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!