Bless Online interview: Soft launch plans, why Gamigo bowed out, and avoiding pay-to-win

Bless Online is one of the biggest MMORPGs we’re expecting to launch in the west in 2018. Over the last six years, we’ve watched it blossom in South Korea, switch publishers, and even go back to the drawing board for a revamp before Neowiz pushes it westward. That’s left a lot of gamers, including us, with questions about the game’s future. And to get answers to those questions, we spoke with Game Director Jae-hoon Jeon all about the game’s planned monetization, early access, and just what sets Bless apart in a field of high-quality import MMORPGs. Read on for the details!

Massively OP: We recently looked back through our oldest coverage of the game and found that we first started talking about Bless in 2011, with our first interview (with Jacob Han) coming in 2012! That means that by the time the game finally does release formally here, it will be a mature game indeed. How do you folks think it stacks up against games like Black Desert – or like incoming competitors like A:IR?

Game Director Jae-hoon Jeon: One key area where Bless differentiates itself is in our combat system. Depending on the player’s choice, Bless characters can have their own combat style and combat mode, even if they wear the same equipment and have the same level. Your class dictates your skills and abilities, but how you approach combat and what equipment you wield can vary greatly. In addition, almost all monsters in the game can be tamed as a pet or mount.

What cannot be missed in Bless MMORPG is our large-scale War content. Bless has field RvR content that encourages players to fight in the open as groups as well as an instanced 100vs100 battlefield where players can easily access and participate in huge fights. There will also be a large-scale PVP system that takes place battlefield in the Sea and the Sky. We will share more on this soon.

So how was everyone's weekend?

When the game hits early access, are you folks thinking of that as a de facto soft launch, or will serious testing be going on? Will the early access be wiped? How early do you think the average MMORPG player, who just wants to play and not test, should jump in?

EA is going to be the soft launch. EA data will not be erased, so players can join and play freely without fear of losing progress.

Do you expect to be in the same position as Black Desert and Blade & Soul, with tons of Korean content built up and ready to localize and deploy here at a faster pace?

The Steam version will include all the content that is available in the Korean version and will also have contents and features that are significant improvements to the game that will not be reflected in Korean version yet. So some of the features on Steam version will be exclusively available for our global audience before we implement them in Korea and Japan versions of the game. Our goal ultimately is to bring all versions of the game to parity in terms of content and features some time after the launch on Steam.

We have a couple of articles from early last year about servers needing to merge in Korea. How has the revamped combat system gone over in Korea? Are Korean players demanding a different sort of experience from what western players demand, or do you find we’re all mostly on the same page?

Although there may be differences in the gameplay styles in different cultures and countries, we don’t think they demand different sorts of experiences. What makes the combat system and the other content of the game fun appeals to all players regardless of their culture or where they come from. In short, the revamp has gone over quite well so far, and we think the western players will be very happy with it as well.

We know you’ve been against pay-to-win, but we don’t have any other sort of info on the game’s monetization to date. Can you talk business model and monetization yet? Does the game fall more in line with free-to-play imports or buy-to-play?

We haven’t finalized our monetization plan, but we understand your concerns about P2W. Of course, that isn’t going to happen and we will share our plans once they’re finalized. We are leaning more towards the B2P model, but a final decision hasn’t been made. Once we have all details in place, we’ll be sharing it with everyone.

You might not be able to answer this one, but we have to try: We recall that the Neowiz/Gamigo partnership fell apart over “quality standards.” Can you explain what specifically was lacking in that version of the game, knowing how much the do-over set the game back in terms of a launch window?

We worked hard with Gamigo because we both wanted to ship a high-quality game with Bless Online. However, we felt that we should spend some more time in development to make the game better, but our timeline didn’t align with Gamigo’s business milestone. That was the main reason we agreed to mutually terminate our contract. We wanted to take the time to get it right, so we are. Gamigo is still a partner and they are wishing us well with our self-publishing effort for Steam.

Thanks so much to Jae-hoon Jeon for speaking with us!

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Johan Gildenhuys

please don’t IP lock the game like the losers of Pearl Abyss did for lots of countries!

malrats
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malrats

Bless is one of those games where at some point, for some reason, it really grabbed my interest while knowing nothing at all about it. I’ve really been looking forward to this one and hope it’s worthwhile, though I’m almost never a fan of Korean MMOs (I think the only one I’ve ever played to max level was Blade and Soul and I HATED that game the entire time I played it).

