Exclusive Runes of Magic Interview with Interim President Sean Kauppinen
At this year’s Leipzig Games Convention, the Ten Ton Hammer
staff took time out of their busy schedule to track down the developers
and take a look at their upcoming MMO. To say we were surprised would
be an understatement, what we saw was a polished product that easily
target="_blank">received our “Best Free to Play
Game” of the entire
Recently, Frogster Interactive Pictures (the publisher of style="font-style: italic;"> Runes of Magic)
created a subsidiary branch in the United States with the sole purpose
of pushing their project into the US market. Heading up the Frogster
USA team is Sean Kauppinen, President & CEO, Frogster America,
Inc. Over the past few years, the Ten Ton Hammer team has gotten to
know Sean, and so we tossed a few questions his way concerning the
Frogster deal and his involvement with the new company. We hope you
enjoy the chat!
Ten Ton Hammer: Why did
Frogster feel the need to create a base of operations in the United
States? Couldn’t the company run the game from their European
Kauppinen, President & CEO, Frogster America, Inc.
The US operation was setup to provide the best content and community
experience for the players of Frogster’s games in the large
American market. The company very well could have operated and serviced
its titles from Europe, but having a local office that works with local
media, community representatives, and provides a more local server to
play on tends to deliver an overall better service and experience. This
also gives the company and our games a better chance to succeed.
Ten Ton Hammer: With a
new office in the states, does this mean that style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic will
undergo more beta testing for the US audience? Localization? Or will
the English version of the European game suffice?
Sean: style="font-style: italic;"> Runes of Magic has
undergone extensive beta testing already, with thousands of players
joining from the US in the early beta stages. Having more native
speakers in a game always creates a better experience since language or
location specific issues can be addressed faster and more effectively
with greater feedback. Ultimately, we see the game nearing a quality
level that delivers a compelling experience at launch, and the opening
of US servers and the US office to promote the game will definitely
draw more North American users to ensure testing is complete in the
Ten Ton Hammer: What will
you provide as interim president of this newly formed subsidiary of
Frogster Interactive Pictures?
I’ve been through a lot of online game launches now, and
experience and guidance are probably the top things I can provide in my
new role. I’ve worked on
EverQuest II, Star
Wars Galaxies, PlanetSide,
Adventures, Vanguard, Lego Universe, style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer Online, style="font-style: italic;">Age of Conan, style="font-style: italic;"> Lord of the Rings Online,
and then with a number of free-to-play online game/community companies
including Gameforge, Outspark, Gaia
Online and others. I’ve seen just about
everything, but as soon as you make a statement like that,
you’re usually surprised. Frogster was looking for an
industry veteran for this position with a background like mine and I
was happy to join the company.
On the business side, my goals are to get style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic launched
and the operation up and running with the really talented exec team
that’s already on board. We’re building a platform
for success. We want to give the company momentum so in a few months a
new leader can come in and take the company to even greater heights.
Ten Ton Hammer: In your
opinion, what’s the strongest feature of style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic? Why
will the game succeed in the United States?
think we really have a great game that offers up an experience that
should appeal to a lot of the people currently playing online
subscription-based games . The most compelling features of style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic are
that it has succeeded in the stylized art that appeals to the
mass-market online game player and its free-to-play model is incredibly
compelling for a game of this quality and level of content.
It’s free to download and I would invite anyone playing or
interested in online games to try it out and see if it isn’t
worth your time.
Ten Ton Hammer: Many
people have called Runes
of Magic a “WoW clone”. What would you
say to them to dissuade that opinion of your game? How is style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic
different from WoW?
Magic is building upon all the games that came before it, while also
adding a list of its own innovative features.
style="font-style: italic;"> Runes of Magic is
definitely not WoW, and to call it a clone would be inaccurate. WoW
built on the foundation of the popular games before it, and RoM builds
on the foundation created by those predecessors, WoW, and other
classics of the genre like Ultima
Lineage 2, Dark
Age of Camelot, Everquest
2 and Lord
of the Rings Online. All of these games had features that
they brought to the genre and as players have evolved and played these
games, their expectations have also changed. People want and expect a
game that gives you the best of all worlds with all of the best
features they’ve seen before. That said, style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic adds
some innovative features of its own to the genre.
To start, the business models are different, it’s
free-to-play so players don’t have any fixed or recurring
we’ll be doing major add-ons much more often than WoW, and
they will be the kind of updates that you would expect to pay for, but
there will be major free updates on a more accelerated schedule in
Rune System –
this lets you take the power of one item and transfer it to another
(with some risk involved), but it makes it so you can keep the armor
and weapons you want by imbuing them with the power and characteristics
Dual Class System and
Character Advancement – choose a character class
in the beginning and another at level 10. You can mix the classes up
for a character that is perfect for your unique play style.
