Talk:2018-04-05 Video - PAX East Panel

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Is it working now? It's working. Good morning everybody! Welcome to PAX East! How's everybody feeling? no snow go Bruins! I don't know that we're in Boston. Right, I am very excited and very humbled to be up here, to be able to talk to you about Ashes of Creation and the best part is I don't get to do the talking. These guys get to do the talking. Ashes of Creation is a new MMORPG that is in development at Intrepid Studios, made by these gentlemen here *gestures* and I'm excited to see MMO fans in the audience because I've been playing MMOs all the way back to Ultima Online, and it's a great, I don't call it a genre anymore, because every game is an MMO, but this one really, really captures the fantasy epic feeling that we've all had in MMOs coming through the past few years. So, with absolutely no further MMO talk we're gonna go right to Ashes of Creation talk. So, let me introduce the team and they're gonna tell you a little bit about themselves.


Sitting next to me is Mat Broome he is the lead character artist and he gets to make all of you look absolutely amazing in beautiful armor. So Mat, tell us your game history.

Sure, my name is Mat Broome I've been making mmo's for almost 20 years. I'll give you my more recent ones the last game I did was h1z1 art director character lead before that I did planetside 2 we broke the Guinness record for most players on a server before that we did DC Universe I was art director on that and character lead as well the visual director for the PlayStation 3 Playstation 4 and PC and currently I'm at what I think is the best job I've ever had which is Intrepid making the most ambitious MMO I've ever made and being character lead there where I think we are going to shatter expectations [Applause]


I love it the man next to him with a big smile is Jeff Baird

Jeff Baird?

Bard ph my god Bard Bard

He went to Bard college by the way

He went to Bard college

He plays a Bard he's a big fan of Bart tail Jeff Jeff I the R looks like an I still ten o'clock but Jeff is lead game designer and he has an incredibly rich history that he's going to tell you about

Yeah I grew up at Sony Online Entertainment started there in 2003 live breathe did everything MMOs I've worked on every side of the game design process worked on Star Wars Galaxies worked on EverQuest 2 a lot but yeah I mean it was it's something that kind of gets into your soul and once you're kind of a part of that genre it's really hard to go anywhere else and that's one of the reasons why I'm so excited to be with Intrepid Studios is because we can really take game design a step further in this genre and kind of get out of this stale sort of samey samey thing that we've been doing for the last ten years so I can't wait to get this in you guy's hands

Very cool


Awesome awesome [Applause] the next person on the panel is one of my favorites because I love getting his phone calls even if they're like 7:00 a.m. in the morning we always have great talks which is which is so much fun and that that's the person who's bringing this to life view which is CEO and creative director Steven Sharif.

My most recent project is Ashes of Creation. Before that, I was a hardcore MMO player I've been playing MMOs since 25 years ago I was seven years old played Neverwinter on AOL when it was $6 by the hour to play it was my first game you know for me I had a rich history in business successful and you know I retired and really what I wanted to do was create a studios that could make what I felt was missing in the genre you know I was not very happy with the direction that developments were going in and being in San Diego and having access to some of the most talented developers in the industry to bring onboard to this project was just a no-brainer and you know I'm really happy with with where the Ashes of Creation has gone since we announced the title beginning of 2017 and of 2016 actually I think we're making unbelievable progress and I really can't wait to show everybody what what we have in store for them and what this project can really bring to the genre


Awesome [Applause] next to Steven is one of the guys with one of the toughest jobs which is a lead technical designer so he he's buried behind his keyboard all days but uh that this is Akil Hooper thank you

Hey so me I've been in the industry for about 18 years 19 years something like that and I worked on EverQuest and EverQuest 2 where I was a lead designer creative director I was creative director for both EverQuest and Everquest 2 I was a lead designer at Disney Interactive for a little while I was a designer and a producer for obsidian on Fallout in Vegas so yeah I'm happy to be here I'm excited I know what else we're gonna come back to this and talk more you come back about what we do so

I worked on Fallout Vegas that's very exciting yeah cool [Applause]


And and like me he's probably one of the few guys who played Dungeons & Dragons first edition when I did back when I was six years old Michael Bacon who has a he's the lead environmental artist and he is an incredibly rich history so Michael tell us about uh about your past in games

Incredibly old I go back a long long way I've been in the industry for over twenty years now I think started off in a small startup company in Wilsonville Oregon working on console stuff and then just kind of kept going and let's see yeah I started working I was working on some Duke some of the Duke Nukem console things and moved on to gamla commander oh what else [cross-talk] how much trash talk you do on the internet or online or whatever I'm really not good at talking [laughter] but anyway I worked on EverQuest the EverQuest franchise for like over a decade working on pretty much all the EverQuest 2 expansions eleven of them well I guess they've made more since I moved on but yeah so kind of took the environment track really into making gigantic ridiculously big worlds and then I picked up with the studio here and I love the culture and yeah so I guess that's I mean the our mantra is pretty much go big or go home so he picked the right guy for that

You went big we all saw it look at the gameplay I love that it's gameplay and not cinematic trailer by the way that's the best part show gameplay that's what we're all gonna be doing right so I wanted to ask and you guys can decide who the best answer this question is one of the great things about Ashes of Creation is you're bringing MMOs back but you're bringing them back in a fantastic new way with a lot of different mechanics that we're really going to be excited about so give it give us kind of the brief history of from a game design standpoint what Ashes is and and kind of the story behind how you're bringing it up


