From The Ashes Ep 42 Steven Interview 4/22/2018

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Contents

Intro

  • Aggelos: Welcome to From the Ashes, The Dungeon Crawler Network podcast all about Ashes of Creation by Intrepid Studios. Bear witness to the rebirth of the MMORPG genre, from the ashes of the industry that left the gamers behind. I am your host Aggelos, and this is an amazing episode. Yeah, that's right! We have to introduce him right off the bat, as you can already see Steve Sharif, creative director over at Intrepid Studios. How are you sir
  • Steven: I am very good. Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here. I love watching the show. Wait for the awesome conversation we're going to have about Ashes.
  • Aggelos: All right! Thank you so much for coming on. I know we had this conversation pre-show, but in just under 2 weeks it will have been one year since the very first episodes. Actually, from the date of this recording, it's two weeks and 1 day this show has been around for one year, and that was kicked off by our first interview on May 3rd during the kickstarter.
  • Steven: That is just honestly mind-blowing. I can not believe that it has been a year since that May 3rd interview. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was crazy, in the middle of the second day of that kick-start. I think we had just had $1 million dollars by that time, and I was sitting at that conference table chatting with you, as everyone's hair was on fire, running around, getting stuff ready, doing live streams every other day. That was a crazy time. I can't believe it was a year ago.
  • Aggelos: A year ago. It was amazing. You guys have come so far in that time, and you know we're going to talk about that here in a little bit. Before I do, we have to also give a little bit of love to Alpha Soul who is actually in Stormzlord’s place right now. How are you buddy?
  • Alpha Soul: I'm doing good, I'm doing real good
  • Aggelos: Stormz, how are you buddy?
  • Stormzlord: I'm doing awesome. Recovering from pax, but it was great.
  • Aggelos: Awesome, awesome.
  • Steven: I actually got to meet Stormz at PAX. I saw you at the panel
  • Stormz: Absolutely. You guys impressed the heck out of my sons
  • Steven: Oh really? That's awesome. I'm glad to hear that. Where did you come from to get to PAX.
  • Stormz: Detroit. Took three of my sons. Cut across Canada. Had a fun road trip.
  • Steven: That's awesome. That's cool. Some of the guys in the office are still recovering from PAX.
  • Stromz: They were playing PUBG until 1 in the morning.
  • Aggelos: The sad part is I think I got Pax plague, and I didn't even get to go. That's the worst part of this.

Q&A

  • Aggelos: Anyway, so let's go ahead and we're going to jump right on into our little interview. We have a bunch of questions lined up, which I'm going to let Stormz and Alpha Soul handle for this. But, I have to ask Steven, you guys showed up to PAX East.

What was the general reception to Ashes that you saw there? Did you get any interesting feedback from any of the people?

  • 03:55
  • Steven: The reception that we received was very warm. It was very positive. First of all, we did encounter a lot of people who weren't even aware of Ashes of Creation. That's obviously one of the benefits of going to an event like PAX. You get to spread the word a little bit about the project. I think what people are more astonished by was the fact that, everything they saw and got to experience there, was built in less than 6 months. We launched Alpha Zero December 15th of last year. The majority of people were just astonished by the fact that this is a game in pre-alpha, and it already looks like this. Give us the time before we go to live launch, imagine what it will look like then. We got good feedback, obviously, about our combat. I think that's a common response from people in regards to the combat. We constantly have to remind people, this is a very early look at the game. We believe in transparency. We want a community that's going to be a part of the process of development. It's important for us to to make sure that those lines of communications are open throughout the entire process. We had to explain, we really haven't spent any time on combat. That's during our next Milestone, really focusing on that combat. It's going to be beneficial for people to be able to look back at videos of early iterations on combat, see how far it's come, in that period of time. It will give people an understanding of the massive amount of work being done on this project.
  • Aggelos: I know we had talked about this in the past. You have stated in videos before, that Alpha Zero has been going on, and this was mostly technical. I know you guys are doing a proprietary network back-end.

How has A0 testing been going?

