TheoryForge Episode 15: A Night With Steven Sharif

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Steven: Thank You for having me. I appreciate it, I’m excited to chat with you guys. You always have interesting theories, topics, and discussions. I take a lot of pleasure in hearing the community theorycraft. I think it's really cool.

When will we see Nodes 3?

  • Steven: Nodes part 3 is something that we want to take our time with making sure it contains the information we want it to contain and shows the difference between the visuals today and all I can say is that it is *soon

Last names?

  • Steven: We are planning to have information on the character sheet and the website page as well, last names, in the world it will only display your first or last name above your character's head in the world. It’s up to you how you want to show it.

Murderbox?

  • Steven: I would say that there was on occasion in Lineage 2, that it had the ability to be a murderbox. Although it had a similar flagging system, it didn’t have safeguards in place for people creating PK alts to go murder low level characters and you could do it all day long. What we have in place to prohibit that kind of activity, as you gain corruption your battle efficiency diminishes for PvP only. Eventually after killing a certain number of other players it diminishes to the point of being nearly impossible. Additionally, it was possible to kill equal and lower level players, while with our system level disparity between you and the people you kill increases corruption very quickly. That also prevents that murderbox game style. Generally I stay away from murderbox games so I’d have a difficult time referencing other ones. My hopes in regards to our battle is that it is meaningful. It is a decision on behalf of the risk taker whether the reward is worthy of the risk. Additionally as a player on the receiving end of a PK this choice of an opponent probably directly impacts them more than it impacts the death of their character. There is a recourse for the player who got killed to go out and pursue the murderer and exact their revenge and participate with other members of the community who are bounty hunters who can locate that player on the map, which will limit the ability of those PKers to really go out and cause havoc. In Archeage there where few penalties in regards to character death. There was experience debt, which was trivial because you would visit a shrine and pay a small gold amount, that didn’t scale with the economy, and that was gone. It was a faction based game. You were told who your opponents and friends where and had no choice in the matter. You pretty much knew in any territory you went to what the system of PvP mechanics where, so if you took risks it was of your time and choosing, depending on how you moved your packs and what zones you went through to move them. That doesn’t really relate well to what Ashes is trying to do, because Ashes is an open world and there are no zone flagged PvP areas, there is just the flagging system that relates to the other players. There is also a greater degree of risk on death that includes the ability to drop material and resource goods. You can choose whether or not to carry those goods, eliminating that risk, but it is something that is present and I think that another system in regards to pvp is about how guild wars and node sieges and castle sieges and fights for fortresses, the movement of goods in caravans. These systems all place a relevancy to the occurrence of pvp so that somethings at stake and it feels meaningful. It’s not just a I’m told this person is my enemy, their on the enemy faction, and I need to kill them because they are here. It’s more of a decision on the part of the players.
  • In games there are typically two types of PvPers. There are the ones who are defenders, who are white knighting, or standing up for something; and then there are the aggressors, the ones who are either bandits, pirates, or whatever - there are some outliers, but typically people fall into one of those categories. For those not enjoying PvP necessarily for the sake of PvP, but if there is something that you have a vested interest in, and you must perform in order to see that interest come to fruition that is where now you are involved intimately with the outcome of that story. Turning PvP into a story is something that can be relatable by everyone, whether they are a PvPer or a PvEer.

Ships?

  • Steven: We haven't really gone into detail on Ships Yet. Their not really like Archage or BDO, there are aspects of them that are similar to both though. We have a blog series that will be spooling up. We have accrued a few blogs that will be released on a regular schedule that have some good info. Ships have their own class of vessel. The class related to the vessel has a certain purpose both in battle, in PvE raids, in transportation, all of those things are kind of unique in that sense. I haven't seen it really done in another game before. Those classes of ships will be things that people can build multiple types of, summon their ships up, similar to AA, but you need to summon them from land. So if something happens to your armada at sea you won’t have backups to just summon immediately in the fight again. Those battles are going to be meaningful, if you eliminate your opponent they won’t be able to get up and running again out at sea and will have to go to shore somewhere to some port or harbor.

Zergs?

  • Steven: Part of what I’ve experienced in MMOs past is servers tend to devolve into a two sided zerg fest if their lucky, or you have it completely oppressed by one zerg that controls everything. You have to know how zergs work in order to keep them from forming. We can’t keep players from forming organizations/alliances/relationships and we don’t want to do that, they should be able to, but the reach of zergs throughout the server is diminished throughout Ashes because of the way that travel exists. The way that I described about summoning ships out in the ocean is another example of traveling being meaningful so that if a large armada loses an encounter they do not have the ability to just port straight back out to the ocean or summon their ships back there, they have to win a battle in order to be able to continue to perform. They cannot just port at an instants notice to a caravan or something along those lines, they’ll need information ahead of time in order to organize, rally, and travel to that location.

