The Thrill of Success – An Interview with Perfect World Developers

Updated Mon, Sep 14, 2009 by Dalmarus

Over the past year, Perfect World International has dedicated itself to introducing North American gamers to its deep character creation system, numerous (and funky) flying mounts, and fresh player races. In doing that, they’ve attracted over 1.5 million players, and Ten Ton Hammer wouldn’t be surprised if they still retained a nice chunk of those players. So what has the team done to make the game so successful? Ten Ton Hammer sat down with Jon Belliss to find out.

Ten Ton Hammer: Perfect World International is currently up to 1.5 million registered users. Why do you think the game has seen such success in the North American market?

Jon Belliss:
I think there's a variety of reasons why Perfect World International is doing as well as it is in the North American market. The obvious answer is we pay a lot of attention to our users, customer service, quality of service, and that kind of thing. But you know, that's something should be expected from every publisher, really.

In terms of the game itself, we spend a lot of time localizing the game, not only in terms of text in quests and what people say to one another, but also in terms of the game content itself, localizing the gameplay and game content for North American users. One subtle example of that, in Perfect World International, players have the ability to move there characters by click-to-move and WASD. 

In Asia, a lot of MMORPGs (free to play and pay to play) use the click to move system. Where as in the United States, a lot of players are more familiar with the WASD method of movement because FPS's are so prevalent here. That's one small, subtle example that's basically replicated across the board in PWI's development. We're very fortunate to have developers that pay attention and do cater to a North American audience. Even though a definite majority of our company's revenue is coming from China, it's nice to see such a strong level of support from our development team for the North American audience.

Ten Ton Hammer: WASD is definitely something important, but are you working with them to really give the North American user something that's unique compared to everybody else?

Oh yeah, definitely. While the development team is located in China, we have a very sophisticated system in terms of collecting user information, feedback, and relaying it back to the team in China. It's a multilayered process involving many different types of people and many different types of communication with our users. And from that process we derive certain inputs or feelings that North American users have and we convey those to the development team in China. 

So while granted not every suggestions someone has gets implemented into the game, anything that we see a strong trend in with our players, or anything we ourselves feel would be a vast improvement to the game, we definitely push the development team to implement those kinds of features.

Ten Ton Hammer: Sure. Is there something you can think of off the top of your head where that's happened?

Another example is a lot of Asian games are very grindy. They don't really focus so much on story. They focus on just killing monsters over and over until you level up. When Perfect World was brought over to the United States, strong focus was put on the fact that North American users prefer more of a quest driven experience. In some cases, a story driven experience, but primarily less grind, more quests. 

People in North America want more direction. They need more direction. They want to feel like they have an objective to go accomplish, not, "Oh, I'm all out of quests. I need to just go kill monsters until I level." That's really tedious, honestly. So a lot has been done to minimize the level of grind in Perfect World International. 

Most recently, we added a daily quest to the game. There's a variety of quests that players can do every day that net them a good amount of experience and reduce the amount of grinding they have to do. One new daily quest that we added recently is called The Bounty Hunter. Essentially what this NPC does, is every day he gives you a quest to go kill a boss within the game. Now initially, that sounds pretty simple, straight forward but what's really cool about this system is that everyone in that level range will be assigned the same boss. 

So let's say it's Tuesday, I'm level 45 and you're level 48. Since we're both in the level 40 range, we're going to be assigned the same boss. On the next day, it might be a different boss, but we'll both be assigned that same boss on the same day. The end result is that people socialize more. Everybody within a certain level range is looking for someone else to do that quest, but everyone on the server in your level range is also looking to do that quest. It makes it a lot easier to get together, find a party, and just interact more. 

We've definitely found, and it's pretty obvious across all MMO's, that people who socialize and become socially invested in an MMO are much more likely to stay and continue to play your game. That's something that we've definitely tried to encourage with the addition of this quest.

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