  • 06:00
  • Steven: It's going pretty good. Funny thing about our Alpha zero, when we began with our projected date on December 15th, we had probably about 70 % - 75% of our users that were in the Alpha Zero testing, that were trying to log into the test. I don’t know if this has been mentioned yet. There was a network setting, we were calling a ping to the clients router base with a connection. Their router didn't have a port open for that ping. They would get stuck at the login screen, which was this windmill, a vista of like a volcano in the background. That quickly became referred to as the windmill boss during December. A point of levity, I had one of my concept artists take that scene and change the windmill into a boss that had some teeth, mouth, and eyes, and fire coming out of the mouth, and throw some Alpha testers in front of the windmill. Because, the common meme was that everyone was getting slain by the windmill boss. It was pretty good. Eventually, we were able to fix that issue. We saw over a hundred people connected at a single point in time on a single dedicated server for a single zone, that was 4km x 4km, roughly 16 square kilometers, along with 4,000 NPCs. We were able to achieve a frame rate on the server above 60 FPS. A lot of people see FPS they think how good and quickly my screens moving but we are not talking client side FPS. Client side FPS was always fairly good. We’re talking about server FPS. That means that when the server is sending out instructions or packets or information to the different clients, such as your position in relation to other players, your position in relation to monsters, whether or not your strikes plays a server effects or deals damage to the target. The server has to have a FPS operating at roughly above 30 FPS in order for that to appear seamless, so that there's no hiccups. We were getting above 60 FPS. With the number of monsters and players present in these Alpha test that we've been doing since December 15th, We've been really really satisfied with that performance.
    • Editor’s Note: Server FPS is known as “Ticks per Second” in some other games. Say the server is running at 50 FPS, that means there is a tick every 1/50th of a second, or 20 milliseconds. At 60 FPS, the server would update roughly every 17 milliseconds.
  • Aggelos: I know there was some criticism along the line of, “Have we seen enough progress in the year since this was first seen at Pax West?” and things of that nature. I always have to stress to people, networking is not glorious. It's hard to convey the amount of work that goes into that, in videos. You can't tell, but trust me when you're in game you'll feel that network difference. You can feel the work that's there. It's hard for people to see that. You're working on a custom network back-end, but that's not flashy. It is important you feel it when in game.
  • Steven: From a network perspective, there was a lot of work done from PAX West to East. But, from Pax West to PAX East, Pax West was a single small less than probably half a kilometer square area that was confined to one path that moved forward. It didn't have character persistence. It didn't have character progression. It didn't have experience gained. It didn't have drops. It didn't have certain skill mechanics, that are present. When we went to Pax West, we were going with our alpha zero build. The alpha zero build was this large zone that had probably 25 different creature types, that had quest lines that were developed, the had persistence. You could log out and log back in and everything is saved. That had inventory with different items, a whole bunch of tiers of items that were present. Now the difficulty and the reason why some people said, “This is similar to Pax West”, well the reason is our a targeted approach on how to give players at Pax West an experience or Pax East or any trade show, for that matter, is that we cannot show in MMORPG in 10 minutes. There is a lot more than what you have time to show at a trade show. Showing off our node system and how that develops and collects experience. That’s a far more intricate system, that will take a lot of time to actually show a node progress from one stage to another. Even though we have that in Alpha zero. Instead, what we want to do is give players an immersion into the world, have a GM guide them through, explaining generally the systems and ideas that set Ashes of Creation apart from other MMOs, and allow them to participate in a story. Because, the story is something that people can get invested in. That's why we choose to do the quest line that players can participate in. That's our approach to how we show ashes on a trade show in 10 minutes to people.
  • Aggelos: I’m going to let my co-hosts take over for the normal questions. But I have one more that I know the Ashes of Creation community would hate me if I didn't ask.

Nodes part 3, when is it coming ?

  • 11:42
  • Steven: Our philosophy on the node series is we want to show the degree of progress from the last node video to the next node video that's going to be coming out, nodes part 3. While we are in the process of currently making nodes part 3, the delay between those two parts is so that, as this time has passed, people who come back and take a look at Ashes or people who seeing Ashes for the first time are seeing a whole new level of development from when the other nodes videos were done, which was before our major production started which was after Kickstarter. That's the reason for the delay between those two different parts, Part 2 and Part 3, but we are currently working. And my answer is soon™.
  • Aggelos: You knew that was coming.
  • Steven: The node series is a great series to get into some design heavy focus on the node system. Although the communities have heard so much about nodes, there really is so much more to also go in depth about. That's all present. We want to define that feature of the game because it is our most identifying feature. It’s what sets us most apart from any other MMO that has ever come out. We believe that it will be the system that keeps players invested in the game for a long period of time.

Stormzlord: When will the summer backers get upgrade rights?

  • 13:37
  • Steven: That is a great question. Actually, the summer backers can currently get upgrades. We implemented that last week when we got back from Pax. The way that summer backers can do that is if you're logged into your account and you go to the store page, you will see in the All section upgrade paths to different packages from your summer package. That should be present right now.
  • Aggelos: All you summer backers, who have been looking for an upgrade, you don't have an excuse anymore. Go.
  • Steven: In addition, we did update concept art for the summer backer add ons that Kickstarter backers may purchase through their normal dashboard. Kickstarter backers you may now see actual representations of those Concepts from the summer campaign. You may purchase them if you wish as add-ons through your account dashboard.
  • Aggelos: Can you explain to us a little bit more about how castle sieges are going to work? This is something we have talked about in the past. We're expecting nodes as they level up and do their thing, again this is all player agency, but there's a good chance that nodes may exist for years. Nodes take months to get up to their max and once they're max they may be maintained for months if not years. It's all up to the players. Leadership within the node may change, but they may not be destroyed. But I'm assuming castles are going to be a little bit more fluid back and forth.

