Monday, May 1, 2017

Ready, Set, Go! : Ashes of Creation

As I began this post, the Ashes of Creation Kickstarter had been live for a quarter of an hour.  In that time there was already $161,872 pledged of the $750,000 goal. Not bad for the first fifteen minutes.

I've never watched a Kickstarter campaign launch before. It's an odd experience. I'd forgotten exactly when the whole thing was going to begin so I went to the regular website, where they've had a ticker counting down the seconds ever since the announcement that there was going to be a fundraiser.

By good luck I arrived at the site about half an hour before opening time. I went to play GW2 for a while and flicked back with a couple of minutes to go. I was curious to see what would happen when the timer reached 00:00:00.

Nothing is what happened. It just sat there, inert. In fact, since the timer was no longer counting down, rather than something exciting happening, as I'd hoped and half-expected, the web page became even less interesting than it had been.

I wondered whether, since I had the page open, I might be looking at a cached version, missing some amazing opening video or something, so I refreshed the page. It promptly took me to a 504 error. 

That's fixed now but the site itself is just back to exactly what it was. Nothing to see there.

So, absent a link from the web page (which seems to be missing a trick to me) I navigated to Kickstarter directly. I searched for Ashes of Creation and there it was. A very nice presentation. Professional, as you'd expect, given the experience of the people behind the project.

There's quite a lot of new information (or at least new to me) on the game itself. It details the eight races and the eight class archetypes for a start. 

Boy, do they look bland.

When I heard they were starting with eight races I was hoping for the chance to play something other than the usual: human, human with pointy ears, ugly human or short human. Ashes of Creation gives you Human, Elf, Orc and Dwarf. So much for that, then.

Also, splitting your four races in two does not give you eight races. Just sayin'.

The classes aren't any more inspiring. There's nothing wrong with the archetypes themselves, I guess, although they could scarcely be more vanilla if they'd arrived from Madagascar on last night's boat. Having tried to disguise the familiarity of the races by pulling the names out of a Scrabble bag they've taken the opposite approach with the class archetypes.

The intention was clearly to go for the most universally recognizable job titles a focus group could come up with. It's a sensible approach as far as a Kickstarter goes but let's hope these are just placeholders that are going to get a makeover somewhere along the road to launch. I really don't feel my blood begin to pump at the thought of playing a "Tank". 

In fact, has any MMO ever gone so far as to use "Tank" as an official class name? I doubt it. The nearest I can think of is City of Heroes "Tanker". It does speak to a certain kind of honesty in marketing, I guess. It's strange to see "Tank" and "Fighter" used separately, too, although the intent is clear enough.

So much for the minutiae. What about the pledge tiers? Well, they're about as you'd expect. Bottom of the shop is a $25 deal that gets you not a lot. Some in game emojis, a couple of forum badges, your name in the credits and one month of game time.

I was a bit puzzled by that. It's obvious there's a monthly subscription but I couldn't find anything that explained whether there was also a box - digital or physical - to buy. None of the tiers list getting the actual game as one of the perks but they all come with a month or more of "game time". Are there any MMOs that use a free to download, subscription required to play, model? Maybe AoC is aiming to be the first.

What I was most interested in was early access. You can buy into the second and presumably final phase of Closed Beta for a very reasonable $40 if you hurry or $50 if you get there after all 1500 of the forty dollar packs have gone. That also comes with two months of game time and a horse, plus, as always, everything in the preceding pack.

I'd guess Closed Beta 2 is a long way off. Kickstarter requires a fulfillment date and Intrepid Studios have gone for December 2018. I don't imagine anyone expects them to hit that target. Probably more likely to be sending out the beta keys around then if everything's going really well.

What I was really hoping for was an affordable tier with Alpha access or at least one that would get me in at the start of Closed Beta. Wishful thinking, of course. There's big money to be made lifting the velvet rope, even if the club, when you get inside, is all unfaced concrete and exposed wiring. 

Entry to the first Closed Beta comes at double what you'd pay for Phase Two. $80 is more than I'm willing to pay purely out of curiosity to get in at that point. Had it been an Alpha pass I might have wavered, although I'd only be interested if there was no NDA; the main reason I want in is to be able to blog about it, obviously.

It's a problem I don't have to worry about. The cheapest access to any form of Alpha comes with a price tag of $425 attached. That's for "Early Birds" and there are only 350 of those on offer. If you want one, better hurry - almost half of them have sold already. When they're all gone the price climbs to $500.

Am I going to pony up? Mmmm. Maybe. I'm still thinking about it, although, after reading the Kickstarter page, I'm actually less interested in the game than I was. 

It certainly looks as though it will fund. In the time it's taken me to write this post the pledge total has reached almost $370,000. Almost halfway to funding in less than two hours.

I'm going to think on it for a while. I'll probably end up going the $40. Can't say I'm feeling it though. Maybe Pantheon will to be the next keeper after all. 


  1. Of all upcoming MMOs that are somewhat tangible at this point, AoC is the one I'm betting on the most. It looks good and has the promising premise of rebuilding the world and the whole hub/tier system which is either gonna make for some organic world feel or become a complete disaster because players can't cooperate.

