Eoris: Essence is an RPG that’s been talked of (mostly around rpg.net) since around 2008, when it surfaced. I found out about it a few weeks ago when browsing 4chan’s traditional games board. Apparently it’s somewhat of a joke to them. When I found out about it, I thought it’d be pretty funny to show to my friends, because the character sheet looks rather silly.
But the story turned out much deeper than that. This is my attempt to relate the story of the Eoris RPG, from its beginnings in 2008, to its status as of 2010. Later on I will review the actual game material that we have to go on, and give my opinion on it. For right now though, I want to just talk about the story behind the development, marketing and ultimately, the hopes for sale of Eoris: Essence, from as many sources as I could gather. It’s gonna be a long one.
Discovering The Essence
Eoris: Essence is an RPG that first became known in 2008. Since it has not been released yet, all that we can utilize to inform ourselves about Eoris right now is one article from a Colombian newspaper, many threads of RPG.net, a blog post interviewing the team, and one web site with a sample adventure, some character sheets, and a setting booklet. For the rest of us, it is, as some users on RPG.net and other parts of the internet contend, the “Duke Nukem Forever” of RPGs.
The first web site for Eoris was Visions of Essence, which would have been the company’s web site. The domain was registered in June of 2008 and will expire in June 2010. It’s been perpetually under construction since then, and has nothing to interact with. The second and more pertinent site, created in July of 2008, is Eoris Essence. This is the web site for the RPG itself. It will expire on July 2010. It contains preview material of all kinds, as well as a form by which one can email the Eoris team.
Alejandro Cardenas registered both sites. He is a young “empresario” from Colombia, who helped fund the RPG along with its two creators, Illustrators Daniel Torres and Nicolas Acosta, according to an article by El Tiempo online. The latter two are the brains behind all of the game, from its mechanics down to the much-touted illustrations. They began playing D&D as teenagers after meeting in school in Bogota, Colombia. While enjoying D&D they had a thought that resonates with the heart of anyone who’s played D&D, and perhaps anyone who’s ever played an RPG – how can we make it our own? They came up with their own world mythology, and eventually with their own game tailored to playing in this world.
In 2008, the creators of Eoris: Essence went to Gencon to exhibit their product before American audiences. As shown by the quotes on the Eoris: Essence web site, much of the praise for the game came from its artwork, which to me has a nice bit of anime aesthetic, but nothing seemed to speak about the game system itself. For those who know me and have read this site, you know I’m much more about the game than the production values. Looking for some clues as to the elusive game design of Eoris, I talked via email a bit with Matt Forbeck, one of the people noted in the El Tiempo article as having a hands-on experience with the Eoris product at Gencon 2008. The game’s artwork to this day still left an impression on Mr. Forbeck, who praised the artwork as being “stunningly beautiful, far beyond anything else on the market.” Though he did not recall much about the game itself other than it involved fantasy and magic, he did give me an important piece of information.
Before speaking with Mr. Forbeck, I found a lot of ambivalence as to whether or not there was a finished product for Eoris anywhere in the world. I recalled the example of Anima: Beyond Fantasy. This game existed in Spain long before Fantasy Flight brought it to English-speaking audiences in America. As a Hispanic, the idea that spanish-speaking countries might have their own RPGs has always interested me. I don’t really have the means to import such games, unfortunately, even if I could read and play them without any trouble. When I read that Eoris was dreamed up in Bogota, Colombia, I jumped to the wrong conclusion. As it turns out, there isn’t yet an Eoris finished product for sale in any market.
At Gencon, Mr. Forbeck recalls them having what might perhaps be a prototype, but nothing really for sale. The artwork of course was vibrantly on display. They were, however, taking pre-orders.
The Duke Nukem Forever of RPGs?
I’ve talked to some people on RPG.net to get some insight on the pre-order situation, which has some controversy attached as Eoris has yet to deliver a finished product. The two people I talked to both paid for pre-orders of the book, and as such have had contact with the minds behind Eoris that I cannot have. Unfortunately, none of the people associated with Eoris have returned my emails. So I can only piece the history together from things I have found and people I have conversed with.
