Archive for: February 2010

[NCsoft] Freya Update Is Just a Beginning

NCsoft spills out details on a new update Freya for thisisgame.com. Freya is a new update since Lineage II Chaotic Throne: Gracia Part 1 in April 2008. thisisgame.com met with a development team leader, Jae Hyuk Han, at NCsoft in Korea after Freya update had applied to a test server on January 20th.

Aion Brought Out a?Sense of Crisis

thisisgame.com (TIG): It’s been a while since the last Lineage 2 update, hasn’t it?

Jae Hyuk Han (Han): There has been some update but as for a major update, it’s been two years since The Chaotic Throne. To tell you the truth, Freya was ready when Aion was launched.

At that time, Lineage 2 was gaining momentum and we were going to update big time to maintain that momentum. But ever since Aion entered the competition, we had mulled over if it was a right decision to go ahead with the update. Then we reached the decision it wouldn’t work as we hoped.

TIG: That means you started over again?

Han: Yes. We canceled everything and started over. For the next six months, our team looked at a new direction in order to deliver a better contents.

TIG: What do you mean by “a new direction”?

Han: Most developers tend to have a certain strong opinion or an ideal vision in their mind about what they want to develop and to pursue it no matter what. During the sort of crisis, we started second-guessing what we got was what users wanted.

As a result, we developed what users wanted and that was Freya. In fact, we included most of class skills that users had requested for a long time.

The Wind of Change in Lineage 2

TIG: Sounds like Freya is a new beginning of Lineage 2.

Han: In a way it is. We are preparing for four major updates in this year. And that starts with Freya. You can expect a unprecedented scale. Graphics alone are three times more than any other major updates.

1,000 ‘hand-drawn’ animations will be added or switched to existing character and monsters.

And of course we are talking about quality not just quantity. We will meet user’s highest expectation.

TIG: What was uers’ reaction when you unveiled Freya on a test server last month?

Han: We had some thinking to do. Users had complained about a lack of level-appropriate hunting grounds, so we provided them in Freya. The funny thing is that testers now requested an instance dungeon. So we are looking into it whether it just limits to testers or overall users. It will become clear once we apply to a live server on February 3rd.

TIG: Tell us more about hunting grounds.

Han: It is a location that narrows a gap between hardcore users and casual users. In a current Lineage 2, 64% of users are between level 60 to 70. The hunting grounds are something for them.

Especially for a casual user who want to level up from level 79 to 80. With a help of an item or a promotion in the future, s/he can level up beyond level 80.

TIG: Wouldn’t adding simple hunting grounds turn into just a?tedious level up?

Han: It doesn’t just mean we simply added huntable places. Each hunting ground has a theme. For example, there is a new hunting ground where a cook appears. The cook spreads a variety of dishes which users can eat. But someone will fall asleep or reduce his/hers capability due to debuff.

We have created some items and weapons that users certainly appreciate.

TIG: It looks like previous hunting grounds just provide EXPs by throwing in high level monsters but now you’ve got a theme hunting ground.

Han: More AIs were added to a similar mass. AI codes were doubled in Freya which make a game more dynamic and users to utilize surroundings better.

TIG: An instance dungeon has been a big thing in MMORPG these days. Have you noticed?

Han: Of course, we have. In fact, we are developing an instance dungeon in Freya as well. Even though Lineage 2 became easier for some users, however, it still is a hard core game. A field hunting ground still matters in Lineage 2.

The highest level possible in Lineage 2 is 85 but only few user has reached there. The biggest hurdle lies between level 79 and 80. A new hunting ground will help users to move along.

Among this year’s updates we prepare to reveal seven or so instance dungeons.

<Instance Dungeon>

TIG: What does Freya mean in this update?

Han: Freya is a name of the ultimate boss and a core of the update. Unlike previous Lineage 2, you can fight the boss with two patterns: Raid or Ultimate Fight.

TIG: Ultimate Fight? Haven’t seen it in Lineage 2 before.

Han: Yes. It is a new concept. To put it simple, it is a next level of raid. VERY HARD. If you choose this mode, you will create more damage, naturally.

Ice Queen Freya

TIG: You said Freya is the core of the update. Can you elaborate more on that?

Han: Story-wise and raid-wise Freya has a symbolic meaning. To tell you a brief story behind it, it begins with a marble that creates an Ice Princess by Gran Kain.

A prankster Gran Kain gave Princess Melissa a marble. And she turns into Ice Queen Freya when the marble broke.

TIG: So you rescue Princess Melissa through a raid?

Han: That’s a possibility. The story depends on a quest. Princess Melissa is a medium to become Ice Queen.

A user can complete a rescue quest if s/he pursues the quest and go through a raid. But there is a quest to remove Prince Melissa and become Ice Queen yourself. So the end of the quest will be to remove Melissa. You can pursue both quests as well.

TIG: Tell us more about a character class.

Han: We’ve thinking what users want the most. The answer we reached was a character class. So far we only modify a part of class.

Freya is a different story. We will adjust a balance until user can satisfy not developer. And that takes some time. We will be working on this issue throughout the updates this year.