Well Ashes of Creation is an open-world non faction based high fantasy MMORPG and some of my most I think favorite times that I've had in MMOs is when there were these massive battles they were just massive content of players that we're always present in the starting areas it's always difficult to get back to that kind of nostalgia

That first one


That first hit

And and I think that that from a high level perspective that was obviously I our objective was like we want to feel that again and obviously that's the chase that kind of every MMO player that's been around for a while is going for but with with Ashes of Creation a lot of our systems are designed around community bringing people together and offering them a way to really shape the world around them and I know for many of you who are following Ashes of Creation already we often talk about our node system but really that's the core design structure of the game is that the world is built through these systems that then grant access to different services different storylines housing crafting pretty much everything that you can imagine an MMO can be is built through this system that's directed by the players and wave where they are and where they choose to be in the world

Yeah I'm one of the one of the things we did was we kind of broke down what makes an MMO different from any other game out there and it's really about the people who are playing it right like all the best stories from an MMO come from doing ridiculous things that are outside of what the normal like proscribed gameplay is right and those are my favorite stories to hear those are my favorite stories to tell and so it's looking at how we can give tools to the community to create those moments and to kind of reintroduce the idea of like a band of people coming together and doing something together you can't get that in any other genre so we're really trying to lean into that and give everybody the opportunity to really make a difference in the world



Cool awesome awesome next on our list is some we really want to allow each team member to talk we talked about their history but we'll talk about what you're working on in the project I mean Mat you're the character artist so so all these guys in the audience they get to create their own characters they get I'm excited for your orcs I know I know their different names but I'm a big fan so so when you're going in and and sitting down at your desk every day what's what's it like for you to build out these character templates that everyone in the room is gonna be playing?

It's a lot of fun I mean it's complex I mean though the whole thing about MMO with the characters which I mean this room probably knows it's about how scalable they are and how good they can look when they're scaled in volume right so that's that's always the puzzle that you're dealing with so on Ashes of Creation it is it's by far the most races and unique looks that I'll have ever done in a game and that's regardless of EverQuest and other titles I've made even spend time on Star Wars Galaxies this is this is ambitious so what we're really doing now is we're solving some hard problems on scaling high quality character assets so what I do every morning is we come in and we figure out how can we give each one of these looks, truly unique visual aesthetics but at the same time not cheat the quality volume. Steven makes it really clear we shoot for the moon every day so we're trying to make the best MMO characters with the highest detail level running at 16 FPS real-time on servers at a single day we play test every single week so it's it's a different studio because we are constantly benchmarking and testing the game the characters we're not just making pretty art and hoping it works two years from now so it's different

And I think that's why you mentioned early Garret about game plays seeing game play I think for us and and it was important to to let the community see the development of the game like real-time development and that's that's been kind of rare I think in the MMORPG specific interested in the game industry as well because it's a two-edged sword right I mean when you're seeing something that's a work-in-progress that's being built in real-time obviously you're gonna have a percentage of the population that says oh that's the end product it doesn't look great


And then you're also going to have the benefit which is the other side of the sword where players the community which MMORPGs are the most unique community in the gaming industry I mean they're the most unique genre there's no other game that's like the connectivity the social interactions the guilds the things that bring us together as players and we want that process that discussion that that inner connection between the developers and the community in this project as it develops it's so important for us as developers to see the real-time feedback we can jump in discord we can jump on our forums we can send out mails whatever it is to see real-time feedback from the community about the strides were making in development and part of what Matt was discussing with regards to to how character pipelines getting set up right now is we want the most in-depth possible character tree for players to be able to to work with with regards to either their look or the creation of that character it's going to be pretty in-depth

And pretty

And pretty

And pretty well yeah but it's it's a it's both I mean that's the best part right you've been high functioning characters who can do the great super powers and and amazing attacks that they're gonna put together but also you're looking at that screen every day you want to see the cool stuff the effects of the clothing the armor it's it's awesome so I'm very jealous of Mat's job and I'm a horrible artist I can draw stick figures with swords that's but

I'm gonna tell you something interesting about Mat is when we're in art meetings and in the conference room sometimes he will sit with his sketch pad and he'll just start freestyling on the sketch pad and it blows me away what in ten minutes this guy can make on a sketch pad it is unbelievable

Mat's background is incredible everybody should look it up because he's he's around

I want to put those sketch pads in like a museum

Put them up put it let's post a little do blog post

Yeah concept art


Cool Jeff you you tackle a lot of systems in the game and you're you're kind of the guy as lead game designer so tell us tell her but what's your day-to-day like what are you what are you building for what challenges are you building for them to accomplish or epicly triumph over

Yeah it's it's really about talking with Steven everyday interpreting what he says and turning that and spreading that out to it to the team so that we can kind of build on that vision it's a it's a big project right and it's about trying to find the quickest simplest way to do the things that Stephen wants so we don't get lost in the weeds so that we don't spend a lot of time wandering around the wilderness and then we take 8 years to push it out right it's about finding solutions quickly finding the right solutions and then implementing those solutions we are a very iterative studio so we're constantly putting stuff in game testing things out trying to see the trying to find the fun every day is different right it's it's there's no two days that are the same in the studio and that's one of the really cool parts about it right there's no there's no sense of drudgery it's all really exciting work that we're doing and we're really pushing the envelope on what design can do in an MMO I mean just the simple like if anybody has played the experience the utility abilities of the characters right that's a system that you are not gonna find in any other MMO it's a way to tell a story that doesn't involve any words and it's a way to bring life to to the world right and it's such a core part of the gameplay and such a fun system to work with because we have these options that we wouldn't have otherwise so again it's a lot of discovery a lot of implementation a lot of really hard work and long days but at the end of the day we're creating something really awesome so

