Interview: Barunson on the state of Astellia Online as it launches on Steam today

    
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Astellia Online was big news throughout 2019, as Barunson sought to bring the South Korean MMORPG westward but with careful attention paid to so-called western sensibilities, like disdain for pay-to-win and gender-locking. When it formally launched last fall, our writer found it to be a “solidly average MMO” – “refreshing and pleasant despite its shortcomings.” But hype for the game soon fell off – it was a bit of a messy autumn, you’ll recall – and then we learned the Korean version of the game would be sunsetting. Barunson then reaffirmed its commitment to the western version, in a move that sounded, well, exactly like what Neowiz did with Bless Online, only Astellia has a second chance in the form of its Steam launch.

That Steam launch is now set for today. Ahead of the opening, we chatted with Barunson about the state of the game and its plans on the new platform.

MassivelyOP: We’ve seen some reports that Astellia Online will be fully free-to-play on Steam. Is that accurate, or will the price and packages or anything else about the current business model be changing for the launch in any way?

Barunson: Astellia is still definitely a buy-to-play game, and that holds true for steam. We do have free to play weekends occasionally to allow more people to try out the game, but those are special events only. The price point on Steam will match the official website. [Editor’s note: The base package on Steam is $29.99, same as before.]

In the Steam announcement, you gave not just a look at the January patch but a hint of content coming later in the year, from new dungeons to the Astel gear system. What kind of timeframe can we expect for those chunks of content, and how far down the road does the team have content mapped out?

While we do not want to give out specific dates we can say this:

  • Guild Arena System : 2020 Q1
  • New Dungeons : 2020 Q2
  • Astel Gear System : 2020 Q2

Will it be possible for players to port their existing accounts to Steam accounts?

Unfortunately no, accounts made via the Official Website cannot be migrated to Steam, and Steam Accounts cannot be migrated to standard accounts. We reviewed our options for this with the Valve Team and there is no solution that will handle this well for Astellia.

Can you talk about the playerbase size? We’ve seen reports on Reddit about the difficulty of finding players to accomplish certain tasks – like the 64-person guild battles on deck for the future. Are your metrics showing this perception becoming a problem? How are people taking to the new legendary dungeons you just patched in?

Our playerbase is holding steady now that it has stabilized following launch, we are excited to move towards Steam as that opens the game to many new players, we plan to combine the influx of Steam Players with the new content line-up in order to begin the 2020 growth of Astellia.

We can only assume Barunson is expecting a huge influx of players on Steam – what was the reason for not launching on Steam earlier?

This is something we have always had in the plans, but we approach the Astellia project procedurally, as in step by step. Before we could open the game to steam we needed to make sure everything was up and running, and that we had a content plan in place. Now, we are ready for Steam.

Could you talk a bit about the Korean version of the game? We understand (and have long been covering) Nexon’s many woes and watched it shut down several live and in-development titles, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when it canceled the Korean version of Astellia too. Was it not possible for Nexon to transfer the Korean servers and playerbase back to you? Have you rehomed any of the Korean characters on western servers?

We are working to rehome the KR Players to the NA Service, but this is not a simple process both internally and externally. We are in the process of adding KR Language Support to our client, and going through the necessary due processes to officially support Astellia KR, and as we make progress on this players can expect announcements via the Official Website.

What assurances can you give western players that Astellia is not going anywhere?

Steam in itself is a strong indicator that we are committed to growing Astellia. From Astel Equipment, to Guild Arenas, and so very much more there is a lot of content in store for 2020, we have worked on this content from before CBT, and we are excited to share it with our players.

One last question – did Barunson finish all the un-genderlocking it was doing for all the classes that weren’t finished by launch? Are there any left yet to do? What about any other content still to come from the Korean servers?

We are still working to unlock all the class genders, however with the changes in services our art team has been incredibly busy, they are catching up now and will be able to return to building out the final assets. It’s going to take a bit longer, but we’re still working on it!

Thanks very much for addressing our questions! You can check out the game on Steam right now.

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Castagere Shaikura

I can’t wait to read the steam reviews for this.

Celestia
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Celestia

I realized that at some point in the last year I think of Steam as the place eastern studios make their last stop on the abandonment train.

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silverlock

Well Steam is back up but their launch is a bit messed up right now. All the game packages are list as DLC’s and say you need the base game to play but their doesn’t seem to be a base game to download. Also note that the packages all say not eligible for a refund.

I thought the steam release was delayed yet it’s still up for sale? Whats the deal with that?

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rafael12104

Hmm. Steam isn’t always the answer especially right now. Heh. (This server outage is quite weird.)

But… look, Astellia isn’t a great game, ok? It’s “cute”. But there is no hook. The IP, the game play, the community are average at best and when competing with Black Desert, or FFXIV or (insert your fave here).

So… Steam mirage is not what it used to be. It may extend the life of the game but it will not save it from itself.

And… I like the game. I played the beta a little. But there is nothing compelling me to buy in.

Pepperzine
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Pepperzine

Steam in itself is a strong indicator that we are committed to growing Astellia

Not true at all. I love steam but it has its fair share of asset flips and abandonware. Just look at “Fragmented” which was an asset flip of The Repopulation, abandoned long ago, and still for sale on Steam.

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NecroFox4

We can only assume Barunson is expecting a huge influx of players on Steam…

Just in time for Steam to suffer a near-global outage.

Ouch…