Ashes of Creation Brings on Former Daybreak Developers

It seems that Intrepid Studios has once again expanded its ranks with developers who have experience working with other major studios in the industry. The independent developer behind upcoming MMORPG Ashes of Creation now has more than 100 people working on the game.

ashes of creation

Ashes of Creation made waves last year with its controversial crowdfunding strategies and ‘Make MMOs great again” slogan. The company behind the game has received a mix of funding between founder Steven Sharif, crowdfunding, and other outside investors. Some of the main concept selling points include dynamic world events, large-scale PvP sieges, and no pay-to-win mechanics.

The new additions to the team include:

  • Michael Roca – Senior Gameplay Programmer (Formerly of Disney, Daybreak, SOE, and EA)
  • Grat Crabtree – Senior Software Engineer (Formerly of Daybreak and SOE)
  • Devin Lafontaine – Senior Artist (Formerly Daybreak, SOE, Sigil Games)
  • Tad Ehrlich – Senior Artist (Formerly, Daybreak, SOE, Midway Games)
  • Garrett Fern – Senior Game Designer (Formerly Daybreak and SOE)
  • Zin Chiang – Senior Producer (Formerly Travian Games and Publishing)
  • Midori Bond – Executive Assistant (Formerly Senior GM and Customer Service at SOE)

“In the last year, we have grown incredibly fast and have been fortunate to bring aboard some very talented MMO veterans.” said Creative Director and Founder, Steven Sharif. “It’s pretty exciting to watch your dreams become a reality, and at the end of the day, creating an MMORPG that players can be proud of.”

According to Intrepid Studios, Ashes of Creation is still expected to begin Alpha Phase 1 testing during the 4th quarter of 2018.

 

Our Thoughts

Like many Kickstarter games, Ashes of Creation made a lot of noise at first and has been relatively silent ever since. Hopefully, this means that the team is spending more time on developing assets instead of looking for ways to get funding.

Source: Press Release

Articles Related to Ashes of Creation

Where Are They Now? Kickstarter Edition
Ashes of Creation PAX East 2018: The Nodes Are Life
Ashes of Creation Tours the UnderRealm

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RUMOR: Ashes of Creation’s Intrepid Studios In Talks for Acquisition of Daybreak

Shortly after the news about layoffs across much of Daybreak Games was confirmed, another layer has been added to what’s fast becoming a baklava of remarkable developments. Rumors of new Daybreak Games acquisition talks have come to light and one of those interested in buying up the company could be Ashes of Creation’s own Intrepid Studios.

daybreak games acquisition

Our colleagues at MMORPG.com bring word from an anonymous source close to Daybreak Games, who says that the company is looking for a path to being acquired and has fielded several suitors. The majority of the companies in question are not in the realm of game development, but one of them certainly is: Intrepid Studios.

It’s worth bearing in mind here that Intrepid Studios’ workforce already consists of several former employees of Daybreak and Sony Online Entertainment. The studio’s main office also happens to be in San Diego, CA – the same city where Daybreak Games is housed. These factors, the report posits, are elements that make an acquisition from Intrepid a prime candidate.

In a statement from Intrepid’s Steven Sharif, he made it a point to keep himself away from rumors while still offering some thoughts on the recent layoffs at Daybreak:

“It has long been my personal policy not to comment on rumors. Even if we were in talks with Daybreak for an acquisition, we would not be able to comment. Additionally, I saw the news of recent layoffs at Daybreak today and would like to extend my condolences to those affected. Daybreak (SOE) has an incredible history of creating some of the most cherished franchises that are near and dear to our hearts, and the people laid off today are some of the most talented developers in the industry. Intrepid Studios wishes them the best in their future ventures and I know they will go on to accomplish great things.”

Our Thoughts

What a week it’s been for Daybreak Games. At this point, this story has taken so many remarkable and stunning turns that it’s hard to know what will happen next. We do agree with the source article, though, that Intrepid Studios would be an absolutely perfect fit for acquisition of Daybreak and its titles. Especially if it means we see EverQuest Next somehow make a return.

…yes, we’re still a bit salty about that game’s closure.

