Bluehole’s CEO on how Ascent: Infinite Realm (A:IR) will breathe life into a stagnating MMORPG genre

Ready for some harsh truths, MMO players? Bluehole CEO Hyo-Seob Kim recently told GIbiz that he wasn’t expecting PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds to do so well globally, that the studio was “pitching up the quality of the game for the Western market.” Bluehole wasn’t a major player before that, even though it had been making MMOs for a decade. In fact, Bluehole hadn’t even gone to G-Star in six years – back during the rise of its MMORPG TERA in 2011, which was “targeting the Western market from the beginning.” You’ll recall that TERA actually did well – GIbiz fairly calls it a “hit” for the genre – but Kim argues the genre has since stagnated.

“MMORPGs were very new [ten years ago], with World of Warcraft and all the others. But the play style [stayed] very similar as time passed on, so the players got bored with the system. They started looking to other genres of games. […] But there are still people who are used to the MMORPG, and if a new game can give them a new experience they will come back and play again.”

Just so happens that Kim has a new MMO aiming to give players that experience: the recently announced Ascent: Infinite Realm, aka A:IR, a glossy steampunk-fantasy MMORG that boasts less grinding, more meaningful quests, and front-loaded fun, with a design that recognizes you probably play more than one game – and you probably play console and mobile too. Like TERA, A:IR will focus on “mainly targeting the Western audiences,” which Kim says is evident in the grittier graphic style, though of course the company won’t be sad if the high quality of the game helps it in the East too, as with PUBG. It’s just not designing “the perfect game for two regions,” as Kim says it didn’t work perfectly with TERA.

“At this time, there aren’t many companies making MMORPGs, and the games that are running right now have often been running for a few years,” he argues. “A lot of users are exhausted with the older content, and while users have a lot of options in other genres, there aren’t a lot of MMORPGs on the market. If something new comes out, it will get higher interest.”

Source: GIbiz
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Code of Conduct | Edit Your Profile | Commenting FAQ | Badge Reclamation | Badge Key

LEAVE A COMMENT

49 Comments on "Bluehole’s CEO on how Ascent: Infinite Realm (A:IR) will breathe life into a stagnating MMORPG genre"

Subscribe to:
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most liked
Reader
Chestnut Bowl

As company try new things in the genre, I’ve come to realize that I prefer the holy trinity, “traditional” model of things over the chaotic mess of other combat systems. The non-combat systems and graphics of BDO (open world included) with the combat of FFXIV would be my ideal game.

Reader
Crowe

Yeah, I’m sure I would be really into GW2 if it had gone with the trinity. Unfortunately, it’s just a hodgepodge mess of things.

Reader
sirsam

Just wanna bitch about how every single game company takes the UI/Hud off of gameplay trailers. And you wanna know why? It looks much much better without all the clutter.

if you are going to show no HUD, design the game to be minimalist like it then, not show a video without it then clobber it all on when players actually get into game.

Also as someone who has played almost every mmo at some point and is completely jaded toward ‘AAA’ mmos…..this looks like the same garbage. Smells like it too.

It will probably have 0 physics in a game about ‘flying’ and adventure. haha
I’ll be playing World’s Adrift which is much more interesting to me.

Reader
Toy Clown

WoW and FFXIV still operate on the old “tried and true” model many have tired of. Wow has continued to be successful and FFXIV is the success story quickly reaching WoW numbers.

Then we have games like GW2, and I think it did well in creating content without a sub and lots of freedom and story.

BDO was a hit in the first 6-8 months of its life, but quickly diminished as people got to high levels and realized end-game was nothing but grinding and PvP.

I hear lots of people say they enjoy the combat of games like BDO, GW2, Tera and a few others. Personally, I’m attracted to these games due to the fact they have features other than stuff that involves fighting. After playing MMOs 20 years, combat is the same, just dressed up differently. It’s why I look at crafting, housing, animal taming, government system set-ups, farming, a vibrant player-driven market, and roleplay features such as detailed emotes, chat bubbles and ability to code and color chat, walk toggles, ability to sit on furniture, etc.

