Is there a point to funding Ashes of Creation now?

Yesterday, Ashes of Creation launched its Kickstarter, and extremely rapidly it became one of the biggest and fastest MMO crowdfunding campaigns that we’ve seen in… well, probably since Elyria a year ago, or Crowfall two years ago. It cleared its $750K goal in 12 hours and as I type this, it’s inching closer to the $1M mark. I predict that it will probably reach $2M before all is said and done.

It’s hard not to get swept up into the excitement of seeing a promising and ambitious big-budget MMO being made, especially in today’s climate. The Kickstarter is certainly doing a great job getting out the existence and potential of this game to many others, generating all sorts of hype and PR in the process. In fact, from what the studio said about the core game having already been funded and the Kickstarter being to make it bigger, I’m wondering if PR is just as big of a reason for doing a Kickstarter as actual finances.

Anyway.

Amidst seeing everyone talking about and funding this game, I am slightly torn on whether to chip in my money or not. Originally I was all set to make this my second Kickstarter donation ever because I am really impressed with this project and want to see this game made, but now I’m a little hesitant. Why?

Well, for starters it’s already going to get made with or without my money. Even with or without this Kickstarter. It’s already fully funded. My $25 or whatever’s not really going to make much of a difference in the game’s existence, unless I deeply care about stretch goals, and that would be a… erm, stretch.

The other reason that people look to are the personal rewards and benefits you get from becoming a backer. Here there’s more of an argument to be made for funding but I’m still not entirely convinced. Get into the permanent alpha? As eager as I am to play this, I’m not champing at the bit for early access these days. A few more character customization options might be interesting enough. A $15 subscription tucked into a $25 package, I’m not really getting a bargain there. The tiers aren’t horrible, per se, but not really that compelling either. Some people really splurged on lifetime subscriptions, but those are very high priced ($400+ now, and my limit for a lifetime sub to anything is $200) and for a game that’s not even going to be out for a year and a half at best.

Maybe I will, but then again, I could use that $25 right now for games or products or services right now that I could use… and I can still play and pay for Ashes of Creation when it launches down the road.

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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.

Drooling over Ashes of Creation

When it comes to anticipating upcoming MMOs (and yes, there ARE upcoming MMOs), I have two lists. The first one is a list of potential interests, games that I’m nominally intrigued about but am reserving a lot of judgment until they’re much closer to launch and start to prove themselves. Games such as Chronicles of Elyria, any of the City of Heroes knock-offs, Crowfall, Star Citizen, and World Adrift. They may be good, they may not be, they may be right up my alley, and they may be fine games that just don’t turn out to be my thing. It’s a really uncertain category.

The second list is much shorter and concerns titles that I am much more confident about and interested in. Project Gorgon heads up this list, obviously, and after that is Sea of Thieves and maybe Peria Online and Master X Master. I’m waffling on two more titles, New World and Ashes of Creation, that probably logically belong in the first category but I’m far more excited about them than most early development titles.

In Ashes of Creation’s case, this out-of-nowhere MMO is definitely hitting a lot of the sweet spots to stir up my appetite. We’re getting lots of solid dev diaries and plenty of great videos that show a game that looks much further along than I would expect. To be sure, it’s probably a heavily doctored, very limited demo in scope, but… look at that thing! I love how it begins with a walk through a town and shows some other NPCs in action. The spell effects are bedazzling, and the UI, for as early as it is, has a nice, clean design to it.

Ashes is most definitely on my watch list, and I think the team is doing a great job priming interest for the inevitable Kickstarter. This just might be the second game I’ll ever crowdfund, unless I can get my fanboy hype under control. Maybe I’ve been too starved for strong upcoming MMORPGs that I’ll just leap to the first one I see, but dang, this game looks fantastic so far. More please!