Dropped resources can be looted?

  • Steven: Correct. There’s not a sense of corrupt gear, but there are corrupt players. If a player dies while corrupt they then have an opportunity to drop completed gear. Normal death, dying while not corrupt, you only have the opportunity to drop materials and resources. However, if you die while corrupt you can drop a weapon, a piece of armor, or something else, and those can be picked up.

Equipped weapon appearances?

  • Steven: Basically on your character sheet you have the ability to equip a weapon for both hands and a ranged weapon on your back. When you do a ranged ability it’ll pull your ranged weapon out and then you can switch back to your sword and shield or something along those lines, so you basically have 3 hand slots in the sense that you’ll be carrying a ranged weapon, and two handed melee weapon or similar. You’ll have to choose your active Q ability. You can set your ‘main’ hand. Do you want your main hand to be your ranged weapon or your melee weapon. In regards to skill usage, it’ll automatically swap if you have a ranged skill regardless of what hand is your ‘main’ hand but for your q ability it will be your chosen weapon.

Will there be support to encourage villany / corruption?

  • Steven: There are many systems that exist for villainy that don’t need to tie into the flagging system. The flagging system is a method for villains to be villains with added risk. However, Villains can be villains without risk if they participate in PvP situations like the sieging of cities, castles, caravans, guild wars, etc. We don’t want to incentivize griefing, we don’t want to incentivize pking, we do however want to incentivize meaningful PvP. I don’t want to hand a carrot to someone who PKs someone out in the wilderness just for PKing them, because ultimately what that should boil down to is whether that individual has weighed the opportunity over the risk enough to warrant going against the crime/flagging/corruption system.

Crafting? When will it be Implemented?

  • Steven: We haven't implemented the crafting system into A0 yet. We haven't implemented the crafting UI yet. There is some rudimentary crafting, putting a few items together, that can be found in the wild, that is not in A0 but is in our internal testing. A0 was really a test for networking and stuff like that. There are systems that are currently being worked on for A0.5

As a single player could you have a fully functional farm on your own?

  • Steven: You kind of touched on the phrase on your own, because you did say that you believe you’d probably have to purchase things that you hadn’t filled in the adventuring path for. The overall answer to your question is yes. You can have a farm on your own for the most part. Will you be able to do that by logging in at the beginning of your characters creation? No. You’ll need to gather some supplies, you’ll need to gather goods to barter with others in order to fill the gaps where you don’t have expertise or time that you’ve spent collecting the necessary items. Will you be able to collect basic blueprints, declare citizenship to a node, so you can get access to the freehold system or purchase a building within a node; all of those things can be done by yourself theoretically, the question is what is the path of least resistance. If you're relying on yourself solely it might take longer. If your relying on a group of friends and family it might be shorter, if your relying on an entire guild it might be even shorter. If your part of a healthy node, where you have access to certain services, that citizens of other nodes with less developed services might not have, it might be even faster. You can have a farm by yourself. It is a matter of the path you take determining the rewards you receive for your time spent.
  • With regards to how resources spawn in the world, you’ll go out, explore and adventure. You’ll want to focus on a particular economy avenue. I played a big economy game in other MMOs and touched on a lot of things. When there is a market with supply and demand you’ll want to take an approach at the market with something like how do I corner the supply end of a particular demand. Am I going to be the dude who gathers the flowers or mines the ore or creates the alchemy components that build up to the item. You as an economist, and a person that wants to corner a certain part of the market to generate these goods or farm these goods need to approach it with a specific avenue in mind. When your going out in the very beginning, your waiting for the nodes to form, where does the village form, what do you during that time? You can go out and start your gathering profession. In order to become a processor you must have land to work with. You must have infrastructure to work with. You can’t really go down too far into the processing path until you have that infrastructure setup. Your going to go out and start to gather/mine things and prep for when you can secure the land at the village stage and above. As a crafter your going to want to know where certain recipes can be fulfilled. Which nodes have the capability of creating the processed material you have gathered for, and planned out your route to either transit your goods there or make sure that your situated in the area so you can go out collect and build in the area as well. There is a lot of planning that’s going to be necessary on your end especially if you plan to go it alone as a player in order to prepare your approach to the economy.

