I had the opportunity to sit down with Steven Sharif, the Founder and Creative Director of Intrepid Studios – currently working on Ashes of Creation.

Within moments of starting the interview, Sharif’s stated his goal with Ashes of Creation is to “change the genre back to what it’s meant to be which is a massive experience, where communities get to come together”, so I delved right into this point,

MMO Central (MMOC): I’m going to stop you right there. That is extremely exciting for me to hear. I interview people all the time, how they’re changing the genre. Like, they’re creating something new, which is exciting, but I think there’s a lot of great things in the MMO’s we have had in our past and the ones we are playing right now that create a lot of entertainment for the masses.

Steven Sharif (SS): Yes.

MMOC: But there’s nothing wrong with blending something new, with something you already love

SS: Absolutely, I 100% agree with that. So there’s… There’s two terms that we like to use – innovation and traditional. And it sometimes is difficult to find the blend between the two, because they’re diametrically opposed. Something innovative is something new, and traditional is something old. But the thing is, sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and some systems don’t need to be reinvented. That’s what keeps us coming back to the MMORPG genre. So Ashes of Creation is striving to both implement some innovative things as well as keeping to the basics of what makes the genre so nostalgic for many of us. Our first experiences in an MMORPG. Something that allows us to really feel at home, and why we love this thing to begin with.

This naturally led into a conversation as to Sharif’s first MMO experiences, which began for him with Neverwinter Nights on AOL (back when it was $6 an hour) and reminiscing on the heavy bills he ran up as a seven year old child that upset his mother (though evidently not too much, as shown by the fact his mother was working the Intrepid booth while I was there).

Speaking of the booth, lines ran around the it and people were reportedly churning the line twice – leaving and going back to the end of the line to get the other experience. For full disclosure, I was in the first team to attempt the PvE boss and I played the tank. The deaths were many, and I think the dev helping us might to have had to carry us more than normal but I do believe we were the first to kill this boss at 9:15 am on Friday

For those who were unable to make it, Intrepid have shared a visual look back at PAX West with this handy video…

I also asked Sharif for a quick run down of their appearance at PAX West and he was more than happy to oblige.

SS: So first of all, we announced our Alpha-zero which will be December 15th, 2017, and really it’s going to be an extension of the open world experience here at PAX today. We’re going to broaden it out, make it bigger, we’re going to have progression pads, a little bit of progression available. And that’s going to give people an ability to come in and play-test some of the mechanics and systems that we have in place. It’s very important for us to get as much community feedback as possible, which is why being here at PAX today is so awesome. Because it allows players to come in and get a taste of exactly what we’re talking about, even though it’s something that’s completely unpolished, something that’s a first iteration of what we intend to do. It at least shows them — hey, we’re in it to win it; we’re here to produce something that you’re going to love, and we want to show you that we’re doing this production on a fast schedule, something to get out to you that’s not going to take ten years to develop.

Speaking of time to develop, I quizzed Sharif on their iterative development process which he ran me through briefly, explaining that some builds are scrapped as errors and bugs are found – the pre-alpha build available on the PAX show floor was reportedly “not as interactive as we would have liked it to be but that’s because we were in a crunch for PAX”.

Intrepid is planning to have a number of alphas and betas to allow the community to have their input into their iterative development with the first alpha due on December 15th (only available to certain “raffle” winners – from participants of both their crowdfunding and website).

Of course, I could not let this opportunity pass without turning the interview to my favorite topic of Economic PvP and having seen details of the Node System I had a few questions.

MMOC: I see a path to Econ PvP there. I watched all the videos, and I love the Twitch.tv pieces about nodes; one city succeeding, two of them struggling or even in decline and that seems great. I understand the combat mechanics related to that. Tell me how Econ PvP can happen? How can I can impact the world without a sword in my hand?

SS: That’s a good question. As nodes advance, they unlock certain services and/or mechanics as well as the story lines, and stuff like that. If your city has competitive cities nearby, nodes can combat those cities without having to go to war. They can literally have certain quest chains that are related to performance that involve gathering or certain resources, the development of certain craftable items.

The amount of production that’s present within its zone of influence all of those things are kept in a metric value that can be competed against each other. So the performance of the crafters in one city can compete against the performance of the crafters in another city. And those competing performances relate to not only the development of the node, but also to what type of recipes can become available, what type of NPC merchants can become attracted to which node, and they can’t be attracted to both, so there’s a competitive nature for that. And that’s going to drive more traffic to your node, if you’re performing better than your rivals.

MMOC: So the meta-game itself can contribute to the actual lifting and decline of nodes, not only by getting a bunch of warriors in plate mail and storming the city?

SS: I would venture to say that there are more mechanics oriented towards the meta-game than there is towards battle and PVP with regards to rivalry between nodes.There’s really only a single function with PVP that directly affects a nodes level, and that is the CG mechanic. There’s a whole host of other systems that are designed to create rivalry and friction, but also, if you choose this path, cooperation and trade and agreement as well.

Of course, there’s no completion if everyone can grind up every skill so I queried Sharif on the possibility of mastering every skill, which he reassured me was not possible.

SS: I have been very clear when it comes to the purview of our game. We are not an “everybody gets a trophy” styled game. We’re going back to risk versus reward, hard work yields satisfying rewards, basically. Not everybody can be a master of everything. You’re going to have to pick and choose the direction that you’re going to want to go in and you’re going to find that niche where you’re the best, but you’re not going to be a master of all trades.

Finally, I asked a bit of an open question for Sharif, requesting three items of interest for anyone who has not been following Ashes of Creation.

SS: Alright. That’s a good question.  So, first and foremost, we’re back to getting a massive experience in a vast open world; none of that highly-instance things which are geared towards small kind of knit groups of people. We want large raids; that’s the first thing.

The second, is that you as a player don’t just have an illusion of choice when it comes to directing the narrative in your game. In this MMORPG, the community will dictate the path of the world. There is a linear history that people will experience based off the choices made by their peers and them.

The last thing that I would tell people is that Ashes of Creation is this is highly collaborative project; we want the development of our game to be reflective of the community that’s involved, and if you want to watch something grow into a historic game, something that’s going to change the genre, come and be a part of it early and help us with that give and take of information, that feedback that tells us how our community feels about these things we’re putting into the game.

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James "Anhrez" Burke-Frazier

Staff Writer at MMO Central
James Burke-Frazier, or Anhrez to his frenemies and enemies alike on Auction Houses across the MMO spectrum, has been actively playing and talking about games for the last 10+ years. Accumulating wealth in games is as much of a passion for him as clearing a raid boss or gaining a fancy title in PvP. In the real world he works in Financial Services software (think Bob from Office Space) and is quite possibly the worst FPS player you’ll ever find.
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