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The Free Zone: Buzz from G-Star 2010

Columns By Richard Aihoshi on November 29, 2010

Buzz from G-Star 2010

In case anyone doesn't already know, G-Star (a seemingly contrived acronym for Game show & Trade All-Round) is the major annual game industry event in Korea. Including consumer and trade sections as usual, this year's version took place in Busan from November 18 to 21. According to the official figures I've seen, 316 companies from 22 countries sent representatives. The total visitor count over the four days was more than 280,000.


I'd venture to say the last figure would probably have been higher if the event had been in the megalopolis of Seoul, which has a far greater population to draw from. Location seems to be an ongoing issue. The vast majority of the domestic industry is in the capital, and without exception, everyone I've ever asked, whether local or foreign, said they'd prefer it to be there. So why has it never been? I can't be completely sure, but the most likely reason is that the government agencies involved with the show want to support economic activity in other locales.

Also as in years past, G-Star 2010's visibility here in North America was pretty low, this despite both its being one of the largest game events in the world and the very obvious significance of the Korean industry. I can appreciate that it's an expensive proposition for any publication here to assign even a single editor to attend. That said, I don't have to concern myself with what trips are affordable within their travel budgets. I can - and do - simply wish there were had been much better coverage.

But there wasn't, so I've been trying other avenues to learn how the show was this year. Some bits of information and opinions from various sources who were there are trickling in and will probably continue to do so for a while. Even so, they'll probably never amount to a decent, satisfactory overview. With this caveat clearly stated, assorted things of interest have surfaced up to now. Almost invariably, a key reason they piqued my curiosity is because I don't know much about them.

Unsurprisingly, a number of titles have achieved far greater visibility in their home market than here. If and how much this situation will change in the months to come remains to be seen, especially considering they may not all be headed this way. In any case, what follows is a quick and admittedly spotty rundown of the main things I've seen reported and been told.

Hangame / NHN featured the subscription action MMORPG Tera plus Metro Conflict, Kingdom Under Fire II (which is said to have an MMO mode) and ASTA - The War of Tears and Winds. All four appear to be generating significantly more buzz over there.

NCsoft highlighted the fantasy martial arts-themed Blade & Soul, which also seems to be garnering a good deal of attention, and the Goddess of Destruction expansion for Lineage II. The company also showed Metal Black: Alternative, which it's apparently hyping as new genre, the "shoot 'n bomb" MMOG. There seems to be good interest in all three.

Hanbitsoft's main focus was PvP-oriented The Heaven of Three Kingdoms, which is based on the Chinese literary classic, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Players can compete to take on the roles of famous generals, thereby gaining unique powers and abilities. Also on display were a fishing MMOG (!!) called Grand Mer and a medieval fantasy MMOFPS, WarCry: Reign of Sword.

Neowiz, which is 15% owned by EA, exhibited RaiderZ in the trade area. Its most intriguing element is a non-targeting system that presumably means no tabbing or point and click to select foes. On possible concern is that according to the grapevine, it has been in development for four years already, which is definitely on the long side by Korean standards. Rockman Online, which reportedly draws quite heavily from the Mega Man property, apparently drew plenty of attention as well.

In addition, some other interesting bits and pieces I've noted are...

  • ESTsoft showed the CryEngine 3-powered Cabal II, although just in the trade section. I understand that the visuals were impressive.
  • mGame presented War of Dragons: Age of Dragons in which players ride the great beasts into battle; Sounds like it could be a lot of fun if the implementation is well-done. In addition, the company revealed Yulgang 2. You may remember its successful predecessor by another name, Scions of Fate.
  • Now owned by Nexon, Ndoors has unveiled Embrace the Three Kingdoms. Also based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it's a web-based 3D MMO that will be playable on an iPad.
  • Mabinogi Heroes, known here as Vindictus, captured the President's Award for top game at the government-sponsored Korea Game Awards.
  • The most interesting absence I noticed was NCsoft's Steel Dog, the vehicular combat MMOG that was at the show a year ago. Naturally, I couldn't help remembering its ill-fated Auto Assault, although I have no real idea how similar - or not - the two are.

As I noted earlier, I'm still getting comments about G-Star, so I'm hoping to learn more, not just about the games I've named, but also about at least some of the others that were shown. There were hundreds in all, which is a big reason I wish there had been much more coverage.

The Free Zone The Free Zone Editorials
Richard Aihoshi has been writing about MMOGs since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. As a result, he has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.

He is the former Editor of RPG Vault and his column, focusing on free to play MMOs, appears on every Monday.
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