Today the fine folks at Intrepid posted another post on their periodic developer blog which details the core structure of party-based gameplay and group dynamics planned for Ashes of Creation. We will see these group dynamics in action just one month from now when Ashes of Creation features live demos of both PvE and PvP gameplay at PAX West in Seattle.
Encouraging players to cooperate, teaming up to overcome both environment and player-generated challenges, is an important objective which Intrepid wishes to prioritize in order to deliver on their vision for the game. The first installment of their group dynamics blog revealed some interesting information about several of the design decisions Intrepid is making with Ashes of Creation.
Group Size - A Return to MMO Roots
One fascinating tidbit of information revealed both in today's developer blog as well as on last Thursday's live stream is that Intrepid are leaning towards a party size of 8 players, a much larger composition than has been featured in any recent AAA title. Recent titles ranging from The Elder Scrolls Online to Black Desert Online have all opted for a party size of 5 or fewer players within a group, promoting easier group formation and a quicker drop-in / drop-out gameplay experience. Larger group sizes, in Ashes' case 8 players, were more common with older MMOs with games like EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, and Star Wars Galaxies each featuring a group size of 8 players. In Intrepid's own words:
We like the idea of having a larger party because we want to put the massive back in Massively Multiplayer. If people just want to play with four others, they can always play their favorite MOBA. The idea behind an 8-person group is to allow us to really amplify party roles, and to create a need for each of the archetypes in every party.
While featuring a party size of 8 players may introduce somewhat of a barrier to entry for casual players in accomplishing group content, it certainly empowers the designers at Intrepid to create PvE experiences which are tactically complex and memorable to a degree which is typically reserved for "raid" style content in modern MMOs. The developers acknowledge that they will face more challenging work to appropriately balance content for an 8 player party, particularly given the range of possible group composition under the primary/secondary archetype systems which Ashes of Creation will feature. Intrepid has been vocal with the caveat that group sizes may change as they test and iterate upon encounter design during the internal and Alpha testing.
The dev blog also reveals that Ashes will feature conventional looting rules with typical Master-loot, Round-Robin, and Need/Greed roll based systems supported.
Party Roles, A Trinity of Responsibility
It seems that Ashes of Creation will design content with the expectation that player parties will feature a traditional allocation of combat responsibility, including Tank, DPS, and Support roles. Intrepid emphasizes, however, that character progression and development tools will be provided which allow a character to retain flexibility in the responsibility their character is capable of assuming in different situations. The way they plan to accomplish this is through the use of Augments, a progression mechanism which allows players to modify the functionality of a core archetype skill to apply secondary effects which are beneficial for the purposes of a specific combat role. Details on how Augments, Archetypes, Skills, and Roles will interact are in short supply currently but we can certainly expect to learn more about these mechanisms in the coming months.
Be sure to check out the original Intrepid blog post and please share your thoughts about this group system design in the comments! For further discussion, give a read to @Antharas great post on Party Roles and AoC.