Atlantica Online State of the Game Interview

Consistent game updates are an integral part of any MMO experience. As players, we are constantly looking to the future and aching for expanded content. We always wants more: classes, dungeons, events, instances, and more. For NDOORS, they're certainly pushing the upper limit of updates for free-to-play games. In fact, at this year's GDC, Atlantica Online announced that they would be pursuing some new major upgrades in the near future. During the conference, Ten Ton Hammer's Danny "Ralsu" Gourley asked a few questions of Peter Kang, CEO of NDOORS Interactive, and found out what he's planning with Atlantica!

Ten Ton Hammer: What do you find is the biggest hurdle to retaining players at this stage in Atlantica’s life cycle? Is there a specific point in the game you can identify as problematic? If so, what are you doing to remedy that?

Peter: Player retention is always difficult, and it’s no secret that the average player sticks around for only a few months in most F2P games. In game, the biggest hurdle is always offering enough exciting content updates in a timely manner to prevent players from hitting a wall. But as I mentioned earlier, the team is working hard to churn out quality, content-filled updates.


Consistent game updates
are an integral part of any MMO experience. As players, we are
constantly looking to the future and aching for expanded content. We
always wants more: classes, dungeons, events, instances, and more. For
NDOORS, they're certainly pushing the upper limit of updates for
free-to-play games. In fact, at this year's GDC, href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1303"
target="_blank">Atlantica
Online

announced that they would be pursuing some new major upgrades in the
near future. During the conference, Ten Ton Hammer's Danny "Ralsu"
Gourley asked a few questions of Peter Kang, CEO of NDOORS Interactive,
and found out what he's planning with Atlantica! style="font-weight: bold;">



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Ten Ton Hammer: Players just got access to some new playable leader
classes and a new mercenary with the Feb. 18 update. Can you tell us
anything about the new mercenaries we’ll see coming out of
Africa and South America in future updates?




Peter: Well
we do have some new mercenaries that will be accompanying your hero in
the very near future, but they’re not from Africa or South
America (although we do have plans for them in the future).



One new mercenary I can share with you today is the Hwarang, a Grade C,
bow-wielding warrior from the history of Korea. The Hwarang can be
recruited from a brand new dungeon called Bulguksa. But
that’s not all—we also have plans to release a
melee mercenary called the Punisher and a long-ranged mercenary called
the Enchantress, all by the beginning of Q3 2009.



Ten Ton Hammer: How often
can players expect to see major content updates like the one delivered
on February 18?




Peter: The
plan right now is to offer players major content updates as frequently
as possible, and we already have a schedule full of great updates
ahead.



Within the next couple of months, we’ll be introducing the
Titan Server, where players will be able to participate in cross-server
battles and compete for control of unique locations. Another update
we’re really excited about is the tactical battle system
where players can take their heroes and participate in 100 vs. 100
battles, collect resources and raise (or raze) buildings.



So we’re always looking to take Atlantica to the next level.
Eventually, we’ll even have housing for players so that they
can collect resources, educate mercenaries or simply show off
everything they have collected in their travels in the world of
Atlantica. But while these updates will be months apart, we will
actually have something new for players to look forward to
monthly—mercenaries! The Hwarang will be the first mercenary
to be released in a series of monthly releases.


Ten
Ton Hammer: What do
you find is the biggest hurdle to retaining players at this stage in
Atlantica’s life cycle? Is there a specific point in the game
you can identify as problematic? If so, what are you doing to remedy
that?



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Peter:
Player retention is always difficult, and it’s no secret that
the average player sticks around for only a few months in most F2P
games. In game, the biggest hurdle is always offering enough exciting
content updates in a timely manner to prevent players from hitting a
wall. But as I mentioned earlier, the team is working hard to churn out
quality, content-filled updates.



Another hurdle is ensuring a smooth ride to the top. Currently,
leveling slows down at 95 and it doesn’t really pick up until
you hit 100. So we’re working out the kinks and eliminating
some of the grind to provide a more enjoyable experience.



However, one of the real keys to retaining players is creating a strong
community, hence a lot of the features that encourage players to engage
with other players.



Ten Ton Hammer: I have
said before (http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/49528) that the Atlantica
item mall does a good job of selling convenience items instead of items
necessary to succeed in the game. You confirmed that is the direction
Atlantica will continue to take in your recent interview with ZAM
(http://www.zam.com/story.html?story=17198). You really mean it? I will
never have to purchase an item to play Atlantica?




Peter:
Never—we feel that implementing necessities would only reduce
our player-base and alienate others. The problem with adding items
other than convenience items is that it can ruin the balance that is
already hard to maintain. And to provide a fair environment for
players, we feel keeping the Item Mall limited to convenience items is
the way to go.



