When I sat down to lunch with XLGames’ Suk Woo Choi away from the hustle and bustle of E3 this year, I didn’t know what to expect. Color me a rube, but I’ve never done a translated interview before. If you can believe it, I’ve only been at this business for a few years now, and almost all of my appointments have been with EU or NA-based developers. I was worried that I might say something to offend the man who’s leading ArcheAge’s business side, a game that our readers are mightily anticipating with the kind of thirst for info that is usually reserved for titles that actually have a North American publisher and localization team. But as I quickly learned, just as ArcheAge is reaching across borders to entice fans in North America before they even have a publisher ready in this region, Suk Woo Choi is the kind of guy who loves a good steak and loves to talk about games (even when through a translator, who did an amazing job).
After we’d stuffed our faces a bit, I led off with the obvious question: When, oh when will we finally here the good news that ArcheAge is coming stateside?
Suk Woo Choi: ArcheAge will launch at the end of this year in Korea, and the goal is to launch it in North America towards the end of 2013, or the beginning of 2014. Once we have a publisher set and the game’s launched in Korea, things will be clearer for the US.
MMORPG: When the game is published here, will the team’s focus mostly be on localization of the language, or do you feel pressured to “westernize” it as well? The divide between the two regions’ gaming cultures is pretty deep.
Suk Woo Choi: While we definitely won’t be afraid to change the mechanics of the game in the west if the players demand it, I definitely think we’ll end up having to listen to the wishes of the publisher in North America (though we don’t know just who that is yet). A big part of the undertaking is definitely the localization, and if we have to change up some mechanics like combat or something of this nature, or even leveling pace, we will. But we want to find the balance, and not lose the soul of what makes ArcheAge so unique.
MMORPG: A lot of our readers are absolutely rabid for more info from the game. Can you tell us how the most recent beta test went, and what the goals of the next test will be?
Suk Woo Choi: The fourth CBT went on for about 95 days, and the main thing we wanted to test was siege warfare. But we only got to it about 5 times in that lengthy test, so we’ll definitely be focusing on it again in CBT 5. The fifth test will begin later this summer in Korea, and the new features will be looked at heavily too: namely the dungeons, the early game which we’ve completely redone as most people don’t really like it so far.
MMORPG: What about the first part don’t people shine to? What kind of changes can we expect to the intro 20 levels or so.
Suk Woo Choi: Before it was missing a lot of the cut scenes, as the early levels are supposed to introduce the systems and set up the story of the world. It just didn’t flow as nicely as it needed to. So we’ve put in more cut scenes, and we actually did pull out some story from the beginning, as we wanted to save a lot of the more narrative stuff for the dungeons that are in the later game as well. We didn’t want people to level 1-20 and feel like… Okay, the story’s over. A mix of the sandbox and the narrative is what we’re aiming for.
MMORPG: How will the dungeons behave? Will they be the sort of things we’re used to from our MMORPGs of late? Instanced affairs for concentrated group content?
Suk Woo Choi: We have several kinds we’re exploring, and we haven’t talked too much about some of the more special ones we have in mind, but the first kind we can speak on. They will be the more traditional group-oriented instance dungeons. But those are something we feel we can do pretty uniquely in our own right with our character system too. As to the others, we’re not ready to talk much about them just yet.
MMORPG: Shifting to the siege warfare, and I apologize if this has been covered before, but how many players do you expect to be able to compete in a typical battle?
Suk Woo Choi: During our 4th CBT, it was 50v50. But we definitely want to make the system capable of hosting many more than that.
MMORPG: One of the things our readers are curious about is the crafting. Can you tell us what kind of work is still being done on something so extensive, where you’re able to make just about anything in the world?
Suk Woo Choi: Some things might be changed, but we can’t really talk more on that just now. It’s definitely one of the most important parts of the game, so we’re taking it very seriously. Obviously, you can build houses, boats, and all of that so you know we’re very serious about it.
MMORPG: Fair enough! Let’s move on to the Guild and Social systems, as it pertains to the PVP. Has the team worried at all about players “spying” on other sides of the battle where PVP is so important to the experience?
Suk Woo Choi: Well. That’s actually very interesting. I don’t think we’ve really thought about that part of it. But if someone is able to do that, we might just have to say “good for him… he’s spying well!” Because it’s part of the warfare, right?
MMORPG: You might be right! One more thing then. If there’s one part of the game you’re most worried about translating to the North American and Western audiences, what do you feel that is? What do you really want us to get excited about, what should we be fawning over?
Suk Woo Choi: The main thing that Jake [Song] wants everyone to take from us as we lead up to the Korean launch and eventual westernization is that this is the true MMORPG. Not just for Koreans, but for everyone. It’s not the violence, the casual game, the hardcore game, or the action… it’s the RPG part of it he wants to get across. He can’t wait to hear how the NA and EU regions will react, which hopefully won’t be too long from now!
MMORPG: Fantastic, thanks so much!
Suk Woo Choi: Thank you! We look forward to bringing ArcheAge to America!