Source: MMORPG.com

Articles Related to This Story

Multiple Layoffs at Daybreak Games Confirmed
New Daybreak Games Connections Discovered, LotRO and DDO Say They’ll Remain Unaffected
$2B Worth of Assets from Russian Company Columbus Nova Frozen, Daybreak Claiming No Affiliation

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Ashes of Creation PAX East 2018: The Nodes Are Life

Everything about Ashes of Creation is built upon their Nodes system. Quite literally. Nodes are the focus of their world’s growth, the primary focus of player advancement, and the way questing and player cities come together. That said, most of what this system is capable of has been primarily through dev blogs. With the Ashes of Creation PAX East setup, however, all of those words were put into real-life, playable, and tangible action.

The show floor had a couple of set pieces of the game’s Alpha Zero build in both PvP and PvE flavors. There’s a lot more to Ashes of Creation than what’s on the floor, of course, which was what I decided to focus on in my time with the booth.

Ashes of Creation PAX East 2018: The Nodes Are Life

First and foremost, I asked about the game’s class system and how they’ll operate. In case you haven’t been reading up, there are eight classes in the game which will make up the primary experience of your character and their role in combat. Secondary classes, essentially, operate in a form of horizontal progression. For example, a tank can use a Shield Bash like normal, but with a mage subclass, that Shield Bash suddenly sets the enemy aflame, which changes the dynamic of tanking a bit more into the DPS side of things.

What does this mean for PvP? The devs are due to find out once they begin their Phase One alpha test, which is due for Q4. Most of the testing to this point has been all about their backend and making sure their servers are up to snuff.

I had a moment to see the game demonstrated briefly with the nearby area cleared of any settlement. Players play in the general area near a node, completing tasks or gathering materials and earning experience. After perhaps a few hours, the node actually transforms the immediate area, with a small camp generating nearby. Further play feeds that Node and sees it grow into a larger series of tents with new services until, eventually, it balloons into a whole village with more quests, more services, and more features that players can take advantage of.

A lot of those features are all about fostering community. Players can become gatherers, which feeds the needs of crafters, who offer new goods to sell, which offers the Node’s mayor or leader their proper tax revenue that can be applied to opening up spaces that players can use like housing or taverns. All of this should happen on its own, as a Node leader who tries to spike taxes could end up driving people away, which will see their Node shrink to literally nothing.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot to demonstrate regarding crafting for Ashes of Creation yet as all of their ideas are in document form right now and their next phase of alpha is centered on PvP. That said, they are building for co-dependency and are adamant in making people specialize in a trade, meaning people can’t gather and craft with one character. There will also be limitations on vault storage, keeping it to an account-only system. That said, if players want to run their own vault or bank service in-game, the devs won’t get in the players’ way.

With all of the complexity this node system has, I voiced a concern about how long development time would take. I was assured that not only has the team gotten things working, they’ve done so in an astonishingly short period of time. Part of that is the ease of using the Unreal Engine, but another part is having devs who can iterate and switch things out in pretty short order. It’s easily one of the most efficient dev environments to work in, apparently.

After the demonstration of the Node system and watching things take shape in front of my eyes, all of the blogs about Nodes suddenly made complete sense. By their own admission, describing the Node system in words has been challenging and definitely is one of those systems that are better demonstrated than described. Seeing it all unfold before me definitely changed my mind about the Node system from being just “interesting” to “genuinely something to look forward to in MMO gaming.”

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PAX West: Hands-On Ashes of Creation

When I first entered the main exhibition hall at PAX West this year, I was surprised by both the size of the Ashes of Creation booth and how popular it seemed to be. It wasn’t quite up there with Destiny 2 or Shadow of War, but it was rather impressive for an indie studio. With more than 19,000 Kickstarter backers and $3 million in funding there’s obviously some interest in the game, however, crowdfunded MMOs don’t often have major showings on the main floor at conventions, especially at a public events like PAX.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ashes of Creation had multiple PvE and PvP demo stations available. I’ve personally been rather skeptical of the project since it was first announced, as have many others, which is probably why it was so important for Intrepid Studios to publicly show off the game. I didn’t have a chance to play the PvP demo, but I did get to play through the guided PvE scenario, which took about 15 minutes. I have mixed feelings about the overall experience, which I’ll go into detail below, however, I’m now slightly more confident in the project coming to fruition.

