What is Ashes of Creation?
Ashes of Creation is an upcoming MMORPG set in a world of high fantasy where player’s choices will shape and define the world around them. Veteran gamers may find themselves very familiar with the above game terms, but just in case there is any lingering confusion let’s take a moment to define them. MMORPG (or MMO for short henceforth) is simply an online multiplayer game where thousands of players can experience the world side by side, and with high fantasy, as a setting, we’re talking about a world where magic and mythic creatures abound, think swords and dragons. For the most part, the previous two terms are pretty straightforward and give players a baseline for what they can expect out of Ashes of Creation. What isn’t immediately clear however is the phrase: “…shape and define the world”? For this, as well as the primary focus of this particular dev journal, I’d like to introduce our “Nodes.”
What are “Nodes”?
When it comes to how MMO’s have been traditionally designed, most gamers are familiar with two distinct types of gameplay loops: the “theme park”, and the “sandbox”. The vast majority of MMO’s we’ve all seen come and go in the gaming industry have been of the theme park variety – these games put the player onto a specific path, guiding them along, with plenty of pretty sights in between the same old quest hubs, very little in divergent paths, virtually no freedom in player progression. Recently the MMO genre has seen some games of the sandbox nature come onto the scene, but despite the ultimate freedom the sandbox affords players, many are left wanting more, as there is by definition no pre-built world content, no human touch, just the vastness of the “sand” for lack of a better term. Thus many MMO players often find themselves caught between the repetitive rock of the theme park or the vast dead spaces of the sandbox’s hard place. This chasm between the state of MMO gameplay loops is where we intend to inject Ashes of Creation’s Node system.
So what exactly are Nodes then? Players in Ashes of Creation will find themselves thrust into the forefront of an inhospitable world filled with bountiful undiscovered treasure and ancient evils lurking just over the horizon. The very first pioneers into Ashes of Creation will find the wilderness a bleak reality, but even the harshest environments can be tamed. This is where Nodes come into play. Encompassing the entirety of our world’s playable areas are carefully placed points of possible development, which we call Nodes. These Nodes in their undeveloped form will not be visible to the players at first. However, as our intrepid players venture out into the wilderness with a variety of quests and tasks from their starting zones, these nodes will begin to absorb the activity in its radius zone of influence. In practice this will look like a band of friends completing quests or fighting monsters for sweet loot, searching for treasures, or delving into a dungeon.. progressing their characters as all MMO players are familiar with, but critically they will also be progressing the world around them.
Every Node in our system operates as a kind of sponge, with each Node given purview over a predefined geographic area. Within this space (which we call a Node’s “zone of influence”) the Node tracks all player activity. This activity is then weighted and counted towards that particular Node’s own advancement track. By undertaking familiar MMO gameplay mainstays (questing, gathering, raiding, etc.) players will have agency in determining which Nodes in the world will develop.
Furthermore, these nodes exist in certain “regions” that will dictate what Marketplace that node is a part of, or what Warehouse cluster the node belongs to, as well as what crafting Tier the node exists in. Different zones will fall under different influences that will also affect the Node’s development. Zones can fall under 4 different categories; Military, Divine, Economic or Scientific. The zone type will affect the government type and buildings of the Node, as well as the content generated from that Node’s progression. As I’m sure you can see, the Node system is the backbone of many of the game’s systems. It is also important to note, that after a node has advanced to the next stage, it is no longer possible to develop its neighboring nodes unless the node is sieged and destroyed. After every advancement to the next stage of that node’s development, the ring of disabled neighboring nodes grow, stopping the neighboring nodes from progressing to the next stage. Each node has its own unique content, that is only accessible after being developed. So when one node may advance and unlock content, it comes at the cost of the content that a neighboring node may have offered.
Currently, as a Node develops, it will follow 6 progressive stages of development;
The progression time of these stages are based on the activity of the players.
Stage Rough Development Time
Expedition Few Hours
Encampment Many Hours
Village Few Days
Town Many Days
City Few Weeks
Metropolis Many Weeks
At every stage, the game radically changes for that region. Allowing paths to be taken by the players that dictate the world’s development around them. We will expand more on the specific content for these stages in later journals.
Building the world sounds great, but what can I do if I want to change it?
A world built through player choice is one of our ultimate goals with Ashes of Creation, but there’s always a flip side when a choice is made: not everyone will agree with this choice. As players work through and develop the Nodes that populate their world, they will shape that world in important but also specific ways, actively working towards certain areas in favor of others. Mix in Node exclusives, world firsts, political disagreements, and specific bonuses of one region over another and we immediately find ourselves in a place of very likely disagreement and thus player conflict and competition. All of this begs the questions, “what can I do if I disagree with the choices made by others?” or “will I miss out on the world building aspects of the game if I’m not part of the first players?”
Just as Nodes can be developed by players in Ashes of Creation, they can also be destroyed by players as well. Every Node in the game world can be destroyed as a result of player actions, resetting the progress made on that particular Node back to a lower tier of development or even its original starting point. Are you unhappy with the oppressive actions of a player government in a particular area? Did one Node beat out yours in a race for exclusive developments? Is there content you want to explore, that requires a Node elsewhere to develop? Envious that your hometown is not the center of the world? All of these “problems” will have an in-game solution available in the Node’s ability to be destroyed. Finally, and perhaps most importantly from a gameplay perspective, the destruction of a Node will not be a simple everyday run of the mill activity.
These sieges will allow players to participate in the defense or assault of a particular node. Sieges will have a declaration period, allowing for the server to prepare for the upcoming battle. This mechanic will not be an easy task for the attackers. Cities will have a considerable defensive advantage. Nor can this mechanic be used often, as there will be a cooldown on the siege mechanic reflective of the size of the node under siege.
A world built by player choices sounds intriguing, but why does it matter?
So what does all this mean for you, the player, and why should you care? One of the central pillars behind Ashes of Creation’s design philosophy is to stress meaningful player choices whenever possible, real decisions that can be difficult for players to make and which hold actual relevance on their gameplay experiences.
Having the ability to sculpt the world is pretty cool, but simply building something for an arbitrary reason holds no meaning, which is why we are excited to see what happens once we give control of the Nodes to you, the players. Every Node at the village stage and above is governed by some variation of a player-run government, and it will be up to those who are charged with the care of their communities to carefully balance a variety of city mechanics. As Nodes continue to advance along their development tiers, more and more options will become available for the citizens of that node.
Nodes are not merely just a quest hub or place you run back to every now and again to drop off the new loot or sell unwanted items, they are tied intricately to the game. Questlines will morph based on what areas of the world have or have not been developed, specific items and wondrous mounts will become available based on which Nodes are developed, dangerous dungeons will open up for exploration and powerful new world raid challenges will begin to appear. The world around a developed Node will reflect the activity and choices of the community.