Given how crowded the competitive multiplayer gaming space is, audiences are always on the lookout for something unique and interesting, and with multiplayer dragon battle game Century: Age of Ashes, developer Playwing is looking to deliver something that very much falls in that category. The idea of riding on dragons and flying through arenas as you battle other riders in high-stakes duels is an inherently exciting one, and Century seems to be well-positioned to make good on its potential. Curious to learn more about the game and what players can expect from its free-to-play offerings, we recently reached out to its developers at Playwing with several of our questions. You can read our conversation with the developers below.
"The idea was clearly to create a fun and fast-paced aerial combat game with high-end flight sensations. A game that would stand out from its competitors by offering a rich universe in which intense battles take place, and allowing players to ride mythical creatures like dragons – beasts with a strong cultural imprint – rather than piloting lifeless vehicles."
How did the idea for a dragon battle multiplayer game come out? Was it a result of wanting to fill a void in the industry for this type of game, or to deliver a more unique multiplayer experience?
The idea was clearly to create a fun and fast-paced aerial combat game with high-end flight sensations. A game that would stand out from its competitors by offering a rich universe in which intense battles take place, and allowing players to ride mythical creatures like dragons – beasts with a strong cultural imprint – rather than piloting lifeless vehicles.
We all keep a special place in our hearts for fantastical worlds in which iconic creatures are of the highest importance, and dragons have always been a prime candidate for movies, series and animation pictures. We wanted to create a gameplay experience like none-other, where dragons and riding them would be central, recreate their bestiality, their power, their speed, their agility.
Given its very premise, the simple act of moving around in the game is bound to be much faster and more kinetic than most games. What’s been your approach to map design in light of that?
You’re totally right. We designed our maps based on several precise aspects that were already in our concept art during the early stages of development of the game.
We approached them like open combat arenas with epic sceneries and extreme verticality to deliver intense sensations of flight and liberty. We worked precisely on scales and lengths in each set element to take into account your dragons’ movements so the exhilarating feeling you get when rushing and ‘finesse-riding’ comes from a balance of risk and reward.
Maps were built in a very specific way so you can explore multiple sub-areas (wide open areas, with very few cover elements or obstacles, where you’re an easy target; and narrow areas, dense and intricate, where you can hide from your opponent but it’s also trickier to target others), and all of them are connected so players aren’t blocked, flight stays smooth and natural.
Each of these zones bring different levels of challenge based on their density of elements and flow routes. They allow players to express themselves depending on their skills, choices of class, weapons, specialisation, strategy in combat and whether they’re the “prey” or “predator”.
Last but not least, maps layouts in Century: Age of Ashes have been built to offer spectacular, highly cinematic, combat areas where movements are driven by where gameplay elements – specific to each game mode – are scattered (power-ups, air vents, etc…), but also by the trace of energy tunnels and pools reflecting on ground, rock or water surfaces, that players can go through to build-up their boost and reach full flight speed.
"Our main objective was to provide a whole realm of potential playstyles without sucking the blood out of our straightforward core gameplay."
What can you tell us about the classes, in terms of not only how much they will differ from each other in their attributes and play styles, but also how they can work together in interesting ways?
Our main objective was to provide a whole realm of potential playstyles without sucking the blood out of our straightforward core gameplay.
An approach we had from the start was to avoid “percentage-based design”, like having a class deal +5% fireball damage or another one being able to turn 10% faster… In a game as fast-paced as ours, we could not afford to do these slight tweaks just for the sake of doing them, or the whole experience would grow increasingly cluttered for the player each time we added a new character. And that’s not even considering the potential balancing issues.
We thus felt comfortable deciding that each class would have access to the same basic attacks (Fireballs and Flamebreath) and have the exact same movement set. Where we strived for distinctiveness, however, was in the development of the different abilities and powers.
Each class has access to a unique, gameplay-defining power. For instance, the Phantom -as its name would suggest- can turn invisible in an instant. On top of that, a player can choose between two secondary abilities depending on their playstyle. For instance, a Phantom player might want to pick the Mines if they are feeling strategic, or the Blast if they want to play more of an assassin-type character.
On top of these, we added a passive skill to each class in order to make higher-level gameplay a bit more interesting. For instance, Windguards can shield their allies… but enemy Phantoms have the ability to pretty much one-shot shields thanks to their passive. However, if a Phantom tries to Blast a Windguard, the pushback will not be as strong as on other characters, thanks to her passive.
Regarding team strategy, it’s as much a matter of classes as it is a matter of game mode. In Gates of Fire for instance, it’s probably best to coordinate with other Windguards in order to protect your Flag carrier efficiently. However, you also want to shut down the enemy team’s carrier, so having Marauders on your side is a viable option as well. I even heard that the most perfidious Phantom players actually set mines on the Gates themselves…
How extensive will the customization options in the game be?
Customization in Century: Age of Ashes offers thousands of combinations to build your identity and leave your mark in the rich and vast dark fantasy world we’re building – the way you want it to be. At its center are Riders and Dragons. Both are tightly bound together in a fusional relationship; so when you select a class of rider, you also select its corresponding species of dragon. And we offer several customizations options specifically designed for each duo available in the game, at different levels of rarity (Common, Rare, Epic, Legendary).
