One of the most exciting times in the lifespan of an MMO happens in the pre-release development process, where everything is new and possibilities seem endless. Before the forums and subreddits are pot-marked with angry threads about class balancing issues, RNG drop rates, and loot stats, and before every bloated narcissistic gaming Youtuber has a chance to rip off one another about how awful everything is, every massively multiplayer game has a point where it sits untarnished – opening new frontiers in an unpainted canvas devoid of memes. This is where Ashes of Creation, the new MMO by Intrepid Studios is currently poised.
For the last few weeks, after sitting on Intrepid Studios Discord and seeing the conversations that the many hopeful players on there are having with the development team, there seems to be a real and palpable excitement over what AoC has to offer. The team making the game is made up of veteran game designers from just about every MMO that has been created. Together they are cherry-picking what are essentially the best aspects of these games and figuring out ways to implement them into AoC. Whether or not this leads to something that revitalizes the genre remains to be seen, but at least for now, there is hope.
You can see glimpses of EVE Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Planetside, Everquest, Elder Scrolls, and you can see what taking the best of these elements in each of these games can do in creating a gameworld that is utterly limitless (at least for now).
Some Quick Takeaways
Reactive World based on player interactions – AoC uses a dynamic node system that will determine how the world takes shape. There will be persistence, what you do matters. Be the elven battlemage you’ve always wanted to be and bad together with your friends to create a world like no other, quite literally, as the world will react to your actions and you will find out that your actions have lasting consequences.
No Pay-to-Win Schemes – Intrepid Studios is promising, even marketing, based on the fact that the game will not include any pay-to-win schemes. They want players to go for the classic subscription model of “what you get is what you pay for,” and are adamant that it is the best for everybody. As MMOs that once thrives on the subscription model have been forced in the past to move to P2W models, it will be interesting to see Intrepid resist the trend.
Nodes – How the sandbox is achieved is through the game’s node based system: “Every zone is made up of multiple Nodes, and each Node has a Zone of Influence. As players adventure and complete their day-to-day goals, their experience is being captured by a Node through its Zone of Influence. As players level up, so do these Nodes. With enough experience, a Node might become a village, a city, or with enough effort even a metropolis. As these population centers open up, players can establish citizenship through in-Node housing, instanced housing, or our Freehold system.
No Factions – You want to be an Orc that has seen the light? Great. Do you want to be a high elf that has decided to become a psychopathic death dealer? Fine. There will be no imposed factions, only ones that players create in order to defend or attack each other’s zones of influence.
Racial Diversity – Some races will be better at certain things than others.
Highly Customizable Classes – As your class levels you can specialize it further or cross specialize it to do other things.
Levelling – The design team promises that while there is levelling involved for one’s character, the grind to do so will not be too difficult. There will also be various ways to level that will also grant substantial amounts of XP, such as exploration and crafting. As more details are released, this will be a key factor to watch in whether or not the game delivers on its sandbox promises or will a player be bound up in limitations due to their level.
World PVP – While it is unknown how many players will be on each server, it does seem that in order for each zone and node to do what it needs to do, will require a large amount of player activity. To keep PK’ing to a minimum there will be a system similar to EVE Online that will flag a player as a criminal, that player can be attacked by anyone in the zone. There will be zones specifically for PVP that will include guild on guild warfare where unaffiliated players can be ‘hired’ to lay siege to other player’s fortifications. While much of this has yet to be fleshed out, the concept seems pretty cool and will allow for players to either enlist in a guild or offer their services as “sellswords.” An interesting EVE-like feature in this are going to be “castle sieges,” where players essentially lay siege to a castle for a set amount of days, and then a large battle unfolds for control. While other games like Archeage and Elder Scrolls Online both feature sieges, neither seem to implement the scale that EVE and now AoC are promising. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.
Combat – The combat system shown in the glimpses is not finalized. While some players hope to something different to every other MMO’s tab-targeting system, Steven Sharif, the game’s Creative Director does not want to over-promise anything, stating on Discord, “while our combat system is not completely fleshed out, I can say that our tab-targeting will involve positioning and mobility,” and then went on to promise more in-depth blogs about it in the future.
Seasons – There will be weather, and the weather will determine what sort of NPCs are about as well as having other interesting side effects such as how structures in zones appear.
Freeholds – an area where players can settle down. There will be risk and reward as these Freeholds can be effected by the overall stability of the node, giving players a reason to stick around and defend them from random NPCs or other Players.
Interactive Story Telling – As players affect the nodes, a storyline will develop. Perhaps the players on the server awaken the old gods and must defend the world from their wrath? Maybe the world gets destroyed by the old gods and the players must start over? Maybe the players kill each other so much that the story never advances? There are many more interesting questions but all seem to point to the central theme that each player’s actions matter and the group of players as a whole, on every server, have the ability to affect the entire storyline, depending on their actions.
Despite this treasure trove of information, there are still more questions that need to be answered. Starting with, “Okay, all of this is really neat but is this a sandbox or is this a theme park that is just more interactive than all the other theme parks?” What does progression look like? Is following the progression pathway necessary, or can you create your own endgame? Follow the storyline? Get to max level and then what? It seems that all of these questions are still somewhat hard to pin down. While tangible answers might not appear until release, so far, the game looks amazing freeing and breaks a number of traditional conventions that have plagued the MMO genre. Some major pillars still remain, there are tanks, damage dealers, and healers, but a lack of NPC faction involvement is certainly welcome. This ultimately leaves one wondering what sort of adventure can they go on in Ashes of Creation – if it is as freeing as it looks? For some players, maybe their endgame will be ganking caravans on trade routes, for others, maybe it means creating a guild and leading it in glorious combat against other guilds, while for others maybe their satisfaction rests in creating an economic powerhouse. At present, nothing seems too out of reach, and that seems very promising.
At the end of April 2017, Intrepid Studios launched a Kickstarter in order to raise an additional $750,000. To learn more about it, check out their Kickstarter page. The game is expected to enter Beta in late Q4 2017 with an expected release date of Q1 2018.