The more features an MMO has, combined with a vibrant RP community, is what attracts me to MMOs. I do have an eye on AiR, but after playing other Asian-created MMOs, I’ll have to see what sort of features and quality-of-life features they include before hopping on-board.

The Dallas Dapifer🌪
Reader
The Dallas Dapifer🌪

What a load of crap. Same thing I’ve heard since 2003. They are making all the same stupid mistakes every single other company has made in PubG and you think they are suddenly going to figure it out and create something revolutionary here? Nah. They struck gold, now time to blow the money.

Reader
Bryan Turner

He’s absolutely correct, this is why GW2 gripped me the way that it has, a game that has enough in common with the industry standard, yet did enough new to be interesting, it also put a ton of polish on it that would make Blizzard proud.

I’m honestly shocked it isn’t bigger than it is, looking at Reddit activity though you can tell while it isn’t as big it has a passionate active player base.

InfractionRQ
Reader
InfractionRQ

How are they planning to make money with the game?

If its a f2p with cash shop then good luck in the west with that crap.

Id rather developers developed a game worth me paying for monthly versus designing the cash shop to get me to buy things and making the game less fun to extract cash from me.

ihatevnecks
Reader
ihatevnecks

It’s not like they need the luck. F2P with cash shops are doing pretty damn well; otherwise we wouldn’t continually see new content for games like Neverwinter, TERA, ArcheAge, STO, SWTOR, etc.

Reader
Sally Bowls

Oh poo. I originally thought this was about AR, which is interesting. (IMO, the hardware should be there in ’20 to ’22 and I hope we get some MMOs.)

In my experience, it is much easier to talk about an innovative MMO disrupting the industry than it is to ship an innovative MMO that disrupts the industry. I will be cautious until it ships but good luck to them. Even if it is not to my taste, innovation – hell a new MMO from a real developer – is always a Good Thing.

————

OTOH
https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/310471/Tencent_working_to_bring_Battlegrounds_to_mobile_in_China.php

TenCent (largest company in Asia; largest gaming company)
+
China (largest gaming market)
+
mobile (Tencent’s smartphone game revenue grew by 84 percent FYoFY)
+
PUBG (at current trends, 150% of the people on the planet will soon be playing it)
=
Big Money

Reader
Zora

Wait, is it implied that PUBG thing is published by these guys here, same as tera was?

That would be one surprise…..

Reader
athiev

Developed by them even!

Antiseptic
Reader
Antiseptic

PUBG was technically developed by a Bluehole subsidiary named Bluehole Ginno. The only thing that subsidiary had in their portfolio was Devilian which closed down in Korea in 2015, remains published by Trion but has been pretty much abandoned for an year now, and mobile Devilian which Gamevil shut off a few days ago.

So they hired Brendan Greene as creative director to try something different. Like Bluehole’s CEO said, he didn’t expect Battlegrounds to do as well as it did. They also had no clue how to handle that which is why they proposed all sorts of business restructuring including merging Bluehole and Bluehole Ginno before they came up with renaming Bluehole Ginno to PUBG Corp. They want to milk that cow before it dries up.

It’s part reason they are using the recognition from PUBG to push this game as well as the message of ‘breathing life into a stagnating MMORPG genre.’ The main company knows MMO’s more than other genres. They’ve acquired smaller companies to try to get into other genres but most of those have not panned out.

Tera was carrying the company until PUBG so it is not a surprise they want to try and make sure they have another MMORPG IP on PC that has a degree of success and sustainability. Devilian failed to pan out for them on both PC and mobile. Bluehole learned a lot about mobile from that venture which is why they went with Netmarble for Tera M.

