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Game difficulty

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People who put more time and effort into it are definitely going to get more out of it but that doesn't mean that person who logs in once a week won't be able to have fun so it's just a matter of the scale of stuff that you're going after... Running a caravan is not gonna be the same thing every time you do it. You might be able to find like a super secret path that nobody knows about... and you exploit it for a while and nobody knows and then eventually somebody sees you and suddenly that route becomes a lot more difficult so you know that's kind of the way we really want that emergent gameplay to kind of come out of those options that we give you guys; and a lot of it is gonna come down to other players making it more or less difficult for you.[1]Jeffrey Bard

There's a ton of room for difficulty on whatever scale... In a living world everything becomes much more difficult.[1]Peter Pilone

The difficulty of PvE content, such as raids and dungeons will adapt based on the performance of the raid or group against previous bosses in that encounter.[2]

Level scaling

Levels, stats, or skills will not be scaled to allow low level players to participate in encounters with higher level players.[5][6]

Mentor program

There will be a mentorship program where upper-level players are able to benefit from partying and/or helping lower level players; and getting them situated in the game.[6]

There will be activities that are present for higher level players to mentor lower level players. Let's say you have a friend who joins later on and you still want to do things with them, there will be things to do. Will he be able to enter a dungeon of your level and participate? No, because we don't want to inflate or deflate characters and manipulate that type of skill or power. We want that to be something that makes sense for them in a progression standpoint.[8]Steven Sharif

The mentorship program provides individual quests that can be initiated by the mentor based off of what node that they are part of. So these are like quests that are determined by either certain buildings and/or organizations or the mayor; and there are specific ones that are available for mentors to provide mentees; and they can also participate in some of those quest lines as well: Whether that be leading your mentee through a dungeon or providing a location for them to arrive with you at, or escort quests for the NPC caravans. These types of things, when done together with your mentor, will provide benefits both for the mentor and the mentee as well, so you're incentivized to participate with new players.[7]Steven Sharif

Learning curve

Ashes of Creation will be easy to understand yet hard to master.[9]

My stance on participation trophies is that things should be hard, people should fail, the bitter taste of defeat is what makes success that much more rewarding. Helping other players learn encounter strategy, and fine tuning their play style for high end content is an important part of eliminating participation trophy. Growing together is a good thing, and that include failing together as a means to drive for success together.[10]Steven Sharif

Meta

The effectiveness of classes, skills and gear is going to depend on the adversary or the encounter. There will be optimal builds for different challenges and difficulty ratings. This design aims to avoid any obvious meta or "cookie-cutter" builds in Ashes of Creation.​[11]

  • Increasing difficulty ratings inspire more of a traditional vertical power progression that is common in other MMOs.[11]

Oftentimes you just have a very vertical power scale and that determines chase, but when you have a variety of relevance across certain types of adversaries and that variety changes over time because of player activity- and then that affects the economy and the crafter system and who was producing what for what demand- and everything gets shaken up. That's a very kind of fun environment to exist in. It presents a more dynamic situation rather than a quote-unquote cookie-cutter type selection.[11]Steven Sharif

Casual vs. hardcore players

The multiple progression paths in Ashes of Creation offer different "lanes" for players depending on the time they have available to play.[12]

  • Some progression paths will be more immediately achievable, which are more suited to casual players.[12]
    • Triggered events such as cravans and sieges will allow casual players to participate in impactful events without significant time investment.[13]
    • Lower level characters will have usefulness in mass combat that does not depend on their level, such as manning siege weapons, helping repair fortifications, bringing proximity-based buffs to key positions, using stealth or scaling walls. These types of things are relevant to the tide of battle and do not require the player to be max-level or have high combat stats.[14]

There are events that are happening in the world in the game that you won't need to be a hardcore player to impact and join. For example, the triggered events from the PvE standpoint against the cities; the trades of the caravans; those natural battlegrounds that exist; the castle sieges you can login for. There is a lot of systems that are at play where a person can simply log in, participate, have fun, be impactful and then log out.[13]Steven Sharif

