Interview: Astellia’s western team on pay-to-win, themeparks, and dodging early access and battle royale

    
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Yesterday we covered the news that South Korean born MMORPG Astellia is heading westward in 2019, with its holy trinity classes, solid PvE and PvP, and hard lean away from pay-to-win. We had a chance to ask a few questions of the global publisher, Barunson E&A, just ahead of its planned panel at PAX South this week. Read on for the studio’s answers on its business model, how it’s avoiding both early access and battle royale shenanigans, and how it fits into the MMO market here in the west.

Massively OP: Just to clarify, the game is launching in NA and EU later in 2019? By launch, will that be an early access or an open beta or a hard launch? What other regions have yet to get the game?

Barunson: Throughout 2019 we will have multiple beta phases as well as full launch. We will not try and push Early Access as a soft release or marketing tactic.

Clearly the business model is a big deal for the studios, since you’re going strong into the  “no pay-to-win” angle. What will the business model look like here in the west? Are we to expect a cash shop, or even premium sub of some sort? Are you still considering buy-to-play? How about lockboxes and rented gear? How will the model differ from the Korean model?

The business model will be Buy to Play with a micro-transaction store. We are actively working to prepare the cash shop, deciding what can and should be sold for cash, and what needs to be made in-game reward only. During our CBT Phase, we will be ready to share our cash shop with the community both to support our NO PAY TO WIN claim, and allow our fans the opportunity they need to make an informed purchase of the game. We do not believe users should be forced to make purchases blindly, as we have seen with so many other games. Our motto has been “Power is not sold, Loyalty is earned.” We apply this to whole-heartedly to our business model.

It sounds like the game’s PvE is varied, with everything from small group content to large raids. How much of the game is doable by a solo player and without engaging in the largest-scale PvE content?

The large scale content is PvP Centric, we call it Avalon, while dungeons come in solo and group varieties. Avalon does have PVE content as well, but the biggest draw for our PVE fans will be the dungeons. Groups have a default of 4 players, however, each player is able to summon up to three astels to support their combat, meaning a group can have a mix of up to 4 players, 12 Astels, for a total of 16 friendly entities.

The press release is talking up a “holy trinity” class system, which based on the class list looks to be defined here as tank, DPS, and healer. Can you elaborate on the roles we’ll be playing? Does everyone get a little bit of something to be viable outside of group combat? What about mechanics like crowd control and debuffing?

Warrior is the Tank, Scholar is the Healer, Mage and Archer are ranged DPS, and Assassin is Melee DPS. Beyond their default roles, each player will have access to Astels with their own class skill sets to support and augment the players’ experience. For instance, a player on an Assassin can bring out healing-centric Astels so they are more durable, or Astels more focused in CC or Tanking, or even Damage to go the “glass cannon” route.

The game will launch with multiple PvP modes, including solo and group arenas and a three-faction RvR type of map. I gotta ask: How is the studio keeping all of these balanced against its PvE design? How much, for example, gear/level crossover is there between PvE and PvP?

The game is built with a singular progression, it is not split in level or gear for PvP and PVE. Both types of content can help the character progress, and the content is woven together, the current player flow is to use PVE to learn the ropes and master the game, and then move into PVP should they want to, and if someone is not interested in PVP; harder and more rewarding PvE will be the endgame for them. We have a ton of plans for the months and years after launch, which we’ll get into once we’re past that pesky “release” thing.

Is the studio considering jumping on the battle royale bandwagon for a mode at some point, as so many other MMOs have done?

We have taken note of the current trend and bandwagon, but at this time we will focus our attention on Astellia as an MMORPG.

I know the game isn’t heavy on economy, but it is boasting a deep crafting system. Is it possible to play primarily a crafter, and the flipside of that, is it possible to play without crafting at all – or is crafting more of a personal advancement system for your own gear/achievements?

Crafting is used to reach the highest tiers of equipment, for this, your character can work to craft the items directly, or earn enough currency in game to buy it from someone who did so.

Can you folks clarify how Barunson E&A, Studio 8, Nexon, and GameNet are working together on the game? I’m a bit confused on the hierarchy here – who’s doing what?

