Ashes of Creation and the Nodes of Victory

Now that Ashes of Creation is counting down to its Kickstarter campaign on May 1st, it has a week to do all it can to prep fans and the wider MMORPG community about what it offers — and make a case that it’s worth your crowdfunding dollars.

From what I can tell, so far the indie team has been doing a tremendous job doing just that. The site looks great and lends some authenticity to the project, the dungeon video (all of the videos, really) make a case that there’s been a lot of development poured into the game, and there have been regular blog posts walking players through Ashes’ design. But the campaign and hype may hinge upon a single feature that the devs are trying very hard to convey: nodes.

OK, I’m not crazy about the name. “Nodes” may be succinct and work, but the name seems a little… off to me. Associations with “lymph nodes” or “mining nodes” send my brain off in weird directions. Ashes of Creation’s nodes are more like an evolved version of Guild Wars 2’s event system and public quests in other MMOs, but in a larger and more structured way than what we’ve seen before. I like the concept, but it’s definitely grand and the backbone of the game, which makes it essential for fans to comprehend.

So far, the team has released two out of a planned videos and blog posts on the node system, the first one outlining how nodes and their associated Zones of Influence (ZOIs) work and the second talking about level 5 nodes, metropolises, and how they’ll impact the world.

If this is the core structure of the game, then I think it’s wise that they’re taking this much time to lay it out. It’s what’s going to set Ashes of Creation apart from its contemporaries, a sort of fusion of theme park and sandbox elements that allow for player input and choice while still containing all of it in a structured system that won’t allow for too much unconstrained chaos to reign.

I’m still absorbing and processing all of it, to be honest, but I cautiously like it. It’s seeing an MMO as a large-scale Civilization-type game, with politics, housing, economics, and individual action all playing a part. A few random thoughts:

  • I’m gratified that they have three types of housing, including instanced housing (so that there’s no shortage) and freeholds (for more WildStar-style layouts).
  • The whole concept of “citizenship” to a city is pretty intriguing and could do more for building and giving real meaning to player factions than the artificial divides that most MMOs create based on racial choice.
  • Most of the large-scale stuff — making a metropolis, being a leader, probably owning a town house — won’t ever involve me personally. I’m watching these videos thinking, “But what about the average player who’s not a power-mad dictator or some rich billionaire? Other than benefiting from some of the node features, what will we have direct control over and be able to do?”
  • I like the concept here because it’s like the devs are setting up a play room with certain rules but have no idea how the players are going to react and what they’ll do with the toys they’ve been given.
  • All of the growth (and presumably destruction) of nodes sounds measured and slow so that we’re not seeing several metropolises rise and fall overnight. It’ll give players time to figure out the world, keep abreast of changes, and maybe band together to influence them.
  • Will the node system keep us centered in one single zone, once we declare citizenship and have a house there? Will that just be our home base and we’ll go ranging on expeditions? What about the nomad who simply wants to travel the world?
  • The videos are flat-out gorgeous. I also liked the animated map in the first video to spell out how the node system works. It’s clear-cut and works wonderfully.
  • Little worried about the checks that might or might not be in place to guard against player griefing and abusing the system. Can’t think of anything worse than being part of a fiefdom of some Internet Warlord (Derek Smart?) and not having an easy way to untangle from it due to citizenship, housing, and other benefits.

Kickstarter is May 1st. I’m seriously considering backing it. Going to see what they talk about next week and evaluate what they’re offering, but dang if this game isn’t kicking butt already.

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2 thoughts on “Ashes of Creation and the Nodes of Victory

  1. Bhagpuss April 24, 2017 / 10:57 am

    It’s certainly a very professional presentation so far. It has a nice AAA feel, as you’d expect given the pedigree of the people behind it. I signed up for the closed testing they have going (no luck yet) and I’ll be backing the Kickstarter provided there’s a tier/cost that looks reasonable.

    That said, I’m still not convinced by it. I’m betting the combat is action style, which is a strike against it for a start, but I can cope with that. It’s the whole “dynamic environment” thing I’m wary of. That was the buzzword five or six years ago and I think we’ve learned by now that what people actually gravitate towards isn’t endless, restless change but predictable stability with a surface veneer of change.

    If many of the claims on the website turn out to be true then I suspect the audience will be limited. Do you really want housing that you can lose when a city falls, for example? And as I read it, you will lose your home often, because although it may be an epochal battle to destroy a Metropolis, most of the housing options start at a far earlier nodal stage. The post on Nodes is unclear as to how destructible Villages and Towns may be but it’s hard to imagine the entire system is invulnerable prior to hitting the final, Metropolis level. I’m guessing a lot of villages and towns will be destroyed on the way to any successful Metropolis.

    Then there’s the emphasis on everything being difficult. Gathering can kill you. There are no casual walks in the countryside. Clever AI makes it hard or impossible to judge how a mob will behave. All of this says “stressful sessions” to me. And that’s not even considering that this is primarily an open-world PvP game. In fact, isn’t it bidding to be that PvE version of EVE so many people have speculated about over the years? I wouldn’t mind reading about that but I’m not convinced I’d want to play it.

    And as for every server having its own history and gameplay, I hope they get the number of servers they need exactly right and manage to maintain the same population indefinitely, because how that concept is going to play with server merges i shudder to imagine.

  2. Bhagpuss April 24, 2017 / 11:00 am

    Sorry! “Fantasy version of EVE” not PvP version, obvs!

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