Ashes of Creation began as one of 2017's most successful Kickstarter projects. Asking for a whopping $750,000, the prospective MMO managed to raise over $3.25 million from interested parties won over by its pitch. Since then, more details about the game's design have been coming out in various updates on Intrepid Studios' blog and social media channels.
For those unfamiliar with Ashes of Creation, the premise is that players take on the role of pioneers on a world that hasn't seen civilization for millennia. Players will be able to build communities and cities while exploring to uncover the secrets of the fallen world. Of course, that which can be built can also be destroyed, so player populations are expected to grow around cities, leading to the potential of organic, in-game wars to topple rival settlements. The goal is to create an organic MMO experience that forges a genuine world history for players and locations with something new always on the horizon.
Ashes of Creation will be a subscription-based game with a cash shop that offers additional customizations for characters beyond the basics found in character creation. When creating a character, players will have eight playable races to chose from as well as a combination of two archetypes. Those can be combined to create up to 64 unique classes for players to choose from.
The choices players make will supposedly have far-ranging consequences. The more player activity done in a certain area, the closer that area becomes to developing a settlement. Where a settlement is placed will have an effect on the surrounding monster populations as it grows. Quests will appear or disappear depending on how players choose to interact with the world. The focus of a settlement could wind up playing a huge role in the game for years to come. The effect players have on the world also means that no server running Ashes of Creation will ever be the same as another, presenting the opportunity for new adventures on other servers.
The economy of the world will also be driven by players. Trading can be an incredibly lucrative venture, but players will have to create and defend caravans to successfully pull off a trading mission. That might necessitate hiring other players to defend a caravan from other players looking to loot a fat trade mission. These caravans will determine what kinds of goods and services a settlement, village, or metropolis might be able to provide.
While the economy certainly lies players to cities and settlements, there are other mechanics in place that encourage players to invest time and effort into building up their home. When a player purchases a house in a new village, they can hold onto that property. If the village grows into a city, their house also grows. If that city turns into a metropolis, they will be in possession of a mansion. Owning property in a city grants citizenship, further tying a player to their homeland. Alternatively, players can settle far from cities and carve out their own existence in the wilderness.
Of course, there are more conventional activities aside from literal worldbuilding. Players who yearn for the thrill of questing will be able to explore the world to find new locations for a prospective settlement or uncover the entrance to a new dungeon of the old world. Intrepid Studios aims to make these hostile, dangerous, and slightly frightening places to venture into - making it a choice with benefits and drawbacks for players to weigh when considering an adventure of that nature. Who knows what lurks beneath the surface of a monster-infested world?
On the technical end of things, Ashes of Creation uses Unreal Engine 4 and will be optimized for PC hardware released within the last several years. There will be options for the game to be scaled up and down as needed.
The team working on Ashes of Creation has an extreme level of pedigree, with members that have worked on games like Everquest 1, Ever Quest 2, Everquest Next, Star Wars Galaxies, BioShock, Gears of War, Planetside 2, XCOM, and many other projects.
One thing that might give some people pause when looking into Ashes of Creation is the past of Steven Sharif, the creative director and CEO of Intrepid Studios. During the Kickstarter, some people noted that prior to making his fortune in real estate, he was involved with a company called XanGo, which is known for its multi-level marketing practices.
Multi-level marketing involves recruiting unpaid people who sell a company's products with their recruiter earning a slice of the sale. While technically legal, this strategy typically brings unfavorable comparisons to pyramid schemes. Sharif being involved and profiting from his participation in such a company wasn't seen in a positive light (for reference, studies have estimated that about 990-999 out of every 1000 participants in a multi-level marketing company wind up losing money).
Sharif gave an interview to Massively Overpowered to help clear the air. It turns out that he was recruited at 18 to sell XanGo's fruit shakes and vitamins. He managed to create a successful online store to sell these products and made money off of the sales that allowed him to go into real estate. He insists that while there are many companies that use the tactic in disreputable ways, there others like Avon, Marykay, and XanGo that operate on the level with a focus on selling products rather than recruiting people.
All of that being said, Sharif's intention to create an MMORPG that's different than anything currently on the market seems genuine. As a long-time MMO gamer, he sees himself in a financial position that enables him to create a game that bridges the gap between open-world, consequential titles and the MMO genre, which has traditionally seen more static worlds.
The overall impression of Ashes of Creation is positive. It possesses a vision of an interesting, vibrant world full of player-driven and reactive experiences. The possibility of a world built and governed by players certainly intrigues me.It leaves open the possibility for dramatic confrontations with a certain degree of real history and stakes that few games might be able to provide. The closest comparison I can think of is in EVE Online, where player controlled superweapons and battleships that take years to be built can all be wiped away by a colossal, coordinated raid. Applying that same mindset to cities built and maintained by players opens up a lot of possibilities.
While the exact release date of Ashes of Creation remains nebulous, expect to see the closed alpha begin later this year, possibly in December, and a full release either in late 2019 or early 2020.