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RAN Online Interviews: Interview with Steve Tsao

By Dana Massey on December 28, 2005

The President and COO of IP Interactive talks about their game

Steve Tsao and his company are had at work importing RAN Online to the North American market from its Korean-roots. RAN Online is an MMORPG set in a contemporary university setting with a distinct anime-style.

MMORPG.com:Lately we’ve seen a lot of MMORPGs being imported from Asia to a North American market. One of the biggest hurdles is simple translation. How have you addressed this to make sure RAN is accessible to the North American market?
Steve Tsao:

My background in gaming is from the United States, so I am very particular about the quality of translation for the English speaking market. The Philippines is the third largest English speaking country in the world. The translation for RAN Online will be done in the Philippines, unlike many of the other games which are done by an automatic Korean to English translator. In fact, the #1 reason for our close beta process is to refine the English for RAN Online.

MMORPG.com:The game is of an anime-style, but the setting is contemporary. This is a hole in the MMORPG market right now. What are some of the challenges with this setting?
Steve Tsao:

RAN is the most successful modern day MMORPG in the world today(000k++ of PCU’s throughout Asia). The players are faced with challenges they may encounter in real life. Instead of delivering a new set of magical armor to the dwarf guard tower, the players are tasked with quests such as clearing the school yard of bullies, or helping the teacher clean up the school. The challenges are showing the players this is a fun and exciting environment, even without the dragons around every corner that they’re so used to.

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MMORPG.com:The game takes place on college campuses. Can you talk to us a bit about this?
Steve Tsao:

The campus setting is a familiar setting for our gamers. Whether they are in college, high school, etc. The quest we have range from everyday tasks that all of our gamers experienced in real life, to heroic quests of vanquishing evil beings. The first quest you have as a new student is to register for classes, where you learn many new things about yourself. Also, when you need to redeem your reputation after doing too much bad deeds, the teachers may have you sweeping the floors and collecting cigarette butts.

MMORPG.com:What to you is the defining feature of RAN Online? As a player, what do you enjoy most?
Steve Tsao:

The quests in RAN are very enjoyable and in-depth. While they may not be as “normal” as rescue PrincessX from MonsterY, they really put a smile on your face as you do real life tasks to progress your characters.

Also, the skills in RAN online are quite fantastic. I am personally addicted to the variety of shots from the Archer character. From summoning a mass of tiger spirits to a bolt to the sky that rains down on the enemies.

MMORPG.com:How do you hook people into the game immediately?
Steve Tsao:

RAN is a quality game with great game play. The ease of the game play and quests are what draws in new players. Also the fresh setting versus the traditional kill goblin and slime gives the players a unique alternative.

MMORPG.com:Can you give us some information on the backstory of the game?
Steve Tsao:

Evil spirits have risen to take over the world; the schools are some of the last bastions of protection. You have to protect your school and friends from not only the evil spirits, but also the local gangs and rival schools. There are 3 schools to choose from as well as 4 classes: Hand2hand combat, swordsman, Archer, and Spiritualist.

MMORPG.com:As players reach the “end-game” what will they find there?
Steve Tsao:

The end game for RAN is full of encounters that require large groups. Additionally, the game is heavily PvP and encourages inter-school rivalries. But ultimately, a game “end-game” is a function of how successful the project is, there are many “good” games out there with little to no expansion of new content. RAN Online being one of the most successful mmorpg’s in the world has a full pipeline of new content, monsters, quests, maps coming down for years to come, to support one of the largest gaming audiences in the world.

MMORPG.com:Currently RAN is in testing. What are the goals of the current test and can you tell us the beta and launch timeline you’re working under?
Steve Tsao:

Our goal for the testing is to finalize the translation to English. Our open beta is targeted to be the middle of January. And also to let the English speaking world know that RAN is coming.

MMORPG.com:We’re always interested in the faces behind these games. Can you tell us a bit about your company and their experience in this market?
Steve Tsao:

IP Interactive is a company run by gamers. Some of our members started back in the pre-alphas of ultima online. We have been credited with the slaying of lord british during the last days of beta. Additionally, we have founded some of the top guilds and communities in mmorpg’s today. Furthermore, some of our members have been helped in the development of some of the top mmorpg’s today. We are passionate about the industry, and want to introduce mmorpg to more players.

MMORPG.com:In terms of PvP, the game touts a “duel” feature. Can you explain how this feature works and what you think it adds to the game?
Steve Tsao:

The Duel feature is simply a voluntary pvp between two players. It allows for two players to test their skills versus each other without penalties or fears. It is a good practice system before heading into the pvp world.

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