  • Other progression paths will require a significant time investment, which casual players will take longer to achieve than hardcore players.[12]
    • The contribution of a large mass of casual players working together may have a greater impact on node progression than hardcore players. Hardcore players may be able to progress into to late-game content faster than casual players, but may lack the numbers to influence the nodes in those locations as quickly as the larger population of casual players.[12]

Traditionally in MMORPGs you're going to see a larger population of casual players than you do of hardcore players; and that's just the way the cookie crumbles from a population standpoint. And because of that and the way that nodes collect experience and advance as a result of player activity, those casual players will actually have more impact on node progression than the hardcore players will: at least as I predict, because of the sheer quantity disproportionate between the two different groups of people... You may see in Ashes the smaller hardcore group of players progress further into the late-game content, right. But they don't have the numbers to influence the nodes in those locations as quickly as the more casual... larger population has near the outskirts.[12]Steven Sharif

Target demographic

I think our target demographic, obviously we have a very high graphic fidelity in the game that's attractive to younger players, but at the same time we have a very roleplay game orientation - a kind of a play back to that pen-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons feel that perhaps younger generations may not know but is very near and dear to the hearts of older gamers. So I think we have a broad appeal from a demographic standpoint.[9]Steven Sharif

Player types

Ashes of Creation will cater for a variety of player types; from Raiders or PvPers to Role players and Crafters.[15]

A guy who wrote a book on game design, called Bartle, breaks gamers up into different categories. We will often talk about the different categories of gamers and trying to satisfy their needs.[15]Akil Hooper

The most compelling design argument for how those different sects of gamers interact with each other is dependant from the design standpoint of interdependencies in the systems. So, for example if as a Raider or as a PvPer you're looking for the best gear, you're going to devote your time towards leveling up and going out and participating in the things you enjoy like pvping, perhaps going for caravans or sieging cities and castles and all that type stuff. If you want the best gear, you're going to have to rely on a person who's devoted their time towards crafting potentially; and they may not be a PvPer but they have a place in your wheelhouse because you need their services. And then that crafter is going to need a person who is either a gatherer or plays the economy as a merchant in the nodes with the auction houses that are regionalized. They're going to have to work with a person who specializes in trade that takes caravans with either mercenary groups or other guilds that are PvPers between the nodes to get the resources they need. Building dependencies on different groups or factions of players that exist within a large world like this MMORPG is what kind of solidifies the bonds that allow for them to exist either harmoniously, or at least in a way that they know you need those types of players.[15]Steven Sharif

Mentor program

There will be a mentorship program where upper-level players are able to benefit from partying and/or helping lower level players; and getting them situated in the game.[6]

There will be activities that are present for higher level players to mentor lower level players. Let's say you have a friend who joins later on and you still want to do things with them, there will be things to do. Will he be able to enter a dungeon of your level and participate? No, because we don't want to inflate or deflate characters and manipulate that type of skill or power. We want that to be something that makes sense for them in a progression standpoint.[8]Steven Sharif

The mentorship program provides individual quests that can be initiated by the mentor based off of what node that they are part of. So these are like quests that are determined by either certain buildings and/or organizations or the mayor; and there are specific ones that are available for mentors to provide mentees; and they can also participate in some of those quest lines as well: Whether that be leading your mentee through a dungeon or providing a location for them to arrive with you at, or escort quests for the NPC caravans. These types of things, when done together with your mentor, will provide benefits both for the mentor and the mentee as well, so you're incentivized to participate with new players.[7]Steven Sharif

Combat

Alpha-1 PvE combat early preview.[17]

Combat is the most tactile system in the game. It's the thing you will experience most often; and outside of the systems and mechanics that are going to be present for the overarching core gameplay loop, combat needs to feel responsive. It needs to not feel floaty. It needs to feel mobile. It needs to be fluid. It needs to give a feeling of satisfaction. The audio components, the effects components, the animations themselves, the types of skills and those types of things: All of those are really our objective in fine-tuning the approach for our combat in Ashes of Creation.[18]Steven Sharif

Combat in Ashes of Creation is focused on strategy and tactics.[19]

  • Combat is the most tactile system in the game. It needs to feel responsive, mobile and fluid. It needs to give a feeling of satisfaction.[18]