You’ll have the possibility to customize your riders and dragons with a total of 11 slots: 6 for your rider – Head, Cape, Torso, Right Hand (shields), Left Hand (weapons), Legs – and 5 for your dragon – Dragon, Cranium, Chest, Tail and Saddle.
Whilst most customizations are obtainable via usual means, new Dragons are adopted via a toothier system: baby dragons. This different take on collection requires you to acquire eggs when levelling or in the shop, then hatch them in your nest and grow them by completing specific missions. Once you get a full-grown beast, it’s yours to keep!
Talking about collection, Dragons you encounter through various plays and actions will be added to a dedicated Bestiary section. When fully discovered, they receive a unique description that binds them to the lore of Century. We hope lorehounds in our community will enjoy collecting ‘em all to learn all details about our universe.
On top of that, the game offers a range of customization options that we consider must-haves for multiplayer interactions: Taglines to taunt your enemies, Player Icons and Backgrounds, Banners and Titles.
As for the amount of customizations you’ll get, let’s just say there’ll be plenty to match your play style and never run out of ways to terrorize enemies. New rewards will be added during weekly/monthly live events, special activations or partnerships (spoilers). But if you set your eyes on legendary loot, be prepared to fight for it.
"Customization in Century: Age of Ashes offers thousands of combinations to build your identity and leave your mark in the rich and vast dark fantasy world we’re building."
Can you talk about what your post-launch plans for the game are? What can players expect in terms of the frequency and scope of the updates?
First and foremost, our plans at launch are to focus on ensuring an optimal player experience. Our players have expressed a huge interest for the game all throughout its development, it’s all natural we deliver a game that lives up to their expectations – and keeps growing with enticing content, exciting features over the coming months and years. Of course we’ll involve our community in every step of this process.
Century: Age of Ashes is a live game set in a rich dark fantasy world in which you take the reigns of fierce mother-of-all creatures, engage in high-intensity skirmishes to prove your skills and become leader of the pack. All the content due to release post-launch will have the purpose of building upon this identity. It’ll start in December 2021 with a festive event revolving around a limited-time game mode and special customisations. More details to come soon.
Our launch also marks the debut of what we call “Season 0” with a rolling roadmap of live events and updates. Every month, players will have the opportunity to take part in two main events; each with their own set of rules and themed rewards. No spoilers, so let’s just say you’ll find a mix of modes you’ve seen elsewhere (with our own twist), and more unique, refreshing ideas. These events will also serve as testbeds for potential permanent features, and will be key to the launch of our competitive Season 1 later in 2022.
On top of live events, we will roll out regular tentpole updates to introduce core features to the game. For example, we’re working on a fourth Rider class and Dragon species, new maps and a PvE mode. We can’t put a date on these updates yet, and there’ll be plenty more to come so keep your eyes peeled. Century: Age of Ashes has been in development since 2017, so you can rest assured we have quite a few ideas in our bag.
Is there any chance that you end up adding a PvE mode to the game, should players want that?
There is! It’s a rather natural expectation; we’ll keep a very close eye on our community’s feedback regarding this feature – or others. In all cases, we can already confirm our teams are bubbling with ideas to develop an epic and unique PvE mode.
You’ve previously confirmed that all microtransactions in the game will be for cosmetic items only. Will there be some cosmetics that will be exclusive to purchases, or can all cosmetic items be earned in-game?
Indeed, microtransactions for cosmetics and customizations have NO effect on gameplay whatsoever. They’re visual improvements for your enjoyment (and frightening your enemies if that’s your play), a handful of selected dragons will be exclusive to purchases; but there will be no pay-to-win in Century: Age of Ashes.
"Century: Age of Ashes is a live game set in a rich dark fantasy world in which you take the reigns of fierce mother-of-all creatures, engage in high-intensity skirmishes to prove your skills and become leader of the pack. All the content due to release post-launch will have the purpose of building upon this identity."
PlayStation and Xbox versions of the game are announced, but do you have plans to bring the game to the Nintendo Switch as well, especially since it’s coming to mobile some time next year?
Century: Age of Ashes is planned to release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One S/X, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X in 2022, and a mobile version is also currently in development. As much as we love the console, there are no plans at the moment to bring the game to the Nintendo Switch.
What are your thoughts on the Steam Deck, and are you planning any specific optimizations for the device?
The Steam Deck is a really interesting product. Offering a high-end console aimed at the demanding PC audience is no small feat; and Valve have probably learned a lot from their mistakes (R.I.P Steam Machines) to join the hardware segment once again. We’re quite curious to see how it’ll make its way into the market – both from a studio and gamers’ perspective.
At the moment, we’re in a dynamic stance where we build upon our current tech to push the quality of our game to the highest standards, release content that excites players and focus on the new platforms we already confirmed for 2022 before thinking about a new system.
But we’re not ruling out the possibility of Century: Age of Ashes hitting the Deck one day (sorry).