And I think the cool thing is like even though it like it's a lot of hard work with a lot of long days but at the end of the day you get to see what you worked on that day implemented right in the game [cross-talk]

Yeah really good

And I think that the most important thing for us is that we're able to get up and running very quick with these ideas on an iteration process in the game

Everybody knows what they're doing that's that's one of the really cool things we have a studio that's full of experts which is pretty rare the MMO industry isn't huge there's not a lot of people with our background and all of us together form Voltron and we kind of I don't know it's already not had an experience like this before so it's really refreshing

To add one of the things we like to do a lot is we argue so not a lot we argue a lot about but one of the things we like to do at the end of an argument is like let's just play test that let's just see how that works because there's no no better way to tell who won the argument than to play test it and see what falls on the floor [cross-talk]

We can theory-craft all day long but that's that's theory-crafting is so different than actually playing it and doing it


Yeah I think I think that makes perfect sense

I'm usually right

Wow between the two of them

Okay Steven do you want to talk a little bit about your your day to day?

Yeah absolutely so every day for me coming into that office I got to tell you the the most exciting thing is honestly the culture that we've built. I'm coming into this industry as a newbie from an from an industry standpoint not as a gamer but from an industry standpoint I've heard interesting stories about other studios and those cultures that exist and and what we've built at Intrepid is a lot of fun I mean at the end of the day it is a lot of fun to be able to work with people that have the experience that these developers have that have the passion for gaming that these developers have and that have the atmosphere in the office where we can express our experiences as gamers as well as developers and and come to a fun playable game that we can look at so I mean my experience is when I come in I'm giving kind of these these overarching ideas for for the game how I want systems to kind of play out and then I confer with my designers on how they can best implement those systems in the game and and bring them to life, but at the end of the day also what I didn't realize when I first got started was just how much of literally everything that's going on you must know and I will admit that my greatest weakness from an understanding standpoint was was anything that had to revolve around engineering the technical side of things. I had a very firm understanding of design because I played a lot of things I've experienced a lot of different designs I know what systems kind of work or decay a servers integrity from a community standpoint and and I wanted to avoid those things but from an engineering standpoint. I really had to to very heavily rely on what my engineers were telling me but over the past couple of years now having been immersed in that I've gained a better foothold and understanding those those things but what what I'm trying to get to is as creative director and then also CEO you're dealing with all the business things you're dealing with the design you're dealing with engineering you're dealing with art you're dealing with concept theorycrafting you're dealing with marketing press all of those things kind of just make your head explode a little bit but I think that that I underestimated maybe at the get-go just how much I needed to to fully grasp on all of those subjects at the same time and but it's been a lot of fun I got to tell you the most

And look where it's gotten us

Absolutely the most the most amazing part of what I get to experience is being interactive with the community and seeing on on discord on our social mediums the excitement from the players seeing this come to life like in real-time seeing it happen is the most rewarding thing for me and I know for the team it's a major morale booster it gets us excited it is something we feed off of when we get to show people the progress we're making

Yeah talking with everybody yesterday and I'm sure talking to be here today like it's it's so cool to talk to you guys and to hang out with you. We're creating this together right it's not just up here we're doing the thought process it's all out there too without you guys we couldn't do this so it's fun


How many you guys are on the discord? look at that see see yeah how many you guys played it on the show floor yet? nice who hasn't played it on the show floor yet? all right welcome back since Friday all they get to cut the line

There you go

So Akhil tell us about it and as Steve were just talking about engineering and tell us about the technical side

So my job is pretty similar to Jeff's but I I focus on taking those things taking those ideas and making sure that they're very portable because when we have something like the reveal system that Jeff was talking was talking about we need to we're gonna need to implement that like thousands of times in the world and each of those instances of it have to be implemented quickly they need to be able to be debugged quickly and so I focus a lot on making sure that that stuff can be can be repeated and debugged and replicated very easily and quickly aside from that I've been working a lot on abilities just making sure that the ability systems works and yeah when you push a button the right thing happens and then happens again and keeps happening [cross-talk]

And doesn't crash the server

And then doesn't crash the server which is a kind of task sometimes but yeah I love just like just Jeff every everywhere every day is different like I don't know if I'm going to be working with NPC AI or with abilities or with world events or with with nodes so and I just love the challenge I love the surprise I love that I'm constantly engaged yeah

It's kind of funny too because it's Jeff and Akil are being like super humble so just coming from years of doing MMOs typically at other companies designers and disciplines are kind of kept in their lanes if you will I have never worked on an MMO where I walk in and see designers doing what they're doing Akil will be doing code in the morning and design site implementation into Unreal in the evening I've never seen that

I don't recommend that because there's nothing worse than having to be the coder that you yell at for a design system that's broken [corss-talk] you don't want you don't want that you go and you look like I hate myself [cross-talk]

Akil will be literally blaming himself for stuff he's not done with yet yeah I can hear it we sit right next to each other I'm just cracking up and Jeff will do things like recently I had a problem where we wanted to see the characters run around in the client in their own little whiteboard whiteboard is like this testing environment and Jeff put this together in six hours and I mean I can't even tell you I I've been in this engine for like 16 years?

