Massively OP Interview: Ashes of Creation on a new way to MMO

Today, Ashes of Creation takes a big plunge into an all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign. Over the past few months, the MMO seemed to come out of nowhere to stun us with an ambitious design, well-crafted videos, and a team of experienced industry vets who seem passionate to make the next generation of online RPG.

For this occasion, we sat down with Intrepid Studios CEO Steven Sharif to talk about the Ashes of Creation’s crowdfunding campaign, the studio’s design philosophy, and the next steps for this upcoming MMORPG. Does this game deserve your support? Will it rope in widespread interest? Let’s see if Sharif can make the case.

Massively OP: In many respects, this Kickstarter will be the game’s debut to a larger crowd. What’s the elevator pitch for what Ashes of Creation is and what sets it apart from other games?

Steven Sharif: Our primary pitch is a few things: We will never be pay-to-win; our world reacts to your choices, as an individual and a community; story is an important part of any universe, both stories created from player interaction, and lore that creates a setting for your experiences; we want to put the “massively” back into Massively OP, ergh, I mean massively multiplayer; and we should be open and transparent to our community.

Ha, I see what you did there! At this point, how long has Ashes of Creation been in development?

We hired our first team members in December of 2015, and began actual development in early February 2016.

How large is your visible community right now?

We launched our website and announced the project on December 10th, 2016, and since then we are now at 90,000 registered account holders, with 8,000 active Discord participants.

What is currently functional and playable in the game? 

We have accomplished a lot in the past 14 months and have most of the base mechanisms functional in the game. We are about to start full-blown production of those key systems very shortly.

The world is currently pretty big, and we have several classes moving around in it. We have NPCs and monster AIs working as well.

Sounds like a solid pre-alpha build then. What is your financial goal with Kickstarter fundraiser? How did you weigh the odds of making that goal when setting it?

Kickstarter really is an awesome tool when used correctly and by a solid team. Our goal with Kickstarter is to expand the scope of the project. Bring on new team members sooner and include some systems into the product.

Additionally, I wanted to get the community involved in the project and be able to offer those who back us early, some rewards that they will enjoy and that will stand out. Community is the most important aspect of gaming for me, and I feel at home when being a part of that.

Our goal is $750,000.

Ah I win a bet! I predicted $700,000 with my boss. So what are your plans for that money? What other sources of funding do you have lined up?

I intend to use those funds to bring on additional team members who can focus on building the game, as well as, include certain systems that I think will fit well into our design. I am primarily self-funding the project, but if necessary, I have made some very good friends in my previous business endeavors who are dying to invest.

What is your strategy for a (hopefully) successful Kickstarter campaign?

The most important strategy to me is community involvement, and transparency. As a gamer myself, I became pretty fed up with what the industry was putting out there, such as pay-to-win trash and overt cash grab monetization schemes. It was very disheartening.

I think people in our genre want something different, and if I can effectively communicate to them, that we ARE different from that, they will back us. If we build it, they will come mentality. We have begun to build it, and we are inviting them to come a bit early and watch.

Considering how much focus you’ve been giving the node system lately, would you say that this is the linchpin that holds the game together?

The node system is pretty vital to our design philosophy. It is one of our four design pillars, but undoubtedly the most intrinsic. The whole concept is something I have sat on for quite a few years, and hasn’t really been done before, at least not in the way we are doing it. I want players to FEEL their actions in the world. I want you to CHOOSE your own adventure, and watch as those choices manifest into reality.

Are you concerned that players might not intuitively grasp nodes? What about players like me that see this as a high-level concept that won’t affect the day-to-day adventures of the average character?

It’s always a concern that we may not effectively communicate a design’s intent with one of our systems. But I feel like one of our greatest assets so far as a studios, besides the vast experience in large MMOs that our team has worked on, is our availability to the community, and our informative video series we intend to continue releasing during the development on all systems. It is definitely a day-to-day system as well as high-level system. It will literally affect everything.