We want combat to be engaging, fun... Right now we've begun the sprint toward Alpha-1 first phase deployment, so we're really looking into the action side of combat right now; and we're building systems for that. And the reason why we are doing that is because tab-targeting has been a staple of MMORPGs for a very long time, even though there's a large interest now in action for MMORPGs and there has been some successful titles with action-oriented, like TERA and BDO. We want to be able to really delve into that development so that we can better understand how to merge tab and action together in the same game, because they are vastly different play-styles.[20]Steven Sharif

A revamped combat system will be rolled out during and post Alpha-1 testing.[21][22]

  • Alpha-1 testing is initially focused on core functionality rather than combat balance.[23]

Read more...

Combat logs

There are combat logs in Ashes of Creation.[24]

We will be providing combat data for individual players in their chat window, that players can filter and analyze for themselves. The goal is to mitigate and make the practice less prevalent through the ease that DPS meters provide. Also to place actionable enforcement for players who attempt to circumvent the decision by use of 3rd party programs, for which we will be monitoring.[10]Steven Sharif

Game balance

The way that the systems are being designed from a balancing standpoint we're taking into account how we would like the nodes to change per-se how often and we've designed attrition systems for certain cultures that may have more dominance over others. These are things that in Alpha and Beta we will be testing and watching and making sure that our objective is achieved from a gameplay standpoint and if it's not we'll come back and recalculate.[25]Steven Sharif

Class balance

The sixty four (64) classes are partitioned into eight primary archetypes. Balancing of active skills only relates to these eight primary archetypes.[26][27]

  • There are four primary groups of augments assigned to each base archetype. Balancing of augments relates to the four augment groups for each of the eight archetypes.[27]

Even though augments do radically change the way your active skills provide you abilities, there's still a primary focus on the base archetype itself and not the 64 whole classes.[26]Steven Sharif

We're not really talking about 64 true classes, we're talking about eight classes with 64 variants... There isn't as much variance between the 64 classes as you might expect. It's not like there are you know 64 different versions of... radically different classes.[26]Jeffrey Bard

Balancing in Ashes of Creation is group focused not based on 1v1 combat.[26][28]

There will be match ups in 1v1s where one class will be superior to another; and that application should be a rock-paper-scissors dynamic. We want there to be counter-play between the different classes... Instead it's going to be a group focused balance, where as long as you have the diversity of classes present, that's going to be an equal level playing field. It's going to be very dependent on skill and strategy.[28]Steven Sharif

Certain secondary archetypes are capable of "bridging the gap" between their counterpart.[29]

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 kind of bridge the divide slightly; and then move my identity that direction ever so slightly.[29]Steven Sharif

Alpha-1 testing is initially focused on core functionality rather than combat balance.[23]

Siege balance

There are points of balance that we want to incorporate, such as the defense mechanisms that the defenders have, the types of buffs that are acquired through completing killing the bosses, or capturing control points, the stages before a siege when it comes to those node progressions in the preceding weeks: Those are all going to be balanced considering all things being equal between the two sides. But obviously we're not going to control the state of gear acquisition that one side might have as an advantage over the other. There might be a much better geared team over there. There might be a much better coordinated team. There might be a higher number of individuals who are part of the attacking or the defense. Those are components that we aren't necessarily going to put on railroads so-to-speak. But the aspects of design that we can talk about like the hit point health of a particular wall or door, or mercenaries that can be hired; what's their cost, what's their damage output: Those are things yes we're going to balance. But obviously anything that's player dependent or that has player interaction and activity and determination you can't always balance; and you don't want to balance. Those aspects you leave those to the players.[30]Steven Sharif

Power creep

Power creep is a balance issue... When it comes to gear progression specifically, the idea is to create an open market that is not heavily dependent on soulbound items; and having many item sinks and gold sinks within that economy that allows for the potential degradation and loss of assets within that closed economy; and not introduce items from the market that companies put in from a pay-to-win perspective or from a pay-to-convenience perspective that undermines the economy that players have built. That is a huge mistake that companies have made in the past and that lends to the imbalancing of what designers maybe have actually balanced well.[31]Steven Sharif

Read more...

