Exclusive Lineage Interview - Reentering the West

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When North American gamers typically think about the Lineage series, the first title that comes to mind is Lineage II. Our continent really didn't get a chance to get into the original Lineage like we did with older titles like EverQuest and Ultima Online. Millions of Korean players loved the game, however, and many are still hard at work on their characters. For the first time, NCsoft is preparing to really push Lineage towards the North American marketplace. Recently, Ten Ton Hammer had the opportunity to sit down with two of the men in charge of pushing the original Lineage to the North American consumer: Yong Take Bae, Lineage Producer and Young Park, Lineage Product Assistant for NCsoft West.

A castle siege in Aden Castle.

One of the first goals of these two individuals is narrowing the gap between the content released in Korea and the content released in North America. "We were analyzing everything and we realized that we were experiencing a number drop from last year," Young Park said, "We wanted to figure out what was causing the number drop. We have had very steady numbers for seven years, and we knew we needed to do something. What we realized is that we had a gap between the North American content and the Korean content, and that gap was quite wide. We're planning to reduce that gap, rather than having the year and a half gap that we've had previously. The goal is to reduce that gap to three months between the two versions of the game."

But that's not the only thing the NCsoft devs are attempting. Much like many of the modern MMOs in North America, the NCsoft developers have implemented an event system that drives dynamic content to their users on a monthly basis. "After last year, we launched a brand new website and have been running an in-game event every month," Yong Take Bae said. "This has been generating some great feedback from the users, and there's definitely more to come."

For the North American market, these are some tremendous steps forward for the game. Revitalizing the product through services and events and making the product more accessible to the current MMO generation is a fundamental step towards making the game more accessible for North American players. For those that aren't familiar with the history of the game, I asked the developers to give some exact details on the initial offerings of the product. "The game went live in Korea in September 1998," Young Park added. "It still has over 100,000 concurrent users in Korea. It generates more revenue than Lineage II and falls just behind Aion. It's a very big phenomenon and it's really a chronicle of the history of the online game. Back in 1999, the game had over 10 million users. While the game is going free-to-play in Japan, we feel that the pay-to-play business model is just more appropriate in North America at this time." Some other things that the developers are hoping to include are some statistic adjustment capabilities that weren't necessarily available at the very introduction of Lineage, and the game has become much easier for players as time has gone on.

But how are the developers, besides upgrading their services, hoping to keep the game in the "modern" mainstream? "We simply believe that we aren't going after the more modern 3D games," Young Park explained. "It's for a niche market, but a big niche market. It's a very simple click-to-move game, and the fun thing about this game is that it's an ever-evolving environment. Players actually take the content and make their own stories out of it. That's how the game has stayed alive for so many years. We're not going after the same target audience."

Players don't really want an update of Lineage's graphics.

"It is an older game," Yong Take Bae continued, "but without creating a whole new Lineage you can't really update the graphics. A lot of the users think that if we did update the graphics, they'd be made at us. There are some advantages with having low user specs; it means we can serve a lot more people."

To gain additional users, the developers have a number of goals and plans in their minds. First, they're going to be focusing on the Lineage players that left the game and try to bring them back into the MMO. Then they're planning on putting together a large marketing campaign to attract new users on top of that. Mac users are also one of the main targets for Lineage, and they want to grab as many of those players as possible.

Included in the push to gain new players, the Lineage team is creating two new classes that are going to be introduced in 2009: the Dragon Knight and the Illusionist. "It's really going to put a new spin on everything," Yong Take Bae said. "We're also going to introduce some new maps and new dungeons, monsters, and new weapons." Although there's no race concept in Lineage (the developers chose to make separate races their own classes like the Dungeons and Dragons of yesteryears), the two new classes will be added to the five current classes in the game. The developers hope to have this update, along with the statistic change update, implemented into the game by the first half of 2009.

If you're a gamer that's always wanted to take a stab at the original Lineage, the early part of 2009 may be the time for you. With so many updates coming, including the two new classes, in such a short amount of time, there's definitely room for new players to jump into the fray. A big thanks again to the Lineage developers for taking time out of their schedules to talk with Ten Ton Hammer!

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