Curious about how, when, and why a company would choose to re-open a shuttered game, we sat down with Netmarble's Jon-Enée Merriex to ask. Merriex walked us through what it takes to restart a game, why good MMOs sometimes go by the wayside, and how his company plans to iterate and improve on the Prius Online experience that the title's original players enjoyed.
Massively: Prius Online, the original version of Arcane Saga, went offline last year (along with far too many other MMOs, in our estimation). What makes it special enough to revive?
Jon-Enée Merriex, producer: First, I think it is important to understand that this is our game. We developed it, and it has a special place in our company as the first major title we developed internally.
Ultimately, we feel the game has a lot going for it, but it never really got marketed as the game it is. We hope that we've taken a lot of the criticism about the game and altered it enough that it is more palatable and more interesting. We definitely know it is more fun. The team can't stop playing it, but we also want to be sure that our original players feel that enough of the old game is here as well.
It is important to examine the different reasons games get shut down. Some games underperform and are no longer cost effective; some games run their course (nothing lasts forever); and some games have contractual issues that leave them in limbo forever.
"We've refocused our efforts into making Arcane Saga more about fun and less about rigid structure."
What old features remain in the new version of the game? Will Prius Online players recognize anything from the game they played before?
We've refocused our efforts into making Arcane Saga more about fun and less about rigid structure that we felt didn't really work. For instance, we had a system where skills were gated based on level, and then you could power up those skills with additional skill points as you leveled. The problem with this system was players had to hold on to skill points so that the top skills could be powerful. This created a system where you didn't have the fun of spending what you earned immediately.
What brand-new features can players look forward to in Arcane Saga that weren't in Prius Online?
We've adjusted many of the game systems, such as Anima, a companion who joins you early in the game. Previously, Anima followed you around and every once in a while did something that wasn't particularly interesting. In Arcane Saga, Anima will be more active and help you in different ways in PvE. She now has the ability to mimic skills you do -- attacking or healing your target with you, as an example.
We're also in the process of making grouping to do instances easier by developing a Dungeon Finder system this summer. We were going to just create it first, but we really want our players to help guide us on how it should work instead of just following the industry trends. We want to create something our community members want to use because it was created for them based on their feedback. Again, one of the main reasons we really wanted to publish this game ourselves is so we can have a deeper connection to our community and what is important to them.
Unfortunately, the original publisher had an account system that did not allow us to retain player accounts, so players will have to start over. However, we have done an extensive pass at adjusting leveling and progression to be more forgiving and less grindy, without removing the commitment to get to endgame.
Will the game's storyline stay the same, or have changes been made in terms of lore and narrative?
We have made some cosmetic changes to the storyline. Mostly we tried to make it a little less convoluted and tried to add more relationships in the story. For instance, Rashard, the King of the Gods, is Ira's father, and Huul, the creator of Prius, and Ira are lovers. The origin story is now about two lovers and a father who feels his daughter's suitor is not good enough for her. It's now much more of an age old tale and much less confusing than before.
Will there be a premium membership, or are players limited to cash shop purchases?
Speaking of "age old tales," I think I'll have to answer this one as I'm sure many before me have: We'll announce details regarding our monetization closer to launch. We will be free to play, but other than that, we're not ready to discuss the details just yet!
Absolutely; we'll be drawing our initial beta testers from our current Netmarble members and our Facebook fans and Twitter followers. So sign up for a Netmarble account, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.
Does Arcane Saga have a launch window?
We are planning to launch this summer, so beta is only a few months away!
Thank you for your time.
When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!