Can you explain to us a little bit about how you envision castle sieges are going to work?

  • 15:20
  • Steven: Castles in Ashes of Creation will be on a cycle of siege-ability. Meaning that guilds will be able to sign up to either siege or defend a castle. You don't need to be the owner of the castle or in the guild that owns a castle in order to sign up for the defense of the castle. The guild leader that owns the castle will be able to approve guilds that have applied to defend the castle. Then guilds that wish to siege the castle will be required to be of a certain level. Meaning that they will have had to progress their guild to a certain point. They will have to undergo a crafting process that will utilize the masters of each crafting type, gathering, processing and crafting in the artisanship tree, in order to create a declaration flag. When they create the Declaration flag they may during the period of time right before the siege of the castle, which is one week out to the castles siege rotation will be monthly, once per month, Obviously everything here is something we're going to be testing. You may then declare with that declaration flag your intent to siege the castle. The defender will have a week grace period before that scheduled siege period that they can approve defenders, lay down mercenaries, NPC’s, different defensible positions at the castle. Another important aspect to how castle sieges work is that castle themselves come with three dedicated nodes. These nodes exist outside of the node system. They’re independent of anything that is happening outside in the world with other nodes shutting off other nodes from progressing. These nodes that are dedicated to the castle can only be brought up to the Village stage. They must be brought up through questing by either alliance guilds or the owning guild of the castle. That questing involves taking caravans and supplies from existing nodes in the world to the dedicated castle node, in order, during different weeks before the cycle period of siege. What that means is if they manage to get those supplies and complete those quest to level up those nodes, They’ll unlock certain services that are handy to the leader of the guild that owns that castle, as well as any allied guilds, that may participate in certain functions and services that those nodes could provide for the castle. More importantly, they will boost the defenses of that castle itself. As those caravans are moving from nodes to the castle dedicated nodes, rival guilds will want to destroy those caravans to prevent them from leveling up the castle dedicated nodes. If they fail to to level up those nodes or complete those quests within the three prior weeks before the declaration week, then the castle will be at a disadvantage/ It will be at a weakened state during the siege. Sieges work in a way that, there are going to be different siege weaponry that will grant the attackers the ability to destroy walls, destroying different sections of the castle in order to gain access to the inner keeps area. They may also be able to destroy the doors that exist to gain access that way. It's going to be a matter of capturing waypoints in the castles architecture. If you are able to capture those you'll be diminishing your respawn timer and increasing the respawn timer of the defenders. Defenders also have a counter play with that. They may attack the siege headquarters of the attacking guilds, diminishing their declaration flags to increase their timers as a reciprocation. There will also be legendary NPCs that will be present as commanders and act as a mini raid boss for raids within the defending or attacking siege participant's, to try to kill those for added benefits, as well as getting certain types of drops that can grant battlefield benefits to the players on either side. The ultimate objective is the Defenders to either survive during the timed period of the siege, which will be probably about an hour and a half, I think 90 minutes is our first test. If they do not survive, the attackers will need to reach the inner keep of the castle. There will be a casting ability that's present on guild leaders of a certain level. One other delegated person can cast as well, A chosen officer that can cast on behalf of the guild leader. Those two people are capable of casting a long cast, it will probably be about 3 to 5 minutes. Depending on what way points are captured will also diminish that cast time. Once they do that, they will have sealed the castle for their ownership.
  • Aggelos: That actually sounds incredibly fun, I'm really excited. A little bit of a follow up on this one. This one could be a really quick answer.

You said that these castles and the nodes are independent of the node system. From a lore perspective, are these going to be the only “persistent” towns and cities, these castle towns and castles within the world of Verra when we come in? Will every server have these castles available so you can always go ‘Oh here it is!’, but the nodes outside of that change?

  • 22:00
  • Steven: The castles that exist at launch will be occupied by an NPC adversary. These are the primary antagonists in the storyline. The guilds will have to, level up, which will take a period of time, in order to siege. It will be very difficult to take these out of the NPC's hands. The actual structure of nodes around these castles will not be present as static structures. Additionally, each of the dedicated castle nodes is barren at the start of the castle ownership period. If I capture a castle and I own that castle for a month before I'm sieged, that first week, node A, which is a dedicated castle node, will be unbuilt. I will have one week to build that node up through questing, moving caravans and supplies and having people come and participate in leveling that up. It'll be a hastened level up process. It won't be the same level up to a stage 3 that you might see from a normal node. It's going to be based on that questing aspect. The second week, I'll need to level up node B, but if I was successful on node A’s development, that will aid me in leveling up node B for that castle. Node C is in the third week. At that point the fourth week begins that's the declaration week. That is when other guilds have the opportunity to lay down their declaration flag and other guilds have the opportunity to attempt an attack and others can sign up as a defender of the castle. They won't be static and present there. Once that process will happen. There will be benefits to attracting people to, even if they're not in your guild or Alliance, kind of a feudal like system, where you can attract other players who are just independent of this whole politic. They will have things to do there, benefits to receive. There will be a reciprocal relationship between who you can attract. What they do for you and how that benefits you and them.