Studio 8 is the creator and developer of Astellia, while Barunson E&A is the global publisher and majority owner of Studio 8. Nexon and GameNet are publishers who are managing the game in their specific regions, with Barunson E&A (us) self-publishing in NA and EU markets.

How would you say Astellia fits into the western gaming market? I’m specifically thinking of how totally differently games like Bless and Black Desert were received – BDO is one of the biggest MMOs in the west, while Bless is barely hanging on. Do you think the card game element is what will set it apart?

Astellia is positioned to appeal to players who have enjoyed EverQuest, Guild Wars 2, and other content based MMORPGs, aka Themepark Games. I do believe the Astel system will add a layer of content and meta gameplay that is fresh and engaging for our players. Each game has its own hook that brings players in, for Astellia that’s the Astel system. We believe that there is an aspect of it that every type of player will enjoy, whether it’s PvP, PvE, or RP.

What would you say is the single biggest idea you’ve embraced during the port to the west for this market compared to the Korean market, other than the business model itself?

That adaptation is required for success, as an example, Astellia KR currently has gender locked classes, a norm for eastern games, but in bringing it to the west work has begun to actually remove the gender lock. This does not mean we will make all new classes that are similar as seen in some games, but each class will provide both male and female models so users can enjoy their character as they like. Being Western gamers ourselves, we know how much stigma there is against gender locking classes, and our Dev Team has been working diligently to allow everyone to play the gender they wish as soon as possible.

We’d like to thank the folks at Barunson for chatting with us! You can currently sign up for more information over on the game’s official western site right now.

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Quinn Adiko

This definitely has my attention. Astel companions system sounds awesome and adds a nice wrinkle to an aging MMO genre. Here’s Hoping for the best.

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Roger Melly

Maybe I have become a bit cynical in my old age but I have the feeling I heard all this before about other games from other developers .

Who knows maybe this time it will be different . I am definitely in the market for a new mmo seeing as Rift is now in maintenance mode .

As always I will wait a month or two to see how well its recieved .

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Weilan

I don’t care about this game. Too jaded. I will try it out when it launches, but I don’t think I will play it.

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Daniel Miller

This was the best mmo of 2018. Many will like it.

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Robert Mann

Well, the optional PvP and PvEvP is welcome, at the very least. Whether anything else is worth much to me… will depend upon what actually comes forth.

Simply put, it sounds like a classic old style themepark experience. Which is fine, but I shall likely not do much with it due to the lack of anything beyond the combat and very basic crafting involved.

Veldara
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Veldara

I haven’t been interested in a lot of mmo releases lately, but this one does feel very promising and I hope it’s successful, can’t wait to try the beta.

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Dean Greenhoe

I must be getting old and cranky. But I am really getting tired of munchkins and the high pitched children’s screams in games. Never mind all the flashes and sparks in the combat.

Other than the things listed above things sound fairly good. I wish them well.

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Robert Mann

I haven’t ever been anything other than tired of that. Too much chibi, and I’m out. Too much flashy, where I cannot see what is going on, and I’m out.

kjempff
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kjempff

I am by default extremely doubtful about the ability of kr/asian mmos to “westernize” or deliver meaningful gameplay depth. But this is at least the right sounds to make to get my attention, and show signs of understanding what is wrong with the other asian mmos and trying to correct it.
Of course talk is cheap, and many a times have we seen that reality can change intentions, not to mention building on a kr game may be unfixable… But with all that in mind, why not? Benefit of doubt, catiously optimistic and all that..

Veldan
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Veldan

I saw a video about this game on youtube a while ago (lazypeon?) and it looked promising. This interview keeps my interest up for sure. Could just be the type of game I want. Then again, (Western) release is still quite far away and I’ve been disappointed plenty of times before, so far be it from me to jump on the hype train. If that thing has even left the station yet.

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rafael12104

Ok. It seems fairly straight forward in terms of what they plan on offering. I was really glad to hear that early access marketing bullshit and BR are being left out.

So, we will have to wait and see. I like what I’m hearing but I have heard it all before.

Glad to see another MMORPG on the road map. And I do think it helps that the global publisher is focused on NA/EU and regional customization.