Can a farm hire NPC’s or other players?

  • Steven: One caravan can transit goods for multiple players. That is kind of a family or group dynamic that can be applied so it is kind of a co-op caravan. With regards to access to certain services, I believe what’s planned right now is to have a limited number of affiliations you can make with other players that grants them with shared access to certain shared services that your freehold may offer or that your processing centers may have available.

Is there PvP within crafting, like sabotaging someone else’s work?

  • Steven: In a way you can. Right now the way it’s setup. If you lay down your freehold and setup your processing power with different buildings on your freehold, if the siege is successful players can go throughout the land that village had dominance over and destroy player built housing / processing structures / freeholds. Let’s say you become the master crafter on the server, and for the past three months on the server your the only person that can make the Dragon Bow, and you have the market on the server for like 16 classes who really use the bow. You might choose not to sell this bow or work with certain people that you don’t like, and they might lead a campaign to siege the city in which you have placed your crafting base or the city in which that bow is craftable at. If they are successful then you’ve lost the ability to craft that bow until you build it up again. That’s a way for PvP to impact crafting. It’s one of the connections that makes the community style of an MMO interdependent with other communities. You can be just a crafter, but the world doesn’t just go on and your in your corner and nothing that happens elsewhere doesn’t impact you. You have a vested interest to make sure that city doesn’t fall, to make sure your freehold isn’t destroyed. While there is progression to get that freehold built and build up the processing for the crafting experience that is going to be a process. We understand that there is going to be fluidity in how nodes exist. They’ll come one day and might be destroyed the next day. We don’t want you to repeat a tedious process to get that infrastructure built up again. Once you’ve built it once, it will be easier to build it up again, you can save certain settings, furniture, and placement, so that it is not a seamless process, but not as difficult as achieving it the first time around.

Tradability of CS items?

  • Steven: I’ve had people ask me about whether or not they can gift something to other players. My answer to that has been No. The reason I don’t want cosmetic items that can be purchased from the marketplace to be transferable, it is in a way potentially a transfer of money for something in game. Let’s say for example: I have 500 gold in game, but I don’t want to spend the 10$ on a costume, but I want a costume, and you want to spend the 10$ for my 500 gold and you spend the 10$ and I give you the 500 gold that is basically buying gold and facilitated through the company. Obviously there are going to be gold sellers out there, botters, and we’re going to make every possible effort, we already have included in our base architecture for the game systems that track behavioral algorithms and metrics for players to identify these accounts and ban them quickly. In addition we are a subscription based game so your not going to see that prevalent quickly made accounts that quickly made accounts to advertise to sell / bot because there will be a cost associated with doing that which eliminates a large swath of gold sellers/botters if they can’t make f2p accounts. Many games in the past have moved to a place where they just don’t care about this activity. They don’t want to devote the resources necessary to enforce certain rules or the game isn’t warenting the added effort to fix this condition. In my personal opinion as an MMORPG player, the in game economy is extremely important to maintain from a non-disturbable point, meaning you must limit as much as possible any outside interference on that economy in order to prevent the scales from being flipped. One of the things I could not stand about a previous game, there where objectives from a crafting and farming point you could set your focus towards achieving these particular items. It was a lot of invested time and money, your entire approach to the economy was built around a particular resource and the company came in and threw on the marketplace that resource at a certain dollar value. What did that do to the economy? It completely threw into disarray every single crafter/farmer/guilds who had acquired farmland to produce this resource. Their entire economy was thrown into disarray. What does it do to the server population? It causes people to quit. That is an influx of free gear given out to other people. It is a completely destabilizing force in the game. As much as we can keep that economy sanctified to only in game activity, that is what we want to do.

Do Artisan Classes dual class with Augments

  • Steven: No, they do not. They do however have professions within the artisan trees. There is progression there in granting skills and abilities that don’t pertain to adventuring class but do pertain to the crafting artisan class. There was an idea we toyed about with where if you were a master animal husbandry person and a master alchemist could you have soe augment for your potions that applied only to your pets, and then maybe that potion could be consumed by a pet to grant a speed bonus for a period of time. Since we already have the technology being produced for the adventuring class in that way, but it’s not within our scope. If we have the time to implement a design like that it’s something that’s on our backlog, but right now we’re trying to keep everything within scope.

Will Crafting Tools have progression?