Ashes of Creation

 

The Node System and Gathering

One of the Ashes of Creation game systems that had me the most skeptical is the concept of nodes. There hasn’t been another MMORPG that has utilized a world-building system that actually responds to the actions of the population. The idea that cities and monsters would populated based on player choices sounded a bit far-fetched, but once I got to experience in the demo I realize that it’s rather simple from a technological point of view.

When we first spawned into the game we were in a tiny camp waiting to escort a series of caravans. While waiting to begin the real mission we were instructed to gather some mushrooms. Gathering is a bit different in Ashes of Creation because players have to use their gathering skill on an area instead of simply clicking a node. I’m rather neutral about this feature as a gameplay mechanic, but it does improve the overall feeling of immersion.

However, the point of sending us off to gather mushrooms was more or less to show off the node progression system. When we got back to the starting area our camp had actually transformed into a small village. Obviously, the experience gain was sped up in order to show it off during the demonstration. In the actual game it will likely take quite a long time, and lots of people, to develop nodes.

The important takeaway from this is that the bare bones of the node system is already working, and it’s overall fairly simple. If players quest, kill monsters, and gather in a certain node it will eventually level up. Once that node starts developing it stops surrounding nodes from gaining experience, which in turn prevents certain quests or monsters from ever spawning. The difficult job will be either hand-crafting a unique experience for every single node in the game or developing a procedural generation system that isn’t terrible. Having story arcs and enemies unique to specific nodes would definitely improve the metagame and create conflict based on the needs of certain player groups.

Ashes of Creation Ranger

 

Classes and Combat

There were four basic classes available to test out during the demo: Cleric, Tank, Ranger, and Mage. These were likely picked out because they’re the most standard archetypes of the MMO genre and are fairly easy to pick up and play. Another four classes have been confirmed but were not being shown off: Fighter, Summoner, Rogue, and Bard.

Each of the archetypes follows a very traditional design. The Cleric and Tank obviously focus on healing and holding threat while the Mage has powerful area-of-effect abilities and the Ranger has a combination of single-target and area attacks. Even though none of the classes really breaks the mold on their own, Ashes of Creation will be using a multi-class system. This means that each character will be able to select both a primary and secondary archetype, similar to the original Guild Wars.

The combat and movement are also fairly traditional with a couple of exceptions. Movement is done through WASD and combat is tab, or click, targeting. Abilities were bound to 1-8, although I assume we’ll be able to rebind these, and there was a distinct lack of auto-attack. Instead of using a standard auto-attack ability, or right-click attack, the first skill acts as more of less like a spammable action similar to Guild Wars 2. Furthermore, there is a sort of mini-game attached to the main skill on every class where players are rewarded with additional attacks for proper timing.

Ashes of Creation Mage

This combo system has been a topic of hot debate ever since it was unveiled. Ethan Macfie posted his thoughts on Ashen Foundry and felt that it was an overall positive addition to the game after he experienced it firsthand. However, I’m not a fan of the combo system in its current state and found it to be clunky and distracting. That’s not to say that it can’t be refined into something much better, but I constantly found myself staring at my action bar whenever I used the ‘Bow’s Combo’ ability.

I understand wanting to reward good gameplay, however, the system needs to be more consistent. Perhaps keeping the timing requirement the same (for each action) would allow high-level players to build muscle memory and not have to even look at the cast bar. Without a true auto-attack, missing these extra attacks won’t be acceptable during competitive content, such as raids, and trying to manage quick-time events and cooldowns in PvP could be a nightmare.

The two other interesting aspects of each class are their ultimate and utility skills. Each class has an ultimate ability that must be charged up with their combo attack and once they have at least 80% focus it can be activated. The Ranger gets Hails of Arrows (large AoE attack), the Mage has Quake (line area attack), the Cleric goes into a healing overdrive mode with Divine Form, and the Tank can pull in enemies with Righteous Fury. Having to build up a meter to use an ability isn’t very common in MMORPGs, with a few exceptions, and is something I personally prefer over lengthy cooldowns that can’t be used every fight.

The utility skills are probably the most intriguing feature about the classes in Ashes of Creation and definitely something I would like to have a lot of focus on in the live game. In addition to their combat skills, each class has a non-combat skill that was essential for progressing in the demo. The Ranger could track enemies, the Tank detected threats, the Cleric cleansed poison and the Mage detected hidden passageways.