TIG: Any last words?

Han: There has been no major update last one and a half year. Some user said our development team abandoned Lineage 2. But we’ve been working hard to implement what users want.

You can find it for yourself in Freya. As I mentioned, we are preparing for four updates this year. And you can count on us to deliver what you want.

[Nexon] Way too many server maintenance for Mabinogi Heroes

nexonMabinogi Heroes went through 29 maintenance service shutdown since its grand open on January 21st. The total time spent on maintenance added up to 29 hours.

Here is a breakdown: server access errors caused the disruption for 15 times and other causes include character errors, mini map, item-related errors.

Users are upset, of course. Especially when they purchase time limit items and terms of use dictates that the company takes responsible for refunds only more than 4 hours of service disruption occurs a day at their fault. In other words, they are not coughing it up for users.

[KTH] Partners with Burda:ic for LOCO

KTH inked a publishing agreement with Burda:ic for the North American region. Last July Burda:ic purchased a publishing rights for Europe.

LOCO, a strategic action MMO, will be serviced by Burda:ic’s game portal, alaplaya.

[Koera] Vendor Survey Analysis: Marketing Budget Trend 2010

To view charts and graphs visit our Gamasutra blog.

Thisisgame.com conducted a survey earlier on the marketing budget analysis this month. Total 24 major publishers in Korea participated in the survey: Actoz Soft, Aurora Games, CCR, CJ Internet,?Com2Us,?Dragonfly, EYA Soft, Freechal,?GameHi, Goorm Entertainment, Gravity, KTH,?Liveflex, Mgame, NCsoft, Nexon, NHN,?nPluto,?Ntreev Soft, Sonov, Webzen, Windy Soft, and YD Online.

High Expectation for 1H 2010

In 2009, a total of 90 new games launched in Korea. This year out of 24 participants, 23 publishers responded they had a plan to launch at least one game in the first half. That would be 6o games in the pipeline, an average of two games per week.

11 participants expected to launch 3~5 games and 10 participants to launch 1~2 games in 1H. There are even 4 vendors that plan to launch around 6~10 games. Browser-based games seem to cause such rise in the number of launching games.

Most publishers aim to conclude CBT or OBT in order to release a game during the winter breaks, which is the high season when it comes to online games in Korea. Such trends force publishers to begin their CBT/OBT in 1H and at the same time boost their revenue.

In fact, 13 out of 24 participants answered they expected 50% increase in their revenue in 1H compared to the same time period last year. Only one participant expected a revenue decrease in that time period.

Highly anticipated games are pouring in: CJ Internet’s Dragonball Online, NHN’s Tera, Nexon’s Dragon Quest and Mabinogi Heroes, Neowiz’ Age of Conan and Battlefield Online, and Mgame’s Argo all begin OBT in 1H 2010. The first half of 2010 can be a turning point for some of them.

Budget Increase in 2010

14 out of 24 participants increased the marketing budget from the same time last year. Four vendors expect more than 50% increase and three vendors expect somewhere between 31 to 50%.

Two participants decreased the budget down to 30% and four are still undecided. The reasons behind such decrease include better budget management and less game launch compared to last year.

The main reason for the increase is stemmed from the increase of game launch followed by increasing marketing costs.

33.3% of participants answered that they spend 30% of the total budget on marketing activities.

“As games launch and costs soar, the marketing budget naturally increases as well. So it just reflects such inflation,” explained a participant.

Focusing on Promising Titles

When it comes to game publishing and marketing, ‘choose and focus’ is a dominant mantra. 79% answered they weigh the budget allocation differently depending on games. 41.7% self-grade each game then allocate the marketing budget accordingly. 9 participants answered they only focused on a main title.

“It is natural to bet on something more likely to succeed. It’s not about hedging a bet. While developers may want all the love and attention for their games, publishers have to be careful to choose and focus. That’s why some of small developers complain about promotion and marketing on publisher’s end,” explained an industry insider.

OBT Matters Most

20 participants picked an OBT as the most concentrating period of marketing activities as well as the budget. Two participants spent the marketing budget on a preview party or CBT, and two answered it varies depending on the games.

Publishers prefer OBT to maximize its result with limited budget because OBT can accommodate unlimited number of users.

Participants selected advertising as the most effective form of marketing. 18 participants weighed heavily on “ads on portals, webzines, and TV.” Five participants used in-game events and promotion. The result shows there are not many alternatives available rather than advertising as a form of marketing.

“Practically marketing means advertising. With limited budget, OBT is the best time to spend phase in order to solicit players. It is like stocking ammos before going to a war,” explains a publisher.

Market Outlook for 2010

Most publishers expect the market will be led by more active and visible marketing activities due to increasing number of game launches.

13 participants expect triple A titles to lead the market while six participants find small-and-medium studios will lead the growth.

[Joymax] Commercial Service for Silkroad in Russia

Joymax announced its commercial service launch in Russia partnering with Astrum Online Entertainment. Astrum said more than 130,000 users registered during OBT.