Progression

Progression occurs through a variety of pathways.[32]

Multiple playstyles should be relevant and viable. Additionally, you have a spread between casual players and hard-core players; and most of us exist somewhere on that spectrum. The progression path in a society or religion is more conducive to the time we have to play. Whereas, someone else may be playing several hours a day, and they have a better opportunity for the raid/level progression that might require some more dedication. So we want to have these different progression paths available to accommodate the different times in our lives that we have to play the game. And all of those types of progressions will make us relevant in some way shape or form to the general world.[36]Steven Sharif

Having the ability to gain power at a sacrifice... That's a way to kind of reach a horizontal type of progression. It may not be entirely, because there could potentially be a meta if balancing isn't done correctly; but the objective there is to make sure we have both vertical and horizontal progression in the game.[37]Steven Sharif

Alpha-1 early iteration of the level-up effect by Jim Sanders.[38]

One of the cool abilities we all love seeing and gives us a major dopamine response is when our character levels up.[38]Steven Sharif

Leveling won't follow a traditional linear path, although classic mechanics for leveling exist.[39] Experience (XP) is gained through a variety of activities:[40]

A character's level will be visible to other players.[41]

There will not be level boosts or auto-leveling.[42]

As part of our ideals as a game we're not going to give boosts away. We're not going to auto-level up a character. You have to spend time acclimating yourself to what this game is, to what the world that you're part of is; and that's an investment- a time investment; and that plays towards our ideas of risk-versus-reward; and I've always said our game's not going to be for everybody and that's okay.[42]Steven Sharif

There won't be any damage dampening due to differences in levels in either PvP or PvE.[43]

If I have a skill that does a thousand damage to a target of equal level I don't want my skill to do zero damage to a target that's five levels above me.[43]Steven Sharif

Read more...

End game

There is not going to be a typical end-game in Ashes of Creation.[6]

Part of the whole experience with nodes is that there is no real end-game, in that the world is constantly shifting every day. Month one is going to be really different from month two; and that's for the level 50s and level 1s.[6]Jeffrey Bard

We want the game to be a living game, which means that all content should be relevant at all times. I’d say that we try to make as little distinction between the leveling up experience and the end game experience as possible. The whole journey is important to us, in order to maximize the fun people have during different stages of the game.[44]Sarah Flanagan

Level cap

The level cap at launch is expected to be approximately level 50.[45]

  • The developers anticipate max level should be attainable in approximately 45 days if you play roughly 4-6 hours per day.[46][47]
  • Alpha-1 has progression to level 15.[48]

Lower level characters will have usefulness in mass combat (such as Node sieges) that is not directly dependent on their level, such as manning siege weapons, helping repair fortifications, bringing proximity-based buffs to key positions, using stealth or scaling walls. These types of things are relevant to the tide of battle and do not require the player to be max-level or have high combat stats.[14]

The idea is not to be a game where somebody can essentially no life for a week and be max level. The idea is to incorporate some significant chunk of time but still respect the casual player, because you know the way we respect the casual player is not everything is driven in our game through the adventuring progression line. Not everything is driven through your class level per-se. There's a lot of different progression paths that are available and make you relevant within certain systems and mechanics within the game; and some of those paths are more casual friendly and some of those paths are more hardcore friendly. So with regards to the adventuring class, the idea is to make sure that investment needs to be pretty significant and that the reward then is respective of that investment.[46]Steven Sharif

Grinding

Repetition will not be part of progression in Ashes of Creation.[49]

  • There will be no "grindy" quests.[49]
  • There will not be repetitive quest lines through a single dungeon to obtain gear.[50]
  • The aspiration is to have more things to do in the game than a player has time to do.[49]

AFK leveling

There will not be AFK leveling in Ashes of Creation.[51]

We want this game to be played. If there are things that you can do to not play the game and still progress, we've done something wrong.[51]Jeffrey Bard

Class progression

  • The player can then augment their primary skills with effects from their secondary archetype.[52][53]
    • Each skill in the primary tree will have several augment options from the secondary tree. This is an example of horizontal progression.[53]
    • Augments to primary skills can fundamentally change the way the ability works - adapting what the ability once did to incorporate the identity of the secondary archetype/class.[44]

