MMORPG Interviews 2016-12-12

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Interviews: Intrepid Studios Aims to Breathe New Life into the MMORPG[1]

  • By William Murphy

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Intrepid Studios Aims to Breathe New Life into the MMORPG Ashes of Creation came out of nowhere recently to be one of the upcoming most wanted MMOs based on its premise and a couple of early trailers alone. In light of their impressive vision, we reached out to Intrepid Studios to speak with their Creative Director and Founder Steven Sharif.

MMORPG: So, let's get the basic one out of the way - What is Ashes of Creation, and just where the heck did you guys come from out of nowhere?

Steven Sharif: Ashes of Creation is our dream MMORPG. A reactive world that builds around the players and their actions. It's something that I have been wanting to create for a long time, being an avid MMO player since my first MMO the original Neverwinter that was $6/hour to play on AOL back in 1992... I really wanted to keep this project secret and safe over the past 9 months that we have been in pre-production. We wanted to make sure that what we build is feasible first. So, I brought together some very talented veterans in the industry, from tried tested and proven MMOs. We are now far enough along in that path to feel comfortable announcing ourselves.

MMORPG: A lot of the folks were from Daybreak and you're 13 people now - about how far along are you in dev?

SS: Of our 13 full-time Devs, three are from Sony, the rest of us come from diverse studios, including; 2K, Firaxis, Treyarch, Epic. We are 9 months into development and have most of our core systems wrapped up. We are planning to enter full production relatively soon.

MMORPG: You’re using Unreal 4 and there are folks who don’t feel like Unreal can do a massively scaled MMO with sieges, housing, mass PVP and PVE and so forth – how would you respond to them?

SS: We are aware of the concerns with using UE4 for those systems. We are not using UE4 as an out-of-the-box engine. There are things that UE4 does very well such as; Animation, playback, editing, graphical fidelity. The great thing about UE4 is that they give access to the source code which allows us to change what we need when we need it. UE4's greatest asset is its flexibility for the developer.

MMORPG: So it's more of the front end, while the back end is something of your own creation?

SS: To put it simply, yes.

MMORPG: Is it too early to ask about combat and how it’ll play in AoC? There are general two schools – traditional tab-target and action-based. Where does your game lie?

SS: We are more fitted towards a traditional tab-targeted system, but we are implementing elements of mobility and positioning for our combat. We will have a more in-depth discussion of this system in our developer blogs soon.

MMORPG: The FAQ mentions PVP and PVE playing integral roles. Let’s go with PVP first – what is the main purpose of competing players in AoC, and will it be consensual combat? Will there be separate PVE and PVP servers, etc?

SS: So, PvP is an important and integrated aspect of many systems in AoC. From our trade networks to our cities and castle systems, PvP is one of the primary engines for change in our world. We want every system in our game to be meaningful, and this means that we disincentivize griefing and ganking severely through our flagging system, while incentivizing cooperation and community building. We want people to fight, but not murder each other.

MMORPG: You describe AoC as a very sandboxy sounding game with the housing, crafting, no factions, and so forth. But what role will PVE play? Will there be hundreds of ?’s and !s’ everywhere, or is the PVE something else altogether?

SS: PvE is something else altogether. We are blowing up the traditional structure of question marks everywhere, and creating a reactive system that changes with the events of the server. There is so much we have to say about this subject in particular. We want to separate the traditional questing system into; Storylines, tasks, and events. These will include roles for; single players, groups, raids and in some scenarios the entire server. The storyline will hold a heavy emphasis in our player's experience. Our MMO is just as important as our RPG.

MMORPG: That is fantastic to hear. Along those lines - there are folks who think the MMO is a genre on the decline. Obviously, we just feel that it’s a genre in need of new blood and new ideas. We’re seeing a ton of Indie development, but few games seem to have the funding to pull off their goals. Does Intrepid have the dollars to back their ideas?

SS: We are completely aware of the MMO environment nowadays. It is one of the reasons that we decided to take the initiative to create new blood and new ideas in Ashes of Creation. I personally was tired of seeing MMO after MMO miss the mark. Make promises and not deliver. Our project is privately funded, largely from yours truly. We want to have freedom from corporate overlords, which is why we intend to engage the community in crowd sourcing this project.