– We have a mix of dynamic, instanced, and persistent
dungeons, so there is a lot of variety in the adventures you can have.
Server Wars and Guild
Wars – guilds will be able to fight each other
and we’re going to have server battles –
it’s a sight to see. It reminds me of the kind of battles we
got in PlanetSide at its height, which were epic!
– Runes of Magic offers player houses with individual and
interactive furniture starting at level 1.
Ten Ton Hammer: What can
you tell US gamers about Frogster that they might not know about? Why
should we be interested in the fact that they opened a US subsidiary?
Frogster has been around for years and is a growing company in Europe,
Asia, and now North America. With the increase in people playing online
games, Frogster is setting up the foundation for a global enterprise
that will bring games to players around the world.
You should be interested in the US subsidiary because it means we care
about how good the game experience is going to be, and we want you to
be a part of our community for a very long time.
Ten Ton Hammer:
You’ve served in the games industry for 14 years, which is a
long stretch by the video game standard. Why did you decide to devote
your time to Frogster and Runes of Magic? What drew you to style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic in
Sean: If you
look at my track record, I like companies with certain characteristics:
a compelling story, sound financials and a plan (or at least a strong
chance) to be successful, and probably most importantly, people that I
want to work with. That last point has become even more important over
the last year as I evaluated my career and personal goals. I know by
now that I’m a hard worker and I’m going to put my
heart and soul into the companies and people I want to work with. So
the background is I’ve known the Frogster team for years.
Andreas Weidenhaupt, CEO of Frogster Online, is a good friend for a
long time and we’ve always enjoyed working together. I think
his passion, and that of the rest of the team easily convinced me that
this was something I wanted to be a part of.
help Runes of Magic achieve success in North America.
Ten Ton Hammer:
There’s been a bit of controversy concerning some of your
former PR employers and a game journalism website that seems to be
affiliated with them. What’s your feeling on game journalism
and press websites? How should gamers insure that they’re not
hoodwinked by marketing pitches?
Sean: Do you
really think I’m going to answer that? *smiles*
When I was at Ubisoft, I used to send out games to new websites and I
would tell the editors they had to be critical of the games, otherwise
they wouldn’t have credibility with the audience they were
serving. And without credibility, they really wouldn’t have
value to me or any other company looking to promote their products.
Hopefully that’s advice that all budding journalists get from
someone these days.
How Not to Get Hoodwinked 101 - Everyone should always look for
multiple sources when they’re getting information –
that doesn’t mean going to a blog post and then going to the
original story cited or linked to in the blog post and considering that
verified and accurate. I personally would rather have accurate,
verified information that I can act on, rather than speculation or
unnamed single-source stories. But I know this is sometimes the reality
and the speed of the news has become more important than the overall
With regards to reviews, I like to find people that I agree with
– if I tend to like the games that a certain editor likes, I
follow their blog. Even though it might not be an official review for
their publication or media outlet, you can get a sense for whether they
like it and why you might as well. So, I would say I don’t
just trust a review or story only because of the outlet, it’s
also the writers that I enjoy and identify with that personalize the
experience for me. I think that’s what we’re all
looking for here.
Ten Ton Hammer: The MMO
industry is a tough market to jump into, and the cancellation of Tabula
Rasa is a big name example of this. How do you plan to keep style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic from
ending up like so many other games?
You’ve cited the MMO industry, and I’m going to
cite the MMO business. The plan is to keep the game relevant, fresh and
fun, and ensure we are prudent in our business practices. Business is
about putting out a product that meets the needs and wants of the
market, but in a way that allows you to stay in business. Timing,
quality, price, perception, experience, and a number of other factors
all play into the potential for success. We’re going to
carefully manage these aspects and hopefully the market will do their
part by supporting this great game.
In the end, it’s all about the community. We brought players
in to the beta process very early so their feedback could shape the
game. After launch it will be important for us to deliver regular
updates and add-ons that add new classes, races, regions and PvP
features to the game. Regular in-game events like those we did for
Halloween and the end of the closed beta are really important for us to
keeping the game fresh and new for our players.
Ten Ton Hammer: Is there
anything else you’d like to tell Ten Ton Hammer readers and style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic fans?
We’re treating the open beta like a rolling start, so any
character you create today and any time you spend in the game counts
and characters aren’t going to be wiped as they are in usual
betas. I’ve already jumped in to secure some of the names I
want for my characters going forward, and I would encourage others to
do so as well. Otherwise you cold end up being called Lygeforthargggh.
And that definitely would make it harder to group.
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Runes of Magic Game Page.