Reader
bobfish

Bluehole self-published PUBG through Steam. With TERA they created a subsidiary company to publish in US and outsourced to a third party for Europe. But it looks like they aren’t planning to use En Masse going forward.

Antiseptic
Reader
Antiseptic

Kakao Games formed a strategic partnership with Bluehole for this game by making an investment in Bluehole. In return, they secured the publishing rights for the game and declared early on they would be publishing it in the west.

Outside of that arrangement, En Masse will still be Bluehole’s preferred publisher for NA should they develop games that do not have outside partnerships and investments. It’s also why Bluehole allows En Masse to secure the publishing rights for games developed by other studios.

ihatevnecks
Reader
ihatevnecks

Well, the classes they’re offering certainly aren’t going to provide any breaths of fresh air. Same stock you see in most games like this; bland elemental sorcerer, healer, assassin, shield warrior. The only one that *might* be halfway refreshing is the gunslinger, but he’ll probably end up just being a reskinned archer.

Reader
Jeffery Witman

You know, when TSW went classless and gave people the ability to develop skills and abilities as they saw for, the general public scoffed and said it was too confusing, leading to the changes seen in SWL.

I’m not a huge fan of the RPS Trinity of roles, personally, but it doesn’t seem to be going away. The only game I’ve seen that did it well is DDO. I saw people playing Sorcerer/Thief/Monks and tanking end game raid bosses. The classes could be mixed and there were many skills and abilities to choose from within those classes. Everyone could have some utility along with their roles. You could make really weird combinations and sometimes they worked!

ihatevnecks
Reader
ihatevnecks

Right, I’m not really talking about the trinity system, or skill based vs class based. I’m talking about the actual flavor of the individual classes. These are so typical to eastern MMOs anymore, I’m honestly shocked we don’t have the giant axe wielding berserker in the group too. Maybe that’s what the warlord doubles as.

It’s supposedly a “steampunk” setting, so why is the gunslinger the only one who seems to interact with the setting? Why do we have a bland elemental magic using, staff wielding sorcerer instead of.. I dunno.. a mechano-mancer who wields smoke and steam? Something more purely magical (arcane, force, etc) rather than the fairly basic four (probably one or two) elements? Or uses magic and technology to build clockwork minions?

Why a bland nature magic using, wand wielding mystic instead of some kind of mad scientist or alchemist, blending science and nature for their healing arts?

There’s nothing fresh about these classes, unless their gameplay drastically clashes with the descriptions they’ve given on the website.

Reader
Jeffery Witman

Fair enough, and I agree on that point. When I think of Steampunk archetypes I think back to table top games like Deadlands where tech, magic, and gunslinging exist side by side, like you said. Steampunk is a very Western concept, though, and that might be part of why a very Eastern development studio might have trouble getting it right immediately.

Reader
ozzie

I always check out the classes first thing in an MMO. Gives you a solid idea of where they’re going with the gameplay and really their design in general. Sad to see the typical classes here, although they could be redeemed in execution and style. Using my class is like 90% of an MMO to me, so it’s important!

Reader
Utakata

As the first time I’ve heard of this and thusly pleads ignorance here…what is this MMO about? And any class and race information would also be pigtailed appreciated. Thank you in advance. :)

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Vunak

. . . . comment section broke on me

https://www.airthegame.com

Reader
Utakata

Thank you for taking the time to post that.

I am not sure it’s for me. Looks like a lot of siege/vehicle mechanics going on in the promo. And I am not a big fan of that limited mechanic capacity in WoW. It’s unlikely I will be a fan of a whole MMO dedicated to it. o.O

…but either way, here’s that pigtail appreciation! <3

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Vunak

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Vunak

TERA targeted the western market, who would of known. Not us in the west of course since everything we send in for feedback gets blatantly ignored and the game is slowly dying because of it.

Korea has entire systems that never reached into other markets because they couldn’t be assed to do it. This guy is a chronic liar. For those interested in A:IR get out before its too late. Just another lolithemeparklootboxcashgrabenchantinggrindfest.