Ten Ton Hammer: Based on
feedback from multiple players, bonus Gcoins (the item mall currency)
are now spent before any Gcoins we paid for. The bonus Gcoins were
given away with the purchase of the original Gcoins. Why did you decide
this policy needed to be changed even though it might cost you money?




Peter:
Simply put, it wasn’t a popular policy. So we changed it. If
we support the players, the players will support us in return.


Ten
Ton Hammer: Talk a
little bit about how nation wars function. How do I participate in a
nation war, and what will my experience be like?



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Peter:
Nation War is an aspect of group PvP involving players who belong to
dissenting nations. So first, you need to be a member of a guild that
is in alliance with other guilds—a nation. Now the King, or
the leader of the nation can rule as he or she fits, whether
it’s gaming peacefully with other players or bullying other
players to expand your nation.



War needs to be declared. It’s then up to the nation on
defense to pay tribute, which is largely gold, or stand up to their
aggressors and go to war, which flags enemy players as a threat. In
this stage of declaration, players can be attacked almost anywhere at
any time, with their hometown being the only safe haven. Once the
actual war begins, the objective will be to take down the generals of
the enemy nation, with victory resulting in great resources.



So what will your experience be like? Tense and action-packed, but
you’ll always be looking over your shoulder.



Ten Ton Hammer: style="font-style: italic;">Atlantica
Online
has given away some pretty valuable prizes (gaming
systems and
cash) for community events. One competition offers $200 to the owners
of the best Atlantica fansites. How often can we expect to see such
events that build and reward the community?



Peter: A
strong community is the lifeblood of an MMORPG. So of course,
we’re going to do everything we can to build and reward the
community. While not all of our events will reward players with cash
giveaways , you can bet on exciting events and promotions to build
player involvement and community, including valuable prizes.



Ten Ton Hammer: You
recently told the Italian website Gamesource
(http://mmorpg.gamesource.it/Articolo/63/Atlantica-Online-intervista-a-Kim-Tae-Gon-2.html)
that your goal is “to do away with [negative] stereotypes
[about F2P gaming], and the only way we’re going to do that
is by producing a solid and fun game that just happens to be
microtransaction-based.” How do you measure your progress
toward that goal, and how would you describe Atlantica’s
reception in the West, where microtransaction is synonymous with poor
quality and greedy developers?




Peter: One
of the measuring sticks is the amount of coverage that
microtransaction-based games receive from mainstream gaming sites. The
stigma of F2P gaming is going to be difficult to shake, and the
industry can only point the finger at themselves. For F2P gaming to
really boom, developers will really have to focus on quality and be
able to provide an engaging social experience.



We’re very grateful for the amount of coverage and praise
Atlantica Online
has been able to garner, so the reception in the West
has been great. But I think the F2P industry as a whole is starting to
turn it around as there are a lot of quality titles out there. More
outlets have been expanding to include F2P coverage, and it’s
a great sign for the future of F2P gaming.


Ten
Ton Hammer: Recent
Free League changes make it so that melee damage is much lower in PvP
encounters. Some complain this change favors AoE builds in FL. Can you
talk about the intricacies of balancing PvP for Atlantica and how
players can build a squad for both PvE and PvP?



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Peter: It
was a change that we felt was necessary to bring more balance in Free
Leagues, but it’s a process that never ends. As we continue
to add new spells and mercenaries, we’ll continue to tinker
with the numbers to provide optimal balance.



Changes in damage are made to maintain balance in not just PvP, but PvE
as well. One change in PvE that players will see is an even greater
increase in strength when they level up. We really want players to feel
powerful as they gradually advance.



We feel we’ve balanced the game well enough for players to
pick and choose their mercenaries and build an effective squad for both
PvE and Pvp. But of course, there are the necessary classes required
for an all-around squad, like having a tank and a healer. Other than
that, it’s the strategies that players utilize that will
determine their success in game.



Ten Ton Hammer: Finally,
I have suggested (http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/50655) that low cost
box sales could increase exposure for F2P games while generating a
little revenue or at least breaking even on overhead. Has NDOORS given
any thought to releasing a retail version of Atlantica (a box to sit on
store shelves or perhaps the installer on one of those fancy Atlantica
flash drives you often give away as prizes)? Why is my proposal a good
idea or bad idea?




Peter: We
have, and we do acknowledge the limits of digital distribution because
our client is so large. Although we’re seeing more broadband
penetration, it still takes awhile to download 2.3GB, and download
failures can scare away possible new players. One option
we’re planning is DVD distribution through our website.



Our focus right now is making the games more accessible, and we realize
our barrier to entry is a little higher than other F2P titles because
of large client size. So we’re trying to remedy this by
producing a smaller, 700MB client that players can start with, and have
them download the rest of the game in the background while
they’re actually playing.


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Atlantica Online Game Page.

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