If a Fighter were to choose Mage as a secondary archetype, the fighter would become a Spellsword. This combination opens up augments that can be applied to skills in their primary skill tree. Fighters have a Rush skill that allows them to rush towards a target; and upon reaching the target, deal an amount damage with a chance to knock the target down. A Mage's escape augment could be applied to the rush skill, which would now teleport the player to the target; thus eliminating the charge time on the skill.[53]

Class progression does not relate to a player's artisan progression.[60]

World events do not directly impact class effectiveness but there may be ancillary effects in terms of availability of equipment, enchantments or tattoos.[11]

Zones and progression

Dungeons, Raids, World bosses, Mobs, Quests, Events, Resources, Narratives and other content within a node's ZOI will have a diverse level range; but will scale with the advancement of that node and its racial influence.[61][62][63]

We don’t have a strictly level 25 zone. Instead, that zone might have some level 10 creatures near the road, some level 20 creatures deep in the forest, and some level 30 creatures up the mountain. These ratios will change based on the Nodes that inform them, becoming generally more dangerous as the Node grows. All this civilization attracts the attention of Things-That-Should-Not-Be. This does not mean that wilderness areas are safe, by any means. Some may be safe-er, but all will have dangers that even the most experienced traveler needs to watch out for.[64]Steven Sharif

Game design

When it comes to how MMO’s have been traditionally designed, most gamers are familiar with two distinct types of gameplay loops: the “theme park”, and the “sandbox”. The vast majority of MMO’s we’ve all seen come and go in the gaming industry have been of the theme park variety – these games put the player onto a specific path, guiding them along, with plenty of pretty sights in between the same old quest hubs, very little in divergent paths, virtually no freedom in player progression. Recently the MMO genre has seen some games of the sandbox nature come onto the scene, but despite the ultimate freedom the sandbox affords players, many are left wanting more, as there is by definition no pre built world content, no human touch, just the vastness of the “sand” for lack of a better term. Thus many MMO players often find themselves caught between the repetitive rock of the theme park or the vast dead spaces of the sandbox’s hard place. This chasm between the state of MMO gameplay loops is where we intend to inject Ashes of Creation’s Node system.[65]

In order for sandbox mechanics to mean something, there must be curated content to accompany the player’s choices. Which means, as the developers, we must create that Themebox style content but for every possible path the community may take.[66]Steven Sharif

Design pillars

The design of Ashes of Creation adheres to five main pillars.[67]

  1. Engaging and immersive story
  2. Reactive world
  3. Player interaction
  4. Player agency
  5. Risk vs reward

In designing Ashes of Creation, we adhere every detail to five main pillars: Engaging and Immersive Story, a Reactive World, Player Interaction, Player Agency, and Risk vs Reward. Even in the environment, everything you as the player do will tie into these pillars, while everything your guild does, everything your server does will ultimately keep the world fresh, ever-changing, and most importantly... exciting.[67]

Addons/mods

My decision is not to allow DPS meters nor add-ons. I feel we have adequate measures in place to prevent a majority of potential third party trackers. I know this subject has passionate voices on both sides and I respect the various opinions and positions many of you have expressed.[68]Steven Sharif

Addons and DPS meters will not be allowed.[68][69]

  • The developers don't want addons/mods to be necessary to experience the game.[70]
  • The design of the game API is still under consideration.[71]
  • There will be integrations available for streaming services such as Twitch and a few other services, but it's not something that will be exposed through an API just yet.[72]
  • The developers believe that parsers (DPS meters) can have negative effects.[73][69]

The idea is to make a one-stop-shop from the company when it comes to in-game systems... We don't really want to have addons in my opinion.[70]Steven Sharif

There will be leader boards.[74]

