A big milestone for the Ashes of Creation team and community arrives as Intrepid is presenting the game at PAX West in Seattle this coming weekend. Ashes will have a booth on the main PAX show floor where they are offering fans a chance to play the game first-hand, with both PvE and PvP game experiences available. The team discusses the process of preparing for PAX on the latest developer live-stream last week. Be sure to give it a watch if you want to learn more about what to expect from the show.
During the PAX weekend itself, there will be a number of live streams from PAX, players experiencing the demo, PAX panel at 12pm PST Sunday streamed on the front page of Twitch with a big announcement and special guests. This article describes what I believe are some of the biggest and most important things that we, as fans, can realistically look forward to from the PAX events.
Maintain momentum in cultivating community enthusiasm
Ashes of Creation has benefited from a tremendous growth of community following its hugely successful Kickstarter earlier this Summer which raised almost $3.3 million from 20,000 backers. Since that initial round of crowd-funding, the community has grown explosively as more and more players become aware of the game and begin to share Intrepid's dream for revitalizing the genre.
In contrast to the overwhelming success during the Kickstarter period, the last 2 months have been moderately less lustrous for Intrepid. Their second funding and backer campaign in June which was run through the game's official website was somewhat less successful, raising $300,000 in contributions from 2,500 backers. In the lead-up to the June campaign Intrepid expressed confidence that, based on regional and transactional restrictions, the June campaign would draw a larger response, evidenced by the ambitious backer goals for the campaign which supported stretch goals for up to 11,500 backers.
Additionally, the fan community encountered a minor speed bump in its development when Intrepid's Community Manager, Yaviey, stepped away from the studio due to "creative differences". Intrepid is working to hire a replacement, but in the short term there has been less direct engagement between Intrepid and sectors of the fan community outside of the official Discord server, which continues to be extremely active.
PAX presents a fantastic chance both to generate a huge amount of enthusiasm for the existing community and new fans, alike. One of the biggest points which will define the success of PAX for the Ashes team is the degree to which the enthusiasm level of the larger MMO community will respond to the gameplay and information about the game which they present at the event. Ashes is going "all-in" at PAX with a large booth directly on the show floor next to heavy-hitters like Capcom, Bandai, and Twitch. Not only are they in a prominent position, but they are debuting a custom booth design featuring the signature portals which are iconic for the racial starting areas in the Ashes game world. The cost of exhibiting with such a large and professionally constructed setup can be significant, so it's an important opportunity to make the most of the exposure that PAX provides to generate substantial hype for the game.
Observe unfiltered interaction with the Ashes game engine
Intrepid's commitment to put a playable build of the game in players hands so early on in development is inspiring. It represents a bold call to put the game in players' hands mere months after the initial Kickstarter. I suspect that the decision to demo the game at PAX has acted as a commitment device, forcing Intrepid to prioritize the player experience of the game from a very early point during development. This represents a considerable contrast to other games which are currently funded via Kickstarter but have placed much more development emphasis on the low-level architecture of their game engine and design principles. Hopefully the emphasis that Intrepid has placed on the player-facing side of the game has not come overly at the expense of early investment in depth of design, but based on the initial shots of pre-Alpha gameplay, the game's interface and user experience look very promising for the playability of the game's current build.
Thus-far, we have seen pre-prepared videos of gameplay from developers at Intrepid, PAX will be the first opportunity to observe a more unfiltered player experience with a variety of playable classes (four), weapon sets, areas, and enemy types. There will almost certainly be a number of high profile reactions from press, streamers, and notable fan community members. The quality of in-game experience which Intrepid is able to provide during the convention will, potentially, have a big impact on early perception of the game and its potential.
Despite all the potential of grandiose gameplay systems like nodes, caravans, sieges, and corruption, the quality and success of Ashes of Creation will hinge critically on the feel of the game engine, the combat system, and the player experience of engaging with the world. We will get the first unfiltered glimpse of this experience at PAX this weekend, which is incredibly exciting!
Possible announcement on Alpha 1 timing
During the pre-PAX stream, Steven mentioned that there would be an exciting announcement during the panel presentation on Sunday at noon PST. This announcement could be a number of things, but given that the game now has over 20,000 backers who are eagerly awaiting the beginning of scheduled Alpha and Beta testing, my money is on this announcement having to do with the anticipated timing of Alpha 1. Given that Intrepid already has a build of the game which they feel confident in exposing to the general public at PAX, they surely must not be very far away from early phases of Alpha testing.
They did caveat, however, that the gameplay experience shown at PAX is much more limited in scope than what will be available in Alpha. When asked how PAX gameplay will differ from the game in early Alpha, Jeffrey clarified:
The PAX demo is a really contained 10-15 minute experience because we need to show a lot of people stuff. Alpha will be a lot more of the real game, more zones, a more broad experience.
Hopefully the convention attendees who get their hands on the game next weekend will be aware of this, games which exhibit at PAX are typically within one year from their release date. There is some risk in showing the game so early that press and members of the broader gaming community may fail to contextualize Ashes as a game which is still pre-Alpha and likely several years from release. Either way I'm tremendously excited to see how things go and hope that the game inspires more fans to buy into Intrepid's vision for the game.
Stay tuned for more PAX coverage
Both myself and @Isarii are fortunate to be attending PAX this year, so be sure to check back on Ashen Foundry throughout the weekend and next week for coverage, articles, and (possibly) more as we share our experiences with the game. Let us know in the comments below what are your biggest questions that you have for Steven, Jeffrey, and the other Intrepid developers. We will do our best to pick some good ones to discuss as we get the chance to chat with them at the Ashes booth.