Alpha Soul: What role do the three houses, like the Thieves Guild, the Craftsman Union, what role do they have aside from augments?

  • 24:50
  • Steven: They have a role in providing assets for gathering certain tools that make your gathering better. They have a role in [Steven cuts out], in providing blueprints for certain processing infrastructure you may want to build on a freehold. They grant different services depending on who their patron node is. If you're part of a town that's been developed and the Scholars Academy has the most amount of work from the players, that becomes a patron organization of the city. That will grant certain benefits and services to players that they can participate in that relate to their position within the Scholars Academy. Augments are a huge thing that these different societies will offer. There are not going to be a lot of augments within the societies progression. It'll probably be around 3 or 4 that exist per organization. You'll have to investigate and study which organization is most beneficial for the path you’ve chosen with your archetype or whatever role you wish to have in the world. You’ll get special lures for fishing. You'll have a special cosmetics that you can get from a certain society. Maybe you want to change the appearance. You can get specific furniture for your home that you're going to build. You can get specific mount certificates for your breeding. The whole idea of the society is that they are a mechanism for progression that do not have to rely on your level. These are different progression pass that players can participate in. If you don't want to leave a node in your gameplay experience and you want to find as much as you can do within that City, these offer those things. Some quests may take you outside of the city to hunt and pursue things. You could also perfectly be a person that is a merchant and purchases them from other Travelers instead of having to go to yourself. We want to offer players a diverse method of progression and these systems house those benefits.

Alpha Soul: How does Intrepid plan to make raiding have real weight and lore behind it?

  • 27:20
  • Steven: In previous games, raiding really becomes extremely repetitive. It is something that you pretty much have on your calendar. At this time, this boss respawns and we need to be there and make sure we are the first to down it or you just login at this time and our raids ready to go. We want things to be more fluid. One of the ways that we make them more fluid is through our triggered event system. As the world is advancing, building up, we've spoken about how bosses will be awoken and come and attack the city and stuff like that. That is one of the methods by which we make these more spontaneous. We make them more accessible to a wider audience. You can just be in the city and not normally be a part of a raid team but now get to participate in this organic event that kind of popped up around the city. If you are not participating, then the buildings are going to get destroyed and NPCs are going to die and now there's cost associated with the raid. It's not just how fast can we do it, how well we can get it done, got a schedule, but oh my God this thing popped up if we don't kill it we're not going to have access to our Stables this week and we can't get our our animal husbandry certificates. It's that risk versus reward that gives you a sense of adrenaline. You have to participate as opposed to this monotony of scheduled raidings. This is one example.

Stormzlord: Will the development team be playing ashes as players or will they make their appearances like old school GM's in the game?

  • 29:10
  • Steven: The answer to that is both. We will be doing both. You won't know who we are as players. [Steven cuts out] But also when we're on our GM. Little bit of both.

Stormzlord: Can you elaborate a bit more on story and quest shaping the world? In a dev diary, it was mentioned that players’ choices drive the world. How does it work with an x amount of players competing in the same quest?

  • 29:58
  • Steven: Our Quest system, from a narrative standpoint, is respective of two primary arcs. There's going to be the overarching story that relates to the decisions of the community, how the world gets developed, what major storyline events have been accomplished with a downing of World bosses or the discovery of certain types of relics or the persistence of certain nodes to a certain timed state. When it achieves that it unlocks something that the players didn't know existed. They all get to participate in that. Then there's the individual narrative and how these overarching stories kind of relate to you as a player. When you go out and you do a quest, and that quest asks you to kill the boss at the end of this dungeon, that quest needs to be accessible by all players. They'll be able to participate as a group or individually. There might even be different directories of the quest that exists for specific races. Even though you're sharing a quest to kill a boss if you're human and I'm an elf. I will have a different arc potentially that leads in a different direction than you, even though we took the same quest. That can relate to who the primary cultural contributor is to a node, unlocking different arcs for cultures that share the primary culture of a node. Not that it locks out content, but it gives a flavor in a different direction. So that not everything is so cookie cutter. The way we achieve that is when you create your character, your character has a tag in the backend that demonstrates what culture it is. When NPCs get populated in a city based on the primary cultural contributions to that cities development, those NPCs are going to react differently to different tags on your character. If I come up as an elf in Elven City it's going to talk to me differently than if I were human coming up to a quest giver in an Elven City. Those quests will include different flavors for the different races that way.
  • Alpha Soul: Thinking like Divinity. Right?
  • Steven: Yeah Right. A little bit.