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Livestream, 4 June 2018 (7:25).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Interview, 19 July 2020 (14:51).
  3. Interview, 13 June 2021 (22:20).
  4. Interview, 19 July 2020 (17:12).
  5. Interview, 13 June 2021 (24:14).
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Video, 5 April 2018 (40:08).
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 Livestream, 30 September 2020 (1:07:22).
  8. 8.0 8.1 Interview, 24 August 2018 (8:52).
  9. 9.0 9.1 Podcast, 11 May 2018 (33:09).
  10. 10.0 10.1 Ashes of Creation Forums - No participation trophy.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Podcast, 11 April 2021 (54:35).
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Podcast, 11 April 2021 (18:35).
  13. 13.0 13.1 Video, 5 April 2018 (48:03).
  14. 14.0 14.1 Interview, 8 July 2020 (1:12:51).
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Video, 5 April 2018 (44:06).
  16. Video, 28 May 2021 (25:44).
  17. Video, 23 March 2020 (0:41).
  18. 18.0 18.1 Livestream, 28 August 2020 (1:19:24).
  19. Livestream, 3 May 2017 (17:59).
  20. Livestream, 8 April 2018 (PM) (41:44).
  21. steven-combat-revamp-update.png
  22. Video, 26 February 2021 (6:17).
  23. 23.0 23.1 Livestream, 28 May 2021 (1:13:05).
  24. Ashes of Creation Forums - No Damage Meter?
  25. Video, 5 April 2018 (49:36).
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Livestream, 30 October 2020 (33:26).
  27. 27.0 27.1 Interview, 20 October 2018 (2:40:17).
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Podcast, 23 April 2018 (59:28).
  29. 29.0 29.1 Podcast, 23 April 2018 (1:01:01).
  30. Livestream, 25 June 2021 (1:10:52).
  31. Interview, 20 October 2018 (2:53:52).
  32. Livestream, 19 May 2017 (51:52).
  33. Interview, 20 October 2018 (1:55).
  34. Livestream, 12 May 2017 (42:17).
  35. Livestream, 30 April 2021 (1:17:40).
  36. Livestream, 8 April 2018 (PM) (28:38).
  37. Interview, 20 October 2018 (2:53:53).
  38. 38.0 38.1 Livestream, 31 July 2020 (1:05:58).
  39. leveling.png
  40. Livestream, 24 May 2017 (46:27).
  41. Livestream, 25 July 2020 (1:33:37).
  42. 42.0 42.1 Interview, 13 June 2021 (48:27).
  43. 43.0 43.1 Livestream, 25 July 2020 (1:34:55).
  44. 44.0 44.1 February 8, 2019 - Questions and Answers.
  45. Livestream, 15 December 2017 (58:48).
  46. 46.0 46.1 Interview, 8 July 2020 (1:07:59).
  47. Livestream, 24 May 2017 (19:25).
  48. Livestream, 30 April 2021 (41:18).
  49. 49.0 49.1 49.2 Livestream, 15 May 2017 (26:13).
  50. Interview, 24 August 2018 (4:15).
  51. 51.0 51.1 Livestream, 27 September 2018 (52:41).
  52. 52.0 52.1 52.2 52.3 Interview, 18 July 2020 (1:05:04).
  53. 53.0 53.1 53.2 53.3 progression.png
  54. 54.0 54.1 Interview, 29 July 2020 (54:44).
  55. 55.0 55.1 Ashes of Creation class list.
  56. 56.0 56.1 Livestream, 28 July 2017 (19:05).
  57. archetypeclass.png
  58. Livestream, 3 May 2017 (50:50).
  59. Livestream, 18 July 2017 (37:43).
  60. Livestream, 31 July 2020 (1:31:11).
  61. Interview, 19 July 2020 (19:35).
  62. Livestream, 15 May 2017 (30:53).
  63. Blog - Know Your Nodes - The Basics.
  64. Interview: Ashes of Creation on Building Their Virtual World, 13 April 2017.
  65. A reactive world - Nodes.
  66. MMOGames interview, January 2017
  67. 67.0 67.1 design pillars.png
  68. 68.0 68.1 Ashes of Creation Forums - No Damage Meter?
  69. 69.0 69.1 Livestream, 5 May 2017 (20:02).
  70. 70.0 70.1 Interview, 20 October 2018 (6:29).
  71. Livestream, 5 May 2017 (21:41).
  72. Interview, 11 May 2018 (49:03).
  73. Livestream, 30 April 2020 (1:28:19).
  74. Livestream, 5 May 2017 (43:27).