Interview: Neowiz on Bless Online’s now-live Ruins of Shaqqara and the state of the game


Neowiz’s beleaguered MMORPG Bless Online is live with its first big update since launching out of its open beta early access last monthRuins of Shaqqara will boost the level cap to 50, heavily tweak the enhancement system, add two new adventuring zones, rollout new level 50 quests and story quests for both factions, and implement a new endgame dungeon to boot.

We’ve got a couple of Bless pieces coming today in conjunction with the release, and the first of them is right here: our interview with Neowiz on not just the update itself but also the west’s reception of the game on the whole, how it’s performed in the last few weeks, and what’s still ahead for the studio (yes, we asked about the Mystic). Read on!

Massively OP: One of the big changes coming in the patch is the overhaul to the enhancement system, which actually surprises me. It seems like we’re at a divide in the MMO genre between games that are currently streamlining, like Aion, and games that are currently busy making mechanics like these more complicated, like Black Desert. I’m wondering what the rationale is for these changes – is it primarily to help newer players navigate the system, or is it something endgamers dislike too?

Neowiz: It’s a bit of both. We’ve fixed those steps that made it difficult for new players to enhance their equipment, and we decided to revamp the enhancement system because we thought that it would make the game more interesting for veteran players as well. Players will be able to enhance their equipment more easily thanks to the revamp, making the overall enhancement process more convenient and fun for them.

MOP: It seems like most of the larger patches between last spring and now have all centered on fleshing out the game’s endgame – level-cap bumps, raids, that sort of thing. This upcoming patch does the same thing, with a bump to 50 and a new raid. Do you find that most of your players are actually in the endgame and hungry for this content? Or do you have a sizable portion in the early and midgame that might see more focus?

Neowiz: Since EA, we found that much of our playerbase desired new endgame content. Many new users have joined the game since the official release, so any players who have yet to reach max level can still enjoy leveling up through quests and taming mounts and pets. Players may also enjoy the Siege of Castra that opens at specific times, as the Siege of Castra can be enjoyed with less pressure than other PvP content. In addition to endgame content, we have placed our focus on things such as improving dungeon points, the guild/enhancement system, and adding new monsters for taming.

MOP: Is the Mystic class still on the way? Do we have any kind of a timeline for that? What other major formerly Korean content should western players be looking forward to longer-term?

Neowiz: We intend to reform and balance the battle system a bit more before releasing a new character class. Hang tight! We also do plan to bring over other formerly Korean Bless content to Bless on Steam, but we always make sure that the content we are adding on Steam is right for the audience. We’ll have more info about those plans down the line.

MOP: How is the team feeling about the current playerbase size now that the game has gone free-to-play? According to Steam Charts, Bless perked up a little after the launch, moving from a few hundred players per day to a few thousand peaking daily. It’s not exactly the 27K concurrent it had back in June, but it’s definitely an increase. Is it enough to sustain development?

Neowiz: Many new and returning users have come to Bless since our transition to F2P at the official release, and as such the servers have regained a lively atmosphere. We would like to put our current focus on providing a stable gameplay environment that our players may enjoy, and improving it as other new players join.

MOP: I’m also curious about whether the Steam version will ultimately make its way to other regions, now that it’s the only edition of the game still under development. For example, will Russia and Korea itself gain access to this version of the game?

Neowiz: Korean service is scheduled to end, and will be discontinued by 11/20. Once the service of the original Korean build ends, we will make it so that those from Korea will be able to connect to the current Steam service build. All of our development resources will be then focusing on the Steam version of Bless Online. We plan to make it so that even our Korean users will be able to experience the continuous updates. Currently, we are not considering other countries specifically aside from opening the Korean country lock.

MOP: It seems as if the playerbase is still super cranky about the performance of the game – that big rollback a few weeks ago wasn’t a good sign either. How is optimization work on the game coming along?

Neowiz: We are deeply sorry for causing our players inconvenience through the rollback performed back in mid-September, and will do our best to prevent such problems from ever happening again. Regarding game performance, although some players experienced improvements from the update at launch, we know that there are many who are still asking for performance improvements. We consider optimization and stability issues to be an assignment that we must continue to tackle, and we are currently working on these issues to ensure a better player experience.

We’d like to thank Neowiz for once again answering our questions! Stick around because we’ve got a big Bless giveaway coming up this afternoon that should prove pretty enticing for folks thinking about jumping in.

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