The Thrill of Success – An Interview with Perfect World Developers

The gaming world has been buzzing with rumors about what the big announcement concerning Star Wars Galaxies was going to be this year. If the mini-sized SWG poster we received in our swag bags was to be any indication, the dead may soon start fighting among the living. It turned out not to have anything to do with zombies but it is big!

The news involves a new profession and the sweet sensation of player created content.

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 Beliss: 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.

To read the rest of The Thrill of Success – An Interview with Perfect World Developers, click here!



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.



href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/72181" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" src="/image/view/72181">

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?




Jon:
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?




Jon:

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.






href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/41650" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: left;" src="/image/view/41650">

Ten
Ton Hammer:
You
have 1.5 million registered users. Are
people actually paying to get some of the items, or is it mostly a
bunch of
players playing for free and enjoying themselves, but not necessarily
paying
for anything?





Jon:
It's
actually both, interestingly enough. In most Free
to Play games, the majority of users do not pay, especially in North
America.
In Asia, the ratio between paying and non-paying is a bit higher than
it is in
North America, but we definitely see a lot of people paying within
Perfect
World International. I can say with 100% certainty that the average
revenue per
user is well far and above the industry average. A lot of people say
$20
average revenue per user per month is a lot, while to us, that's
nothing.




Ten
Ton Hammer:
Hah!
Let's talk about content a bit. What have
you guys been working on recently?




Jon:
Since
we rolled out the game in 2008, we've actually had two expansions since
then. I
know a lot of other Free to Play publishers, they'll release one new
dungeon,
or one new armor set, and they'll say, "Oh, it's an expansion." To
us, that's not an expansion, that's a content update. That's something
that
happens on a regular basis for us, either weekly or bi-weekly. So when
we say
we release an expansion, we really do mean a large set of content.
Whether that
be a new gameplay feature, or a gameplay system that fundamentally
changes the
way people play the game, that's what an expansion is to us. style="">



So we've rolled out two so
far. One was just a major content update which allowed players to
travel through
time and access different parts of Perfect World in different times and
kind of
see the history of the world as well as engage in some very high level
and very
challenging content. 

The
second expansion
that
we released actually added an entirely new system called the genie
system which
is essentially like a small spirit or pet that flies around you and
follows you
around. It doesn't directly participate in combat. It grants you access
to a
wide variety of new skills and abilities. You're familiar with World of
Warcraft, right?

Ten
Ton Hammer:
Of
course.




Jon:
When
you're playing your mage, let's say you engage another player in PvP,
like a
rogue, right? When you see a rogue, you know he's going to go stealth,
try to
get up close to you, try to back stab or kidney shot you, what not.
You, you're
going to frost nova, blink, etc. Both of you have a good idea of what
type of
abilities you have. You have a good idea of what his arsenal involves
and vice
versa for him. As a result, the combat between you becomes a little bit
predictable and in some cases, like a routine, right? 

Ten
Ton Hammer:

Right. 


Jon:

In
Perfect World International it's the same thing. If you see an archer,
you know
he's primarily long range combat. If you see a cleric, you know they're
centered around healing, buffing, and de-buffing. The genie system is
actually
another layer of skills and abilities we've added to each individual
player. So
let's say for example I'm a DPS class and I need something that gives
me a
little bit more survivability. Then maybe I will level my genie up and
develop
my genie so that way it provides me access to some healing skills or
buff
skills or however I want to build him. Maybe I think that I'm too weak
in close
quarters combat and as a result, I build up some AoE abilities or some
Knockback abilities. 


Now
what's really unique
about that is so now when I see another player in PvP, yeah, I have a
rough
idea of his archetype is or what his basic skillet is, but I have no
idea of
how he's leveled up his genie. I have no idea what type of skills he
has from
his genie. And even more relevantly, genies are items can be swapped in
and out
on the fly, so it's basically a toolset or skillet that you can switch
at any
given time even in the course of combat. 

Ten
Ton Hammer:

Wow. 

Jon: 
In
Perfect World International, customization has
always been the primary focus, or one of the major points we try to
stress
whenever we're trying to "sell the game", but the addition of this
new genie system, now you can really customize they way you play,
rather than
just how you look, in both PvE and PvP. 

Ten
Ton Hammer:

How
many different genies
are there? 


Jon: 
Initially,
there are
four different types. Each type
has a different initial skillet, but there's honestly hundreds of ways
you can
build your genie in terms of actual skills themselves. Each time your
genie
levels up, you get an affinity point which is basically a point that
you assign
to a single element and there's five elements. If you want more healing
abilities, maybe you invest your affinity points into wood and water.
If you
want more attack-related abilities, maybe you invest your affinity
points into
fire and metal. So on and so forth.

Ten
Ton Hammer:

So
do the four different
types of genies maybe start off with a
particular affinity, or do they each have different skills that they
can use? 


Jon:
They
all have different starting skills or starting stats, but it's honestly
just a
base upon which players can develop them however they want. There's
really no
hard restrictions with each specific type of genie.


target="_blank"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 200px; float: right;"
src="/image/view/41648" hspace="10" vspace="10">
style="font-weight: bold;">

Ten
Ton Hammer:

How
do you keep it so
genies aren't being exploited? 


Jon:

That's
a very good question and it's actually something we were very concerned
with
too when we first heard about this system. The catch with the genie is
when you
have a genie, it has an energy bar. Basically like a rogue in World of
Warcraft. So when you actually equip a genie or swap genies, it starts
with
zero energy and takes a minute or so to build up that energy. So that
prevents
people from swapping them, burning abilities, then swapping them
back. 

