Exclusive interview with Ashes of Creation’s Jeffrey Bard, formerly of Daybreak

Yesterday we covered a tip about a new MMORPG in the making: Ashes of Creation. Apparently we caught wind of this title before it was fully ready for a world reveal, but when Intrepid Studios heard about our story, the team figured this was as good a time as any to talk about its project.

Lead Designer Jeffrey Bard sat down with us for a lengthy interview to introduce the game and its studio. In a nutshell, Ashes of Creation is an ambitious sandbox MMO that’s being crafted by industry veterans, including several from Daybreak, that will empower players to change and mold a game world instead of passively moving through it. The game is still in the early stage of development but has extensive plans laid out for its path forward.

Let’s dig into what Ashes of Creation has in store as it enters the MMORPG scene this month!

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Massively OP: So what does the name Ashes of Creation refer to?

Jeffrey Bard: Ashes of Creation is a direct reference to the storyline. Without giving too much away, the phoenix is going to be a persistent symbol throughout the first phase of the storyline, and the world that the players will be inhabiting is a long-lost world that has suffered devastating calamity.

Can you give share a little information on the origin of this project and the people involved?

So this started as the brainchild of Steven Sharif, who is the founder and creative director. He brought on a small team of industry vets from here in San Diego, a lot of them from SOE/Daybreak, and a few fellows from more distant pastures. We’ve got quite a bit of specifically MMO experience here: folks who have seen the ups and downs of MMOs and know what mistakes to avoid.

So tell us a bit about Intrepid Studios.

Intrepid Studios was formed in late 2015, and we started production in early 2016. We’ve got 13 folks on our staff at the moment. I’m not sure that you’d know too many of the names here [from Daybreak], not many of us were public-facing folks, but yeah, I was over there, Jason Crawford was over there, and Michael Bacon came from Daybreak too.

Is this related to the Storybricks team/project that Daybreak acquired?

Oh man, that’s a great question, but no. We love Storybricks though.

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When you call Ashes of Creation an MMO, do you mean “traditional MMORPG” or are you trying to appeal out-genre?

Good question. I think we are definitely trying to appeal to those who want to play MMORPGs, that’s where we come from, and that’s whom we’re making this for. At the same time, we want to kind of blow up what’s considered to be traditional MMO gameplay, and hopefully bring fresh faces into the fold. I mean, it’s definitely, 100% an MMORPG.

Good to hear! We obviously love MMOs and want more to be made.

And that’s the audience we’re going after. We just think we can kind of reexamine what makes an MMORPG an MMORPG. What elements are vestigial and what elements we want to keep. At its core, we think that a massively multiplayer RPG should be MASSIVE.

Will this game be the EverQuest Next we were denied?

I don’t want to get on the hype train that was Next — there are a lot of great ideas that project had, and we’re going to do some really cool stuff, but not quite on that scale. And we will.

How will this game differentiate itself from everything else that’s out there or that is in the making?

Our hook is deeply integrated gameplay. When players first log in, they’re going to see Creation, beaten and broken. Outside of some few outposts of huddled masses, civilization doesn’t exist. It will be up to the players to invest life into the world, and bring villages, towns and cities into being. At the same time, they will need to protect what they’ve built, from the creatures they’ve disturbed in returning civilization to the world, as well as from each other.

Each system we’ve designed feeds back into every other system. PvE affects PvP affects the economy affects the world. As those things change, each other thing changes as well. The idea is to create a self-sustaining cycle of player activity, which affects and is affected by the story and world that they play in.

It’s also sandboxy in nature, but we are planning on having a lot of curated PvE content.

The game description sounds like it has immense scope. How are you planning to achieve this scope and make it all work with a smaller team and a presumably smaller budget than some of the larger studios?

The scope is large, but our systems are sound. There’s a lot of efficiencies in the technologies that we’re using, and while we are 13 now, we do plan on growing organically around our project as we reach further milestones.

A lot of indie MMOs announced in the past couple of years have a strong PvP focus. How dominant do you see PvP being in Ashes of Creation? Will PvE players be able to play in peace or is this more of an open-world PvP experience? In other words, is this a gankbox?

It’s a game where PvP is important, but like I said previously, it’s going to be deeply integrated into the other systems as well. This is not a survival horror game; we don’t want this to be a gankfest, and we’ll have in place systems that will disincentivize folks griefing others, and that incentivizes large-scale, organized PvP.

How far into production is Ashes of Creation? Is this something that might be playable next year or four years from now? Any sort of time frame?

That’s a wiggly point at the moment. We’re at a place where we have a lot of the basic systems in place, we’ve got a world, and we’re playing with the rules. So our schedule, if everything goes well, is to have something that we can call a playable alpha within the next 12 months. We’re certainly not planning on having an actual final launch for at least a few years.

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So you are planning a Kickstarter campaign for additional funding?

That’s the plan as it stands.

What else do you have planned for funding beyond Kickstarter?

This is all privately funded, and crowdsourcing will be an ongoing endeavor that we will pursue as the scope of the project demands. We’ve considered and will consider outside funding, but we want to stay away from corporate control as much as we can. We know from past experience that outside funding contributes to the dilution of vision, and it’s important to this project to prevent that. Keeping things between us and the players is really where we want to stay.

Promise me you guys will have great music in the game!

Music and sound are a top priority in this game — we want people to hear the first few bars of our intro screen and be transported. I think all of us actually understand how important it is to creating good memories.

What kind of business model are you looking at? Is it too early to comment on this?

As far as business model, we’re going with a subscription-based, no box, cosmetic-focused marketplace. We want to ensure that we can continue to support and provide content for people for a long time, and a subscription model helps us to do that. We want players to have a good relationship with our marketplace, and don’t want to have to have the kind of marketplace that a F2P game would need to have in order for our long term vision to work out.

What can fans expect to see or hear about the game in the coming months?

We’re going to be doling out a lot of inside baseball in our dev journals about our philosophy, our approach, and what we’re working on. This is a big game, and there’s going to be a lot to talk about. We really want to establish a good community, a good culture, and get people involved with our decision making process right off the bat. This is a game that all of us want to play, and we want to make sure other people feel that way too.

We’re very excited to hear about it and I want to thank you for your time.

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