We shall see!

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Leiloni

I’m not sure this game will be for me, but the fact that they’ve put in so much work to revamp the game – well the fact that they’re willing to fix so much at all, is a good sign. It’s also a good sign that they dumped Gamigo because it sounds like they were more about money than quality, and that’s something we’ve seen far too much of in recent years.

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miloliza

i will never understand the trend behind B2P these days and since when botting has become the biggest issue to MMO’s , that’s like the most normal thing to complain about compared to the biggest issues we have in MMO’s , we been dealing with it in every MMO even the one’s that have sub fee’s and B2P , Botting is a poor excuse to put a paywall behind MMO’s but i’m perfectly fine with BLESS having a payment model since they deserve that type of support for every loss they had developing the game the past years since this is by far the most expensive MMO to develop ever , i’m perfectly fine if any game is pure B2P i will gladly drop all my money to it , but if its a B2P game with a F2P mask that’s where i draw the line and consider it as a game behind a paywall , we don’t want another BDO situation .. we need this game to success either with or without a paywall .

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Loopy

Btw i’m loving the return of interviews on MOP. Would love to see more in the future!

Celestia
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Celestia

Can’t wait to play this game. #TeamMystic

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Dobie Gillis

We haven’t finalized our monetization plan, but we understand your concerns about P2W. -said every 21st century game company

P2W Eastern monetization aside, the hype seems real, and I may have to pay more attention to see how they stand out besides “we won’t have P2W”, and “massive scale PvP battles”

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NeoWolf

I have been waiting for this for some time and I am looking forward to it. Although patience is certainly not one of my strong points I am glad they are taking the time to get it to a place they are happy with rather than rush it out the door asnd see it fail again.

Line
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Line

The game being good would be kind of a miracle honestly.
To their credit, they did rework the sound design and it certainly helps, but the combat is still not there… nor is the optimization.
And if they could not get their game to run decently after seven years, hard to be hopeful that it will in six months.

They are surprisingly silent on the content changes, except for some blurb on the steam forums once in a while.
Some random player posted some screens of the Japanese version, showing how empty most of the landmass is, and was answered by a nebulous answer about added content in the Western version making it different… big claims, very big ones even.
Same thing repeated in this interview.

I’d like to actually see what the “finished” result is.

And I really hope that they’ve reworked the skill upgrade system. I kinda like to take a limited amount of skills with me (it’s pretty GW1 in spirit), less so the XP requirements to get them at full power.
“Grindy” would be an understatement.

They have nothing to lose at this point, it’s already closed in Russia, and pretty much dead in Korea and Japan too.
The West would receive the current model with even less enthusiasm than they did.

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Heliton B. Amorim

“To their credit, they did rework the sound design and it certainly helps, but the combat is still not there… nor is the optimization.”

An oracle among us. Sir, can you please tell me the next lottery numbers?

Line
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Line

No.
I can tell you that in the 7 years since the game was announced, they have not optimized the game to modern standards, nor did the combat get salvaged from shoddy tab target to shoddy hybrid.

I’m not the one claiming a revolution when we’ve had seven years to see the progress made.
The game was publicly playable four years ago.

This time, it’s for real, the fourth remake and the fourth release will be the one!” is not predicting the future, it’s fucking insanity.

Xijit
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Xijit

A grindy korean title with lots of open space and plenty of skills to dick with is why I am interested in it … and tab targeting is kind of a plus for me too: I have an itch for something straight forward that I can zone out on and farm mobs without my finder cramping up.

IMO the biggest issue with this game is that people seem to think that everything needs to cater to them, and if it doesn’t pleas them; then it mush be vigorously shat upon at full force.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Xijit said, “It is getting shit on by trolls, because one of the prerequisites for posting on the Steam Forums is that you have to be a complete bag of dicks at all times . . . . ”

You are so right. I just popped over to Steam and landagoshin, the hard cracking going on over there. PvE players want a PvE server. PvPers dump on them, PvE’s gesture back. Monty Python had the goods on these guys decades ago:

Alyn
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Alyn

Ah yes Monty was ahead of its time I must say! :)