Have you examined how other MMOs have tackled large player-run city systems for inspiration and warning? What lessons from the past are you putting to good use in Ashes?

We have indeed. Our player-run governments are like nothing ever done before in an MMO, and we have played just about every MMO out there. We know where and when players should exercise agency over systems and how to refine that agency granted to them by the system.

Looking at how open world housing has created a lot of headaches with ugly urban sprawl (SWG, Ultima Online) and nasty contentious land rushes (FFXIV, ArcheAge), is it worth the hassle? Won’t this just foster a division in the community of haves and have-nots?

Well, part of our game is a system of rebirth. Giving the have-nots a mechanism to open new areas and make their claim. Our game isn’t really allowing for the “land-rush” so to speak, since we have three types of housing and one of them is instanced. The open world freeholds and static in-node housing only become available when a node reaches the third stage, which allows players some time to prepare. This is opposed to a live launch, where everyone is running to claim land. Nodes will need to be developed first.

How are you going to avoid abuse with the politics and city leadership? If there’s a way for players to grief others or exploit the game for themselves, they will find it, and it seems like you’re handing over some mighty big tools to the playerbase.

Well, we aren’t handing over tools that can be abused or exploitable. And we have pretty extensive experience to account for a majority of those issues before they become issues. But then again, we aren’t perfect and that is what testing is for.

Along that topic, how open to being a gankbox or a lawless PvP world will Ashes of Creation be? What about players that would much prefer to exist on a PvE server instead?

“Risk vs. reward” is a common theme in our game, and it plays out in our flagging system. Ashes of Creation will not be a gankbox. I feel that our flagging system will sufficiently deter open murder with repercussions for players that wish to PK others.

We do however have many open-world PvP systems that focus on meaningful events with real-world consequences that reflect the outcome of those battles. Players that wish to be PvE-oriented will find a healthy experience of challenging conditions resulting in meaningful rewards

What dev blogs and systems reveals should the community expect to see over the next few months?

Class overviews, combat demonstrations, housing focuses, crafting focuses, and lore and story reveals. Many things!

What will the development process look like going forward?

Constant developer updates and interaction, new hiring, getting ready for conventions and debuts, our alpha testing starting at the end of this year, I think my mind may have melted. But it’s OK, I have tea.

Tea good. Thanks for talking with us!

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42 Comments on "Massively OP Interview: Ashes of Creation on a new way to MMO"

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Mush V. Peets

I don’t see why this kind of thing has to be new or revolutionary at all. Seems we’ve had the capability to implement these kinds of features for years now; why’s the industry still stuck on WoW? We should already have this kind of thing as an industry standard, and be moving into physical crafting/inventory systems, and finding ways to seamlessly integrate players and NPCs into the same frameworks (e.g. player-owned shops where the players act as NPCs while offline, hiring NPCs to help fight battles or farm stuff, etc.)

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Dean Greenhoe

Several elements here interest me. This may be the next big hit and I do not want to miss out. So, I backed the project. Just hope I get more for my $$ than EQN :(

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Rottenrotny

I hate kickstarter MMOs.
However, I do like open world housing and optional, flaggable open world PVP.

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Nick

Seems optional PvP sn’t so ‘optional’ according to recent interviews. Apparently if you aren’t flagged you can still get PK’d but the killing player will just be penalized. They mentioned they liked how Lineage 2 handled this but imo the penalties in L2 are far too lenient.

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Necromonger

It wont be a gankfest galore.

The penalty’s increase dramaticly and the punishment will be harh not to mention the ganker will lose a significant amount of his stats everytime he ganks some1.

But pvp needs to be part of any mmo as it just adds that excitement even if you are on the receiving end of it you can still have that adrenaline rush.

The problem with most mmo’s that offer open world pvp is that you get ganked 24/7 without reason or cause and then it becomes tiresome.

Ashes of Creation is looking at that part also and have a good system in place that there will be anti gankers who get rewarded for hunting down gankers :)

So dont panic you carebear loving creatures there is a place for you even in this open world pvp mmo.