  • Steven: Tools do advance within the artisan tree. Your ability to either gather, process, or craft will require the equivalent tools necessary at that stage of crafting to accomplish the task at hand. You cannot mine copper and mithril with the same tool.

What’s the plan for combating flavor of the month?

  • Steven: Our counter to the flavor term is how we’re balancing these base archetypes as well as the realm in which the archetypes exist from a 64 class point of view. We’re approaching with a rock-paper-scissors kind of approach and balancing it for group play and not 1v1. I do not believe we’re going to have a flavor of the month class. Will there be multiple flavors of the month? I suppose that’s possible. From a balance standpoint I can say we want to make everything balanced. Many designers have attempted to make something balanced, walked away, and it was very unbalanced. The truth of the matter is our first approach to balance that will be the case, the second approach to balance that may be the case, but our objective is to make sure that within the different columns of rock-paper-scissors there is a healthy variety among the classes that have specificity among what they can accomplish and it comes down to the players decision on playstyle how they want to impact the world. We recognize that balance is one of the largest and most difficult issues to tackle from a game design perspective, not just in MMOs, but that’s where it can be most prevalent because you have a large number of players choosing from among the choices you provide. In any game design, balancing something so that a choice does not need to be made for you but so that you can make a choice is our objective. The important thing to remember is that with the augment system there is a great degree of diversity possible among the classes, and diversity is a way to get away from that kind of meta feel. It can directly relate to your feeling and experience of being in something as intimate as combat or your role within a party. Obvious lots of testing is needed. That’s partially why we’ve started testing so early. That’s what we intend to do. It’s not just a matter of the backend/network/design features, it’s one of the reasons some of our earliest testing revolves around the arena, PvP stuff, castle sieges. We want to get that dynamic present in the class system among groups vs groups. A lot of designs / productions leave PvP as an afterthought, that’s why sometimes it’s not as fun. From our perspective if you can accomplish something as difficult as balancing PvP, then balancing PvE during that is something that is going to be easier in our opinions. I think balance is a very important part and testing helps with that.

If Multiple guilds work together to obtain a castle how is it determined which of those get to own it?

  • Steven: It’s going to be the guild leader, or Lieutenant (guild leaders can pick one), seals / finishes the cast on the final object. There is an opportunity there for perhaps some backstabbing in the throne room. Where one guild is like “yeah we agreed to get to this area, but we had a change of heart in the middle of the battle”. Earlier we talked about how we want to stay away from zergs. The best way that I’ve found, in games I’ve played, is to cause drama from within. That typically is the result of most zergs falling apart. It’s that conflict inside of the politicking in that big organization. If we provide opportunities for division to occur, then it also provides stability to keep a server healthy away from that zerg mentality. If we were to go into that siege together as three guild leaders, and we sign our agreement in blood beforehand, and there’s no opportunity for backstabbing at the time of this, when it’s most critical, and elevated, when people are about to claim the prize, then that’s not fun, there’s no opportunity for division there. The division will have to occur in a less strenuous atmosphere where people can think rationally. If we approach the castle siege and we’ve destroyed the walls, and we’re in the throne room and we’re about to cast on the penultimate thing and I at this time am so excited from what’s happening that I say ‘screw it, I’m going to go for it, I’m going to take the taxes for the next month, I’m going to take the all the gear from the castle” There is an opportunity for division to occur within those upper ups, and we kind of want that political intrigue to be present within the game.

Can You alter the effect that the Castle has on a region month to month?

  • Steven: Yes, there are levers and dials that are present to both the owners of castles as well as the elected officials of nodes, that during their administration they have the ability to impact and influence the region around them.

Do the military nodes attached to castles change to reflect the race of the owner of the castle?

  • Steven: All nodes whether they are associated with the castle or normal node structure has cultural influences that replicate over to the buildings that are produced and the npcs that are present.

Game mods? Addons?

  • Steven: It is not planned. We will have a lot of customization present both form a UI perspective as well as different data points that will be present within the game. We don’t want to open up the mod game just yet. That decision might change in the future, but it’s not planned for release.

API from outside of the game?

  • Steven: We will have integrations available for lets say streaming services like Twitch or other services, but it’s not something we want to expose through an API just yet

Are alts capable of being citizens of different nodes/servers?

  • Steven: Your account is bound to one declared citizenship per server. If you have two alts and your main character on one server, you can only be a citizen of one node between those three, and if you have an alt on a different server it could be a citizen of a node as well. Freeholds are specifically locked one per account. But you could have in node housing or at least an instanced house.

