Neowiz Games Corp. is set to go all out during the second half of this year. There’s at least four planned online game CBTs starting July, and including other OBTs and new game announcements, there’s going to be at least one game to be tested every month.
Considering the marketing costs and the manpower required in such tasks, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that they’re to start off on a journey which they cannot turn back. Will this all-out plan really be worth the time and effort? We had the opportunity to listen in on the words of the VP of Neowiz Games, Jongchang Kim.
The reason behind this all-out plan? Staying still won’t create any paths for us
Neowiz has had a relatively quiet first half of the year despite the number of games in the lineup. I don’t think there’s been any activity other than the first CBT of <Bless>?
Kim: We really wish development was so simple, and have everything fall right into our initial plans. (laughter) But everyone has been hustling since day one. The development phase has progressing so fast that makes it hard to believe that we’re working with an online game. Thanks to the hard work that the development has put in, it seems that us at the business department will have our hands full this half of the year.
Right now, the only games that have been publicly announced are <Project OG> <Project Black Ship> and <Bless>. Will we be able to see these games during this second half of the year?
Kim: Including <Viper Circle> and the currently unannounced FPS, there’s a total of five. We do plan to show all of these games in the second half of the year, starting with <Project OG> and <Viper Circle> tests in the summer season and <Project Black Ship> and <Bless> CBTs before this year’s G-Star. On top of this, there’s the unannounced FPS CBT, and we plan to progress <Project OG> and <Viper Circle> into their OBT phases within this year.
Basically, we will end up having a new test on our hands every month. We’ll have our hands busy well into the first half of next year with OBTs for <Bless> and <Project Black Ship>. We’ve been quiet for about two years for now, and we think that this will be a great turning point for us.
Compared to the recent move in the trend towards mobile games, the number of online games in this lineup almost seems odd.
Kim: Truth be told, looking at the sizes of the two markets, the online game market will have a hard time following the mobile game market. There’s no shortage in the number of users, and although it has been changing, mobile games are still cheaper(?) to develop. This talk has been around ever since mobile games have been getting big.
However, we don’t believe that means that mobile game market is easier. While the market is big and the initial entry isn’t as hard, there are that many contenders in the mobile market. There are literally thousands of products, but among those, about ten or so really get their place settled. In a way, the market is a harsher place than the online game counterpart.
This made us think back to the online game market. Because of the move in the trend towards the mobile market, online games are now harder to find. Compared to a year ago, the attitude of the overseas publishers have changed when looking for online games.
Now it’s not about the difficulty in acquiring games anymore, rather it’s about not being able to see online games in the market. Users respond to good quality games.
Even so, it doesn’t decrease the danger in online games. Online games often end up costing more resources and manpower compared to mobile games. On top of that, Neowiz Games of today does not have the strength it once did before.
Kim: That’s correct. We really didn’t leave anything for us to fall back on. But will we have anything left behind us if we don’t do anything? To be honest, we’re not nearly wealthy enough for us to live on interests alone. If we stay still, not only is there nothing behind us, there will be nothing for us in front. However, if we go forward by letting go of whatever is behind us, there will be something for us. We decided that it was better for us to move and challenge ourselves rather than to stay as we are.
But this doesn’t mean that we’ll overextend our abilities to do something unreachable. Our mobile game department is still doing its best to develop new titles and to look for the best course of action, and us at the online game department is doing our best all the same.
When PC games made its appearance and when online games boom began, many people predicted the difficulty that console markets will face. Console games did have its own share of difficulties, but it persevered with quality games and the interest of the users. I believe that the users will continue to show their love for good quality games.
FPS and golf games are our stepping stones
Let’s talk about the lineup. You have set FPS and Golf genres up first despite the fact that the peak season is just in the horizon.
Kim: You may be able to tell from looking at our lineup, but <Project OG> and <Viper Circle> are games that have OBTs planned within this year. We want the CBT to be of the highest quality possible, so that the testing phase will transition well into the OBTs.