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Nick

The penalty would have to be so bad that getting killed knowing the penalty would not only bring satisfaction to the victim but the offender is nearly considering deleting their character and quitting outright.

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Melissa McDonald

PvP is a no-go for me, if the devs are reading.
There used to be a thing called consensual dueling.
What happened to that?

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Kickstarter Donor

Agreed. Not going to play a PvP game, regardless of what else it has to offer.

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Oleg Chebeneev

THere is also a thing called PvE servers for all PvE scrubs out there. Just wait, maybe they decide to implement it

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Nick

I never get the arguments AGAINST PvE servers. It seems like what they really want is everyone forced to play in an open PvP environment so PK’ers will have more fodder even if its carebears. Problem is ‘PVE’ focused players have a pretty much zero-tolerance for getting PK’d. If I can be killed by another player while doing it, its PvP content.

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Kevin McCaughey

Game has already exceeded it’s $750k goal, currently on $834k only 2 days into it’s kickstarter. That’s awesome :)

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Kevin McCaughey

I REALLY like the sound of this, and I had never heard of it before I read this article. The ideas are great, the PvP control sounds like it really won’t be a gankfest. I think I will be backing this on Kickstarter.

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Lorgarn

The game has some interesting concepts and ideas, I’m definitely not convinced yet but I backed for a modest $40. Mostly because I want to see more attempts at doing something new and fresh in the genre, so I kind of feel obligated in a way to encourage that if I can. Put my money where my mouth is you know.

I can’t sit and complain year in, year out about how stagnant my favorite game genre has become and not encourage any attempts to break that mold.

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Kevin McCaughey

Yea, exactly. That’s why it is good now and then to back something that looks good.

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Lorgarn

Yep, I definitely don’t consider it an investment either. I’m not expecting anything out of it, I’m fine with loosing that $40. If it has the chance to bring something new and interesting to the genre, feels like an ok bet to me.

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draugris

Sounds interesting and what we can see until now looks beautiful. Also some of the concepts also sound interesting. Where i am concerned is the matter of large scale pvp aka siege performance. With a licensed engine that was always a problem handling a lot of players at once. And open world pvp in general i am curious how they will stop players from turning the game to a gankbox and grief simulator. MMO communities are so toxic nowadays, people will try to do anything to ruin someones day.

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Toy Clown

I’ll keep an eye on the project, as I do with other MMOs that have detailed character customization, housing, and other features not related to PvE / PvP exclusively. To me that’s what makes a sandbox: Having choices. When choices are tossed in with players being allowed “gankfests” and griefing of players who just want to roleplay, do crafting or other non-pvp activities, that’s when I turned my back fully on an MMO.

I am intrigued by the story system, but it’s all going to come down to how well pvp is handled.

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Eamil

(Note that what I’m about to describe is from TheLazyPeon’s video about the game. I couldn’t find a single comprehensive article from the devs about this subject but this Youtuber has done pretty thorough research including talking to the devs on the game’s Discord.)

The game has two levels of flagging beyond the default. The default, noncombatant, is a player hasn’t opted into PvP. To attack others, he must flag himself, with one exception.

Someone flagged as a combatant can attack anyone, flagged or not, and has reduced death penalties relative to PvE death. However, while a combatant CAN kill noncombatants, killing a noncombatant flags them as “corrupt.”

A corrupt player is effectively declared an outlaw. He’ll be marked on the map for bounty hunters to find. Noncombatants can attack a corrupt player without becoming flagged themselves. The death penalties are tripled. A corrupt player also has a chance to drop the gear they’re wearing, and if they continue to slaughter more and more noncombatants, their combat effectiveness will decrease further the more they do.

From the sound of it, it won’t be a matter of “you die once and revert to noncombatant,” but there will be mechanics to let people lose their corruption.

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Eamil

After doing some research myself, the bit about combat effectiveness decreasing the more noncombatants a person kills seems to only apply to PvP (PvE performance is unaffected). Which I still think is good, but also a point worth being clear on.