Exclusive Mabinogi: Pioneers of Iria Expansion Interview

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Since last March, Ten Ton Hammer has been closely following the progress of one of our favorite F2P games, Mabinogi. Published by Nexon America, the cute-looking Mabinogi has an incredible amount of depth once you get past the "cuddly" exterior, and we're happy to report that even more features and options have been unlocked with the recently released expansion, "Pioneers of Iria." Recently, Ten Ton Hammer caught up with Nexon's Matthew McCullough, Assistant Game Producer, to talk about the newly released content and what players can expect from the updated game.

Elves and Giants were introduced in Pioneers of Iria.

Ten Ton Hammer: The content in Iria seems to add a lot of breadth to Mabinogi; players get new races, dungeons, monsters, and a huge continent divided into three distinct geographical regions. Is it safe to say the goal was to give players of all levels more to do rather than focusing only on raid content or starter areas?

Matthew McCullough: Absolutely. After reading our forums and GMs overhearing conversations in game along the lines of, “Guess I’ll go and do a Baol clear,” or “Another Rabbie run…” we’re happy to offer players new ways to enjoy themselves in-game. Among things we’re excited to see players experience is the new dynamic dungeon system as well as all the exploration quests. There’s just more to do now, and that’s kind of refreshing. We’re also proud of the beginner Elf and Giant quests which help familiarize new players on how to play the game. The later parts of the Elf and Giant ‘tutorials’ feature more difficult beasts for veteran players.  

Ten Ton Hammer: Given how large the new continent is (thrice the size of the old one), is there any concern that the players will become too spread out? Will grouping and social interactions suffer because of so much land mass?

Matthew: Much like how ancient civilizations mostly formed near water sources, we’re confident that players will naturally come together near common places. We expect Qilla Base camp, Filia, Vales, and then of course, Tir Chonaill to be common gathering points. Of course, with how the new Mana Tunnels work (players can set up shops nearby, in addition to travelling) we expect certain central Tunnels to develop into social areas as well.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will we see any new methods of travel to cover these vast expanses in the new land? Perhaps some new mounts or flying vehicles?

Matthew: We’ve released ostriches and sled dogs as part of the Pioneers of Iria expansion. White Ostriches can carry two passengers, and while Black Ostriches only carry one, riders can occasionally engage their special sprint ability. Sled dogs can deploy their sleds in the snows of Physis, and they’re an awesome way to travel around the Giant homeland. We aren’t opposed to introducing new mounts ahead of the release schedule in other services, but for the time being, we’re satisfied with the mount options available to players.

Ten Ton Hammer: How much are the changes that come along with Iria due to player feedback? How much does our input affect the design direction of Mabinogi?

Nexon was reading and listening to their player base when Iria was being localized.

Matthew: A lot of our efforts for the past few months have been focused on getting Pioneers of Iria to the player base. We do read our forums and GMs keep their ears open. Player feedback is always valued, and although we cannot entertain every idea, well-thought out suggestions are often presented to the team. The idea of an expansion to a free-to-play game is probably the most relevant request from our player base. North American online gamers are used to massive updates. Look at any popular MMO and it features major updates – and typically charges their subscriber base a pretty penny to pick it up at a retail location. Pioneers of Iria delivers that same experience for free, although we won’t be opposed to our players going to 7-Eleven or Target or one of our other retail partners to pick up a Nexon Game Card!

Ten Ton Hammer: In Danny Gourley's July 7, 2008 Top Ten Free-to-Play Games column, he noted that his character aged a little too fast to play Mabinogi casually. A common complaint I hear about the aging feature is that it forces players to spend money on rebirth in order to maximize AP. Is this changing any with Iria, or do you like the system as it is?

Matthew: You’ll be happy to know that we now have free age and level “rebirths” available with Pioneers of Iria. At age 20, you can reset age and level for free! Players who wish to change their looks and rebirth sooner (no less than a week from the last rebirth) may do so through a character card.

Ten Ton Hammer: What can you tell us about the new Elf and Giant races? Are they going to be available for free? How do they differ from standard humans?

Matthew: Elves and Giants are awesome, and both have their strengths. Elves are pretty quick on their feet, the fastest of the three races. While the lumbering Giants are a bit slower than Elves, they’re still faster than Humans. Each race has an exclusive ability, Mirage Missile for Elves and Stomp for Giants. Humans have also gained access to the famed Final Hit! Each race will cater to a player based on his or her preference. If you like in-your-face action-action-action, Giants should suit you well. Is scampering around in the back lines, peppering your foes with arrows more of your game? Elves! A Jack of all trades? Humans have you covered. Players will receive a free “assistant” card once they choose a side from their account. New players have the option of creating a new character, Elf, Giant, or Human.

Ten Ton Hammer: In one of your other free expansions, you added the pseudo-class the "Dark Knight." Are we going to be seeing any other additional classes in the new Pioneers of Iria expansion?

Elves and Giants can transform into Falcons and Beasts.

Matthew: Elves and Giants have access to transformation which allows them a similar Paladin/Dark Knight transformation: Elves feature the Falcon mode while Giants can roar into Beast mode.

Ten Ton Hammer: How close will the US version of Mabinogi be compared to the Korean version of the game after the release of Iria? Will the game ever see only a month or two in-between releases?

Matthew: The Korean game is still a little ahead of the North American service. Ideally, we’d like to be caught up by the end of the year; perhaps a month or so into 2010. Once we do catch up, we'll look into adding exclusive content for our North American players in addition to localizing Korea’s updates as well.  

Ten Ton Hammer: One of the best traits of Mabinogi is its depth and the ability to do so many things in the game to keep a player occupied. Are you adding any more systems into the game? If so, can you describe them for the players?

Matthew: No more waiting for that lousy owl! Quest boards are quick and easy ways to pick up quests. Exploration quests are a fun way to explore the landscape and net some extra AP at the same time. Speaking of exploration, keep your L-rods handy, you’ll need them to find the dungeons of Iria. The dungeon boss system is revolutionary as well. Depending on the item you drop to create your dungeon, you’ll get a different boss. We also have a lot of exciting in-game events and web events coming down the pipe for our players.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you'd like to tell the Ten Ton Hammer readers and Mabinogi fans?

Matthew: We’d like to thank our devoted fan base and players, as well as TTH for all their continued support for the past year. We hope you’re enjoying the pioneering of Iria. A lot of hard work went into it and at the end of it all, our players having a great time in this unexplored land is the best payoff we could hope to receive.
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