On the other side of the coin, Mr. Cho feels that taking on FusionFall was definitely the right move for Grigon Entertainment. "Grigon is well known in Korea and parts of Asia; but Korean entertainment companies have a lot of trouble entering the global market. Working with Cartoon Network gave us entry into the global market. In order for our development studios to be global, we have to experience western culture. Even though this may not be their aim, Cartoon Network is sort of indirectly helping us to learn about an entirely different culture. It's been a very good experience so far."
Mario Piedra, Art Director for the project, continues to play a critical part in this cultural fusion. Mr. Piedra was the answer to our question when we asked how Asian artists were able to visualize one game environment we saw in our hands-on demo with FusionFall at ComicCON 2007 - a caricatured North American-style suburb – with such clarity. "[Mr. Piedra]'s spent a lot of time in Korea over the past year and a half sort of passing his imagination to the artists," Mr. Cho explained. "Once the artist draws it out, he sort of comments about where it's not quite there yet."
Mr. Condolora added: "Mario probably spent six of the first 12 months in Korea. Also, there were a number of DVDs coming from Atlanta to Seoul to look at our shows and kind of infuse the sensibilities into the Grigon artists."
Other challenges to going global don't have such cut-and-dry answers. One major hindrance for Asian developers going global is the distrust of a microtransaction payment model commonly used in Asian MMORPGs. This bullet point on the feature set isn't something easily changed during the localization process. For a developer, an MMORPG's revenue model dictates many decisions about gameplay. In a microtransaction-driven game, for example, gameplay should be a little more intense, perhaps forcing players to use purchased consumables like healing potions. In a subscription-driven game, a developer has to strike a balance between stretching out character progression and maintaining the fun factor.
Though Cartoon Network New Media hasn't so much as hinted as to what the payment model for FusionFall will be, the right choice may differ by region. According to Mr. Condolora, " It's safe to say that we would use different models in different parts of the world. We will investigate each method locally and come up with the best model for the game. It is conceivable that there would be multiple business models."
Cartoon Network's decision hardly caught Grigon Entertainment by surprise. "When we first met with Cartoon Network, it was very evident that a lot of payment methods were coming out." Mr. Cho stated. "With our very earliest game design, we were anticipating that we would have to support any kind of business model with this game."
Despite the many challenges of developing an MMORPG with global ambition, the partnership between Cartoon Network New Media and Grigon Entertainment already reads like a late chapter in Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat. Summing up his optimism for FusionFall, Mr. Cho stated, " We strongly believe that the online platform is globally accessible and entertainment, including games, tends to be more global. So we sought to incorporate what the West has and what Asia has; what different regions of Asia can provide as far as art and style of the game so that it has no boundaries… In short, we are trying to create a game that, by default, can work in any part of the world."
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