|1. Origins / Overview|
|2. Nodes / World Events / Politics and Housing / Sieges|
|3. Player versus Player / Caravans, Trade, and the Economy / Storytelling|
|4. Seasons and Weather / Combat / Characters and Classes|
|5. Monetization / Referral Program / Funding and Kickstarter / Closing Thoughts|
Ashes of Creation will be a subscription MMO, which is a huge selling point for me as I don’t enjoy content – including cosmetic content and the gameplay you would normally go through to unlock it – being removed from the game to be monetized for a greater profit. When it comes down to it, I’d rather just pay a straightforward price and then have access to a product that feels full and complete.
Worryingly though, Intrepid has revealed that Ashes of Creation will also have a cash shop, which they’ve described as 100% cosmetic, adamantly stating that the game will never be pay-to-win. But if there’s anything we’ve learned over the years, it’s that you can put anything in a cash shop you want, and someone, somewhere, will come to your defense, screeching that it’s not pay-to-win, but ‘pay-for-convenience’, ‘pay-to-progress’, or some other novel euphemism that nonetheless describes directly paying for in game power and effectiveness.
Now I don’t think we have to worry about Ashes of Creation going pay-to-win, but the existence of a cash shop is always worrying. In all likelihood, it will be benign, as is the case in other subscription games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, where the shop is unobtrusive and doesn’t feel like rewards are being removed from the game to populate it. But it’s always a worry that more nefarious monetization will sneak in at some point, be it from the over-monetization of cosmetics, to the development of pay-to-not-be-annoyed features, or even an insidious, gradual descent into pay-to-win territory.
At this point though, we have no reason to expect that to happen. Ashes of Creation is being created by a studio being helmed by a fellow gamer trying to avoid the missteps of MMOs past, who played games like ArcheAge that were straight up ruined by monetization. All things considered, I doubt we have much cause for worry.
Ashes of Creation features an interesting referral program that’s somewhat unique within the MMO space, and it’s caused a bit of consternation for some members of the genre’s community who seem to be confused by it.
The referral system is fairly straightforward. You get an affiliate link. All accounts registered after following that link will be associated with your account. Once the game is launched, 15% of all account purchases by your referral accounts will be rewarded to you as either in-game credits (for the cash shop or subscription) or simply cash back.
One of the most exciting aspects of our referral program (besides the fact that it can offer players a way to play for free without the P2W garbage that companies over-monetize in recent MMO projects) is that it offers our participants a way to earn residual rewards.
– [Referral Program]
To anyone who’s ever worked in digital media before, this system should look immediately familiar. It’s essentially the same as any other affiliate program, which you’ve probably already encountered before, even if you didn’t know it at the time. For example, any website that covers a large number of consumer products will almost certainly have an affiliate program with Amazon, which will work effectively the same way: reader follows link, reader makes purchase, website receives money.
Some on the internet have, bafflingly, decided that this makes Ashes of Creation a pyramid scheme. This is of course ridiculous. The defining feature of a pyramid, or multilevel marketing scheme, is that the people in it are responsible for buying the product they’re attempting to sell before they actually sell it, leading to a situation where those who buy-in are left stuck with thousands of dollars of unsold product. At that point, you either eat the loss, or rope in others beneath you on the pyramid, who will then attempt to sell the product themselves. Ashes of Creation features no buy in requirement to participate in its referral program. As far as I can tell, you might not even have to buy the game yourself. That’s not a pyramid scheme, it’s just a standard affiliate marketing program. It may feel new to you, but you really don’t have to be scared of it.
As for me? Well, I don’t have a referral link set up. I know I probably should, but I guess I’m just one of the few old fashioned people left who thinks it’s dubiously ethical at best for content creators to be making a profit off of you buying a game that they recommend to you. It could create a substantial conflict of interest down the line, and I don’t really feel the need to put myself into that situation.
Funding and Kickstarter
Interestingly, Ashes of Creation is already fully funded, in that Intrepid Studios will be able to reach a launch state with currently promised features without requiring any additional investment. However, the game is still going to Kickstarter.