Alpha Soul: What are your plans for player / developer communication post-launch. We've noticed you guys have awesome communication and we are wondering what are the plans post-launch and will it persist?

  • 32:40
  • Steven: For me personally, my whole reason for starting Intrepid was that I wasn't happy how other developers were not engaged with a community and did not (listen) to some of the direction the community was trying to give them. While I understand that there is a creative cision at hand, and that creative vision should not necessarily deviate at the whim of a vocal minority, it is important, however, to take into account what the player base is saying. The only way to do that is to be connected with people. You will see in our development, there will be periods of time, a couple weeks might come up, three weeks might come up, where there is less communication than normal. Generally, our objective is to be as communicative as possible with the community. It's going to be a very communicative development team. Because we’re self-publishing in North America, we want to make sure that we are there for the community to interact with on a regular basis.
  • Aggelos: You guys have already seen that they've been incredibly interactive, even with us, as a fan podcast. I think this is the fourth time, Steven, that we have interviewed and talked to you on the show. I think it's four different times so far. You can see their dedication to the community and how active they are. That's already been evident, so far, which has been really cool.
  • Steven: Another thing to take away from that is I understand why some studios may not have this level of open development because part of open development is the communication process. Being present in different communities such as Dungeon Crawler Network or other content creators that might be out there, is an added difficulty because it does take up time. Especially during the development phase of a game, time is something that just doesn't exist. I retired when I was 28 years old only to jump into probably the most time-consuming process of my life, which is building this game. Although it is a a great Passion, it's something I love to do every single day, walking into that studio and getting to work with these amazing veteran Developers, but it is something that is a lot of time. Having to devote time towards the community can be something that's difficult to do. I would reiterate this, after the development is complete and we start working on expansions and updates, I foresee there is going to be a great deal more time for myself and a few other people to to interact with a community. That’s something to consider as well.
  • Aggelos: We really appreciate you taking the time, like we said earlier, that you're taking the time to talk to us. We always ofcourse love it.
  • Alpha Soul: I heard something interesting that was mentioned within the talks of Ashes. Players would essentially have the ability to create their own bank and essentially run a business very similar to how the taverns were described and things like that. We were curious,

Can you elaborate on potential tools that people will be able to use in order to make businesses of their own, that they come up with, or anything different like that?

  • 36:45
  • Steven: It's not specifically, just a clarification, no specifically a bank per se but different types of businesses, such as a Tavern or an Auction House or something that's present in the node. Let’s just use that tavern example. If you own a Tavern, you could potentially own this business that exists in the city, or you could own it on your freehold. What players can do at this tavern is going to be up to you as you manage this building. There's going to be a UI that's present for you to select different services that are present. That could be in the form of specific quests that can only be taken at your location. That Quest could require some coin in order to discover this. For example, you enter into a tavern and there's NPCs chatting in there and you're walking around. You might need to bribe the bartender for some information, very D&D or Pathfinder feely. That would be a coin that you would collect from players. They might be able to find a random quest. They might be able to purchase a food that you have selected or achieved. This is going to be its own progression. As you start the tavern, the business, you may have only access to the tier 1 service, the tier 1 quest, the tier 1 meals, that grant a specific type of buff for a period of time after the player leaves. As you exist for a longer period of time, because it's difficult to exist for a period of time in a world that is constantly changing. Someone can siege your node and destroy it or destroy your freehold. The longer you exist, the higher level you become in that business, the more patrons you serve, the faster you'll be able to level up in that business, granting access to new types of recipes for food that you could then potentially even sell to cooking professions that could only gain it from a player owned business in a certain area, or a specific quest that might only be gathered from a player owned business. There's a lot of things we want to incorporate in our tavern, in our business owned system, that grants players a meaningful existence in the world and rewards them for their persistence, dedication, and survivability.
  • Alpha Soul: I haven’t even actually even thought of taverns and businesses leveling up, but that’s an awesome idea.
  • Steven: Thank you! I like it too. It’s always something that I wished. A lot of it comes from my experience as a GM playing Dungeons and Dragons campaigns or Pathfinder. There's a lot of versatility as a dungeon master, to create your own house rules and systems that exist and let the players explore those systems, because it gets fun. Part of what I used to do with large campaigns that would exist , I'd have a kingdom building side Arc that people could do in downtime. We’d have our play session one night of the week, but then the rest of the week, they would be emailing me what their character’s are doing during downtime, participating in different businesses and ventures, the side evil campaign that some dude in the party that is hiding his alignment is actually some people evil guy. There's a lot of things there that I just feel has been left out and is a huge reservoir of play potential that players can experience in a graphical D&D campaign, which is what a MMO really should be from a fantasy perspective. It is that graphical representation on a computer. Instead of playing with a group, you're playing with thousands of people across the world. You're experiencing this really living experience.
  • Aggelos: Over time we've seen that the MMO industry, and I specifically said it that way for a reason, has been dropping the RPG element from that, and were like we're a massively multiplayer online game. I've seen that acronym thrown around because they don't like to the idea of the RPG. They're taking that out.
  • Steven: It's okay for them. It is not necessarily a bad thing for the MMO part of MMORPG to explore different avenues. As countries upgrade their connections to different households, and the demographic becomes larger of players who have either the resources to own a console / PC / whatever and network and technology becomes better at accommodating massive players and different game designs, that's all great and good. But the problem is innovation has left the MMORPG Aspect. I think that is what you're saying, they leave out that RPG element and what innovation can exist there. The reason why they do that is because it is such an investment from different companies to take the risk of creating an MMORPG that they can't really combat these large players in this industry. So, they don't try. I think that what Intrepid is doing is trying to illuminate the potential that's present and provide the players what they should rightfully be receiving.
  • Aggelos: I think part of that comes in, were getting a little meta here, but part of that is also the changing mindset of players in general, the quick get in, get out kind of gameplay that is so prevalent nowadays. People don't want to invest the time to explore RPG elements. It's like I don't want to have to develop my character. I just want it there. I feel personally, that’s hurting the genre. I understand there is a time and a place for that type of gameplay, but I feel like that's been hurting the MMORPG genre. They've been trying to accommodate that quick get in get out gameplay.
  • Steven: I think that when development is driven by the bottom line, the dollars, that's when it's possible for their direction to shift to how can we appeal to the largest audience possible. Let us incorporate that into our game design. As opposed to Ashes of Creation accepting the fact that we will not appeal to everyone and that is okay. There is a sufficient number of players that exist in the MMORPG community to create a successful game that appeals to the RPG players out there. That's what a lot of our systems are geared towards.
  • Stormzlord: The vision statement that you just made, with regards to taking a D&D campaign or Pathfinder campaign and putting it into the MMO into the computer. The way you stated it was fantastic. That’s what's going to drive the difference home, is that vision that empathy behind that. You can just hear it in the way you said it.
  • Steven: Thank you. I'm a diehard of the traditional. In fact, I was toying with the idea of running my Ashes campaign as a weekly twitch stream with the developers in the office and giving people an insight to the story that way, but I'm just so concerned about revealing certain aspects of the lore and spoiling it for people. It is something I'm still toying with.