This is around the time when people start asking why these genres were picked first. (laughs) While a portion of the reason lied in the development times, we wanted to gain a number of audience through these games before heading into next year. Neowiz Games has always been strong with FPS games, and Golf has its own niche market. It was with these strong pool of audience that we wanted to head into next year, where <Project Black Ship> and <Bless> are planned.
For golf games, <Pangya> and <Shot Online> already have a strong presence in the market. Especially with realistic golf games such as <Project OG>, you don’t know if the older gamers will bother to look into new games.
Kim: <Project OG> is a game that aims for both the general golf gamers and the real golfers. We don’t think this is any different for any other golf games out there. However, <Project OG> stands out with the fact that ‘Golf Zone’ is the developer.
Golf Zone is a company that is known for screen golf technology, and it now has a presence that rivals even the PC cafes in Korea. Looking at their expertise, we don’t think it would be too difficult for real golfers to approach <Project OG>.
Also, <Project OG> is not a game that falls behind other games. <Project OG> takes pride in the realistic physics engine of screen golf technology, and the state of the art graphics of CryEngine. The amazing graphics engine itself will make the game enjoyable to watch. Whether they be golf game players or real golfers, we believe that there’s enough in this game to be appealing to all.
<Viper Circle> is already notorious among gamers, enough to bring out the speculations such as ‘Neowiz will throw this game away.’ The changing of the game’s concept from SF to modern only added onto this notorious image.
Kim: As <League of Legend> and mobile games gained popularity, the market that suffered the most was the casual gaming market. However, one of the only markets that stood its ground despite the odds is the FPS market.
While there have been numerous FPS games, we believe that most of them failed because they focused too much on the ‘differentiated service’ factor and not enough on the popular appeal. Of course, we agree that the interests of the core fans are important. However for FPS games, well at least for Neowiz FPS games, these games have grown in the past by making sure that the game appeals to the general audience. Considering these factors, we’re actually glad of the changes made to <Viper Circle>.
Aside from all of this, there has to be something unique that FPS fans can look forward to in <Viper Circle>. What do you think this may be?
Kim: In a way, <Viper Circle> and <Bless> are very similar games. Due to the fact that both RPG and FPS genres have very long history, it’s difficult to differentiate itself from all others in terms of the system. This is especially so if the game is being developed with the interest of the general audience.
The only thing we can reveal at this stage is that we made sure that the basics were strong. There are a lot of concerns that the developers have at this stage. But these things are better shown in person rather than explained in words.
If I was to add one more comment, it would be that it’s received the best responses and reactions from our tests within the company. The testing phase is coming up soon, so please try it out yourself.
If you tested it within the company, wouldn’t your testers have felt the pressure to give back good response?
Kim: FPS games have played a key role in the growth of Neowiz Games. This is why we have been stretching the contents of our wallets to develop multiple FPS games such as <Viper Circle>, and because of this, our workers are ruthless when it comes to evaluating FPS games.
Like I have mentioned before, <Viper Circle> will probably not be a game that changes the face of FPS games. However, players will be able expect a fully enjoyable FPS game as well as experienced balancing in between contents.
Be looking forward to the party play of <Project Black Ship> and the large scale war of <Bless>
The CBTs for the RPG lineups begin in September. As <Project Black Ship> and <Bless> are products that expended a vast amount your resources, there must be quite a bit of pressure riding on these games.
Kim: Looking at our previous performance, it’s not a surprise when people are concerned about our RPGs. However, our business and development teams have tried their best despite these concerns. Both of the teams for these games are complete RPG veterans. The developers for <Project Black Ship> are the creators of <Dio> and numerous other RPGs, and <Bless> is being developed by the people who worked on the development of <Lineage 2> and <Aion>.
The business team have also changed their direction in plan. We have always shown our best quality and strength business and publishing. This is why we changed our focus to reinforce our performance in these areas. We have reinforced ourselves with people with experience in business with RPGs, and researched how we could reach more people with the news of our games.
<Bless> has received many criticisms after its 1st CBT.