Something like that yeah

And I couldn't have built it so these guys are doing stuff in there that is amazing in the engine there and Steven's kind of set up this environment where if you see a hole that needs to be filled you just walk over pick up a shovel and fill it yeah so you you end up having designers doing some code artists doing technical stuff it's just it's very non-traditional and I think that's why you guys see turnarounds this fast from Kickstarter because we're not in meetings trying to figure out how many people watch while someone digs everyone you just pick up a shovel and start digging and if people go wait look somebody's filling a hole and it was run over and everybody will start filling in a hole and solving the problems it's it's a very different vibe [cross-talk]

I love your metaphors

Yeah we don't have our own we all have our own roles but we also wear a lot of hats and when problems come up but we just sort of spread and whoever's best and good at doing that job just take it over I think what's really amazing about the studio is just the flexibility that we have too work on this stuff and and also the way we're pushed, well we're not really pushed, I mean we push ourselves, that when we come in like the time the thing we do yesterday is not you know we're gonna do better today we're gonna to go bigger better and just constantly pushing the envelope and trying to outdo ourselves from the day previous to that and and I think because of our flexibility. We're a smaller team for this type of project I mean there's no doubt about that but I mean we're super agile and you know we also really love what we do so you know we come in it's just like it's like Christmas every day


Michael you started talking as I'm watching the videos I'm looking at the environments you're building and it truly is I love epic fantasy and it truly is an epic fantasy world that we're both fans what what makes you tick when you sit down and look at how you're gonna build out a zone how you're gonna build out that you know the pathway that the players are running down or the trees around it or give us your give us your thought process

Well I mean one like you know you have to take what the design kind of has in mind that we have lots of talks about that and then mostly it's translating but also I don't like to repeat myself so I'm always pushing for different shapes and forms and textures silhouette and constantly like moving in directions that you're a little bit surprising what I've done in the previous thing and I just like exploring and so that and that's the other one thing I really like about the companies were all we're kind of like that. We all want to just kind of move forward and make a really breathing living world that sorry like I'm a horrible speaker

So Mike and I worked on each and every once in a while he would just he would just show up with a fantastic dungeon that he made in his free time like it would would you like Christmas oh here's an awesome dungeon where like though thanks like but this is fantastic we weren't expecting this and and he just loves what he does and he's so great at it that just like amazing stuff just falls out everywhere just around him

And don't like to talk as much as like just show I just like to do I just do things and so like I just want to do this I go okay I want to I want to blow it I want to blow everybody's mind I want to do this and it's gonna be awesome I'm gonna show it to this it's gonna land like a bomb like pulling these things out of my hat and just like landing it and then you know it's very rewarding when people respond to it

The great thing another great thing about bacon is that if I if I go to bacon I'm like I want a castle I want a castle that that has some of these elements to it I can just walk away and I know the next time I come back I'm gonna see the most badass castle I've ever seen in my life [laughter]

You'll see four of them [cross-talk]

There'll be a flying castle there'll be a castle on the ground

Which one which one do you want?

All of them

We'll take them all

And some critters

Uou guys you guys need to livestream a D&D game so we can all watch it

No-no-no-no-no [laughter]

Oh wait that would take time! [laughter]

We had one D&D session and I don't know if we could legally stream that so


Nice nice that's awesome I it's great when yeah what's with so much fun about dungeons is the challenge you're gonna be creating for these guys and for me as a player too and so I'm always curious i Michael I know any of them you're not talking much today but your artwork is speaking for you on the screen by the way

Thank you well it's not just me [cross-talk]

No no it's everybody I know no but from a standpoint you talk about like a dungeon mechanic we've all played MMOs in this room I'm sure we've all been extremely frustrated and thrown our mice or keyboards or flipped our computers at dungeons what is it that makes a dungeon interesting from your side but also Mat what does it make it what makes it interesting for my character side right because he's like you know you talk about classic fantasy you go into an undead dungeon and your cleric's like yeah this is me your paladin's gonna crush everybody right and then you go into like a woodland dungeon you get your ranger and druid stepping up so what's it like for you guys from a mechanic to build out these environments that enhance the experience for these characters?

I think one of the most important things about I mean specifically with regards to dungeon building is that you want the dungeon to tell a story right you you want to look at an environment at an area and you want to like you're seeing right here with this with this boss you see that like heart that's just beating in the background in the center like what is that? why is that there? how does it relate to this boss? and then you can kind of delve in through the narrative that Jeff and Akil put in and and and learn about it and it's a central figure in the dungeon and the identity of that place and it's something that you can just can just explore.

Yeah it's it's about trying to like talk with with the artist right and then tell the story that you want to tell and and help them kind of see like where you're going with it what what what bits are important I never like to say like hey this thing looks like this exactly I say like I kind of want something like this I wanted to have this effect and then I let the artist kind of take over because they have a much better eye than I think any of the designers and it the things that they come up with are things that are in my head like I might say five or six words to Mat and then all of a sudden it's like what was in my mind is there on the page and I don't know how he does it I don't know how any of the artists do it but it's it's that storytelling that collaboration. I mean the two departments that that kind of allows us to go down that road

No it's no doubt I mean Steven always sets the bar from a creative standpoint. Right. Because a lot of times you feel like it worked when what we're really doing you know talked about his days going back to Neverwinter and I feel like most days you're almost capturing his childhood you're you're just you're really a good character artist or any artist in this business I always say that they listen more than they draw you're you're basically just encapsulating what you're hearing over a period of time and then you start to just translate that into the game so a lot of what we're doing on a character comes from I mean I remember day one the first thing I did was got together with Jeff and I said where are the designs because we really need a story to kind of make characters and stuff look believable and it all starts with design you just you just can't make it up out of nowhere


