Interview: Astellia’s westernization covers everything from monetization and VO to dodging and grouping

Beta fish.

It seems as if every time we write about incoming MMORPG Astellia, confusion over its guiding principles dominates the ensuing discussion. One of those guiding principles has revolved around the conversion of the game for a western market, not just slapping on an English title and waiting for the money to roll in. That conversion has thus far included everything from a monetization overhaul to un-genderlocking the playable characters, and apparently much more, like extensive localization, as detailed in a new dev blog out today.

Ahead of today’s article release, we had a chance to ask Barunson some questions about its recent announcements and westernization of the game – read on for the company’s responses.

MassivelyOP: With some of the cash-shop changes, you’re actually being more stringently anti-pay-to-win than existing western MMOs that most people would just accept – for example, the move to block reselling cash-shop items, something you’d find in SWTOR (and is praised there, even). Do you folks feel as if you need to go above and beyond to prove you’re serious about your stance?

Eastern to Western games are infamous for how far they’re willing to push game monetization in pursuit of profit. With every convention we attend, PR piece we release, and general engagement we make with gamers: We find players who have been burned far too often by these practices. Understandably, this makes it incredibly difficult to trust even established publishers, let alone one new to the Western market. The clear answer to us, was to take a hard stance, to make our views known, and continue moving forward.

Relatedly, are you at all worried you’re not creating enough avenues for monetization? (It sounds absurd, but we’ve seen MMOs go under because they didn’t create enough incentives for payment, and nobody wants that.) Quite a lot seems to be riding on cosmetics here.

No, we’ve implemented plans to reduce this risk on multiple fronts. One such aspect will be included during CBT-2, where the initial version of our cash shop will be implemented. All beta participants will be given credits to spend as they see fit, serving two key purposes: First and foremost, we’ll be keeping our promise to our community to share the details of the cash shop before launch. Secondly, the data we will get from this will allow us to review the performance of this system and make any necessary adjustments, with no risk to players before going live.

There are quite a few top- and middle-tier MMOs out there where the first complaint about the game is animations, so I get why you’d go back to the drawing board on some of them for responsiveness’ sake. How are early testers finding it plays – does the game’s combat feel more twitchy now, or was the goal strictly to reduce frustration?

The first wave of feedback was highly positive, confirming that players felt like they had much better control of their characters and that combat was much smoother.

Can you talk a bit about the active dodging mechanics – would you say they’re comparable to something like Guild Wars 2’s?

Yes, the Active Dodging is very similar to GW2, both in how the player executes it, and the effect it has in-game.

How many of these changes are being proliferated back to the Korean version of the game? For example, I’m looking at the shared quest credit and named boss kill credit and being baffled that Korean players would be OK with this. Is it just that Korean players don’t like to group for questing to begin with? Or that they are accustomed to needing to do a quest five times in a group? I’m curious how this shakes out.

So far many of the Western Changes are being considered and incorporated into other regions, but that is not something we decide from the Astellia West Team. The “Group Credit” changes are a good example; it is not that KR Players do not like to group up, in fact KR Guilds often move from game to game together for years.

In the Western Gaming Culture we are accustomed to being rewarded for working together, whether it be by boosting group EXP or sharing quest credit, this allows players to be more efficient in groups as the workload is split while the rewards are increased. In the KR Setting each player is expected to complete their quest fully, and EXP from the monsters is evenly divided. It comes down to a matter of expectations, and speaking personally, I think this change is good for all regions.

Likewise, will Korean players eventually benefit from the gender unlocking you’re undertaking for the western market?

Most definitely, there is no reason for us to restrict such changes to the Western Region.

I feel like on a meta level the massive localization effort in terms of text and voiceovers shows the seriousness of Barunson when it comes to preparing this game for a western audience, but at the same time, I wonder whether it’s mostly for show – that is, whether the western audience will actually appreciate it given that so many gamers roll with sound off while skipping anything longer than a sentence. Do you folks think these localization moves will actually pay off in the long run?

You are right, many users do not pay attention to the story behind a MMORPG especially when it is delivered via text. However, the Loca work being done is not limited to quests, it covers skills, items, and UI elements all of which combine to drastically impact the end user experience. For the VO Work, we felt this was necessary to maintain the depth of character behind the Astels and main story characters. Localization Work is one of those elements that when done properly blends seamlessly into the game, almost unnoticed, but when it is done poorly it can completely drive away users.

As always, we’d like to thank Barunson EA for answering our questions! You can learn more about the game on its official website, and of course, don’t miss the actual dev blog we’re talking about here.

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