Realism versus fun is a very difficult balance for a game developer to strike. As technology improves, gamers want to see lifelike environments, impressive physics engines and animations on par with the best that Pixar has to offer.

But they also want to be able to get shot 700 times over the course of a 6 hour campaign and somehow only die two or three times. It’s a dilemma, to say the least, which is why we often don’t feel the stakes of the story.

So what’s one surefire way to get players to make the most of their decisions in a game? Give them a death sentence.

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Earlier this week, Soulbound Studios launched a Kickstarter campaign for a massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) called Chronicles of Elyria. There are countless MMOs already on the market, but this one has a twist.

In a standard MMO, players create their characters and then proceed to complete quests, gather loot and upgrade the characters until they either get bored or the servers shut down. In Chronicles of Elyria, the characters actually grow old and die, at which point the player has to make a new character.

Chronicles of Elyria Aging

As the developers explain it, a typical character will last for 10-14 real-world months. Each time the player “dies” in the game (by falling off a cliff, getting slain by an enemy, etc.), the overall lifespan of the character is shortened by a couple of days.

Immersion is clearly the key for Soulbound Studios, which is why your character still roams the in-game world even after you log off. AI scripts built into the game allow you to “train skills, run your shop, and defend yourself while you’re AFK.”

These are just a few of the multitudinous ways Chronicles of Elyria separates itself from the pack. Others include player-created quests, a total lack of world maps or mini-maps, elements lifted from survival games and a business model that allows players to pay for each individual life they live in the game.

For more information, be sure to check out the game’s Kickstarter.

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