commenting on the article… ;-)

      I do know where you are coming from, but KS has produced some decent RPG’s, Divinity, Pillars of Eternity, Tides of Numeria, Wasteland off the top of my head

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    Nauallis says:

    Quite the striking motif going on there.

  6. cpt_freakout says:

    It sounds like a proc-gen Mount & Blade kind of thing… I might back this if so!

    • Chris Parsons says:

      Yes – that’s a good direct comparison. It combines elements of Mount and Blade single player gameplay, with combat mechanics and proc-gen history inspired by Dwarf Fortress: Adventure mode, in Unreal Engine.

  7. racccoon says:

    The game looks very interesting, it does seem that the dev can do it all on his own, & more than likely will do, he seems not to need to have a kickstarting fund, as he’ll have an onslaught of people wanting this & that & he will have to comply with those wish’s. He really needs to go it alone.
    I noticed one thing which did make laugh, the way the player char ran, it was awkward, kind of like he’d dropped something in his pants and was wanting to get home in a hurry. lol Besides that, the games mechanics looks interesting, even though I loath HEX, I would ride that out and play it anyway. So my suggestion is just make the game without funding, by the looks of it, the jobs almost done! good work.

    • Chris Parsons says:

      For the last project, I was able to self-fund, but this one won’t be possible to do so. The budget requirements for this art style are much higher than with Sol Trader, and I’m being careful not to underdevelop the game.

      I do want to involve backers, but don’t worry I’m not planning to include everything that’s asked of me :-) It’s important to remain true to the vision! Backer discussion does help tighten up gameplay ideas though, especially in the detail.

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    JiminyJickers says:

    “From a place, neither near nor far; and a time, neither now or then” Haha, classic cheesy narrator.

    The game however, definitely promising but not enough for me to Kickstart at this time. Definitely interested to see how it develops.

    • Chris Parsons says:

      In my opinion cheesy narratives are underrated :)

      Thanks for taking the time to check the game out – it’s appreciated!

  9. rgxster says:

    This seems like a really interesting concept marred by really shonky production values, the world graphics, modelling and animation look completely bland and uninspired. I know this is a work in progress, but if that’s the best art design you can show off for your kickstarter pitch you’re really not going to light a fire in anyones belly.
    Looks like a classic case of a developer being way more interested in the nitty gritty of the procedural coding and concept rather than creating something genuinely compelling for the end player, no ones going to care how clever you’ve been when the end result looks like a third rate mmo. I’m by no means a graphics snob, but a little charm and panache wouldn’t go amiss if you really want people to involve themselves in “procedural story telling” would it? Rimworld isn’t what anyone would call pretty but it has a feel and atmosphere of its own that allows you to become involved in the stories it creates, this just looks so unbelievably dry and charmless.