Yeah visual storytelling is one of the most important things in a dungeon it's one of things I love about Michael again but just in general I like to think of dungeons as having kind of like multiple layers of history to them right like you go into a dungeon and you can see what happened there yesterday you can see what happened there 10 years ago you can see what happened there a hundred years ago you should be able to walk through a dungeon and know all of those things as you walk through it

Without saying anything

Without saying anything

Without using any text

To a degree

To a degree

Sometimes I actually like I meant build a hall with an L and you don't know what's around the corner I don't know what's around the corner yeah you know and then I have must use my imagination I go well what would be really cool around that corner. So, I go around that corner it's like you will see something that's you know scary like really scary and then you say okay I'm just gonna go for that I'm just gonna like get it to where like when the player turns the corner they're gonna open up to

Some evil Mc Stuffertons or something [laughter]

Yeah it's kind of funny too like Michael is saying it's this is another thing I really love about being at Intrepid it is you know in Prior games if if say for instance uh we were just having this conversation recently it was me with the producer Peter and we were sitting there talking about the characters and we're going over the schedule and we're trying to describe some of the new armor sets that we're doing that I can't get too much into but it's gonna be blown away by what [cross-talk]

Blown away

You're gonna be blown away

It looks pretty good

And we're talking about it and Steven goes oh I mean Peter goes oh it's like Starfire so literally the producer I go oh my god that's perfect so we started theming things from a conversation again it's that whole shovel filling in holes we started theming you know art direction just in real time so it's it's it's just extremely fluid but but in the best possible way so a lot of the inspiration just comes from you know your brothers and sisters around you and what's kind of happening in the moment and then it just breathes life [cross-talk]

And that speaks to really the experience on the team of not just what their backgrounds are as a developer but what their backgrounds are as a gamer right like knowing what you liked and other things and and being able to draw inspiration from those things


Cool we'll go we'll extend a I'm going off my notes here but that's alright I think we're doing well freeform so we'll keep it going

That's what we do

That no no it's the best part of these panels so what's really interesting we talk about dungeon design right we've all RPGd and gone through it but MMOs create that open-world and you started to talk a little bit about the node system but one of the one of the beauties of what MMOs really does is allows you to explore this rich world of Vera right and and kind of go into the lore of what Ashes is really all about so maybe talk about that from a design perspective as you know we're all gonna be in the dungeon hallway probably frustrated at some point because of something Michael put in there but but we'll also be rewarded right at the end but then we go outside of the cave and suddenly there's this amazing landscape in front of us and we can work on that ourselves as our characters so tell us a little bit about the open-world building experience that you guys are working on


So part of part of that discussion about the dungeon and not knowing what's around the corner also plays into both the lore of the world and the how the note system works is as nodes develop and they build up from a merchant to an encampment a village a town a city eventually metropolis at every stage a node develops its unlocking narratives storylines it's changing the spawn population of the area around it changing what bosses exist it's triggering events where you may have these legendary dragon attack the city it's basically writing the story of the server based on the actions and determination of the players so you may experience a dungeon one month earlier and have a completely different story that relates to this location and then the next month because something has changed either geopolitically or from the node standpoint a new node has erupted attracting the the attention of some different type of adversary and that dungeon will change so from a replayability standpoint from it from experiencing a living world that changes with the actions of the community you're going to experience different things around that corner

Yeah that dungeon that's not gonna stay the same and that's one of the really cool things about it right like like it can get old playing the same dungeon because you're never surprised by anything exactly where every boss is you know where every path is you know exactly what to pull when and there's nothing really surprising about that and the node system really allows us to change those things up I mean it's it's a lot of really simple systems layered on top of each other that allow us to get really incredibly complex behavior on the server and it's as far as the storyline goes I guess what the question was that's kind of how the story is built as well right we have kind of a sense of history from you know thousands of years of history kind of baked into this story and a lot of it is about mythology and discovering what truths myth mythologies are talking about and finding out like what really happened on this world so long ago and that's part of that discovery process and we want people to feel that throughout the game not just in terms of lore but in terms of the world itself

Right and I think like for me personally in my experiences playing MMOs in the past you know yes that there there are rich stories there but they're just stories that you usually read about as a player and not so much experience that in the game as much you know like this we bring the lore into the world and it has an impact on how you interact you will have choices in that quest line that you can make that will change how that quest works for you right yep so I mean and and you're going to have to take into account what's been happening in the world to make those particular choices

Yep knowing your history is going to help


Yes and and we're keeping lore I mean obviously for those who have been following Ashes we're keeping lore very close to the chest and the reason for that is because it is very rich it is it is diverse it will have applications outside of just the MMORPG we intend to take it much further but I want it to be something that the players get to reveal themselves that's not just handed to them and then the the experience is lost you know they they should feel when they're experiencing this that it relates to them on a personal level as well


I definitely think so I think it's a that I think one of the things that's been missing in video games is the joy of discovery 100% so I'm gonna jump because I want to get to their questions real quick but there's one more thing I want to ask is you guys you get set a successful Kickstarter right one of the one of the top ever for an MMO

Thank you guys thank you

And you you are continuing your alpha development so so when are they gonna get to play or you can I'll let you talk about this I don't want to give anything away [cross-talk]

Yeah downstairs at our booth [laughter] no we we may have a date that we may announce

We'll wait we'll wait

Okay we'll [cross-talk]

We'll give them that at the end

There you go we'll go to the end we'll take we'll take questions first

Yeah yeah let's get some questions guys feel free to come up to mics or is there microphones in the in the stand there's a microphone right there come on up and ask questions we try to give you guys as much time for questions as possible so

Is this thing on all right

It is yeah just just do us favor and keep it short and go

No problem first shout out to the Ashes community love all you guys when can we expect nodes part three? [laughter]

Nodes part three nodes part so actually one of our team members is not currently with us here at PAX and his name is Tristan Snodgrass and the reason for that is because he's currently back at the studios working on nodes part three so soon trademark

Cool cool go ahead man


So just wondering how you're going to keep the community cemented from somebody that just started playing the game versus somebody that's in they've been in you know late game or endgame for weeks?

