A New Standard for Imported MMORPGs?
With Cabal Online, OGPlanet hopes to redefine the Korean crossover.
By Jeff “Ethec” Woleslagle
February 20, 2008 – Even after losing his voice after a long day of interviews at Game Developers Conference 2008, Executive Producer David Hoffman has lost none of his passion and interest for describing the ins and outs of the free-to-play (F2P) MMORPG Cabal Online, OGPlanet’s flagship publishing gig for the North American market. To hear him speak, you can’t help but believe Cabal Online won’t be just another flimsy attempt to port a mediocre Korean title into the land of the avid monthly subscriber.
Unlike many other entrepreneurial spirits working on such a project, Hoffman invested heavily of himself to ensure that Cabal Online doesn’t fall into the diction death trap that has befallen many an Asian crossover. “4 to 6 weeks, morning and night,” Hoffman related, describing how long it took him to clean-up the rough translations given him as well as build-in some signature humor. “It wasn’t cool… my eyes would bug out. I couldn’t go home and look at the computer screen or watch TV; my eyes hurt. I’d come home and go to bed, then go back and do it again. It had to be done.”
And well done in this and other ways, if Cabal Online is to differentiate itself from the pack of FTP games vying for the gaming public’s attention. Cabal offers all the staples of the traditional MMORPG, 6 classes, several races, a progression system with greater weapons and abilities for higher level players, original soundtrack, the whole bit. Though the storyline is a predictable near-future tale of reconstruction following a civilization-shattering cataclysm, there’s a twist. While all six classes inherently use magic, players will recover technology from the good old days of civilized earth as they progress in level. Bows become dual-wield pistols and your mount may be something as advanced as a motorcycle or hoverboard. While some may react negatively to Cabal’s indulgence in anachronism, it’s a novel attempt at breaking down the wall between sci-fi and fantasy.
Though the Cabal Online IP is several years old, the graphics looked surprisingly fresh and new, even to our jaded gaming grognard eyes. Hoffman noted that OGPlanet chose the newest build of the game from the Korean developer EST, newer even than the retail version of the game currently live in Europe. The game is far from abandonware on the development end as well, since elsewhere the game’s revenue model is based on subscriptions. Here in the US, however, OGPlanet’s variant will run on microtransactions for items that help a player distinguish himself in interesting ways or achieve her goals faster, but don’t directly give the player an edge over another player in head-to-head combat.
Hoffman has some interesting ideas for purchased items, as well. He detailed a recent special offer in another of OGPlanet’s game offerings, Rumble Fighter, where players could purchase clothing color-matched to show their support for the Patriots or the Giants in the 2008 Super Bowl. Players took to the idea as one more excuse to face off against their opponents, and revenues skyrocketed. Plans are in the works to do similar events in OGPlanet’s stable of other properties, which include Cabal Online as well as the tactically oriented BB Tanks and the golf-RPG fusion game Albatross AT.
David Hoffman and the staff at California-based OGPlanet are confident they can turn the corner on the market’s perception of the imported subscription-free MMORPG.by going the extra mile while localizing and operating quality titles. In any case, we’re reasonably certain that no other MMORPG will let you bow-kite with a motorcycle. If you’re interested in proving him out, you can register Cabal Online(set to launch right here at GDC 2008) at the OGPlanet website. Then come back and discuss your experience in the Ten Ton Hammer forums.