Ashen Foundry

Basic Group Dynamics in Ashes of Creation

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.

About Atropos:

I am a dedicated gamer and MMO enthusiast who has been involved with MMO communities since EverQuest. As the creator of Tamriel Foundry and Ashen Foundry, I love the challenge of building platforms and tools for MMO communities to flourish.

14 Replies
  1. #1

    Isarii

    Moderator80 Posts

    I think the biggest surprise for me was that they're targeting a group size of eight, which as you mention, is going to be an interesting reversion to the days of old. Even though you mentioned the magic words (Star Wars Galaxies), I'm still not entirely sure this is a decision I'm super excited about. There's definitely some major potential for me to come around on this once we get a bit more information on exactly how archetype non-combat utilities end up playing out though.

    As for the trinity, that's pretty much as expected. While I do somewhat yearn for a game to come along and provide some new, genre-changing form of combat mechanics that does away with the trinity and simplistic aggro mechanics in favor of a new group role paradigm, I'm kind of glad that, given everything else AoC is doing that dwells in the unknown, they didn't try to reinvent the wheel in this area. It's tried, it's true, and it works; when you're already innovating in other areas, there's no reason to fix what's not broken in this one.

  2. #2

    Atropos

    Administrator149 Posts

    I agree with you, definitely not surprised they are opting for a trinity based division of combat responsibility, I am surprised about the 8 player group size though. If I had to guess I would have definitely expected 4 which seems to be much more en-vogue in recent games.

    Creator of Ashen Foundry and Tamriel Foundry. Former guildmaster of Entropy Rising. Economist and MMO enthusiast.

  3. #3

    Antharas

    Member10 Posts

    The 8 player party size is something that surprised me as well, and I'm not sure what to expect.

    The more I think about it the more I like it. First of all it allows for more advanced encounters such as you'd find in raids, but also, it means a sever population only needs 1 tank and 1 cleric per 8 players, to sustain group gameplay, rather than the usual 1 per 5, which should in theory lower wait times a bit for those that dont play high priority roles.

    That said, there is also the risk that they simply overcomplicate it needlessly. If a party is still going to only have 1 tank, how will encounter design change by adding 3 people, exactly? If a party consists of a mix of 5 classes (so it has some duplicates) how will that change gameplay? Designing encounters so every class in the game has a purpose is great, but designing encounters expecting every class to be present? I dunno, I find it highly unlikely we will routinely be gathering groups of exactly one of each class.

    As for the loot system, sounds standard enough, though I dont personally have experience with a bidding based system. My biggest concern is how they will handle dungeon loot. They have mentioned that they are trying to avoid bind on equip/pickup, but then, dont items then practically become a stack of gold? In that case every person should roll need on every item, because they can just sell it and buy the item they actually want for the profit. I wonder how it will turn out... I wouldnt personally mind just running with round robin for groups, assuming everything can be sold. However from what I've seen on the official forums, people are very against such a system.

  4. #4

    Elloa

    Contributor18 Posts

    It is very interesting to note that 2 other games currently in development goes back to large group size: Saga Of Lucimia, and Pantheon also revealed the group size to be 8 players.

    While I can't speak about how Ashes of Creation and Pantheon plan to do to balance PVE encounter relegated to big group size, I can explain the though process behind that decision for Saga. As those 3 games are heavily influenced by Everquest I & II (that I never played), there might be some common thinking here. The goal is to make relevant some roles that had been forgotten with the simplification of combat in MMORPG: the puller, the CCer, the off-tank, the buffer etc... Those type of groups need more than the Holy Trinity to perform correctly. Not counting the adventure skills that are going to be needed aswell to beat the environemental challenges that the players will face in the Dungeons. I hope, that Ashes will allow some flexibility though, as I'd not want to be forced to find groups with 1 archetype of each to ensure success. From a social point of view, that would be a disaster.

    We live in a new era for MMORPG (and internet in general). While going back to the roots is nice, its important to keep games flexible, and accessible, especially from a social point of view.

  5. #5

    Atropos

    Administrator149 Posts

    Great points, @Elloa. I've been very passively following Pantheon and SoL but I hadn't heard that they were doing 8 also. 

    My suspicion is that with the 8 groups / 8 archetypes idea is really just a nice coincidence, rather than a fundamental concept for group formation. My expectation is that we will see groups who want to form with a tank, hybrid off-tank, 2 healers, and 4 damage dealers, regardless of exactly which player class combinations are involved. That formula has been pretty tried and true for 8 player content.