Alpha Soul: As a tavern owner, will I have the ability to kick people out of my establishment or let's just say I don’t like Emperium Elves. I think they smell funny. I think they look funny. I don’t want them in my store. Can I block them from being in my store or not?

  • 46:07
  • Steven: I would be leaning towards the answer being no. The reason why is because there are plenty of mechanics for you to exercise your dislike of another player, especially through PVP. We don't want to hard-code in divisive systems such as either excluding movement of a player character into a certain area such as your tavern or banning somebody through that method. The ultimate aspect of an MMO is the fact that you are playing with people you would never meet. You’re forming relationships with people you would never have an opportunity to form relations with. You’re conquering, cooperating and there's also conflict. I don't want to hard-code into the game the ability to divide. I think that you can remedy your dislike of a player through the existing conflict system.
  • Aggelos: I guess that means that if I'm running a node, I can't artificially make all the NPC guards have a negative reaction to all elf characters because I don't like elves.
  • Steven: Nope, you can't do that. The idea behind nodes is that there is no ownership. There is really no ownership. This is a location in the world where anybody can come and start a life or declare their citizenship. Yeah, there's going to be leadership and that leadership will hold powers, that citizens may not hold, in order to develop the node and build certain types of buildings. In fact they can even declare trade partnerships with different nodes. They can declare war on different nodes. That would be a mechanic where guards would then be set to attack citizens of another node, if they come within range, but that would be not a specific race per se. It would be up to the citizens of that. You gotta stop trying the racial Wars.
  • Aggelos: You don't know my dislike of Elven races. As a leader I therefore will be pushing policies that may not be popular among the elvenkind that's all I'm saying. You can blame Skyrim and the Altmer for that.

Stormzlord: In a previous episode, we were looking at the griefing system, How it works and what we know so far. I had a particular problem with the Sea of Thieves griefing system, so we were questioning it. Say a player has such a pronounced XP lost that they get down to the XP of a level 1 character. If they’re still level 50, how do they redeem that if they can't get that experience back up or can they?

