Everything about Ashes of Creation is built upon their Nodes system. Quite literally. Nodes are the focus of their world’s growth, the primary focus of player advancement, and the way questing and player cities come together. That said, most of what this system is capable of has been primarily through dev blogs. With the Ashes of Creation PAX East setup, however, all of those words were put into real-life, playable, and tangible action.
The show floor had a couple of set pieces of the game’s Alpha Zero build in both PvP and PvE flavors. There’s a lot more to Ashes of Creation than what’s on the floor, of course, which was what I decided to focus on in my time with the booth.
First and foremost, I asked about the game’s class system and how they’ll operate. In case you haven’t been reading up, there are eight classes in the game which will make up the primary experience of your character and their role in combat. Secondary classes, essentially, operate in a form of horizontal progression. For example, a tank can use a Shield Bash like normal, but with a mage subclass, that Shield Bash suddenly sets the enemy aflame, which changes the dynamic of tanking a bit more into the DPS side of things.
What does this mean for PvP? The devs are due to find out once they begin their Phase One alpha test, which is due for Q4. Most of the testing to this point has been all about their backend and making sure their servers are up to snuff.
I had a moment to see the game demonstrated briefly with the nearby area cleared of any settlement. Players play in the general area near a node, completing tasks or gathering materials and earning experience. After perhaps a few hours, the node actually transforms the immediate area, with a small camp generating nearby. Further play feeds that Node and sees it grow into a larger series of tents with new services until, eventually, it balloons into a whole village with more quests, more services, and more features that players can take advantage of.
A lot of those features are all about fostering community. Players can become gatherers, which feeds the needs of crafters, who offer new goods to sell, which offers the Node’s mayor or leader their proper tax revenue that can be applied to opening up spaces that players can use like housing or taverns. All of this should happen on its own, as a Node leader who tries to spike taxes could end up driving people away, which will see their Node shrink to literally nothing.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot to demonstrate regarding crafting for Ashes of Creation yet as all of their ideas are in document form right now and their next phase of alpha is centered on PvP. That said, they are building for co-dependency and are adamant in making people specialize in a trade, meaning people can’t gather and craft with one character. There will also be limitations on vault storage, keeping it to an account-only system. That said, if players want to run their own vault or bank service in-game, the devs won’t get in the players’ way.
With all of the complexity this node system has, I voiced a concern about how long development time would take. I was assured that not only has the team gotten things working, they’ve done so in an astonishingly short period of time. Part of that is the ease of using the Unreal Engine, but another part is having devs who can iterate and switch things out in pretty short order. It’s easily one of the most efficient dev environments to work in, apparently.
After the demonstration of the Node system and watching things take shape in front of my eyes, all of the blogs about Nodes suddenly made complete sense. By their own admission, describing the Node system in words has been challenging and definitely is one of those systems that are better demonstrated than described. Seeing it all unfold before me definitely changed my mind about the Node system from being just “interesting” to “genuinely something to look forward to in MMO gaming.”Related: Article, Ashes of Creation, Intrepid Studios, MMORPG, PAX East 2018