    I do worry a bit about the difficulty of getting 8 players together, regardless of class composition. If Ashes does go forward with an 8 player group I hope they build-in top quality social tools to help connect players.

    Creator of Ashen Foundry and Tamriel Foundry. Former guildmaster of Entropy Rising. Economist and MMO enthusiast.

  6. #6

    Weolo

    Member8 Posts

    The 8 person groups will be difficult to balance and I do reserve some of my comments about it until I read or see more on the subject.

    I will be making sure I test the life out of it in Alpha to give it the best chance to work.

    I don't think you will be forced to have one of each archetype because with the secondary class idea you will most likely be looking for some class to fill a role which they could either be able to do with their primary class or secondary one. The hardest part will be changing the way players think to get them to accept the idea that you can have a well structured flexible party to have the best chance of success. Not 1 tank, 1 healer, 6 damage.

    Looking forward to seeing how it develops, it is very early stages.

  7. #7

    CasNation

    Moderator15 Posts

    I think the large group size may be a direct attempt to add more meaning to organized group content. It will certainly depend on the depth of the group dungeons (pun intended), but having a large group size helps limit the number of times a certain piece of content can be run. Combined with group size, a potentially very difficult experience, and hell even travel time to the dungeon, being able to assemble a group and complete a piece of content is going to be HARD. And hopefully completing it will mean more to the players as well. 

    While it remains to be seen exactly how difficult it is going to be to access this content, I think the larger group size could be a very good thing if it prevents content from becoming shallow too quickly.

  8. #8

    Aroo

    Member3 Posts

    Hello all, this is my first post on the Foundry!

    Firstly, I love the work that has been put into the site, thank you all for helping build the community here!  

    Secondly, at the topic at hand. 8 players doesn't really surprise me in the way that the game is going with a focus on community. The roles of support classes breaking the "holy trinity" automatically pushes from 5 to 6. If you look at games like World of Warcraft - DPS classes are quote "a dime a dozen", with groups primarily consisting of a tank and healer taking their pick of 3 to join their group.

    This dynamic through Ashes of Creation allows for more DPS or support archeotypes to fill each group. Also, it allows group flexibility - will you take 2 tanks? 2 heals? 1 or 2 support? How many pure DPS classes? I think it just allows more variance to the dungeon experience.   Making each group composition a different experience to the encounters, for better or worse!! I'm all about the vision for bringing MASSIVE back into MMORPG, and increasing the group size for dungeons is a perfect start. When you mention dungeon - you won't be talking about the same set of classes and roles, it will be a unique set of skills being brought to the encounter based on the available classes.    When you do a dungeon in say World of Warcraft - 1 tank, 1 healer, and 3 DPS is assumed. Well, assumption goes out of the window with AoC, and that in of itself brings so much variance and fun to each dungeon encounter!  

    I for one, cannot wait!

  9. #9

    Atropos

    Administrator149 Posts

    Hey @Aroo, I'm glad you found us, thanks a bunch for joining up :)

    I agree with your optimistic view that a larger group size can empower Intrepid to design encounters that are more tactically complex, it will be interesting to see how a MMO player-base who have (perhaps) grown accustomed to a lower bar in terms of group content will react to a more challenging fundamental design.

    Creator of Ashen Foundry and Tamriel Foundry. Former guildmaster of Entropy Rising. Economist and MMO enthusiast.

  10. #10

    Latin

    Moderator14 Posts

    Given the class archetype possibilities, perhaps it is not that surprising for Intrepid to opt for a larger group basis, enabling players to decide on whether to strive for specialisation, hybridisation or versatility, encouraging multi-player cooperation. Designing content for 8 players could also mean more depth in scope and intricacies for players and theorycrafters alike.

    However it does raise an issue about accessibility for the casual players or those who are unaffiliated with regular, organised groups. The learning attempts of all groups are likely to be quite gruelling and painstaking - Intrepid must decide on their target audience (which groups of players) and strike a balance between frustration and reward in their regards, while introducing modifiers that could cater for other players, e.g. difficulty slider.

    Other issues concerning grouping and large groups such as loading times, progress due to crashing and latency (!) should also be looked at and addressed promptly.

