Steven Sharif is the founder of Intrepid Studios; a California based gaming company looking to disrupt the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) world. The strangest thing is that though an avid gamer, Steven does not have a gaming development background. Yet, his game-in-development: Ashes of Creation has been breaking crowdfunding records and piquing major gamer interest before its launch in late 2018.
He is definitely a millionaire but exact wealth can range from low millions to a high of $10 million.
Steven Sharif, Background
Steven is no stranger to success. At the age of 18, Steven was recruited to join a multi-level marketing (MLM) company- XanGo, a seller of nutritional products, fruit juice, and vitamins. Steven’s masterstroke was creating a website for selling online. They were nascent days for ecommerce and his move was a huge win for the MLM company. Even though he has left the XanGo set up, the company is still around and in 14 years of its existence, it has done almost 3 billion in sales and has a presence in over 50 countries. At the age of 24, his focus shifted towards investment and the real estate sector and that’s where he has been rumored to have made most of his fortune. But now his primary focus is the development of “Ashes of Creation”. Being an avid gamer himself for over 25 years, Steven always dreamt of creating something that his fellow community of gamers could be proud of.
Dream come true: Intrepid Studios
Intrepid Studios was launched in 2015. With Steven at the helm, the core of the studio team is comprised of MMO industry veterans with over 40 years of experience between them. It has 14 professionals in senior roles, across a wide range of disciplines. Jason Crawford, Technical Director has over 10 years of working experience on MMO frameworks and was also heavily involved in backends of EverQuest II, Planetside 2, and EverQuest Next, and was a principal coder on KillSwitch over at SCEA (working on network and server architecture). Lead designer Jeffrey Bard has previously handled customer support, QA, international operations and has been in the MMO world since 2003 and has deep insight about the industry. Michael Bacon, Senior Environment Artist has worked on the first tow Saints Rows, Duke Nukem games and also worked on every expansion of EverQuest II.
Nodes of Creation
Ashes of Creation describes itself as an open-world, non-faction based, no pay to win, high-fantasy MMORPG. The players arrive as refugees from another world through portals. This new world features a cycle of death and rebirth, not just for the players but for entire parts of the game, thanks to the unique Node system. Certain areas of the world are designated as “nodes.” These nodes represent the growth of civilization within the wilderness.
History Beckons: Ashes of Creation (AOC)
Even before the launch, Steven was obsessed about building a community of fans. Through regular updates, blog posts, and in-game footage, he has kept the gamer base on tenterhooks. This community also helped Steven lay the groundwork for his Crowdsourcing campaign; so by the time he went to Kickstarter, AOC already had a huge community who trusted him and were willing to back “Ashes of Creation” financially.
“We went to Kickstarter having already developed that community,” said Sharif. “You can’t crowdsource if you don’t have a crowd!”
AOC broke all records for MMORPG crowdfunding. Ashes of Creation reached their initial goal of $750,000 in less than 12 hours becoming one of the fastest-funded MMORPGs in history! The Kickstarter campaign surged to over $1 million after 36 hours and by the time campaign came to a close, it had almost 20,000 backers pledging almost $3.2 million. It was an amazing achievement and a big stamp of approval considering video games companies have struggled to raise funds from Kickstarter platform over the last few years and moreover it was a MMORPG by a brand new studio. Though $3 million sounds like a lot of money, the game’s total development costs would run up to an estimated $30 million. Thus the Kickstarter will only be able to cover 10% of the total budget. But the outreach to its target community and the massive publicity is worth its weight in gold. Intrepid Studios has also been successful in raising an undisclosed amount from private backers for development.
Testing and Launch Date
The studio has lined up various alphas and betas to allow for community input into their iterative development process. First Alpha-zero was done on 15th December last year, though it was only available to certain “lucky” winners. The beta is tentatively planned for second half of 2018, with a stress test open beta directly before launch. Ashes of Creation is tentatively planned for a December 2018 release.
Steven has been in the news lately for his referral system. Some detractors have categorized it as a Ponzi scheme. Steven feels misinformed people are spreading false information about the game’s referral program. He emphasizes it is merely an affiliate program similar to what Amazon offers its collaborators.
At the time when likes of Garriott’s Shroud of the Avatar and McQuaid’s Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen have failed miserably, Steven’s ambitious project has garnered unprecedented attention. Though it still has a long road ahead but strong community engagement makes it a likely super hit.