It is no secret to those of us who ardently follow the MMO scene that every new game comes forth with great promises to be something new and different, something that will set it apart from the rest of the pack. Often those claims go unfounded and former supporters are left with bitter tastes in their mouths.
Yet once in awhile, a game company comes along that truly does present something astonishingly different and that bears the potential to not only excite its fans, but to possibly fundamentally alter the genre itself. It is into this rarefied air that Age of Ascent flies.
Space-themed Age of Ascent is so far a quiet game, one that is in its alpha stage of development. The potential for explosive growth is there as word meanders forth from the developers themselves. I had the distinct privilege to speak with the CEO of Illyriad Games, James Niesewand, to learn more about Age of Ascent.
We began our discussion with three basic pillars of Age of Ascent's development:
- AoA is based on HTML 5 and the cutting edge of today's technology. The game features no download or plug in. Before immediately dismissing AoA as "another browser-based title", consider the fact that the entire game features less than 2Mb in total assets and that the game has been tested against over 50,000 concurrent users. Of course, that number is based on a theoretical model by exponentially multiplying one weekend's event participants but the idea that AoA can run with that many users with such a minuscule download is astonishing.
- Illyriad has developed a new MMO architecture to fit vast numbers of concurrent users that take advantage of the same sort of server structure that internet giants like Google use. Age of Ascent will be a truly global game that will see all data centers linked together by using technology from other industries and then applying them to the game. James favorably compared AoA to various Wall Street applications that take advantage of cloud technology and linked server structures. Because of the cloud, it is more than probable that the game can be infinite in size with infinite players. Servers are added as needed.
- The game is based on real star maps. Illyriad has worked with NASA, the UK and EU Space Agencies to make sure that it's "done right". Crafting will be based on the Periodic Table of Elements where players go out to find the resources they need to create starships, weapons, ship armor and more.
But even more surprising than all of this is that Age of Ascent's code will be freely available to anyone who chooses to "view source" on the game page. James is A-OK with that as well.
"Anyone can look at AoA and see all of the client-side code. It's clearly our copyright, but it can't be hidden. Someone might look at it and think, 'I could make a game even better than this' and that's really cool." James stated. He believes that, of course his team has fantastic ideas and are looking forward to making its game. At the same time, however, he acknowledges that they can't possibly begin to come up with the plethora of ideas that thousands of potential builders and players can come up with. The game will be friendly to those who wish to contribute to it and the code will be friendly to those who wish to take it and do something completely new.
"It's about blazing a trail."
With that one statement, Illyriad is setting the company's challenge to all others: Take the technology, take the ability to use cloud technology, take the code and do something new that will move the genre forward rather than let it stagnate in the old development cycle.
Still not convinced? Illyriad has worked with Microsoft on Age of Ascent's code and it's good enough that MS will be licensing the technology back from Illyriad to use in their own cloud-based game structure. Usually, it's the other way around.
But wait! There's more!
- Free-to-play without pay-to-win
- Multiple ship classes and modular ship loadout
- Map derived from the real world star catalogs: more than 120k star systems!
- A fully player-led economy from resource gathering to manufacturing and trading
- Exciting and rewarding galactic exploration
- Play solo or in groups – larger than you’ve ever seen before
- Player vs Environment (PvE) mission running and engage with Non-Player Character Faction AI
- Build and manage space stations
- Claim territories and build an empire in space
- Alliances and Corporations as large or small as you wish, with sophisticated management and access tools
Once that list is completed, the next series of tasks include:
- New ship and hull classes (science ships, support ships, drone carriers, weapons platforms, minelayers and minesweepers, stealth recon)
- Capital ships (carriers and ships of the line)
- Deep and involving storyarcs that will play out over days, weeks and months
- Expansion of the number of NPC factions, and the space they occupy
- Build your own multi-device cockpit
- Multi-player options for co-operative capital ship flying
- Banking and advanced currency exchange systems
- Full set of player APIs and extension libraries
- Advanced control and display device support (such as Oculus Rift)
- Advanced player-owned spacestation, platform and jumpgate networks
- Original soundtrack
- Player-operated tournament arena combat and racing zones
- Multiple language localization
Still not convinced? You can see it all for yourself. Age of Ascent is playable in its alpha phase during special events held each Saturday. The next will be on May 10th from 4:00 pm EST. If that's still not enough, our own Rob Lashley will be speaking with James on an MMORPG.com live stream that will also feature a special beta event where members of EVE's Goonswarm will be descending into the game to show it off.
Age of Ascent is poised to become something special, one of those games that players will point to years down the road and say, "Yep, that was the one that changed everything". If you are a fan of cutting-edge technology, space-themed MMOs akin to EVE, MMOs in general, or just someone looking for the next big thing, then Age of Ascent is well worth the time to explore. You can do so on the Age of Ascent site.
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com.