XL didn't have an official presence at this year's E3, but the firm was kind enough to set up a private interview with COO Suk Woo Choi away from the hustle and bustle of convention ground zero. We talked at length about CBT4, game systems, and the challenges inherent in localizing ArcheAge for Europe and America.
Suk Woo Choi (translated): We are definitely going to service ArcheAge in Europe and America, and we have been meeting with major publishers. It's a question of timing at this point.
You are localizing for China and Japan as well, from your native Korea. How's that going? Is the West next in line or perhaps waiting for those two projects to finish?
The open beta will happen in Korea first, of course, and we haven't yet fixed when the game will come out in China and Japan just yet. We feel that China will be first, and they've already started marketing the game even though there are still things to be determined.
We've seen some trailers from Tencent to that effect.
Yes, they are aggressive when it comes to marketing, but as with America and Europe, we don't have a definite timetable to talk about yet.
Regarding CBT4, what sort of feedback did XL glean from the test? Will there be any changes made to game mechanics, or was it more of a polish thing? The test was quite long, a couple of months if I remember correctly.
Yes it was very long. The main thing that we saw was that since we have so many features, like the crafting, housing, and siege warfare, some testers may not have seen that these are all one mixture, and they were experienced separately.
So it was almost overwhelming, in a sense, like there's so much to do; where do I start?
Yes, but also with the closed beta, the main portion of the feedback received was what we expected. The main purpose of this CBT was to gather plenty of data, and we accomplished that.
And there will be a CBT5 coming up soon?
Yes, we haven't announced it officially yet, but it will probably be later in the summer.
During the fourth CBT, a few of our readers had trouble grouping up with their friends on account of racial/faction restrictions. Was that intended, or is that something that will be addressed in future builds?
For CBT4 that may have happened, but our actual plan is for parties of all races and factions to be able to play together. That is one of those things that will be smoothed out as we go forward, since we definitely want everyone to be able to play with his or her friends.
With all the data collected in CBT4, were you able to see what sort of economy ArcheAge will support? Specifically, is it more of a loot-drop game, or will player crafters supply weapons, gear, etc.?
Most of the CBT4 items came from quest rewards. The crafting system is still very much a work-in-progress.
When you say work-in-progress, is that just from an implementation standpoint, or are you still tweaking it in terms of design and function?
It's more a design consideration now. We're trying to balance the economy with the other aspects of the game, so I would say that it's more about getting the design and function just right.
What about lore? There's an ArcheAge novel, written by a major Korean author, but a lot of that is lost on the Western audience despite the fact that it's quite a rich backdrop. Will that come through in the eventual English localization and in-game quests, etc.?
Any novelization translation will of course be up to the writer, but XL does own the histories of the races and factions, so we'll see what happens with that. And of course, as you mentioned, a good portion of the story will come through in-game for players who like that sort of thing.
Sounds good, thanks for meeting with us.
At this point in our sit-down, Choi turned the tables a bit and asked me about American reactions to ArcheAge's gameplay and racial designs, potential business models (subscription vs. free-to-play), and various distribution considerations.
What I ultimately took away from the interview was the sense that XL is very aware of Western interest in its flagship product, and it's also intent on hitting both its core sandpark audience as well as a broader subset of casual gamers who may not normally consider a sprawling, non-linear game.
All of this, along with publisher negotiations and localization logistics, is contributing to the lengthy gestation period for the western version of ArcheAge. Based on my experiences in the game and conversations like this one, though, my gut feeling is that the title is still worth waiting for.
Massively's on the ground in Los Angeles during the week of June 4-7, bringing you all the best news from E3 2012. We're covering everything from PlanetSide 2 and SWTOR and ArcheAge to RIFT's and LotRO's upcoming expansions, so stay tuned!