    I hope that this design decision does not close the door for future group content that are designed for sizes smaller and greater than 8.

    e pluribus unum

  11. #11

    Isarii

    Moderator80 Posts
    Latin wrote on Aug. 2, 2017, 9:12 p.m.

    I hope that this design decision does not close the door for future group content that are designed for sizes smaller and greater than 8.

     Same. I like the idea of larger content - though I find 40 mans in particular to be rather excessive - but I think there's a certain intimacy in group sizes of 4 or 5 people. When you get 8 people down to try to do something relatively difficult that's going to require a lot of coordination between group members, you're pushing up against the boundary where grouping goes from people hanging out and having fun to where you have to have people shut up unless they're one of the designated raid leaders / shot callers. 

    That more serious approach is something that makes sense for competitive and bleeding edge PvE content, but it does cut into that elusive fun factor that I feel most of any game needs to be hitting. There are times for fun socialization and times to shut up and get down to business, but I worry that group sizes of 8 and 40 are putting the balance far too in favor of the latter.

  12. #12

    Aroo

    Member3 Posts

    @Isarii I fully agree with your concern over the 40 man raid content. It is no joke to be able to regularly form and sustain a group of players of that size.  The 8 man dungeon experience tho, I believe in a close knit guild/community it should be easy for a player to reach out and find a group to be able to run with. If the difficulty is tuned to not be too punishing (at least at the start - maybe increased difficulty modes at a later stage), these could really act as fun areas to get to know folk and become recruitment places for guilds. With all items being BoE, it would be good places to find gear - and for guilds to store items for leveling recruits to hop into dungeon pieces when they reach level to equip. I hope that the dungeons will become far more relevant than just equipment drops, but also not just be a repeating grindfest.

  13. #13

    Nybling

    Contributor19 Posts

    Larger group sizes can be fun but problematic, especially if server population starts to become a problem or on off-peak hours.

    Final Fantasy XIV has a lot of content that requires 8 people (there is a lot of 4-player, or Light Party, content as well), and one of the limitations in forming a default group is finding 2 tanks and 2 healers unless you have an organized group of players.  Depending on how Ashes wants to handle various PvE groups, there may be problems finding people to fill groups for PvE if they don't  have a stable population.    Final Fantasy XIV has a healthy population and yet DPS players still have to wait 5-10 minutes to get into the 8-man trials or even longer for a simple 4-man group and this is due more to lack of tanks than anything else.  And while 5-10 minutes doesn't seem that bad, again, it's a game with a large population.

  14. #14

    Erlexx

    Contributor1 Posts
    Nybling wrote on Aug. 4, 2017, 10:16 p.m.

    Larger group sizes can be fun but problematic, especially if server population starts to become a problem or on off-peak hours.

    Final Fantasy XIV has a lot of content that requires 8 people (there is a lot of 4-player, or Light Party, content as well), and one of the limitations in forming a default group is finding 2 tanks and 2 healers unless you have an organized group of players.  Depending on how Ashes wants to handle various PvE groups, there may be problems finding people to fill groups for PvE if they don't  have a stable population.    Final Fantasy XIV has a healthy population and yet DPS players still have to wait 5-10 minutes to get into the 8-man trials or even longer for a simple 4-man group and this is due more to lack of tanks than anything else.  And while 5-10 minutes doesn't seem that bad, again, it's a game with a large population.

     

    Population doesn't really matter after a certain point when it comes to wait times for group composition. If the population of FFXIV tripled, you would still see the same shortages of certain roles/classes, causing the same wait times. The wait is a factor of the class and encounter design of FFXIV. If for example you only needed 1 Tank, 1 Healer, and 6 of just about anything else - You could see wait times drop dramatically.

    From what I have seen thus far of Ashes in design, it seems that 1 of each class could be preferred in groups (Of course this is in a perfect world of balance that might never be made,). That still means they probably won't build things in a way that you need 2 heavy tanks, 2 main healers, 2 Ranged DPS and 2 Melee or something like that. If the offtank can be substituted for a CC or summoner pet, and the second healer be switched out for a few hybrids or specific buffs; you end up in a situation where wait times can be worked around. This also assumes that "group finder" tools are either extremely intelligent or don't exist (making players form their own group compositions). I am a fan of no group finder myself - make people talk to each other!

    Retired? Professional Twitch Broadcaster

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