Best of PAX West 2017: Ashes of Creation
By: Benjamin "Foghladha" Foley | : 996
Ashes of Creation Makes a Huge Splash
As you walk around the floor of PAX West, you begin to notice the famed red hats "Make MMOs Great Again" wandering among the crowd. Then you see the booth. Ashes of Creation went all out and when you compare it to the other crowdfunded projects in attendance you can see that their focus is getting the players hands on their product.
The line to get hands on with this title wrapped completely around the larger sized booth which rivaled Ubisoft. Players were very excited to try out this new innovative MMORPG. I had a chance to get hands on with it for the first time and I can personally attest that this pre-alpha build was a very significant influence on raising my faith in the game. While much of their pre-alpha build is in an experimental state and is likely to change before launch I can share some of the key points that bring a lot of promise to the title.
- Audio is Magic
There has been a lot of innovation over the years when it comes to audio. For the score of Ashes of Creation, they recruited the legendary composer Bear McCreary, known from Battlestar Galactica, Outlander, Defiance, Da Vinci's Demons, Agents of Shield and The Walking Dead. In addition the sounds when you're casting spells and landing a hit are seriously adrenaline inducing. You can feel the impact in the bass and it all comes together beautifully like a cinematic movie that you're playing.
- Collision is back!
Finally, a game has returned to what made Warhammer Online legendary for it's time. Collision with hostile and friendly players makes tactics like shield walls applicable. One of the very first things I did in the demo was try to run through my brother Donaliam. When I could not I jumped onto a tent and jumped onto his head. There was a full collision box around him. Later while we were fighting NPC's the collision box was on them as well. This will allow for bottlenecking which allows mages and archers to enjoy open season. Siege warfare without collision never seemed as epic.
- World Abilities
This is a fairly new concept to MMOs that In my travels I have not seen in practice. Each class has their own skills that help players traverse the world. Mages can levitate bridges to cross chasms, tanks can spot enemies moving in the distance, rangers can track footprints, and clerics can cleanse environments allowing groups to pass through poisonous terrain. Each has their own unique skill that can help groups unlock secret areas, alternate paths, and discover treasures.
- Fluid Motion
Oh, you know there will be a new Foghladha Free Running video in the mix. Ashes of Creation's movement controls remind me of Unreal Tournament. Silky smooth, non clunky, and very responsive. The animations go right in line much like playing Assassin's Creed. For a pre-alpha MMO the character movement is unmatched. I didn't feel restricted in how my character controlled when jumping from object to object. I even had a little free running experiment in town jumping from tent to tent to wagon to tent.
- Anti-Griefing Mechanic
As with any PvP game that features a wealth of PvE, there will be a wealth of players drawn to that PvE that might not want to PvP all the time. The good news is that Ashes of Creation has a PvP flagging system that players who do not wish to PvP can disable. When the tag is disabled and you are accosted by another player and do not retaliate you suffer minimal loss on exp, and some items you're carrying in your bag. You will not drop any equipped items.
However, the person who accosted you becomes penalized in a big way. The lower their karma score the more they drop when they die, and the only cure for their bad behavior is death. As their karma level decreases, their bounty grows. Bounty hunters will be able to pick up their bounty in town and see them on the map. Those players that attack non-combatants will be killed and will lose everything they’re carrying. In addition they will lose an increasing amount of exp depending on how many people they have killed. This should deter jack wagons from camping those low level quest hubs looking to spoil a new player's experience.
There are exceptions to this rule. There are specific hostile zones where you will be flagged PvP regardless of your flag. In addition caravans have a floating PvP radius around them that will make anyone nearing the wagon killable. When PvP is consensual neither party suffers full loot drop or major exp loss. PvP is encouraged in the game, but it is encouraged in a consensual manner. While you can be killed at any time, anti-griefing mechanics deter players from killing you when you don't wish to PvP.
The only drawback in my short play session was the skill shot based skills. As a healer I was concentrating on the health bars of my allies and could not seem to keep an eye on the skill shot bar and their health bars at the same time. So I ended up avoiding the skillshot skills all together. As Steven mentioned, that system is experimental and will likely change. He did mention however that there are two types of skills: single press skills and action skills that require a skillshot. It's entirely possible to slot and spec your character to never use one or the other. If you're not a Hot Shots Golf legend, you might want to avoid the skillshot skills.
Steven's Unique Leadership Style
Now the last thing I'd like to share with everyone is about Steven. This was the first time I was able to meet him in person and see what kind of leader he was. Like everyone else I was a bit skeptical that a "Player" could set into a "Leader" role of a gaming studio and be successful on his first try.
However after meeting him, seeing his vision, witnessing his conviction, and seeing how he interacts with his team, I believe he might just be able to pull this off. Now as a person who primarily works in the business world, I get to meet a lot of CEOs and top tier leadership. I can tell you one thing for certain, most leader positions will seek to elevate themselves over people they are conversing with. Whether it's a stage, podium, or have everyone sit while they stand. Well this is what really struck me as unique about Steven. When he brought six of us media folk into the media room, we were all standing and Steven chose to lower himself to the people he was speaking to by sitting down.
He listened to our feedback, answered our questions, and treated us with respect and kindness. This was the first time I've seen someone in a leadership position do this and in the business world this is unheard of. Traditionally the leader is the last to sit. This is when I realized that while Steven may be the leader at Intrepid Studios, he does not see himself as more important than his audience. He leads through encouragement and relies on his team to bring knowledge and solutions to his overall vision. He is humble, and the type of person who builds people up. He is an enabler making everyone around him feel important. I can now see how this product has become so polished so quickly and his team is quick to rally behind him. This experience solidified my opinion that he could in fact pull this off.
Even in pre-alpha, Ashes of Creation has come together beautifully with breathtaking visuals, visceral combat, and a truly immersive experience. I for one can't wait to dive into the Alpha this December. Things are shaping up nicely and Steven’s focus and vision is driving this team forward at an amazing pace. The way his employees speak of him and the way he interacts with people gives me great confidence that Ashes of Creation will live up to his claims. So far with very little time in development they're off to a great start.
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About the Author
Benjamin "Foghladha" Foley
Benjamin founded the Gaiscioch Social Gaming Community in 2001 and has since been the founder & activities director for this well known community. His role has gone beyond just running the Gaming Community and now includes running the Athletics Program in Portland, Oregon, as well as acting as the Managing Editor of the Gaiscioch Magazine, and is the Lead Producer on the Gaiscioch Livestream Productions. Additionally he networks with game developers to form relationships between Gaiscioch and development studios.
His experience in publishing dates back to helping his Grandparents who operated a printing press for over 40 years. In high school and college Benjamin excelled in journalism and played an active part in the school newspaper. Benjamin currently works full time as the director of technology for a franchise trade publication & education company.