Ten
Ton Hammer:

Otherwise
you could just
have a whole inventory full of genies custom
made to fight everybody. 


Jon:

Exactly. 

Ten
Ton Hammer:

What
kind of endgame
experience do players have with Perfect World
International at this point? 


Jon:
There's
actually multiple avenues and paths for players to achieve high level
in
Perfect World International. The primary draw in high level is
territory wars.
The game map is broken up into 44 different territories, each of which,
factions [Editor
Note: Guilds in PWI are
called factions.]
can
compete for ownership of these territories every
week. 

For
example, my guild
owns
a territory, Katrina's guild owns a territory, and you own a territory
and I
want to fight you. So come midweek on Wednesday, that's when the
bidding opens
up for territories. I can bid upon your territory for a certain amount
of
in-game coin. Then if Katrina chooses, maybe her guild wants to fight
you too,
in which case she'll outbid my guild. So a bidding war will occur
between my
guild and Katrina's guild.


Whichever
guild ends up
bidding the most money by Thursday night when the bids are finalized
will win.
Let's say I bid the most money so I win. A tie is then scheduled on the
weekend
for your guild and my guild to fight one another. It's an automatic
scheduling
system that assigns a time and then on that scheduled time during the
weekend a
specific instance will open up for your guild and my guild and
essentially, it
is 80 vs. 80 PvP combat. 


There's
two bases, each
guild has a base. There's three lanes in between the bases. There's
also towers
and fortifications and whatnot. Essentially, the players are pushing
back and
forth between these two bases and there's also siege weapons that
players need
to drag or bring to the opponent's base in order to take out their
buildings.
The players themselves, they can damage these buildings, but it's no
where near
the amount of damage these siege weapons will do. 


In
these PvP instances
flying is actually enabled within them so it adds a whole new dimension
to the
combat that's occurring within these instances. You have a bunch of
people who
are on the ground dragging siege to the enemy base while at the same
time you
have people that are defending, maybe flying up over the wall, archers
staying
up high, clerics flying and healing people down below. It's really,
really
dynamic PvP. So for anybody that's interested in hardcore PvP, this is
almost
as hardcore as it gets, at least in my opinion. 

Ten
Ton Hammer:

Do
you have guilds that
have 80 players vs. 80 players fairly often?
 


Jon:

Definitely,
definitely. I mean, I myself am in a guild where I'm a relatively high
level
and we actually have more than 80 players in our guild wanting to go,
so at
that point, we've got to do duels and scrimmages to decide who's going
to go
this week, and so on and so forth. It gets very interesting. 

Ten
Ton Hammer:

That's
cool. So what do
you guys have planned for the future? Age of
Spirits came out relatively recently, but you guys seems to have a
pretty good
pace on content releases. What's the next big thing on the horizon?
 


Jon:

Basically,
the reason why we're so lucky to have so much content at such a rapid
pace is
because the players in China just *drive* through content like butter.
They're
crazy. They play almost 24 hours a day in some instances, they never
sleep. As
a result, the development team has to keep the pace up. 


On
the horizon we do have
another expansion that's going to be coming out this fall. I've been
told I
cannot go into the exact specifics regarding it, like what all is
included but
what I can say is that is much more ambitious than any other expansion
we've
had before. It's going to add some new mechanics and some new... I'm
trying to
use the word because it will give everything away. 


Basically,
it's going to
change everything. It's going to change the way people play the game.
It's
going to make a lot of people think about re-rolling something new, but
that's
all I can say. 

Ten
Ton Hammer:

Is
there anything else I
haven't hit on that you'd like to let our
readers know about before we go? 


Jon:

In
terms of endgame content, we recently added a new instance called
Warsong City.
Currently, it's *the* most challenging instance in Perfect World
International.
It's essentially a three-phase dungeon where there's a boss hunt,
there's a
monster hunt, but there's also a siege element. It's very challenging.
The
primary focus on it is actually teamwork, so people that don't work
together are
definitely not going to experience any kind of success within this
dungeon. 


The
interesting thing about
this dungeon and the story behind it is that it's located between the
genie
world and Perfect World. This evil menace is trying to get control of
it but
it's up the players to try and defend this genie realm and more
importantly,
all the items or rewards for this dungeon are strongly associated with
the new
genie system. 


For
example, the genies
actually have their own equipment sets and you can actually get
equipment for
your genie and in addition to that, there are also genie experience
cubes so
when you use them they can level up your genie at an incredible
rate. 


Releasing
Age of Spirits
was only half of this system. This dungeon, this instance, was the
completion
of that new system. It really accents and compliments the existing
genie
system. That’s probably the highest content we have right
now. 


I
do have one last end game
thing we do have that I think players will find is very unique. In
Perfect
World International, there's is a puzzle instance. It's called the Cube
of
Fate. It's a dungeon that players go through solo in a private instance
and
they're provided with a series of challenges. 


There
are
60 rooms within
this dungeon. So for example, you go into the first room with all these
floating orbs that are different colors and have to count all of the
orbs that
are a certain color and give the correct answer. If you give the
correct
answer, you'll roll a die and depending on what you roll is how far you
go. Say
I roll a six, then I'd move ahead 6 rooms. Each individual room has its
own
separate challenge, whether it be kill a boss, or solve a puzzle, or
answer a
question. If the player gets to the end of the Cube of Fate they are
rewarded
quite heavily with experience, money, etc. 


It's
one of the most unique
solo PvE experiences I've ever had in an MMO. 

Ten
Ton Hammer:
style="font-weight: bold;"> It sounds like you guys
are doing some incredible things with Perfect
World International. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us!


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Perfect World International Game Page.

Last Updated:

About The Author

Around the Web