Is the guardian such a super tank that it would be laughable for a nightshield to be the main tank in a top end raid, or should any primary archetype subclass generally be viable as the main tank?

  • Steven: I would say any primary tank archetype is absolutely viable and not laughable from an upper end raid

Secondary Healers?

  • Steven: When you pick the cleric as a secondary class, two of the augments are life and death basically. Choosing life augments on certain skills has the ability to potentially impact others to a degree and give them life gaining benefits through your skills and also provide healing for yourself through your skills. Pretty much any class that chooses cleric as a secondary class will have the ability to affect the life of others around you and them self. It changes the primary ability to some degree depending on the augment that’s applied to it. You only get active skills from your primary class, but it could look totally different after an augment gets applied, really depending on what the augment is.

Can predominant node race change?

  • Steven: Yes, it could change cultural influence between the stages.

How do Zone of Influence (ZOI) work?

  • Steven: There are a few metrics node expansion programing adheres too, a few rulesets. Depends on proximity, accrued experience, attrition, other node development rates throughout the world. That kind of determines a direction. ZOI’s are pretty much boarders. That boarder can end up starting to look like a country / nation. At the metropolis stage you’ll have 1/5th of the world encompassed within your borders. Many other nodes will exist as you expanded that will be your vassals, that forms this country/nation. It won’t impact the decisions of the nodes within the vassal states. Instead the parent node takes all of the experience that is committed within that ZOI, the second thing is it now takes a cut of all taxes from any of the housing / services /etc. That occurs there. The node higher will take a cut of the taxes, and it can change the level of the taxes that it takes a cut of. It won’t necessarily impact the individual citizen, because that citizens taxes are determined by the node their a citizen of, but the cities take, that gets taxed by the parent node.
  • There is an affiliation tree. There is guild affiliation / party affiliation / raid af / alliance af / citizenship af / society af / religious affiliation - all of these things have some hierarchy. Within that hierarchy there is ability to participate within certain systems. If you have a node that has fallen within your vassal state and your a citizen of the parent node you can participate in a siege against the vassal node, but if your a citizen of the vassal node, you can’t participate in a siege against the parent node, unless you where to renounce your citizenship.

How do races matter?

  • Steven: Race matters because narratives have paths that are influenced based on the primary contributing culture to the node. Within that node, if your Niküa and your in a node that is predominantly Niküa your going to have certain services / abilities available that members of other races may not have access to. They may have alternative questlines, but they won’t have specific ones. Those specific Niküa quests will then relate to the meta narrative present within the world, and they’ll start to direct some of that meta narrative. That will be beneficial for your kind because it will unlock certain content for your race that others haven't unlocked. So there is an incentive to see progression along that line. In order to curb the progress of a dominant race there is attrition on experience and influence that is heightened based on the performance of the race in the world. If all of the nodes are orc nodes then their attrition is very high to compete with the cultural establishment of new nodes, because they have more influence in the world and popular opinion is against them in outlying areas that they do not have influence in. Attrition curbs one from dominating the entire world.

Racial Influences?

  • Steven: Pyrian elves are the parent race, they were present during the fall, we have the Py’rai and then we also have the Empyreans, the Empyreans are more closely stemming from a greco roman imperialistic feeling while the Py’rai have more of a Native American influence present. It was very important, when almost three years ago, I was detailing out the designs for the game and the cultures, I began to take notes on which cultures had influences and I wanted to diversify the influences to represent all real world cultures to a degree. You will see in the different races that are available from a player character standpoint a lot of different influences that reflect many cultures within the world, not just European, or African, or Meso-american.

LGBT Identity in game?

  • Steven: There are not plans for gender neutral pronouns, however our marriage system does not take into account gender, so two individuals of any gender will be able to utilize the marriage system. We feel that is pretty important in order to reflect the nature of the cultures in Ashes of Creation, that it does not have the conflict present in this Fantasy world that we may have experience in the real world. That’s a good place both from a sanctuary standpoint from people who are experiencing that in the real world to kind of get away from it in the fantasy world, we wanted to provide that type of outlet. There is representation within the narrative both from a hero/heroine standpoint and a villain standpoint. It will not just be as binary. There will be presence for that in the overarching storyline.

Lore Villains?

  • There is a primary Antagonist in the storyline. We have a particular culture that we haven't touched on at all, and we don’t want to from a story standpoint that much. You might see some information on it come out later, but for the most part those NPC’s that occupy the castles before they are taken over by players have an important role in both the story as well as in the antagonist aspect of the world.