That's a great question and and it is oftentimes in my experience is a problem that a lot of MMOs have is that those starting areas become just kind of vacant of players and it's so sad because the greatest aspect of an MMO is that community that you get to experience so one of the great things about the node system is that it really works from new player acquisition standpoint where these nodes tend to develop larger near the starting locations areas around the world and it brings these players back to those locations if they're citizens and want services within those cities so as new players enter the world they're going to actually be surrounded most likely by more population because people are coming back to those larger nodes in addition we have certain systems that will relate kind of in a way towards a mentorship program that upper level players are going to be able to benefit from partying and or helping certain lower level players and getting them situated in the game

Yeah I mean it part of part of the whole experience with nodes right is that there is no real end-game in that the world is constantly shifting every day right month one is going to be really different for a month two and that's for the level 50s and level ones so that sense of what's new is going to be the case for any new player who comes they're gonna be able to participate in these systems and make difference from day one so I mean I think that's it's gonna be a different MMO you're not going to feel the same way as a level one



Thank you guys

Good question yeah


Hey I had a quick question I'm wondering if on a server there's enough like level 50s let's say they get together and make one node their permanent home and enough players want to move around and there's really no one to contest that strength do you guys have any systems in play that your systems in mind that might be able to counteract that so to keep it balanced for newbies in the experienced players where they want to change the world?

Yeah absolutely so I mean and the thing about nodes is that they you can declare citizenship to only one node and when you declare that citizenships let's say your example of one guild perhaps wanting to kind of take all their members and have them all declare the same citizenship to a location the longer a node exists the higher the prize it is to take and some systems with regards to crafting progression and/or rewards and bonuses or the reliquary that we haven't really touched on a lot those systems are going to be so enticing that from an incentive standpoint it will compel other groups to either potentially break alliances or siege the city in order to take the goods that are potentially in it so from an incentive standpoint we have that at play additionally we don't have a cap per se that we've announced yet on the citizenship aspect of being in a node but we do have soft caps it becomes more it becomes costlier the higher number of citizens each time one new person wants to join to be part of a node so there is sort of a soft cap on how many citizens one node can have and it might be that not all in the guild can participate in that area so there's kind of a natural divide a pseudo faction so to speak between who is a part of that node and who is not additionally last thing we have conditions that you can set between nodes with regards to either nodes being friendly with each other and acting trade alliances or they can declare war on nodes similar to how Guild Wars may function in different games where those citizens become hostile to each other based on the player government that's elected in the particular node so those systems all kind of cater to allowing a conflict that's meaningful and that also provides a non imbalanced relationship between stronger guilds and not as strong guilds

Another another soft cap we have is the number of non instanced housing


Right so players might want to might want it to declare to another node just so they can have a house

House that's absolutely right


Thank you

Cool great questions guys keep going

Hi so everyone I'm sure everyone in this room is gonna love and enjoy this game but we all want to do different things I think I think it's important to kind of figure out a balance between what people want to do because there's gonna be people who want to just do the exploration or they want to do the they just want to sit and role play in cities or they want to do PvP they want to do all that stuff so how do you guys plan on balancing all that to see like who is it gonna like tilt more in the favor of the higher demand or is it just gonna try to be all one together thing?

We this is something that Jeff and I actually talk about a good bit is I there's a does a guy who wrote a book on game design called Bartle and any breaks gamers up in different categories and so we will often talk about the different categories of gamers and trying to satisfy their needs so like we're like oh yeah we could do this this for explorers the daily explorers more engaged in the game we do this this for socializers to get them more engaged so it is something that we're paying attention to I don't think that will necessarily go towards higher demand because it's hard it's alright it's it's hard to tell what's demand and what's just like vocality but but yeah we're try and address all those gamer types

I think the most 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 if as a Raider or as a PvPer you're looking for the best gear you're gonna 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 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 in your wheelhouse because you need their services and then that crafter's going to need person who who is either a gatherer or plays the economy as a merchant in the nodes with with with the auction houses that are you know regionalized they're going to have to that person is gonna have to work with a person who specializes in trade that 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

Yeah it's just a I guess add a little bit is that all of those players make an MMO what it is right again an MMO lives and breathes on its community and and we don't really want to give short shrift to any one of those types right all of them are important the RPers are important the people who just want to hang out in the Inn and talk are important they all add to the game and so we want to make sure that we take care of all of them

And you want to give them a home in the game from a system standpoint as well right like

A meaningful home

Exactly and for example you're talking about RPers like our tavern games our tavern games and taverns right and the freeholds and building up those those narratives that players can direct and then

You can run a business based on RPing which is really cool [cross-talk]

If if I think it's the old phrase if you build it they will come [cross-talk] you build the system's that that that that entertain or play towards certain groups they will come and they will play

Yeah the other thing is that most people aren't just one type right so so having those other things built out and well supported means that like if you want to do something else instead of going to another game you'll just kind of do more of that in Ashes right and so yeah it's it's to our benefit to me that as robust as we can

Yeah good question


Cool we may have to go lightning round soon [cross-talk] go ahead

So I so you talk about how a lot how you want your world to be meaningful and have the players have an impact and I think it's really ambitious and really awesome but I wasn't I was wondering how you're planning to balance for example casual players against very hardcore players how someone who for example would be able or willing to only spend five hours can compare in meaningfulness to the world to someone who spends twenty five hours enough in the game?