Reader
Dug From The Earth

Words to try and distract players from the fact that this will most likely just be another boring, unintuitive, grindfest game, with small portions of content that stand out slightly different.

Reader
Mick the Barbarian

I’m expecting another grindfest with anime characters.

Xijit
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Xijit

“a glossy steampunk-fantasy RAID that boasts RAIDS, more meaningful RAIDS, and front-loaded LOLICON, with a design that RAIDs you probably LOLICON more than one RAID”

*Fixed this statement to more closely reflect Bluehole’s design priorities. *

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Tobasco da Gama

Every time I see this title, I’m disappointed it isn’t a big-budget sequel to Ascent: The Space Game.

Reader
Arktouros

Ok, what?

There’s pretty much two standard game models MMOs have followed and that’s the grindy sandboxes and the quest based themeparks. We’ve had both forever now. Removing grind in favor of more quests is exactly what WOW did at a time when in MMOs you pretty much just did grinding to level up.

The only game that was talking about doing something different was EQNext with it’s dynamic content system where the map and world would actually change based on things happening in game. So doing this isn’t going to change anything for the Western market because it’s just another quest grinder that we’ve seen dozens of times before.

And the reason players look for other games is because, simply put, MMO companies can’t keep up enough content to keep people interested. As Pearl Abyss noted last year in an interview it takes roughly 10x as much time to develop content than players can consume it. You look at something like GW2’s latest expansion that had around 40-60 hours of content (about a month of semi casual play) after a year+ of development and that kinda holds up pretty nicely.

Personally I see this game going down like Revelations Online, popular for a minute, everyone back to business as usual a month or three later.

Reader
Grave Knight

Steampunk. Really? There are giant robots and airships running on seemingly magical mechanisms. It’s about as steampunk as Star Wars is science fiction. Sure it follows the tropes but when you analyze it, it’s high fantasy.

Reader
Raimo Kangasniemi

I have to disagree here.

The roots go to proto-Steampunk, which had these kind of things starting from the late 1980s. There was Space: 1889 from 1988 onwards, AD & D had Spelljammer starting from, there were such novels as Colin Greenland’s Harm’s Way(1993) which also had a very much Steampunk-style world with (like Spelljammer) sailing ships in space.

Steampunk was just performing them, its borders not yet solid. Looking from today’s standard view of Steampunk AIR easily falls into whatever category of fantasy you want to put it, but the gameworld clearly draws inspiration from that primordial proto-Steampunk ooze.

Reader
Denice J. Cook

I am awaiting the arrival of this MMO and am glad it’s targeted toward Western players, so it won’t be another mindless Korean grindfest. I love steampunk anyway; it’s about time more game developers used its theme in their games.

Reader
Robert Mann

I’ll take it with a grain of salt, given calling Tera a hit. (Tera could be decent, but it has a lot of oddities that just… well, maybe if they could tone it down a little it would be worth something?)

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
mike foster

Multi-game philosophy is a very good idea. Understanding that people will play one game more than others, but likely bounce around, and including that in your design from the start is great.

One reason PUBG is doing so well is that it’s an awesome second game. Matches are as quick as you need them to be, it’s easy to get in and out of — you can just pop in for a sec and go back to grinding in WoW or whatever your main game is. HS is kind of the same; you see a lot of streamers playing Hearthstone while they’re in queue for something else.

That said, you have to wonder what exactly it is that the MMO genre needs that isn’t being served by WoW/FFXIV. If it’s like less commitment, easier in/out, but still multiplayer — games like Destiny are already doing that.

I’m sure there’s a niche in there somewhere (it probably has the word “sandbox” in it). I’m just not smart enough to see it. If I were I’d have already opened a studio.