    There are however also concerning things, such as inventory management (I happen to have just posted about this) and as you said, very uninventive classes and few races. To be fair, this is an indie MMO so we probably shouldn't expect them to deliver too many special features right away. Over time, more races and classes are probably planned to be added.

    1. Well, as is probably apparent from my reply to your post, inventory management is not likely to be a sticking point for me! On the other hand, I am getting an increasingly clear BDO/ArcheAge vibe from Ashes that isn't at all what I was expecting. Based on the people involved and the original PR I thought it was going to be squarely in the EQ2/GW2/FFXIV themepark mold. Instead it's starting to look much more like a Western appropriation of ideas that were fresh in Eastern MMOs five years ago and which have already proved not to translate well outside of a particular niche audience.

      The future of MMOs it is not. It may be a decent game though.

  2. This does look like it will fund based on my rule of the first 24 hours. In fact, I think they may have err'd a bit in not having some super-donor level beyond $400, since their $400 tier is all sold out.

    People seem excited about it, so I will have to read up on it some. The question is whether or not I want to invest in the future yet again. I still have MMO projects I put money into back in 2013 that have not reached fruition yet.

    1. They're almost two-thirds of the way there and the page hasn't been up for four hours yet. Seems inconceivable they won't fund. I was briefly excited about AoC but I think I misunderstood what it was going to be. Now I'm putting it in the same basket as Crowfall - I'll try it but I don't expect it to be somewhere I'll put down any roots. Pantheon, on the other hand, is looking better all the time.

    2. When I woke up this morning they were past the post and already at $850K, so they seem to have done their Kickstarter homework at least.

  3. I'm in for $40, so I may or may not see you when CBT2 comes around (early 2018 is their current estimate according to the twitch stream) I'm not sold on the concept enough to risk anything more, even if the fae kitty mount looks so pretty :) Not $450 pretty though ;(

    1. Early 2018 sounds very optimistic. If they are pegging launch at Dec 2018 then that would mean a very long CB2 indeed. As a sub game they won't do a long Open Beta so CB2 would be something like 9 months. Seems unlikely.

      Still thinking about it. Lots of $40 packs left and if they go it's only $50 for the unlimited version. Plenty of time to decide.

  4. This may seem petty, but the fact they actually called a class "tank" is a huge red flag to me. It tells me that they're not putting much effort into immersion or world-building, which is a major problem for a game whose world is supposedly its selling feature.

    1. Yes, I thought it was odd, especially given the ridiculously "lore" names they pinned on the races. Sounds like two completely different teams with opposed viewpoints.

      I do think that having very straightforward class names is a good thing at this stage. There's enough to explain without having to get people to learn weird new class names. If you're going to call the tank "Tank" though it makes me wonder why they didn't call the mage "Nuker" or the Fighter "Melee DPS".

  5. FWIW, I actually appreciated the class names for their overview description ... for me, personally, I have a history of preferring "summoner" classes, it was refreshing to not have to parse the descriptions to determine if one was planned. :)

    The next questions would be whether the summons is persistent or not, what roles the summons can take (such as tank for soloing, DPS for grouping), and what minions' appearance options are available. The description of "never alone" and "right tool for every job, there's no situation they can't handle" would seem to indicate their intention of persistence and multiple abilities/roles.

    The "You further specialize your character by choosing this secondary class, augmenting and changing what your core class can do." does indeed sound like an ambitious design and a balancing nightmare.

    While I had heard of Ashes of Creation, I had not looked into it. Thanks to your post, I went to MassivelyOP and read their interview and looked at the Kickstarter page. While I can't claim to fully understand their design's implementation of nodes, politics, and world changes, I was intrigued. As well as pleased to see the Summoner as a planned option, so anticipate that I would want to explore whatever they do end up delivering, so then decided to go ahead and contribute to their vision to see what may arrive at the other end. :)

    At the risk of ending on a down note, while I was pleased to see they will have a flagging system for PvP, the comment that "will sufficiently deter open murder with repercussions for players that wish to PK others" causes me some concern, since I have yet to see "repercussions" effectively deter griefers determined to grief others. But, at least they have the right idea, IMHO, to start off with a flagging system.

    1. The PvP part is intriguing. It has barely featured in any of the publicity apart from the Metropolis sieges. It's not as though they're hiding it but they certainly aren't playing it up.

      In my experience, no flagging system will ever deter real griefers but real griefers are far fewer than legend would have it. I've played plenty of games with these kinds of flagging systems and barely seen any PvP combat at all. I'd like to see a bit more detail though - as well as flagging and penalties for ignoring it, are there going to be safe zones and/or minimum levels for PvP?

      Early days yet. I'm sure we'll find out in due course.

    2. They've gone over their PVP system a bit in one of their dev chats. Basically everybody starts as a non-combatant. If you attack someone, or go into a certain zone, you'll auto-flag as a combatant. If you attack a non-combatant, you're flagged as corrupted (which comes with funky skin effects so I'm sure some people will want it) Death penalties decrease as a combatant, but increase massively as a corrupted. Also people who've got the Bounty Hunter title can see corrupted players on the map and hunt them down.

      I've no idea about safe zones, or minimum levels.


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