Ashes of Creation combo

It’s incredibly rare that an MMO rewards certain classes or even requires them in order for groups to progress. World of Warcraft did this in a small way with Rogue lockpicking but it never really felt essential. My hope is that Ashes of Creation rewards players for bringing the optimal classes but doesn’t make progression impossible without them. An example would be opening up a passageway with extra treasure or allowing shortcuts and not simply barring a group from completing a dungeon.

 

Cautiously Optimistic

When I initially heard about Ashes of Creation I felt like the studio might be biting off more than they could chew, but after getting my hands on the early demo I feel more confident in them actually being able to deliver a product. The game is at least a year from Beta testing and Intrepid appears to be putting together a fairly solid base.

That being said, there are still plenty of concerns from the MMO community. Until Ashes of Creation demonstrates that it will deliver on all the promises, skepticism is justified. Conversely, it’s not fair to be overly critical and no one should hope for a game to fail.

My experience with Ashes of Creation at PAX was more about realizing what the game can become than what it is in its current state. There are beginnings to the node system, PvP is functioning, and even though the combat is a little clunky it still works. Clearly it still needs a lot of work in many different areas but Pre-Alpha testing doesn’t even begin until December 15, 2017 and hopefully we’ll see a lot of progress throughout 2018.

For more information on Ashes of Creation, check out my interview with creative director Steven Sharif. If you have any thoughts, concerns, or questions about the game, please let us know in the comments below!

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Ashes of Creation Interview with Creative Director Steven Sharif

While at PAX West 2017, I had the opportunity to speak with the Creative Director for Intrepid studios, and mastermind behind Ashes of Creation, Steven Sharif. Additionally, I was able to get my hands on the PvE demo for Ashes of Creation, which I’ll discuss in a separate article. Read below for the full Ashes of Creation interview.

Ashes of Creation Interview

 

Thanks for taking the time to meet with me here at PAX West, Steven. While we’ve been closely following the development of Ashes of Creation on MMOGames, can you give a quick overview of the game for anyone who hasn’t been following along?

Well, we’re here literally less than 3 months out from our Kickstarter, center-stage at PAX with two demos that players can experience. Both the Arena as well as a PvE narrated demo. It was really important for us that we were here and able to engage with our community and show them that the work we’re doing is actually progressing. We’re not your average Kickstarter type game; we’re actually getting stuff done and keeping our schedule.

Ashes of Creation is an MMORPG that’s open world, non-faction based. We’re a fantasy driven story and our biggest mechanic that really influences everything in our world is the node system. Our node system is really the mechanism for building up the world and unlocking certain story arcs and overarching narratives. When players first enter the world it is undeveloped and as they move out into the wilderness there are these nodes that collect experience from all of the players as they’re doing normal MMO things: killing monsters, collecting resources, building homes, doing quests and things like that.

When the node collects this influence it propagates real-time assets as it advances in stages. There are six stages to a node: the NPC stage, the camp, village, town, city, and eventually a metropolis. At every stage it is unlocking new content that is relevant and appropriate for its location. So players really have a choice in driving the narrative and it’s actually meaningful because it will change the type of monsters that could spawn, loot tables that could spawn, the end quest monsters that you’ll see, the services and activities available within the nodes themselves.

We don’t have a global auction house or global warehouse. Instead, players have to actually collect resources and the only way to transit goods between regions is through our caravan system, which creates a dependency on people to work together. As these nodes develops, players can declare a citizenship with one of the nodes. That’s where they’re going to build their home, build their infrastructure, get their progression in the artisan class.

Now, if players don’t like the location of certain nodes (because when a node advances it actually stops its neighboring nodes from advancing as well. Your choice is not just an illusion, you’re cutting off certain story arcs based on what nodes advance) and if players wish to they can destroy the cities that have been built paving the way for new construction and unlocking new storylines. We’re not just using the buzzword of ‘player agency and choice,’ but instead this is truly a ‘choose your own adventure’ with a linear history that’s available on the server and every server is going to have a different history based on how those populations build the world.

Ashes of Creation Interview

 

The concept behind the node progression system sounds amazing, but is the technology actually available to pull this off?