Reader
Warking

A return to classic complexity, a polished sandbox mmo that takes up SWG’s space. WoW and FFXIV while good for what they do are not sandboxes and still to this day SWG is still the best example of one. That needs to change.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
mike foster

The trick is, that’s a very small niche. You have to go in from the start expecting a small playerbase (Blizz did this with WoW originally).

So you need a studio to develop something on a tight budget, designed from scratch to support itself on a small niche. No small task.

Reader
Warking

People used to think that mmos were a niche product too. I think we need a WoW – ized Sandbox

Reader
rafael12104

Ok. So, I’m going to be very interested in AIR once I see a little more.

Yes, for all the reasons he sited minus the WoW err… misunderstanding.

There is a market for MMORPGs. We are that market. Cater to us and you can make some good money. But game developers are sheep. And right now the popular thing is to claim not to be an MMO or MMORPG. See Anthem, for example.

Not Bluehole. They are actually stating that they going to deliver an MMORPG. They are going try to refresh the market with innovation because the believe a discerning player base is still here. YES! Here we are!

Not saying this will be a slam dunk for us or for Bluehole. But at least, for the first time since EQN there is a company acknowledging that we, MMORPG fans, are worth the effort.

Oh, and I love steampunk, so there is that too. LOL

Reader
blahlbinoa .

Ten years ago WoW was three years old! That first sentence hurt my brain, does he mean EverQuest? Was WoW his first MMO? Ow, my head :(

Reader
rafael12104

Lol. Yeah, but I think, he means mainstream MMORPG. Because… well it was. MMORPGs were a niche market at best before that. So, for many, WoW was first.

Don’t disagree with your though. I always smile when people say things like this or when they compare new games to old games and go back to WoW as if it was the foundation.

camren_rooke
Reader
camren_rooke

That was SUPPOSED to elicit a ‘Nu-uhn’ and then an exhortation that X game was before WOW. This would then be followed by further comments from incensed third parties leading to a flame war on the forums. This in turn would leave to a global breakdown in civility and the end to all civilization as we know it, allowing reptiles to once again claim the planet as their own.

But No, you had to go and be all rational and calm.

Dangit.

Reader
rafael12104

Lol. All he had to do was say the word lootbox. The gloves would be off!

camren_rooke
Reader
camren_rooke

Everyone knows Wow was THE first mmo.

>.>

Reader
jay

Hmmm another developer claiming that his game will “revitalize” and change the paradigm. Never heard that before… nope…

Reader
A Dad Supreme

“MMORPGs were very new [ten years ago], with World of Warcraft and all the others. But the play style [stayed] very similar as time passed on, so the players got bored with the system. They started looking to other genres of games. […] But there are still people who are used to the MMORPG, and if a new game can give them a new experience they will come back and play again.”

My sentiments exactly and why I reverted back to console games.

The fact that he has his pulse on just what I think about the MMO scene in the last ten years makes me keep an eye on how this project comes along.

I think a lot of players have been in denial about the MMO scene and companies have been far too willing to let them keep believing that by putting out the same old boring games.

Reader
rafael12104

I could not agree more. Really, I’m trying too, but I’m at max. :)

Reader
Raimo Kangasniemi

What I have been reading about AIR from those who got to see and play has been fairly negative – the PvP air battles and mechs they are selling the game with apparently need a lot of work.

Supposedly just 30 hours game time to reach top level.

Reader
Daniel Miller

As a player who attended G star. I was impressed with the game I played. In addition their staff knew English very well. That wont say much for KawKow. But the devs could read email you send to them.

As I was the only English person there they all took time to show me many features of the game. It was a good experience for the game and the company employees.

Reader
rafael12104

Wow! You went to G-star? I would love to go.

Yeah, I’ve been to my fair share of shows and when it comes down to it, they are all the same. However, G-star is one I have been too and I would certainly love to get a good look around. I think there is more to take away from that show than most.

What G-Star features eventually makes it to the West and shapes, like it or not, what we can expect to see in the future.

wpDiscuz