Simon spoke passionately about the upcoming North American release of the mobile MMORPG Lineage 2 Revolution:
- Why Netmarble brought the full-featured MMORPG experience to mobile devices.
- How Netmarble US is adapting and balancing Lineage 2 Revolution for the western audience.
- Netmarble’s plans for building a robust player community, both within and beyond the game.
Simon: Our company was founded in 2000. As you know, the Korean market at that time was very PC based. We started with PC-based games, and the Korean market was growing and growing in RPG and FPS space. Our company has a very strong technical background and experience with RPGs. By 2012 or 2013, the mobile market was getting bigger and bigger. We made the decision that in the future, mobile gaming will be getting bigger and bigger. So we changed our strategy to focus more on mobile games.
At the beginning, we tried to launch puzzle or racing games, but in the Korean mobile market, it was RPG games that became popular very quickly. When it comes to our background, we are very strong with PC RPG technology and experience. We thought we would have a better chance, if we leverage our experience for the mobile market, we can be an innovator to make a new market. We focused on RPGs more, and we have a lot of achievement from Korea and Asia and Japan. We believe even the Western market would follow that trend.
User behavior here is still heavy in casual gaming, but when watching the grossing top chart, the RPG genre of games is growing and growing. We want to be an innovator in the market, so now we focus more about RPG.
GP: And actually that's very true. We've been looking at statistics and mobile games are starting to overtake consoles.
Simon: It already has, yes.
GP: As we had mentioned before, most of these mobile games still aren't that complex. More like just as you play in an elevator. You guys are trying to change that actively. With Lineage 2 Revolutions you guys introduced not just single player tap and you attack people, but it's a very large-scale game where you work together with other players.
What kind of community are you guys trying to build around this game? It's not just one that's just casual, you guys are actually aiming for the competitive market.
Simon: Yes. So, we think the first core target user of Lineage 2 Revolution will be pc MMORPG or RPG users. They already have a lot of experience about community, clan, gear, or PvP features. So we think those users might be the core fan of this game. We try to build that user community, bring that user community from PC to mobile. Obviously, people cannot play whole day, sometimes moving or going somewhere. They can't bring their PC with them, right?
Simon: We think the core MMORPG PC or console users, they might have a smartphone and that if they play our game, they can think “this is an MMORPG I can play anywhere, any time.” We try to move those fans from PC to mobile space. They’ll still be on PC, but also can be our core users.
In Asia, we worked to build up the community. We have done some core user meeting, tournaments, something like e-Sports. In Asia we experimented, it works quite well to build up the community base. We are thinking about a similar approach to the Western market, so that's one other reason why we attended TwitchCon.
We demonstrated and we want to see what is the user reaction. Whether western users can accept these kinds of mechanics, the real-time factor. So, we got very positive feedback. So we will work more on that to build and enhance the community aspect.
GP: One of your challenges is actually balancing the more casual players who still enjoy it as an MMORPG, but they don't want to go competitive, versus the players who want to know everything. How can I get better? What can I do?
Like how can I be better than anyone else? How are you guys balancing between those two different ways of looking at the game?
Simon: That is quite a tricky one, right? Asia and Western users, even with the same MMORPG features, the depths of understanding, playtime, or play style look quite different. Their behaviors are quite different.
As you mentioned, that core gamer and non-core gamer also very different. There was a very challenging part when we develop these games. In the Western market especially, we add a lot of additional content to overcome that challenge.
For example, in MMORPG that you played, before you got enough level, there's not that much content you can enjoy because it’s growth first; and then PvP is really endgame content, right? Lineage 2 Revolution was similar at the beginning, but we try to change that by adding new content every ten levels. if you reach that. And even though you are not truly strong enough, you can enjoy 3v3, 5v5 PvP battle, very light, casual PvP battle. And also, if you see the Fortress Siege is 30-vs-30 here, right?
Simon: That was the sort of endgame content that if you’re not strong enough, you cannot win. But we introduced very freely joining Fortress Siege for the western audience. It's auto-balancing. You just to select the challenge for you to enter the game. Then the balance will be the same, so it depends on strategy. You can easily fight with others and then you can enjoy the content more like not hardcore or fighting but just casually enjoying PvP or something like that.
This is challenging but we try to meet the core users with the end content, Fortress Siege, and Castles Siege, those contents. And also, at the same time, we try to meet the difficulty level by introducing new content every ten level, so that they can keep playing enjoy and also getting some experience to get to that end content.
GP: So that's really interesting them because it's not like some RPGs where you feel like everyone’s making fun of you because you can't do anything, you have to keep going on this specific thing.