Sure so because of the node system because everything reacts what players are doing casual players are still impacting that right they still have access to the same systems that a hardcore player does they might not spend as much time and obviously they're not going to get as much benefit but they will still have an impact because what they do will be necessary for the health of the server

And not only that but like you know from an event standpoint there are events that are 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 you know there's a lot of systems that are at play where a person can simply log in participate have fun be impactful and then log out

Yeah thank you keep going we're gonna go quick we gotta get everybody at [cross-talk]


You said that you want the world to change in the notes to change are there any systems that are going to in place to prevent gaming the node system so say a guild or a collection of guilds decide that they want a node in this specific section because they know that dungeon they know that boss they they want that loop from there so they you know siege a City and then intentionally gather at a specific node to build that up because they've heard elsewhere that that's a you know better know than the other

That's game play yeah right that's that's cool that's not that's not something we necessarily need to fight we just need to make sure that that's fun and balanced for everybody else right so so we're trying to look at that from a different angle

Yeah when you say game the system I interpret that as working in a way that we didn't intend and and if a system if an opportunistic group of people come and and they spend hard a hard amount of time working on benefiting from either a location that's near that dungeon or whatever that's them actually playing the system not necessarily gaming the system but I think if we're referring to systems working in ways we don't intend we have a lot of back-end metrics that we are watching that are built in from an early standpoint in the game that when we're live we'll be able to watch and make sure they are working as intended and if they're not will have fixes for them

Yeah we have we have a lot of levers to move to make sure that if something's too easy we can turn it down if something's too hard we can turn it up and you can do that almost in real time [cross-talk]

Yes so if nodes and not shifting hands as much as you think you could up that you know like NPC yeah [cross-talk]

Yeah we can increase the decay rate of of a node and how much taxes contribute to the decay and that kind of thing [cross-talk]

I mean 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 right how often and we've designed attrition systems for certain cultures that may have more dominance over others you know 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


Cool all right we're gonna go quick try to get everybody in go

I'm curious about more of the culture and the lore you did go and little in depth about how it's going to be we'll be exploring it through the ancient ruins and whatnot will they be more advanced things like botany or being an explorer more in depth more specific things about the game or is it all just gonna be us creating history and culture?

No no no no there's a there's a [cross-talk] go ahead

There there's a lot of history to discover right it's not going to be just players writing those stories we're gonna be writing plenty of stories and ways to sort of discover what has happened in the world how to deal with what's happened in the world and how to move the world forward

And I think that where this question is stemming from is oftentimes in real quick and in game development for MMOs you have had studios that have released these kind of quote-unquote player driven content and it ends up being no content or not fun content and what we've understood from the get-go is that we're going to have to make a lot of content and and we're prepared for that and we have a lot of source material to work from and we're very very happy and excited to do that so there's going to be meaningful choices that open doors to content you're going to love

Thank you

Cool next


My question regards the nodes what stops people from abandoning one to go to a better one instead of sieging it?



There is no discipline disciplinary thing to like leave a node?

There's a cool-down period on your declaration of citizenship but that's pretty much it

Yeah and eventually if everybody decides to leave a node that node will decay and be reclaimed by the wilderness


Thank you

Thank you


One of my favorite parts of EverQuest 2 which many of you had a lot of work in was the alternative ways to advance your character outside of killing monsters gaining levels the alternative advancement systems a little flavor things like killing orcs to gain enough lore to learn to speak Orcish what can you tell us about those sorts of things that you plan to bring to Ashes if anything

There's a bunch of different systems there's a religion system the organization system there's sort of like your racial project progression

Artisanship [cross-talk]



Artisanship right all those things are sort of independent of your main class so you can raise those outside of just your what eq2 would call your adventuring class so there's a lot of different things to explore and things to sort of gain levels in

And there's a comfortable balance of linear progression you know like who with regards to your characters maybe level progression you know those things all house different experience factors that give a viable way forward when it comes to actually that linear progression and I think that's that's important because you offer players than the opportunity to really focus on the things that they enjoy rather than being pigeon-holed into something they don't 54:36]

I was wondering if in the future you guys had any plans of open like accepting of player made mods or addons maybe to change the UI or icons on the map

UI maybe but [laughter]

Not like content not like content more like people who are focused on PvP or things like that it might make it so the health's in an easier spot to see with all their boss and things like that mainly for like the competitive acts

Well I I will think with regards to UI ours is going to be very customizable in and of itself that's our objective for UI so with regards to seeing where health is at and stuff like that that's a different story but unlocking different APIs for people to get like DPS meter oh god I'm sorry I just said that out loud but we don't want we don't want things that divide and sometimes when you give some communities the agency to make those things it facilitates the division

There becomes haves and have-nots like there becomes sort of like an external meta on how you play the game and we want everybody to play the game in in sort of the same way with the same tools

And in in and I guess another thing about that is we're not necessarily our mind isn't made up necessarily with regards to how this would work but we will watch as we go through alphas and betas how this happens and come up to for a decision that's not a difficult implementation it's something that we can do after

Yeah we can switch anything we want to but it's like it's whether or not yes good for [cross-talk]

Thank you cool we got we got like four minutes so go go go lightning speed


I have a simple question a lot of MMOs have a like a history and of legendary characters and stuff like that I wonder how Ashes will stack up to that?