  • 49:24
  • Steven: We don't have deleveling. Instead what we have is experience debt. The more experience debt you accrue, the greater the detriment to your character, Not to the point where you cannot get out of the debt. There will always be a way forward to remove your experience debt. With regards to griefing, you're not going to see griefing in the game very often. That's because our flagging system, the corruption mechanics, are based around disincentivizing a griefer or PKer but still offering the opportunity should the occasion arise where the benefits outweigh the risk, you have the ability to do so. If you gain corruption, which is killing a noncombatant, a player who is not fighting back basically. If you gain that corruption your world has changed. It is not going to be a very beneficial place to be. You have the potential of losing your gear, your combat efficacy decreases based on the amount of corruption you accrue. It is a comfortable balance between player agency and griefing, basically removing player agency for other players.
  • Aggelos: And for some clarification of that, that is what we're referring to as anti-griefing would be the corruption system. You could kill someone if you want to. You did say there is a possibility of losing gear as a corrupted player correct?
  • Steven: Correct. Yes if you die, you will loose material things, some things you gathered, materials you may be holding. You will not lose completed items, weapons, armor or jewelry or anything that's an actual item. However, if you are corrupt, meaning you have killed a noncombatant player, a person who hasn’t flagged for PVP, who hasn’t attacked back, you will gain corruption. When you gain that corruption, you have the potential of losing your completed items, your weapon, your armor, stuff that is very difficult to achieve. The other aspect of that is that in order to deter players taking alternate characters and saying this is my PK alt. The more players you kill, the more corruption you gain, the higher your efficacy in PvP diminishes, to the point where you will deal basically no damage. If you are out there and you just kill 20 players for fun and they’re dead and you’ve gained that corruption, you will not be able to to perform in PvP any longer. You will need to take that character and go work off that corruption. Additionally, the other aspect of corruption is that if you kill another player who is a noncombatant and the level disparity between you and that player is great you will gain a higher amount of corruption from that single kill, to the point where you should not be killing a level 1 character as a level 50 otherwise that would be the equivalent of killing 10 level 50 characters, perhaps.
  • Aggelos: For all you guys who listened episode 40, which is our griefing one, there you go. So, Steven you can listen to that part. That’s what we were referring to, the griefing system. I played ultima online, that was the very first MMO where you could kill someone. There was full gear drop in that game, but as a corrupted player or as a red player you could actually lose skill progression in that game if you died. There were negative repercussions to attacking a karmically good player or performing any kind of “evil act”. There was always that “Do I risk this?”. There were ways to redeem yourself, if I kill a person for whatever reason, I can become good again, I just have to survive long enough to it. There was that little bit of risk versus reward and sometimes you just got to stab someone when they're really being an awful person.
  • Steven: Part of my experience at playing MMORPG’s, I was a very big fan of a game called Lineage 2. Lineage 2 had a very similar system in their flagging system. We've incorporated some changes that I think Lineage 2 had issues with. Probably our most memorable moments among the MMO’s that we’ve played are the stories that are created by other players by our interaction with them. One of the interesting things that happened to was on my server there were three primary alliances that existed. There's one that I was leading. There is another one and the third. There was a fight that had broken out at one of the popular hunting areas between myself, my party, who were trying to hunt in this area and one of the leaders parties of the other alliance. We called in our friends who was the third alliance, who took our side, Outside of one of the main cities, there was a probably an 8-hour long fight that existed between about two hundred different people just respawning. In that game, in Lineage 2, when you died you lost 4% of your level and you could delevel. It was a Korean grindfest, because if you were at max level, the time it took you to level up one level, at 72 was the max level, the time it took you about four or five days. I was 72 during the fight. At the end of that 8 hours, I had dropped down to 64. It was torturous regaining that experience. But I will say, that it was one of the most memorable and fun experiences I had in an MMO, having those players just fighting non-stop outside of the city respawning and then running back to fight again. The system that was in place in Lineage 2 was a similar flagging system and you didn't often see PKers. I mean you really didn't, because it was difficult to obtain the gear. There was not usually an opportunity that arose that was higher than the risk associated.
  • Aggelos: I’ve always hated games where you were limited. The system said, “You cannot attack this player” for whatever reason. Even in real life, if you will, there are crimes and punishment for it and I mean sometimes it happens. Not going into morality here, but there's nothing limiting you as a person from performing a certain action. We look back at history. We already know sometimes people got sick and tired of the emperor in Rome, Commodus there. It would be annoying if there was a system in places that said you can't kill Commodus. Sorry. Even though he is a terrible Emperor.

Stormzlord: It was mentioned that the game will be balanced against group content, and not for PvP specifically. What are your thoughts on how something becomes balanced for group content?