Bruce Leenomorph is a user of RPG.net. He maintains a very optimistic outlook on Eoris, and is quick to share news both good and bad in various threads across RPG.net. In spite of the delays, he remains hopeful.
“I can’t give you an exact date, since I don’t have the bank statement, but it’s been probably a year and a half or two years since the preorders were available through the site [eorisessence.com],” Bruce said. “I heard about the game through this site [RPG.net], someone had seen it at GenCon I believe it was, and it sounded very interesting to me — the type of game that it promised, that inspired by console RPGs and similar things, was something I’d been wanting for a long time, like many others.”
There were two pre-order packages. The first one, which Bruce bought, was the $60 package for the Eoris: Essence rulebook. The second package was the most intriguing, though with the game’s reputation for its artwork it is not unexpected. For $120 you could have not only the Eoris: Essence rulebook but also Eoris: Symphony, an artbook. As an anime fan, this kind of marketing is something quite common to me, and I have wondered why more tabletop RPGs don’t try to do this. Japanese JRPG games like Ar Tonelico often have special offers that include artbooks, databooks, soundtracks and sometimes figures and plush toys (curiously enough, Eoris also seems to have a musical inclination, as shown by the “sample tracks’ on its web site).
Eventually, Bruce gained Crystal Key access, as well as getting the artbook for free, as a compensation for the delays. Crystal Key access is a special member registration for Eoris. According to Bruce, some of the perks of crystal key membership include listening to sample voices and languages from the game’s world, viewing sample monsters and characters for the game, form-fillable character sheets, as well as GMing tools. Though Bruce wanted to elaborate further on the latter, he was having trouble logging into the site, a problem he claimed others were facing as well. That was unfortunate. I’d have liked to hear about those GMing tools. The idea of other games adopting a DDI approach from the get-go was intriguing.
Much like Bruce, E Macleod bought the normal pre-order, but received the artbook for free as a compensation. He was another of the RPG.net users who were there from the beginning, having pre-ordered and stuck to Eoris since then on, sharing news and speculation. I asked him about the tone among the fans, and what the general attitude was about the situation. “The general tone is mixed… The primary mainstays [RPG.net users who pre-ordered] were split between optimism and cynicism. It can be said that as time progressed the attitude became primarily cynical…” He said. However, he and people like Bruce remain hopeful nonetheless. Each contact with the Eoris team reaffirms for them that there is a product out there and that they will get to play this game they’ve been waiting for, even if two years after they paid. According to Macleod, they’ve even had contact via the phone with the company, where a representative personally apologized for the delays.
The delays have mostly been blamed on publishing problems. Book Bindings were the result of one delay. The Eoris team, apparently committed to very high quality product, would not suffer to fulfill pre-orders with sub-par books. More emails went out and the deadline pushed further back as publishing problems delayed the game’s launch. In May 2010, the Eoris team sent another email to people like Bruce, stating that they would divide the product into two books now – one for the setting and another for the game. This, they claimed, would solve the problems with binding and printing a quality book. Making two smaller books rather than one larger tome would allow them to make each to the quality that they desire.
The latest hope is for a June or July 2010 release. This would mean Eoris, if released, would go on sale two years after the associated domains were purchased, and right in the months where their registrations would expire. Only time will tell whether this release date will be the release date, as a handful of gamers are hoping it is.
Eoris: Essence The RPG
People like Bruce and Macleod are still waiting for Eoris to come out in full, but we already have some material to get a glimpse of what Eoris is like. The free preview module on the web site’s Downloads section offers us some of its rules and a small adventure. There is also a small sampling of setting history and material to look at. But this article has gotten long enough, and so this will be left to another time. Though this article was primarily serious and sober in tone, my next article on Eoris will be a bit more fun. In this one I just wanted to get as much of the information I’ve collected out there, because I think it’s an interesting subject. But ultimately, beyond its history, I have a few opinions on Eoris as an RPG that would not fit the tone of this article. So look for a more hopefully humorous little review of the Eoris preview materials in the future.
Interviews with RPG.net users, and a few emails with Matt Forbeck.
whois searches on the domains for both current Eoris web sites.