Yeah I mean lots of games have a lot of content because they've been out for you know years and years and years and years they have a head start on us and there's no real good answer to that other than the fact it's a new game right there's a lot of stuff to discover there's not gonna be any dearth of content there's gonna be plenty of it

Another aspect of that and totally agree but also we do have heroes in our story right we have those named characters that you will read about and and even potentially through some type of, well I don't wanna get into that. Sorry, but I almost let myself slip there for minute sorry so yes we have we have legendary characters but it'll progress [cross-talk]

But also more of those characters will come up as you play the story and people who are familiar with


One of the biggest appeals to open world MMORPGs is the fact that it contributes to a lot of player interactions what are some of the things that you've learned from the successes and failures of previous open-world MMORPGs like ArcheAge or Black Desert

That's a very long question [cross-talk] I'll just answer my I guess top three is 1) listening to the community and being real-time in in changes and I'm not talking about the creative vision of the project I'm talking about specific practices that people don't like 2) we want progression to matter and we don't want to undermine that progression by offering a cash shop that's going to give these pay2win / gimmicks towards monetization [Applause] in in an MMORPG economy is extremely important especially for us that matters and the last thing we want players to be fulfilled in what they do we don't want the rug to be pulled out from under them later on by some major change that's going to kind of trivialize the amount of time they put into the game so those are my top three


Good question good answer alright we got two minutes let's go

Let's be honest the amount of classes you have is ambitious for balancing my question is crafting how flexible are you going to make the crafting?

Pretty flexible but one thing we do want to make sure about crafting is that when you're a master of a particular aspect of the crafting you're a master of it and it's meaningful in the world and other players we don't want everybody to be a master of everything we want your choices to have some consequences and we want them to to mean something so otherwise pretty flexible

Yeah like the individual sword that you crafted your master swordsmith right you'll have a lot of flexibility and what the end product is but yeah flexibility in terms of which class you end up as depends on yeah

thank you


Yeah last one I'm so sorry here's here's my role my role for panels the three you guys who've been waiting come up after the panel real quick and talk to the guys and ask your questions that's that's always the best method but go ahead last question

All right so let's be honest player housing is extremely difficult to do in games like Archeage you run out of land 24 hours in games like black desert player housing is boring to somebody who like me only plays three hours a week how are you gonna keep player housing and player land accessible usable and enjoyable?

So we're gonna end on that one so one of the things is that you we kind of help to maintain what land is available based on one plot of land per character per account

Right 1/1 we call it our freehold system social just real quick there's three types of housing there's instance housing that's developed by governments within nodes they can build an apartment building perhaps it might have a certain quota of apartments that are available people can do that second there's static housing that exists within a node that is a you see a house and you buy it and you can buy from other players the third is the freehold system the freehold system is limited one freehold per account it is a parcel of land you may build infrastructure on it you may build housing on it you may build business on it those things kind of it's a big piece of land what we do to avoid things like a land rush or making it more accessible is that these systems are tied to the development of nodes and nodes change they can be destroyed they can D level they can level up further it's not going to be I log into the server day one I need to run to this spot and get a house because it's the best spot and I don't get a house there I'm screwed it is insane it's instead hey I need to go out and build the world before I can build a house and I may not know which node is going to develop to stage 3 where housing becomes available first so and there's no fast travel where I can just instantly teleport across all the land like that and get there and rush it so it's it's more strategic in planning for players to see and kind of follow where the development happens and if they lose out there's opportunities elsewhere in the world for you to to do it again

Or siege that node down



Awesome guys I am going to let the guys make an announcement now so since you guys have been so patient the questions have been fantastic I'm gonna turn it over to Steve.

All right so I know I know we're pressed for time but we we okay we have been very satisfied with our pace of development so far we've been hitting ahead of schedule internally on a lot of things and we're actually very happy to announce that we are we're going to be dividing our alpha one into two phases the first phase is going to be a way for us to get a lot of players into different arena modes and test out our Castle sieges test out our our City sieges test out large player battles raid versus raid guild fights and we're happy to announce that that first phase of alpha 1 will be launched early in Q4 this fourth quarter of 2018 right now as some of you may know we're in what we call our alpha zero which is our pre-alpha testing phase for us to to get a lot of backend systems up and to get a lot of core functionality in on the on the node system and then how that relates to narratives and dungeons and spawn populations we're also happy to announce that everybody in this room will be getting it alpha zero invite [Applause] I will say that on behalf of the team at Intrepid Studios it is an absolute privilege pleasure and honor to be building this game for the community for you guys it is no short pleasure for us to see the reaction as we're developing this game it brings sometimes some tears to the eyes it brings a warm feeling to the heart and as passionate gamers as you guys are and we are it is exciting for us to be moving this genre forward and we couldn't do without everybody's help so thank you guys

Thanks everybody really appreciate it [Applause]

There will be some signup stations outside we have three iPads you'll just need to give your email address for the alpha zero invite and we'll see you guys outside thank you all very much

Thanks guys come down to the show floor and play it it's not hard to see the booth you guys are in a great spot [Music]