If you didn’t get a chance to watch the live stream of Ashes of Creation Friends and Family alpha, you really missed out on a wealth of information. We learned a lot from just watching the stream unfold organically, so if you missed it the stream or think you may have missed some information, read on! It should be noted that this is a very early alpha and was intended for friends and family. There were bugs present in the stream, many of which were very obvious, but I’m not going to spend my time talking about them. If this was a release I would definitely focus on them, but it’s not so I won’t.
The first thing I want to talk about are the classes for Ashes of Creation because for most people the class reveal was the highlight of the stream. At character creation you will be able to chose your base archetype and from what we can gather this choice is permanent. You will be able to choose from classic fantasy RPG classes: Fighter, Tank, Rogue, Ranger, Mage, Summoner, Cleric and Bard (yay!). This base class will determine what skills you are able to use and at some point during the leveling process you will be able to choose a second class. This two class combination will give you your final form for an astounding 64 different classes. Rumor has it that you will be able to change your second class in-game, though it’s unclear on if there will be requirements or if you can change on the fly. On a personal note I want to say how exciting I am to see a bard in an MMO again and I’m of the old school mind that classic EverQuest is the way a bard should be played.
Moving on from classes we got a lovely taste of what the combat systems are like so far. As already mentioned, the base class is going to determine what skills you have at your disposal but it seems you will be able to use any weapon you would like. You can be a bow wielding summoner or a sword hacking ranger - the choice is yours. It was mentioned that certain weapons will work better for certain classes but you won’t be restricted. I like the idea that my hands won’t be tied by in-game mechanics thought I’m sure it won’t be long after release before there’s meta builds for the hardcore players. Using your weapon combo attack (Q-key in the stream) you build up focus, which in turn lets you use certain focus consuming abilities. I don’t think all abilities are gated behind focus but some certainly are. I’m reluctant to pass judgement on this mechanic until I’m able to get hands on it myself.
During the stream someone asked about tab targeting and it was revealed that players will be able to customize between tab targeting and action oriented styles of gameplay. We didn’t get any preview of this in action, however, as the streamer was only using tab-target like skills. I like the idea of the hybrid combat style similar to Guild Wars 2 and I hope it’s pulled off just as successfully.
It looks like, come launch, players will be capped at level 50 and if the stream was any indiciation it won’t be a quick journey. During the almost two hours of streaming a surprisingly few levels were gained and I quite like that it took time. In World of Warcraft these days you can typically be level 20-30 depending on your knowledge of the game in that amount of time and I really feel you lose appreciation of leveling zones when you’re blasting through at such a pace. I remember my first experience in EverQuest fondly where I played for days before ever feeling brave enough to leave my first zone (where I was promptly and unceremoniously killed) and I hoping that Ashes of Creation developers are able to pull off a compromised balance between too slow and too fast.
While leveling you gain skill points to spend on your abilities, four per level, with three being unlocked at certain points of the experience bar and the fourth when you ‘ding’. As you gain your experience either solo or in a group, the closest node to your location also gains experience. (A node is a dynamic city like area that is able to level up to provide more benefit to it’s contributing players). In the friends and family alpha the max cap for nodes is level 3 and I’m uncertain what the level cap for nodes will be at launch.
Speaking of grouping, as soon as you join a group you will be connected to other members with in-game voice over IP (VOIP), which given the guaranteed presence of trolls I’m sure will be met with mixed reviews, though I can’t imagine it won’t have a toggle switch. And once you have your group ready you may as well hit a local dungeon because there’s going to be competition. Harking back to MMO’s of old, Ashes of Csreation dungeons will be open, public, and non-instanced. Personally I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand when I played EverQuest I loved that you could run into people while group crawling through a dungeon; and on the other hand instances ensure you’re not going to make your way to the end just to find a high level chain camping the boss the you need. There is a possibility of instance dungeons finding their way in eventually, however, as we are looking at a very early point in development.
Art and User Interface
I’ve watched quite a few of the videos released so far and can’t help but think in the back of my mind that, while it looks great, maybe we’re being duped. Well I’m happy to report that the four square kilometer zone for the alpha stream was every bit as good looking as the videos released so far. Watching the players roam across this zone revealed a variety of different art assets and microbiomes. If there’s one thing that can’t be denied about Ashes of Creation, it’s the fact that the art direction is simply amazing. Seeing as this is alpha it was stressed that the User Interface as a first pass placeholder - only in place for the purpose of the alpha test - and the animations we’ve seen are first pass as well. The developers are well aware that they look clunky and stiff and have plans to improve them moving forward.
All in all the stream was both an entertaining and informative broadcast. It did a lot to lay some of my apprehension to rest and I’m still trying hard to make sure my own hype doesn’t run away from me. What are your thoughts on the stream and the information we learned? What are you excited or disappointed about? I look forward to reading your comments!