GP: That's actually really cool because for a mobile game like you said, there's not always a chance to sit down and play a game for hours, for these PvP modes how long are the different fighting modes for those trying to take?
Simon: For example, Fortress Siege fight is no longer than 30 minutes, 15 minutes or so. We try to understand the Western gamers' behavior. Some core users may play two hours a day, but usually, 30 minutes or one hour will be maximum even for our core user, right? So we try to meet their life pattern, life cycle. All PVP must be a very short and also the growth speed is much faster than Asia, Korea, and Japan, because players can not put enough time compared Asia.
That part we have adjusted when we launch this game, we will adjust that.
GP: They will be slightly different?
Simon: Yes. But balance is different and growth speed is different; even the content, we will add more content for the Western gamers, for the core users.
GP: Characters have been changed too?
Simon: And also visual.
GP: So it's not just you guys took the Asian Version and just threw at the Americans.
Simon: Casual games, like other game companies, maybe we can try that, but this is RPG. So as you know to balance, or you know, monetization, even the UI, UX, those things are quite different than Asia. If we're just using the same build for both the Western and Asian users at the same time, we don't think it'll be fully satisfying for most of the market. We just take core fun from here to there, just maintaining the core fun. The other parts - the UI, audiovisual, or some PVP mod, or growth speed, daily dungeon, other things - we try to meet up and culturize to the western market.
GP: It sounds like in that case then you guys are actually going to be actively monitoring how are players enjoying the game, what's going on? You are actually going to be equally balancing the different classes as they fight in PVP and so, right?
Simon: Yes. If you see the Fortress Siege, at the beginning, it looks like just fighting but when you watch that there's a strategy going on; there's a tanker, healer, and the way you attack is quite different by team and strategy, right? It's very strategic to fight in battle. To do that we keep watching the users’ behavior and data in the game balance and we keep adjust the game balance. It’s a quite high operation.
GP: Sound like it’s the hardest thing to balance?
Simon: Yes it's not easy but the lucky thing is I'm in charge of Western market, so the game was a launched in Korea and other territories already. So we have a lot of experience and data already. So, based on this data, we keep and improving the game balance and things
GP: That's good to hear. I think one of the things that games have been doing recently is constantly patching. It is actually good to see you guys are not just like looking at feedback every now and then but you guys are actively monitoring; why is this pattern happening? What class do you think the western market will enjoy playing the most?
Simon: Your definition of class means like...
GP: Like what kind of character?
Simon: I think Human Archer(?), we see the user data right? But in Asia, it's dwarves and elves, it's quite different.
We will see when the game launches; we will see.
GP: And I'm sure like from what it's been going on here people seem to actually enjoy the game a lot. I'm just looking at it and see stuff. I know this means a lot; there's a lot that's going through a player who sees the strategy going behind this, but it's difficult for me to catch on to that.
In the game, would there be like help for newer players to help to understand the different strategies and tactics as well?
Simon: Yeah, we try to make the game tutorial as easy as possible but also that is not enough because the game has a lot of contents, right? We align with some sites online to provide the wiki page. Move more details to the wikis. Also, at the same time, now we are working on that to make more tips, and how-to-play guide video, or document like that. As you mentioned that, it’s been quite challenging for us. So we try to provide as many information as possible to the new users, that never played these kinds of games and overcome the challenges.
GP: I'm pretty sure what's going to pop up as a result of this, a community. There's going to be sites like Reddit or other forums, people start interacting with this game.
GP: I'm starting to think. I think that's actually something cool and that mobile games haven't done before. Because when mobile games were still like Angry Birds, single-player games, they didn’t have any communities around them.
Simon: Yeah, no community around that, it’s unnecessary. they just play.
GP: One of the cool things you mentioned earlier was there’ll be a clan system. What's that system about? Like can we do with it?
Simon: You mean your Clan systems? As you know these this came with a clan system, the in-game community is there. We also provide our own clan site, clan service dedicated to Lineage 2 Revolution. They're connected to the game data, so people can easily track in-game data and communicate each other. It makes easier to deeply analyze. That's our job.
At the same time, as you mentioned there’ll be Reddit and a lot of outside existing community. Video side too, they’re all communities. We will encourage and make synergy with other branches like Cabal(?) and SimCity(?), communicating with them, so we gained their experience. We’ll also use some experienced companies to manage the community. Our internal team also manages the community, to correctly work with the user communities outside.
GP: That’s pretty neat because it's not like you're just playing yourself, but there are all these people playing with. I guess that's it for the interview. That's all I have for now. Thank you very much for your time.
Simon: Thank you for inviting me and have time to have this exchange.