Kim: Not only were there criticisms, we were seriously scolded. After such events, many people have been saying that <Bless> is not fun, and that the company is in serious trouble. However, we think that we were actually lucky to have received such criticisms so early on. In all honesty, when developing a game for a long time, it becomes easy for developers to develop personal attachments to that game, becoming almost stubborn to changes.
This phenomenon becomes more likely when a game is developed for a long time. However, thanks to the users who participated in the first CBT, we were able to get our heads back in the game. There’s nothing more important than the direct feedback of users.
The development speed has been sped up, and a lot of our concerns have been resolved. Some of our workers even wished that we had started the CBT even earlier.
It sounds like a lot of things will be changing in the 2nd CBT of <Bless>
Kim: To start off, the concept of a traditional MMORPG will not be changing. The points that the users criticized on, such as player movement and battle system, will be improved. We would like the players from the 1st CBT to try the game again this time around.
We have made modifications to the original plan of announcing content after content, and now plan to showcase some of <Bless>’s main features in the 2nd CBT, such as the large scale war system. We’ve actually been regretting the fact that players were only able to experience the basic systems of <Bless> in the 1st CBT. We plan to show a lot more in the 2nd CBT during this Fall, so please keep an eye out for the news.
This is the first CBT for <Project Black Ship>. If the history of 3D MORPGs means anything, games from this genre have a difficult time succeeding in the long run. How have you been preparing for this?
Kim: We’re actually more worried about the OBT next year than the upcoming CBT. (laughs) Like you said, MORPGs receive fairly good feedback during their CBTs thanks to the overwhelming action. However, these games tend to suffer from lack of content after their OBT stages.
It’s with this in mind that we have been developing <Project Black Ship> with plenty of action as well as repeatable contents. When we say repeatable content, we don’t mean the common ‘grinding’ or ‘farming’ content. To be honest, while those may unavoidably exist in the game, <Project Black Ship> aims to offer unique gaming experiences that will be different depending on the actions of users and party members.
Battles becoming different depending on the party is something that we can see commonly in other MORPGs.
<Project Black Ship> utilizes very accurate physics engine to feature destructive action in combat. Field environmental objects will break apart upon receiving player attacks to affect the strategy involved in completing the dungeon, and precise hit-box and striking motions will create brand new experiences in every single dungeon. What I have said earlier draws on this feature, with multiple players affecting the progress of the dungeon.
For example, defeating a boss monster may involve directly aiming for the opponents’ legs to topple them over, or some may opt out to throw the environmental objects or creeps to strike at the weak point. Aside from this, players will have the option to break the environmental objects to damage the opponents, or to use the hidden switches within the room to forcefully expose the opponents’ weaknesses.
As such, the gameplay will not be made unique with simple character design, but with user play patterns and battle strategies. The game aims to have unique strategies available for every play style out there. We have also been paying much attention on the community side of the game, creating places of social gatherings and game systems that require communal collaboration. For more detailed explanation, please look forward to the convention in the Summer.
The two RPGs both aim for 2015 OBTs. Would it be safe for us to think of 2014 as the year for genre-specific fans, and next year as the year for the popular audience, utilizing the Pmang portal?
Kim: While it ended up seeming like that, our goal is not portal, but games. If Pmang still had the popularity that it had before, we may have considered that route. However, people will not come to <Bless> because it will be serviced on Pmang; rather, people will come to Pmang because <Bless> is being serviced on it.
The strength of a portal fundamentally lies in content. It’s because of this that we’ve been changing our focus towards individual games, rather than the portal. The game must do well for a portal to do well. In a way, we’ve gone back to our initial roots.
Lastly, would you like to leave our viewers a message with the continuous tests in the horizon?
Kim: The online game market is not like it was before. Not only are there less games in all, there are even less successful games. However, seeing how good quality games still receive lots of love, we think that players are still on the lookout for a good online game.
Staring with the second half of this year, we will be showcasing lots of games to the market. We hope that our games will be enough to satisfy the needs of our players out there, and that they will be able to breathe life back into this market. The workers at Neowiz Games and at all our partners have been putting tremendous amounts of efforts. We have worked very hard on these upcoming titles starting July, and we hope that many players out there will show their love for our games.