  • 58:23
  • Steven: We are balancing for group content with regards to synergy between classes. We want the basic archetypes to have a role that is beneficial to a diverse group composition. That's not to say we're not balancing for PVP. As matter of fact, our first phase of Alpha One is very PVP Centric.
  • Aggelos: I think the question is more of balancing for PVP on a one-for-one ratio.
  • Steven: We are not trying to balance that. There will be matchups in 1v1s where one class will be superior to another. That application should be a rock-paper-scissors dynamic. We want there to be counter play between the different classes. That's something that's important. We feel it will be beneficial to raid composition, because raids will then not just be able to run a mage ball. Because those are the ultimate class in the game at the moment and when they the game changes that meta they will be bad. Instead what we want is three houses in this system where archetypes exist and have a not necessarily decisive, but do have an advantage over their counter classes. Because of that, we don't balance for 1v1s to that degree. Instead, it's going to be a group focused balance where as long as you have the diversity of class present, that's going to be an equal level playing field. It will be very dependent on skill and strategy.
  • Aggelos: I know that always becomes an issue in other games, especially that focus on PvP Arenas, and what not, where you start getting a lot of flack from the vocal minority about “Hey my class sucks in this it's no longer meta”. You start seeing the game change a lot because developers start caving to “oh you're right Rogue backstab is overpowered let's nerf that”. It starts losing its application in other areas where a PvP change is now affecting how it's handled in PvE or vice versa. When you balance for that one to one, it starts making all the classes feel exactly the same anyway.
  • Steven: We don't want that. We want a lot of presence in those classes. It's important to note, however, that in our secondary class system, what creates that 64 different classes, certain archetypes are capable of moving the gap between their counterpart per se. If I am a tank archetype and a mage is my counter, I can take a mage secondary and bridge the divide slightly and move my identity in that direction ever so slightly. That can help. Players can change that secondary class through a process.

Stormzlord: The last question I have is will the NDA be lifted for Alpha Phase 1?

  • 1:02:30
  • Steven: There will not be an Alpha One NDA. There will be a test period before Alpha One for A1. There will be an Alpha, for the Alpha 1. That will include the kickstarter backers at the Braver of Worlds.
  • Aggelos: Alpha 0.5
  • Steven: We do internal testing. We do the QA testing. Eventually, we do a soft roll out. That's our alpha of the alpha, but it won't be too long and the Braver of Worlds players will have the ability to participate in that very early phase of the Alpha 1 Phase 1. A lot of Alphas and phases and pre’s.

Alpha Soul: Did you have any plans for any GM run events. The one that comes to mind is when they shut down the Final Fantasy XIV servers, they actually had a huge server wide event where they spawn monsters everywhere and it was symbolic of the destruction of the world before they brought it up again for A Realm Reborn. There's been many instances of GM spawned events. Any plans to do that in Ashes?

  • 01:03:44
  • Steven: I know why that's fun and I have had fun in events similar to that in other games played. As a matter of fact, the time when I felt Archeage was best was during Alpha. At the end of that alpha they had GM’s making people giants and their heads big and running around and doing fun things. But I will say we need to be careful with those types of things because whenever you inject an outside element to a player created atmosphere, you have an opportunity to direct the course of events on a server. It's an unfair direction because as GM's we have different appeal than any other player may have on the server. I want it to be a situation where the company and our personnel stay out of this player created political atmosphere / world. I would like that to be the case. Can we do some fun things? Yes. Will we lead a raid against a world boss? No. I think you have to find a comfortable balance.

Alpha Soul: Can you provide any more details on the node system, as it relates to the benefits that each kind has or will that be coming in the part 3?

  • 01:05:30
  • Steven: Some of that will be coming later on in different blogs.
  • Aggelos: I like the way you brought that back around and to nodes 3. That was classy. We did not work that out ahead of time. I'm very proud of him for that one. Well Steven, thank you so much. I think that's the end of our questions, because I see the other ones we have aren’t being marked. Thank you so much, Steven. We really appreciate your time.

Is there anything that you would like to say to the player base?

  • 01:06:16
  • Steven: I really want to again tell you how much we, at the studios, appreciate the involvement of not Just content creators like yourself, but also the members of Discord, the people on our forums, the evangelists that we have spreading the word for the game. It means so much to my development team personally to see this type of support for a game that has no pre-existing IP, that has no pre-existing story, that's really only spawned over the past year. It's absolutely incredible. It is all thanks to the community that we have in wanting to move the genre forward, in expressing their hopes for a game that's not just made by a gamer, but takes into account what this MMORPG community, that’s so unique in the gaming genre, what we want out of a game. Hopefully it turns the heads of different publishers and different developers so that we can see more of this community driven development.
  • Aggelos: I think we are starting to see that era of the “Indie MMOs”, just due to the fact that there's been so much dissatisfaction with the AAA MMO industry and people wanting to see things different, that the big companies and publishes aren't willing to take a risk on. We need to see that life being brought back into our genre. I know Steven has said this, I don't even like playing single-player games. I feel like I'm wasting time. MMOs are like the love of my gaming life. They are the things that I tend to put the most amount of effort into, because I love the sense of community. I love the sense of a living breathing world that continues even when I'm not logged in to drive it along. I'm so excited for what Ashes is going to do. Again, Steven, thank you so much. We really appreciate you coming on. I want to thank my co-host Stormz and Alpha Soul all is well. You guys did great with the questions and also for the community for listening to the show and coming back each and every week. We really appreciate that. Thank you so much and we will see you next time on From The Ashes.

References