How Ashes of Creation Can Succeed Where Others Have Failed
Part VI – Beyond the Sea
Intro: Where Has All the Rum Gone?
My experience that involved naval gameplay has been limited. I can likely count on one hand the games I’ve played that had memorable experiences in that department. However, in a recent “Ashes Pathfinders” podcast, we discussed many different aspects of this type of play that re-energized my excitement for this upcoming game system in Ashes of Creation. I remember when Steven Sharif, Intrepid’s Creative Director and CEO, first started discussing the mariner class. I immediately thought of my experience in Archeage (the release prior to Unchained). There were many things about that game that fell flat, but I had little criticism for the naval aspect. My memory went to one day a few years ago when a few friends and I loaded up on a boat and went sport fishing. The fishing mechanics alone were really engaging to what I was used to in other MMORPGs. Of course, dangers also lurked in the depths of the sea, which was both exhilarating and nerve wracking. The only thing missing was a bit of spiced rum to cap off the experience. Flash forward to 2022, when the community is starting to see more and more of what Intrepid has been working on behind closed doors and where the Pathfinder community muses on the possibilities of naval gameplay. This year, Intrepid hasn’t gone halfway in their showcases. So, when the topic of naval combat came up, the dialogue brought to light some excellent ideas how Ashes of Creation can enhance the high-seas experience. It boils down to the following: meaningful progression path, customization, and community ties.
Not All Treasure is Silver and Gold, Mate
When the mariner class was first discussed, I was enamored with the concept. I also remember thinking about how this would make horizontal progression most meaningful to me. It boiled down to the same thoughts I had about the class combination system – meaningful choices. When discussing this topic, I feel like you first need to consider what roles a mariner might play on a naval vessel – navigator (master and commander, baby!), but also engineer, munition master and scavenger, among others. Obviously, Intrepid has already discussed different skills that they are exploring for would-be mariners. When thinking about progression, I find that it’s best to organize this in the form of the roles I’ve mentioned (at least as a starting point). This framework helps me formulate ideas about how each of these roles would develop. A navigator might have a keener eye for dangers or treasures in the water, for example. An engineer could be focused on ship repair and upkeep or drafting design schematics for upgrades or “attachments” (additions on the ship to improve defense, speed, or maneuverability). A munition master could focus on ship’s weaponry – it could even be a deeper specialization path for the engineer versus its own path. A scavenger could specialize in resource gathering but that is a very broad scope of focus – could mean raw materials (deep sea mining), special materials only found in bodies of water or it could be treasure-finding related. Understanding that fishing is part of the gathering profession currently, but you could perhaps have some cross-artisan synergy happening with scavenging. Something unique that the developers could do here to set the progression apart from the standard skill tree is having additional bonuses when you specialize in certain groups of skills – perks is probably the best term for it. Almost thinking of it like a set bonus if you specialize in a group of skills. That said, they could also tie it into the augmentation system and have mariner augmentations unlocked in coastal nodes after completing certain quest arcs or dredged up in treasure hunting endeavors. It’s things like these that would make mariner progression most engaging to me personally. Indirectly, a specialization
path would be meaningful to me as a role player too. Feels like the personality of a ship’s captain, or an engineer or a scavenger would have completely different character motivation and I could use that. In a recent live stream, the team talked about the fact that larger ships would require multiple crew members to be most efficient. This fact alone makes me think it makes a lot of sense to have the mariner progression branch off into roles that different players could fill. I wouldn’t want it to be so restrictive that you needed certain roles otherwise the ship wouldn’t leave dry dock, but it would be good for differently specialized crew members to provide some tangible benefits on larger vessels.
You Will Always Remember This Day…
We already know from prior livestreams that there will be different “classes” of ships available in Ashes of Creation and that they will serve different functions with some more geared towards combat and others more exploratory. Just like the mariner class progression, I would love to see meaningful customization with naval vessels. I do feel encouraged that the team talked about an attachment system that would allow players to slot different mechanisms to their system to help specialize the functions. It would be good to see a nice variety of weaponry – cannons, harpoons, ballistae, or catapults with different ammunition types (Greek fire, anyone?). Trap launchers might be another way to covertly lay waste to unsavory, dark overlord types looking to ninja off with your hard-earned loot, don’t you think? I think there’s room for less deadly tools of course like storage or gathering attachments, like fish nets. One interesting idea for an attachment came up on a recent Pathfinder podcast – a treasure claw. Imagine dropping that bad boy in the murky deep and unearthing a chest of buried goodies – relics, gear or rare raw material stockpiles. One point of note I’d like to mention is the strategic element of attachments – a player will have to be judicious as they can only swap them out while docked. I was so happy to hear this from the developers because once again it emphasizes their design vision of meaningful choices and risk/reward. In addition to the functional, I would totally be a fan of some naval bling to really help your boat, large or small, be your own. Sails would just be the beginning in my opinion – decorative wood panels or carvings to place in strategic positions and some ability to dye/paint within reason. What good is a Verran yacht without the ability to pimp walk across the high seas as you take on or elude your sworn enemies? Just sayin’.
Why Fight When You Can Negotiate?
I suppose fighting in a PVX game is inevitable, but so is the importance of community building. I spoke about this in a few of my articles – community. The naval / mariner system is no different in this regard. We already have confirmation that having companions will help you brave the open waters in much more robust transportation. However, the “no one is an island” concept should carry through to more parts of this system. It should tie closely with the crafting professions. I talked earlier about a ship’s engineer who might be responsible for designing ship components and perhaps he might be able to build some of them but require rarer processed or crafted components from the other professions. Also, like I mentioned earlier the scavenger could be adept at gathering rare deep-sea-found materials for processors and crafters. Expert or master fisherman might require an advanced vessel to find more epic fishing spots and thus require partnering with a ship’s captain or at least taking on additional crew so they could venture out to these exotic locales. Fostering these different levels of interaction will only help bolster the community around this game, further reinforcing the relevance of player agency that is core to the vision. In the August 2022 livestream, the development team confirmed something new that bears repeating here – venturing out into the deep blue automatically flags you for PVP. This further
reinforces the community and player agency aspect of the game, which is very encouraging. I’m not a PVPer by nature, but I do recognize how important it is to create meaningful opportunities for interaction amongst players, collaboratively or through conflict. Sometimes negotiation must give way to an old-fashioned maritime engagement. Give no quarter!
Outro: Wherever We Want to Go, We’ll Go
Even though my exposure to sea-based content in the MMORPG genre hasn’t been massive, I do feel there are many commonalities with core systems of gameplay that give me an idea of what will work well in this space. I know these shared guiding principles will deliver even bigger success to this ambitious game I’ve been following for the past 5 years and change – meaningful progression for mariners, several levels of customization in both form and function for vessels and broader community engagement. As always, I encourage you to reply and share your thoughts on this topic. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about how we can make sailing the vast Verran oceans one of the best adventures yet in the next great MMORPG.
This is your Ashen Herald…wishing you the best.
Have an idea for a topic to cover? Join the community Discord, slip into my DMs and let me know!