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Ashes of Creation Interview with Steven Sharif: 'This Will Be One of the Largest and Most Successful MMOs'

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Ashes of Creation Interview with Steven Sharif: 'This Will Be One of the Largest and Most Successful MMOs'

The past 6 years have been pretty wild for Intrepid Studios, with their flagship title, Ashes of Creation, pushing through the different stages of development. With Alpha 2 on the horizon, and their recent transition from Unreal Engine 4 to Unreal Engine 5, there is plenty to get excited about when it comes to Ashes of Creation.

Shortly after the announcement of the UE5 transition, we sat down with creative director, Steven Sharif, to talk about the advancements the game has made, how the outlook of the game has changed over the years, whether recent game releases have changed Intrepid’s perspective, and much more.

If you’ve been patiently waiting for Ashes of Creation to release, it sounds like we’re still quite a long way off from a release date, but in our latest interview, Sharif gave us the scoop on what Intrepid will be looking for when players finally are allowed into Alpha 2.

“There’s definitely feedback apart from just combat that we’re going to be eliciting from our players for Alpha 2,” Sharif said. “Feedback on the communication of UI to players, with the status of the world’s development, being able to ascertain what nodes are progressing where, what it feels like to watch points of interest like Dungeons and Towers, coming online, and how that feels,” were just some aspects Sharif described, that the team expects to receive feedback on.  Currently there is no date to when Alpha 2 will begin, but Alpha 1 officially ended last year.

Nodes, for those that haven’t been following the game too closely, are essentially the backbone of Ashes of Creation. Players can expect to work on nodes throughout the leveling game and on into endgame. For the unfamiliar, Sharif summed up the vision of nodes when the game finally launches:

“From a player perspective, nodes are the key to unlocking content in the world, one, and then two, nodes are kind of like a community home that you share the direction of its development and specialization in. So these are little cities, potentially little cities, that exist across the world.  We have over 103 different planned node locations and at the start of the world, if you're you know fortunate enough to be there when the game launches, this is an unexplored terrain.

This is a tabula rasa that lies in front of players, to participate in the direction of the world's development and it influences literally every aspect of the game. the core hub for all systems comes in through these nodes.” 

-Steven Sharif, Creative Director, Ashes of Creation 

The node system is intended to be a fully unique system in its implementation, but games with similar systems haven’t gone unnoticed by the team at Intrepid. During the interview, a conversation ensued regarding a game “that shall not be named” and whether the Intrepid team has been paying attention to the pitfalls of similar node-like systems. Sharif stated that there will be a lot of differences between other open world territory control games, and one major factor will be based on the number of players they plan to have per server. Here’s what Sharif had to say:

“Another big aspect that's different about Ashes of Creation than, I believe the game you're speaking of, is - our intent from a multi-player perspective is to have massive battles. And that's something that we tested from a core architecture standpoint with alpha one. That was one of our main technical testing points - was having a siege that we had in August of 350 plus people who were participating in that siege and our servers were doing just fine, so that was a major achievement especially given how early we were to accomplish that feat. We're pushing the boundaries even further going forward, in the number of people that can participate, because the idea behind Ashes of Creation is, we don't have a 1k or 2k pop limit on our servers, our servers are intending to hold 10 000 concurrent server concurrent users per server. In that sense, the ability for players to participate (in) these types of systems and these types of engagements, we want to incorporate as many as possible, so that's why we're pushing limits.”

-Steven Sharif, Creative Director, Ashes of Creation 

One of those limits Intrepid has pushed recently is the transition to Unreal Engine 5. The enhanced visuals were shown in a UE5 walkthrough last week, that you can also watch in its entirety, without commentary, during the interview. It’s clear that the advancements of UE 5, including the lighting system through Lumen and the particle system Nanite, are visually a step ahead, but Sharif explained that their transition to UE5 wasn’t just about graphics, and that there are other benefits to their transition to Unreal Engine 5.

“The ability for multiple artists designers and engineers to be working within, what previously was referred to as a sub-level, but now it's broken down into cells. That availability alleviates a lot of bottlenecking that can occur, when multiple developers need to access a particular sub-level in ue4. So, from a streamlined perspective, the ability to then cooperatively work together with other developers in an area, for an mmorpg specifically, is a very very good benefit.”

-Steven Sharif, Creative Director, Ashes of Creation 

The hour-long interview has plenty of more information on topics that range from balance within the archetype and class structure, to whether Ashes of Creation may seek publishers in the future. Spoiler-alert, Sharif did say that Intrepid will be looking for international partners in countries from Latin America, South America, Southeast Asia, along with China, South Korea, Japan, and more, where the team won’t be able to self-publish the game.

The future is looking pretty bright for Intrepid, and near the end of the interview, Sharif divulges that, based on the metrics they are seeing, Ashes of Creation is shaping up to be, not just a huge game by developmental standards, but extremely popular with their ever-increasing fanbase. He hopes this popularity will transcend the MMORPG as the Ashes of Creation IP eventually expands into other games, but he believes that will be much further down the line. Right now, Sharif states that he believes Ashes of Creation will be one of the biggest games to hit the industry, when it releases.

“It is very important to us, (that) not only do we create a culture that's enjoyable for our team, and an atmosphere that people want to show up to work each day, and are passionate about the project, but also the plans we have post launch as well.  That team is going to service those plans, not just from a DevOps or LiveOps perspective, but also from a development perspective, where we can take the IP Ashes of Creation, outside of just the MMORPG as well.

…I think ultimately when John and I take a look at the success that Ashes has already had, not just from  the projects perspective as a as a game, you know, we are also falling in love with the visuals, with the mechanics, the systems, and seeing this thing come to fruition; but we have millions of pre-registered users for the product already, and we are still a significant portion of the way out from actually launching. That for us, just from a sheer return on investment perspective, indicates the success that our work is going to yield. That our investment is going to yield.

So, for us from a financial wherewithal and capability standpoint, we are capable of progressing the development of the project until completion. Depending on how long that is going to take, obviously, but also from a sheer reward factor, it's something we're really looking forward to. To see the launch of this game. Because, I do truly believe based on the metrics that we're looking at, that this will be one of the largest and most successful MMOs.”

-Steven Sharif, Creative Director, Ashes of Creation 

Despite having a long way to go until launch, from what we’ve seen so far, that prognostication may just come to fruition after all. We look forward to seeing more of what Intrepid has up their sleeves in 2022.


Steven Weber

Steven has been a writer at MMORPG.COM since 2017. A lover of many different genres, he finds he spends most of his game time in action RPGs, and talking about himself in 3rd person on his biography page.