Absolutely. The funny thing is the technology necessary to accomplish our node mechanics has actually been around for a very long time. You’ll see in certain design blueprints that tags can be used to populate new actors or spawners within the world. All you have to do really is set those tags to certain parameters. A tag will spawn when node in Region A is propagated to the next stage and that will then bring those actors. Once those actors get brought into the server then they’re going to unlock accessibility to other player character mods to utilities those systems, mechanics, whatever is going to be there.

The technology is not difficult, actually. One of the comparative games that people say ‘Oh, EverQuest Next kind of tried this.’ Well, the reality is that EverQuest Next had a major technological issue in the sense that they were attempting to create a fully destructible world using a voxel system. That’s not what we’re doing. We don’t need a fully destructible world. That’s not necessary to create the components allowing players to use their own agency to develop the storyline of the world and kind of choose their own path.

We are really not pioneering any new technological endeavors with our MMORPG. Instead, we’re just rearranging the parts that are already existing to form a more compelling story that players can get involved with.

 

Without a destructible world, how will players be able to destroy cities built on nodes in order to reset their progress?

It is similar to a traditional siege that you’ve seen in games like Lineage II and Aion. There is a specific mechanic. When you want to prepare a siege, you must first achieve a certain questline that grants you an item that allows you to declare and there’s a certain time window that you must declare within. Once you’ve declared the siege, the citizen have a certain time period to prepare for that siege and then it will commence.

There are specific mechanics with how to bring a city down, such as a flag that may be in the center of the city. You must breach the walls, take quarters by killing NPCs like elite guards that might be there. Then after doing that, you’ll have the opportunity to cast on the flag pole and lower it and put your own up.

Ashes of Creation Interview

 

Many online games in the past have used variations of the Unreal Engine, but there have been issues delivering smooth, large scale battles. With Ashes of Creation using the Unreal Engine 4 do you foresee any issues with optimization and how many players do you expect the servers to support?

I wouldn’t say that a lot of MMO developers have used Unreal 4. There have been some that have used Unreal 3. A good example of Unreal in the past is Lineage II. It had massive battles. They wrapped that engine in their own netcode. The great thing about Unreal is it grants you access to the source code, so that if there’s anything in there that out of the box it can’t accomplish then you can rip it out and put your own in.

We have a very strong core of engineers who are capable of creating our own netcode, which is what we’re going to do with this. We’re basically taking the back end out of Unreal 4 and substituting our own, leaving the components we need in there, in order to accomplish the mega battles that we intend to have in the game. Our server populations will concurrently run around 7,000 to 8,000 players.

The great thing about Unreal 4 is this: as an out of the box engine it has a lot of tools and components for developers to get up to speed quick and develop a presentation of what their game is going to be like. The other great thing about Unreal 4 is Epic has amazing support for their licensed developers. Additionally, you can take any component you don’t like and change it however you wish.

We are implementing a lot of different levers that players can play with in order to reduce render performance. If they need to for certain battles, they can set default player appearances, reduce graphic textures, they can do all those things that dial down the rendering taxation on their systems.

 

Do you have a timeline for Ashes of Creation Alpha and Beta testing?

We just announced that our Alpha 0 is scheduled for December 15, 2017. That is our raffle only Alpha that will also grant access to some media and influencers. You cannot purchase into that Alpha. Our Alpha testing is scheduled all throughout 2018, and that is going to be for people who participated in our Kickstarter. We hope for our Beta to begin at the end of 2018 or beginning of 2019.

 

There has been a lot of emphasis on the world building in Ashes of Creation, but what type of endgame PvE content can players expect?

We have some massive raids. We have a 40-person raid group and some bosses at the end will require two raid groups. We don’t really have what I call an ‘endgame.’ Because the storyline can be constantly changing, there are new experience at those higher levels that people get to participate in.

Not only that but player driven content, which I know a lot of sandboxes in the past have used as an excuse for not having to create as much content, but we’re actually going the opposite route of that. We have to create more content than a normal theme park does because our choices have to be meaningful and not just an illusion. When you have 20 different paths to go, there needs to be content for each one.

For endgame, we have massive battles both player-versus-player and PvE oriented. We’re going to have massive world bosses with legendary drops and huge, open-world raids to go through.

Ashes of Creation Interview

 

Stay tuned for our PAX West 2017 hands-on coverage of Ashes of Creation. Let us know what you think of Ashes of Creation in the comments below and what aspects of the game have you the most, or least, excited!

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