The goal here is twofold: to enable additional hiring to move up the timeline of development and add additional stretch features, and to take advantage of crowdfunding as a nearly unparalleled way of driving community engagement and getting your players involved in development. The second part sounds a bit odd when it’s said out loud, but hey, I can’t argue that it’s untrue, either.
We’ve got private backing that will allow us to produce a core viable product. Without you though, that’s what it will remain, minimally viable. What Kickstarter will allow us to do is expand our scope and give our team flexibility and room to breathe. To really give us the opportunity to create *exactly* what we want. Crowdfunding also allows us to connect directly with the players most invested in our success. We need your voices to help grow this community, and to keep us accountable to those who matter most, the players. Come help us bring MMOs into the future, and make the game I know all of us want to play. From the ashes, MMOs will rise again!
– [Kickstarter Page]
Ashes of Creation’s Kickstarter will be running through June 2, 2017 and is seeking $750,000 in additional funding for development.
Update I: Ashes of Creation’s Kickstarter reached its initial funding goal within 12 hours of the launch of its Kickstarter and stretch goals have been added to the campaign.
Update II: As of the morning of May 5th, Ashes of Creation’s Kickstarter has reached $1.28 million in funding with over 7,000 backers.
Update III: As of May 10th, the Kickstarter has surpassed $1.67m in raised funding with 9,450 backers.
Update IV: As of June 1st, Ashes of Creation’s Kickstarter closed with $3,271,809 in funding raised from 19,576 backers, become the number one highest funded MMO on the platform and the seventh highest video game of any genre.
Here are the completed stretch goals as of the close of Kickstarter:
Ashes of Creation is promising a living, immersive virtual world that takes advantage of the MMORPG genre’s unique strengths to give individuals and groups of players a near unparalleled level of agency within a game world. Its concept sounds absolutely incredible, and it’s what so many of us gamers have wanted for a long, long time, having wandered in the wilderness of WoW clones focused on solo and small group experiences for what seems like forever.
Almost exactly three years ago, I wrote about what I described as The Massive Identity Crisis, describing a situation in which the MMO genre has moved so far past its roots and so far away from its unique core competencies that it’s beginning to feel indistinguishable from other genres of games. I’m not alone in noticing this, as a recently published discussion from the MMORPG.com staff Slack channel showed when we mulled over whether or not the MMO has lost its unique selling point.
Ashes of Creation feels like the genre finally moving back in the direction of the features that once set it apart. It’s a game with systems that are actually designed around taking advantage of the fact that thousands of players will be sharing a world, rather than funneling them all into 5 to 20 man instances as much as possible. It’s a return to form for the genre that looks back to what it was that made MMOs great when we all fell in love with them, all that time ago.
So we wanted to take a step back, to check ourselves before we wrecked ourselves; to really dive into what makes MMOs so addictive, and why we kept coming back to them. The primary question is: What makes an MMO fun, at its core? Well, it’s got to be the thing that makes an MMO an MMO, right? What separates an MMO from all the fantastic Mass Effects and Dragon Ages and Witchers? It’s the MASSIVENESS. It’s the community and the forums and the competition and the people who you’d never meet in real life. It’s that Massively Multiplayer promise. It’s the people that make an MMO what it is. Not a hotbar or a raid boss or a fetch quest. Those are mechanics, those aren’t the genre.
– [A New Beginning]
There are areas where I want to know more. Combat, classes, and progression all feel strikingly traditional from what little we know. As grandiose as nodes are as a world defining metasystem, they don’t really answer the question of what players are going to be doing while they’re leveling and after they’ve reached endgame – and these core MMO systems are hugely important. For all the boldness of Intrepid’s vision of a living, reactive world, they need to nail the fundamentals for the game to be a success, and we haven’t seen or heard as much as I’d want to about how those fundamentals are going to work.
But for now, the bold vision is enough. Ashes of Creation is a game made by MMO players for MMO players, and it shows. The game is forging a path in exactly the direction I’ve long waited for MMORPGs to go. As Intrepid’s phoenix rises from the ashes of a genre in contraction, there’s no way I’m sitting this one out.