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Ashes of Creation at PAX West 2018: What I Learned from Steven Sharif & Jeffrey Bard

Robert Baddeley Posted:
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Art and Assets

If you’ve watched a video it’s hard to deny that Ashes of Creation is a beautiful game.  The art direction is wonderful and surprisingly unique in it’s execution.  One thing that Steven didn’t want was to end up with millions of assets (and huge installations) for the art team to have to iterate through and the system to solve this problem was a modular solution.  What this means is that environment assets like player structures, cultural influence of node development, etc and character assets like gear, weapons, etc are all created in a modular fashion.  So while, a gauntlet for example, would be its own full asset in another game it’s made up of a multitude of different parts in Ashes of Creation.  If you think about how Skyrim approached world creation it’s similar to how Ashes of Creation is approaching creation of, well, everything.  An artist might sit down and design a cool chest piece but at the same time is creating all the little lego blocks that make up that chest piece.  Later they can be moved and combined with pieces from another chest to make something complete unique and beautiful.

It’s in this way that the Ashes team has created a toolset for designers to use that allows them to rapidly creature unique objects without having to recreate the same basic model over and over again.  Each of these small lego blocks can have it’s color changed, it’s material shaders changed, or it’s texture.  For example a metropolis city you see in a video would be created using just one modular set.  Outside of “hero items” like big statues and unique lore pieces for that part of the world, the city was built using these little lego bricks and in doing so created a ‘bag of legos’ that can be mixed and matched with others to make a city somewhere else with a completely different look, feel and design.

Destruction!

The goal in Ashes of Creation is to have almost everything be destructible in some way.  That’s not to say the environment itself (outside of arenas and sieges which will reset when they’re done anyways) but everything player built.  Jeff painted an excellent picture describing a node that’s slowly grown in size and the Major decides to set out a plot of land and built an apartment-like structure on it.  Players move in and everyone is happy… until the node gets upgraded to level four.  At this point a dragon is triggered with one goal in mind: destroy the things.  Players will have to get together to try and defend their town and during that process that apartment building is razed to the ground.  That apartment building is now gone and won’t respawn.  The only way to get it back is for citizens to build it again.

Rebuilding won’t be as daunting as the initial time something is built.  For starters if you have a house full of furniture you aren’t going to tediously places all those piece again.  The game will remember where all of those things were.  In addition you aren’t going to have to find blueprints again.  You’ll end up having to contribute an amount of resources to rebuilding what was destroyed but most everything that happened with the building after it was built will be saved and restored once it’s rebuilt.

It’s not WoW

The Ashes team isn’t trying to create World of Warcraft or go up against it.  As Steven told me, “If I wanted to play WoW I’d just boot up the launcher and play WoW.  Why would go play some game that’s trying to be like WoW but isn’t?”  I know at least for me this is a really refreshing thing to hear.  World of Warcraft is a great game, that can’t be denied, but it’s demographic focus seems to be on getting as many people to play - including people who probably don’t really play games to begin with.  The Ashes of Creation team has one demographic in mind: MMORPG players.  While they believe there will be people outside of that demographic who will find appeal in coming to play Ashes of Creation their focus is on the traditional MMORPG player: a person who players MMOs because they offer a social interaction inside of unique community of like-minded individuals.

In Ashes of Creation they want people to have options. If your goal is to just come in and role-play - they want players to be able to do that and give social spaces where they can.  “Star Wars Galaxies had a cantina system that worked really well in this regard and we take inspiration from that.” Jeff told me.  In Ashes maybe you can run your own tavern and host them players give them food and charge them money to get rested xp.  You don't have to go raid, go do dungeons, or go do the storyline - but there's still stuff for you to do.  If the only thing you want to do is be the best cook in the game without ever having to kill a monster - you can do that.  You can play the game the way you want to and still contribute to the server population and health while still doing your own thing.  The team hates comparisons and labels for their ideas but to me it sounds like a game that promises an actual sandbox system if it’s implemented the way they say when it comes to Launch.

My.com

I asked Steve about My.com and what was done to ensure that they didn't go back on their promise to Intrepid and the community in regards to monetization and what other publishers they looked at using for EU.  I think it's best to just quote him directly.

"First off, contractually they can't.  We have 100% creative control of the project that means anything that goes into the game, their localized version is dictated by us. That's important, right?  The important thing is, you know, when talking with every major publisher in Europe - and we did talk with every one - our red line 1) creative control and 2) the important thing was that they understood what Ashes has already built in the community and what that community wants from a western publisher and developer.  And the bottom line is My.com/Mail.ru were the only ones willing to sign on board with that vision."

"... There's nothing we can say right now to dissuade people who have had an experience with the publisher.  And that's okay.  Because when the game launches and they want to play that game then they will experience the not just words, but the actions behind them, that My.com/Mail.ru and Intrepid plan to bring to the European and Russian communities. It's going to be top-tier quality service, top-tier quality servers and a game that is subscription based and not pay to win.  I'm a firm believer in second chances so long as people are willing to put the work in."

I personally feel that knowing My.com is contractually unable to add any type of pay-to-win mechanic to the game relieves a lot of the skepticism I had about them publishing to Europe.  Further knowing that My.com/Mail.ru will be running a subscription based game - not buy to play, not free to play, but monthly subscription - is a bit mind blowing given their history.  As with all things I’ll reserve judgement until I see what happens but I think Jeff said it best: “Do you think Steven would risk his baby for a publishing deal in Europe when we could publish ourselves and just have it take some extra time?”

What do you think about Ashes of Creation? What are you excited for or think is over-hyped?  Did you learn anything new?  Let me know in the comments and let's get that discussion rolling!

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Robert Baddeley

Robert got his start at gaming with Mech Warrior on MS DOS back in the day and hasn't quit since. He found his love for MMORPGs when a friend introduced him to EverQuest in 2000 and has been playing some form of MMO since then. After getting his first job and building his first PC, he became mildly obsessed with PC hardware and PC building. He started writing for MMORPG as his first writing gig in 2016. He currently serves in the US Military as a Critical Care Respiratory Therapist.