MapleStory 2 interview: The Soul Binder, PvP, music, the western front, and battling pay-to-win

[AL:MS2]MapleStory 2 charmed our previewer, our podcasters, even our writers when it came time for picking out the underdog MMO of 2018, thanks in large part to the deep mechanics and roleplay-friendly systems underpinning the cutesy anime world. Recently we posed multiple questions to Nexon Korea’s Miyoung Oh, MapleStory 2’s Lead Game Designer, to ask all about one of the few major MMORPGs to launch last year – how it’s faring in the west, how the Soul Binder class was received, and how the playerbase is shaping up. We even touch on how Nexon’s battling pay-to-win. Enjoy!

MassivelyOP: I took a peek at the Soul Binder class and found I couldn’t come up with many cognates for the class in the MMO world – we don’t see many mystic-storm-mage types who can also heal and charge. I’m thinking of my old City of Heroes Force Fields defender, maybe! So I have several questions on the class: First, what was the inspiration for the class as originally conceived, and how was it tweaked for the western audience?

MapleStory 2 Lead Game Designer Miyoung Oh: When we first started designing the Soul Binder, we wanted to create a new class that could support other party members. We also wanted a different concept to set her apart from the other existing classes. To achieve this, we gave the Soul Binder a mysterious appearance while giving her the ability to help with combat. We updated the Soul Binder class alongside our Skybound Expansion in order to provide the best experience for western audiences.

How popular has the class been since its introduction earlier this month?

Many players have been waiting for the Soul Binder class ever since we revealed it at the MapleStory 2 Premiere Event on August 21. On social media polls, fans expressed an overwhelming positive response towards the new Soul Binder class with a majority favoring the Soul Binder. This response translated well over into Soul Binder’s release as we saw that many players created alternate characters in order to try out the new class. Even now, the popularity continues to show as you can see many Soul Binders roaming around town and dungeons.

I’m sure the team has metrics on this – is there a particular class getting less playtime now that the Soul Binder is here? Are you seeing an exodus from one class to the new one, in other words?

Even with the new Soul Binder class, not much has changed in playtime for other characters. Many players have created the Soul Binder class and are still continuing to test it out while some players have already returned to their main characters because of the different play style.

Is the Soul Binder due for any traditional post-launch nerfs? :D

There are no plans for this at this time. :)

The game hasn’t been out that long in the west and you’ve already patched in PvP in the form of the arena. But that’s a 1v1 type of system – it’s basically dueling. What other PvP types are on the agenda? Is this ever going to be the kind of game with large-scale PvP?

We might consider different concepts in the future, but we wanted to first see how players react to the Maple Arena. The Maple Arena is a simple 1v1 PvP system where players can compete and earn PvP gears. We’ve been seeing competitive players participating in these matches and we are looking forward to hearing their feedback.

When I gave MapleStory 2 a spin a few weeks back, I was absolutely floored to see people hanging out in the cities playing instruments – the piano tunes in particular just blew me away. This kind of music system is pretty rare in MMOs, after all! I know you just added some new instruments (all percussion); what others are on the devs’ wish list? What instruments do players beg for the most?

It’s actually even bigger now with the holiday spirit and festivities. Players have been teaming up to play music together with their new instruments in the middle of the event town, Merry Village. We actually have a few new instruments lined up for the next update. As for player favorites, it’s always going to be the pianos and guitars.

As I was drawing winners for the MapleStory 2 giveaway we did with Nexon, I noticed a higher than normal proportion of female names and a lot of folks with IPs from all over the world. It seems like there’s a lot of diversity in the folks streaming the game too. I wonder whether the team could talk about the playerbase makeup a bit – what’s the gender and nationality balance like for this western version of the game, and how does it compare to the Asian playerbase?

MapleStory 2 has been a hit across the world, successfully building a fanbase in North America, Europe, South America, and more. The amount of freedom and customization that MapleStory 2 offers along with a strong localization strategy has helped create a diverse playerbase among male and female players who make up a significant proportion of the community as well. In the west, our localization strategy has been key as we invest in localized in-game events and new stories made specifically for our global service. Fan favorites included the “Turkey Terror Event,” where players were able to earn Thanksgiving inspired rewards by defeating a giant Turkey and the “Mystery of the Mon Bloody Chouchou Hotel” quest hosted over Halloween, where players were able to earn special Halloween outfits and mounts.

Related to that last question, do you find that players are coming over from classic MapleStory and carving out a new home in MS2, or are they primarily coming from other games or genres? Where in the pantheon of MMOs does Nexon see the game fitting in?

Many of the MapleStory 2 pioneers were familiar with the brand. On top of it, we have creative and casual players from non-MMO genres that just enjoy the customization and lifestyle components of the game. MapleStory 2 is not just a MMORPG, but it has also been favored for its lifestyle and customization contents. Overall, MapleStory 2 is a place where players can have a great time raiding with guildmates or simply enjoy socializing with friends.

Oh, thanks.

Over the last couple of years, there were a lot of grumbling about the game’s performance in South Korea and China, particularly in regard to pay-to-win complaints and bugs and exploits. Could Nexon discuss how the game is currently performing in its home region and what exactly was learned in that version of the game, what mistakes the team thinks it maybe made there that it did its best not to repeat here, and what it did totally differently for the western audience?

We understand that a lot of free-to-play titles have a notion of “pay-to-win.” Luckily, our team understood the issues that players face and actively took aim at improving the game and balancing enough of its foundation to ensure it would never become pay-to-win. Along with the rest of the development team, we made sure to take all of the feedback (positive and negative) from fans into consideration while making the necessary changes to MapleStory 2. We have been communicating directly with players through our Producer Blog’s to be as transparent as possible. We tested out the MMO field in Korea and made tweaks and updates to what we felt catered to gamers globally. As part of our effort to give players the best MapleStory 2 experience, we have removed every bit of possible pay-to-win content from the game. We ensured players had access to full customization features such as designing clothes, creating dungeons, building homes, and more. MapleStory 2 offers a variety of customization options and we’re still expanding because we want players to have a full-fledged MMO experience.

Thanks so much to Miyoung Oh for speaking to us! MapleStory 2 is currently free-to-play over on Steam, so you can go check it out for yourself.

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