Here at Massively, we've always striven to provide you with as much information as we're able to gather about our favorite games. Well, we were lucky enough to catch up with Tim Tan -- North American Producer for NCsoft's Lineage II property -- and had the chance to discuss with him his views on Lineage II itself, the Hellbound expansion, and his feelings about the game's fourth anniversary. With him was Jessica "Alyra" Folsom, Community Manager for Lineage II, so we took the opportunity to pick her brain, as well.
For those unaware of the excitement, Hellbound went live on 23 April, the same day the Lineage II team launched Luna, their brand-new European server. Tie both of those events in with the fourth anniversary of their title, and you can see why Tim's so excited about the success of this labor of love. Okay, labor of love, and a lot of coding. Closing the last link in the chain of the First Throne saga, Hellbound brings into existence the horrors and triumphs foreshadowed in earlier installments.
Tim Tan: We would have liked to get the Steel Citadel and Beleth in earlier, but we couldn't fit it into the Kamael expansion. That expansion was so huge ... you just have to stop somewhere, right? That's actually how Hellbound came to be. We knew we had that content in the works but it wasn't quite ready for "prime time." So rather than wait several more months, we decided to get that feature out now. It is perfect timing with the raising of the level cap. We're lucky in that a lot of balance issues are fixed before we even get the build. So that really hasn't proven to be much of an issue in North America. A lot of the balance issues you might see are fixed before they go live here. We still do a ton of QA testing here because our player base is unique but by-and-large the game is well balanced.
Are you excited about Lineage II reaching its 4th Anniversary? Are there any internal celebrations related to this milestone for you and your team?
Tim Tan: I have been involved with Lineage II since it launched. First as the QA lead and now as the North American producer. It has been quite a journey! I imagine we'll tip back a few in celebration of how far we've come.
What's your favorite loot drop in the new expansion, and why? Moreover, what's your favorite part of the expansion itself?
Jessica Folsom: My favorite new items in the expansion, though they aren't exactly drops, are the new Agathions (Little Angel and Little Devil). I really enjoy the fun extras in Lineage II, such as the Agathions and pets, and these two new ones are about as cute as they get! My favorite part of the Hellbound expansion is hands down the addition of the new Agathions and the improvements made to the pet system, including the new wolf mounts and special clan-only mounts.
In your mind, what are the most compelling reasons for a player to want to play Hellbound? As a tangent to that question, do you see Hellbound as having the potential for bringing lapsed players back into the fold?
Tim Tan: The Hellbound update rounds out the 1st Throne in the Chaotic Throne series. Besides that, I see this update as "ready" for people to try again because since we launched we have done so much to improve the new player experience and the solo-ability. Don't get me wrong, this is still a PvP heavy game for the elite gamer. But gaining levels is not nearly as difficult as when we first launched and a lot of features we've brought online in the past four years have matured and are really solid. The game is good, it is beautiful and it is ready for another try. Also, our retail box, with lots of extra game time, discounted player services and exclusive in-game items will hopefully give those on the fence a final push to check us out again.
How do you see Lineage II developing in the next one, three, and five years? Any new directions, world areas, or enhancements that you'd like to hint at, if not come out and discuss?
Tim Tan: The next major expansion for the game is already in the works! We expect to launch a total of five Chaotic Throne expansions, but some have multiple parts. There's a ton of stuff coming, but I can't really discuss it now. Perhaps in a follow up!
What was the most enjoyable element to focus on in this latest expansion, and why?
Tim Tan: We created a fun place called Fantasy Isle a while back, and in the latest update have added some new features to the area. The purpose of Fantasy Isle is to provide a little diversion from every day leveling and PvP. The feature added to the Isle that I most enjoyed was the NPC Parade and Live Performance. Periodically during the game time day you'll be treated to a performance that shows off many of the creatures that exist throughout the game world. It's a pretty unique experience.
In your opinion, what sets Lineage II apart from other games in its class? Why should players move toward Lineage II, adding it to their gaming list, or starting out with it as their first experience?
Tim Tan: Lineage II is not only the most beautiful MMO out there but it is the most challenging. I love that it is so pretty but so darn gritty at the same time. It is a gorgeous world but still for a very skilled, competitive player. I actually wouldn't recommend the game for someone who isn't competitive or who has never played a PvP game; however, there have been a few people who do start with Lineage II and get hooked. Most of our players are really into PvP and get a lot out of the challenges it provides. I would say if you are bored with other MMOs you've tried – if they are too easy for you, or if you think the PvP isn't very good ... check us out.
What's your secret for continually keeping the feel of Lineage II fresh and -- if you'll excuse the expression, considering the latest expansion -- alive?
Jessica Folsom: Lineage II is an ever evolving game, but we maintain the signature core elements, such as a focus on PVP, beautiful graphics and character design, and highly challenging end-game content. New features and changes to current content are often based on player feedback and requests. We listen to our community and do our very best to implement what they ask for-they are the experts, after all!
What's the best part of working on Lineage II? Not just your favorite part of the expansion, or your favorite class, or your favorite pet -- although all of that is interesting, and I'd love to know it -- but what's the best part of your job as a whole?
Jessica Folsom: I may be biased being the Community Manager and all, but my favorite part of working on Lineage II is the community. Their passion and dedication are unlike any other MMO community I've been a part of.
Tim Tan: The best part of my job is trying to get things into the game or making changes to the things already in game that the players want. Part of this process is determining what's best for the game as a whole.And finally, are there any specific statements or issues you'd like to bring up, misconceptions you'd like to address, or comments you'd like to make?
Tim Tan: I would love it if anyone who has tried Lineage II in the past four years would try it again. It really has changed. It is a robust and immersive game that is full of challenges but the new player experience has really been enhanced and players will find it easier (though not easy!) to solo. Now is a great time to try since we just launched a retail box with a lot of game time and fun stuff on it. Check it out! Bring a friend!