Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Ashes AMA

 Let me be a beacon of darkness in the hype around the recent AMA (ask me anything) with our MMO savior Steve over at Ashes of Creation.  I'm worried about some of the answers that were given.

 First go ahead and watch the video (or summary embedded at the bottom of the post).

 First, the AMA started out on a great topic of guild management and I was happy to hear Steven talk about wanting to build a toolset for guild management in game.  In theory this is a fine desire, but I worry whether the dev team knows enough of how guilds need to be managed in the game prior to it's release to really do it correctly.  

 This isn't a knock on the dev team and again I want to say I'm happy to hear they want to include guild management features.  However, this is a "you don't know what you don't know" scenario so I hope they stay high level in the tools until after launch and they see how players actually play the game.  Personally I'm a believer in letting the community solve needs for tools like this because they will get to it faster and deliver it more to the players needs and it's not at the expense of development in other areas of the game.  With that said; I'm interested to see what the devs come up with for Ashes.

 The next question that intrigued me from the AMA was around the open world (i.e. non-instanced) dungeons and how Steven spoke about them.  He spent a lot of time talking about groups carving out their little part of the dungeon.  Loot is limited so a zerg can't show up and all get a reward; only a small number of players will.  That sounds promising and I hope they figure this out but I'll be surprised if they deter the zerg approach that most players tend to take.

 Another good question was around node (aka player controlled areas of the world) and griefing.  The answer let me down though.  Steven talked about guilds/nodes initiating war against each other to settle conflicts which sounds good on paper but is a moot point the moment the griefer just logs out and logs on their other account.  We need to know more about the mechanics here before I will be convinced that players won't quit a month in because they are tired of the grief.

 Later in the AMA the topic of PvP TTK (time to kill) comes up and I personally feel like the question was presented poorly and then answered only somewhat.  Steven gave the expected answer of "squishy DPS will be squishy" and "tanky tank will be tanky" so TTK will vary.  Ideally the question could of been phrased around do they see this as a FPS style TTK where its measured in seconds or is it meant to have more drawn out battles.  This is an important aspect to get right in PvP.

 While the question and answer disappointed with TTK it did bring up the topic of zergs and how Ashes will combat them.  I was less than impressed on the answer though.  Steven's answer was "skill".  Skill is what will defeat zergs.  If you are better you will just smash down waves of enemy players.  That is easy to say and far harder to realize.  

 To actually get to this answer then that means good groups will be able to make themselves so overpowered that not even the biggest zerg can wipe them out.  That basically means you have to create completely broken classes and abilities or combinations of such.  I just don't buy it.  Zergs suck but they are part of the modern MMO experience so we need to see more on how much of what Steven talked about in the AMA doesn't just get run over by the first streamer army that shows up.

 In some other answers in the AMA Steven gave me some tidbits I am worried about.  He talks a lot about nodes and travel where each node is different than another and one group may run their node for X reason and another might target Y.  Travel between will be manual or via caravans (i.e. slow) and each node is unlikely be self sufficient.

 On paper all of these ideas make sense just like similar ideas made sense when New World launched with local trading posts and limited fast travel.  The problem: it is not fun.  In fact it is annoying if the only way I can do something is spending a portion of my time running from A to B.  Just like New World experienced so will Ashes: players will realize the game doesn't respect their time and they are gone once the new shiny wears off on the game.

 Maybe I am wrong and this will all work out.  I am personally interested in seeing if they can make it work but it uncorks so many questions and possible problems.  What happens when the inevitable fall off of players post release when the buzz dies down?  Server merges seem like a disaster for Ashes to consider but also it sounds like it will be fairly miserable on an empty server.  

 Ashes can create an amazing game but if there is friction everywhere a player turns then it limits the audience to players willing to put up with the friction for some sense of meta game that the average player doesn't graps.  None of what Steven is saying about the systems -- be it dungeons, guild management, nodes, slow travel, caravans, etc -- says to me this game is going to work well without coordinated groups of players.  There are too many games on the market to put a bunch of friction in Ashes and expect players to stick around and I worry about risk of once one key group member leaves because of it the group dissolves and leaves as well.  

 Is Steven ultimately build a house of cards?  That's my take so far and we need some harder hitting AMAs on how he envisions this all coming together (and not taking another 10 years to do so).

TLDW video summary

The provided transcript is from a live stream AMA (Ask Me Anything) session focused on "Ashes of Creation," a highly anticipated MMORPG. During this session, the game's creator, Steven Sharif, is joined by four prominent content creators from the game's community. They discuss various aspects of the game, including guild tools, story arcs, dungeon designs, node types, and crafting systems, among others. Here's a summary organized into sections with bullet points for clarity.

Introduction and Content Creators' Introduction

  • Steven Sharif introduces the AMA session and welcomes four content creators: Vladis, Jamie Chaos, Sunny (from L Forge), and Nice.
  • Each content creator briefly shares their excitement and the communities they represent.

Guild Tools in Ashes of Creation

  • Steven talks about the importance of guild tools and mentions features like offline messaging, forum connectivity, data on player performance in events, and administrative tools for guild leaders.

Story Arcs and Player Level System

  • The game will have story arcs catering to different player levels, with some designed for high-level content and others for a broader range of levels.

Dungeons and Player-versus-Environment (PvE) Content

  • Discussion on non-instanced dungeons' size and complexity to accommodate multiple groups and PvX potential.
  • Specific dungeons, like the Tower of Carin, designed to support multiple parties with distinct levels and challenges.

Tulnar Civilization and Lore

  • The Tulnar, having lived underground for a long time, have a tribal, city-state-like civilization with significant achievements in construction and development.

Customization and Diversity for Tanks and Healers

  • Steven addresses concerns about customization for tanks and healers, emphasizing the secondary archetype system for hybrid gameplay styles.

Mechanisms Against Node Griefing

  • Guild wars and node wars are mechanisms to counteract griefing through land management and resource depletion by enemy nodes.

Costs and Benefits of Active Blocking

  • Discusses the stamina resource associated with active block, dodge, and other universal skills, and how skill points can be allocated for enhancements.

Discoverable Dialect in Ashes of Creation

  • While current incantations are ad-libbed, there's interest in developing more fleshed-out dialects and languages for the game's cultures in the future.

Trial Quests for Archetypes

  • Steven explains that while players can switch secondary archetypes, there's no current plan for trial quests before making a selection.

Passive Skills Available to Smaller Guilds

  • Smaller guilds can focus on enhancing their passive skills as a strategic choice, with details on how guild structure affects passive abilities.

Intended Time to Kill in PvP

  • The intended time-to-kill (TTK) in PvP scenarios ranges based on player levels, gear scores, and archetypes, aiming for skillful play to overcome numbers.

Guild Freeholds in Ashes of Creation

  • Details on guild freeholds offering expandable plots for members and the central guild hall providing unique benefits and customization options.

Weapon Types and Dual-Wielding

  • A list of weapon types available at Alpha 2's launch, details on dual-wielding mechanics, and clarification on shields not having a weapon tree but being part of universal skills.

The session concludes with Steven Sharif thanking the content creators and the community for participating in the AMA, highlighting the engaging and informative discussion that took place.

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