MMORPG: If you don’t mind my asking, where’d you get the funding to make your own MMO? What’s your personal background if not games? You ran the White Order, right?

SS: While I was growing up, I got involved early in the business world. It took a large portion of my time and as such I found a social outlet in the communities of MMORPG's. I used my success in business, as a road to our development here at Intrepid Studios. This project is something more than another business venture for me... It is a passion. I want to right the MMO ship... Back to what made it great.... again? *laughs*

MMORPG: Crafting, and housing, are two features everyone wants in their MMO, but few developers seem to really pay it the attention it deserves. Both rarely serve a real purpose beyond checking off a box in a feature list. Will AoC’s crafting, economy, and housing be different? Few crafting systems are truly fun to “play”, you know?

SS: Let's hit housing first. Housing means more in our game than just, "Look! I have a house" It is integrated, like many of our systems, into many aspects of our game. It relates to the economy, PvE, PvP... It represents your stake in the world. Your house grows with you essentially, and with the world. Players will have vast customization when it comes to defining their space, beyond merely cosmetic.

On crafting, we have seen what other MMO's have made from crafting, and we are not impressed. We want to make crafting desirable, and a rewarding labor. It will be a central pillar of our economy. This is a huge system that we will be touching on a great deal, in our blogs. We want to make that player, who devotes his time to crafting, become legendary in his community.

MMORPG: The Node system (FAQ description here) sounds really intriguing. With worlds that are always different, always changing, how do you even begin to program something like that? Do you have an idea of where the worlds are headed once you launch, where the story goes, or is it all player-driven?

SS: Of all our systems, this is the most defining, and one we have the most clarity on. Again, our systems are all connected in some way or another. The node system is both player driven and story driven. Simply put, there is an overarching storyline, but how players navigate that story, is completely in their own hands.

MMORPG: But if they make choices, and one server goes one route, and others go another direction - how does the team deal with those divergent stories?

SS: Did you ever read those books as a kid, that allowed you to "choose your own adventure"? Without getting into content that will be best defined in a developer's blog, our servers will determine their path based on the actions of the community. Because we are focused on an overarching singular narrative, it gives us space to explore those divergent storylines, from a developer’s pipeline standpoint.

And we want our players to have different experiences from server to server.

MMORPG: How does character progression work in AoC? Does the game and character growth “end” at the level cap?

SS: Part of our focus, on this ever-changing world we are creating, is to give our players new content that becomes available as a reaction to the community’s progression and choices. Progression in AoC is both traditional and unique, in the sense that there is the staple leveling and RPG elements in the world but also, player driven content that is deeply intertwined with curated designer content. The "end-game" notion is really one we are trying to redefine... We don't want there to be an end to our game.

MMORPG: Let’s talk lore – can you share any details about the story, and tell us how the player fits into the world?

SS: I don't want to reveal too much, because the story is really near and dear to our hearts. I can say the players are heroes just for stepping through the portal. This world they are entering has been void of civilization for millennia, and it is up to the player to uncover the many secrets of this unfamiliar place. Because we are making a MASSIVELY multiplayer game we focus a lot on motivating the community to work together. We are spending a lot of time on both the micro and macro experience.

MMORPG: Just so long as we’re not all Emperor or Special Snowflakes that save the world by ourselves. Finally, a multi-part one: When can we expect to learn more, and play the game ourselves? Will the game still be made regardless of KS success?

SS: We will be releasing content blogs regularly, and will explore many systems that our game includes. We are dedicated to making this game, and we really want to answer to our community, rather than shadowy corporate overlords. That being said, if for some reason our crowdsourcing misses the mark, we will not shy away from pursuing other avenues of support to help us realize our vision.

You will always be a special snowflake to me, though.

MMORPG: Thanks a ton for your time, Steven. We really appreciate it, and we can’t wait to see what you and Intrepid have to offer. We’re really hoping you pull it off.

SS: Thank you, and have a great day!



All of the flora, fauna (creatures), structures, sounds, and weather define the environment players will explore.