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This Side of the Pacific

Simply put, gaming is a different type of monster here in Korea. I'd like to do my part in helping to dispel a lot of misconceptions about game design and gaming culture here in Asia. Not to defend mind numbing grindfests but at least be understood.

Author: Darthhamster

City of Heroes in Korea

Posted by Darthhamster Wednesday October 8 2008 at 2:01AM
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So here I was poking my brain wondering whether I should write a piece on Atlantica (the reason why I average 2-3 hours less sleep on weekdays) and some of the interesting stuff I learned while chatting with the nDoors CEO or rant on about why I'm expecting these forums to explode with OMG AION BLOWS in a few months. Then I look up and see a lonely email in my inbox and it was a comment to my first post. My public awaits!!

Curate- Mon Sep 29 2008 4:43PM Delete
I remember when the Korean version of City of Heroes launched, and also remember when it closed. Despite being a solid game and the backing of NCSoft, the property failed in Korea. There was a lot of conjecture on the CoH forums about what might've caused the problems, most of them revolving around cultural differences and experience ("Koreans don't get superheroes", basically). I'd be really interested in your take on that situation.

I have to admit that I wasn't around in Korea when CoH opened and closed. Well actually I was but I wasn't involved in the gaming industry at the time. However, I think I have a few ideas on why the game tanked in Korea.

First let me comment on that bit about "Koreans don't get superheroes." Koreans most definitely do get superheroes. Superman, Spiderman, X-Men, Batman and the like caused the Korean movie industry a lot of pain when their respective movies came out and blew the local movies out of the water at the box office. On the other hand local superheroes from Korean comics are better known and loved but CoH's character creation was broad enough to be able to encompass all aspects of Korean superheroes.

The main reason behind CoH's failure in Korea revolves around the game design itself. I personally loved CoH and the game's replay value was like infinite because the game played out differently depending on what random combination of skills/traits I used on my character. So the idea is basically to make a hero play throughout the quests, collect items, upgrade skills and do instances until I reach max level at which point the game's challenge sorta ends 'cept for challenging other heroes to PvP. This is fine because I can make another hero and do all that again.Sounds like great game design right? Not for Korean gamers.

Hardcore Korean gamers try to find the "real fun" in their MMORPGs AFTER they reach max level. The best way to describe this is where in WoW the game suddenly changes (IMO) when you max your level. That's when you can grind for cool equipment, and raid bosses, PvP, etc... becomes more challenging. Same deal for Lineage where you're pretty much GOD at max level and keep grinding to become a bigger GOD than the other GODs around you. Players who stick around at max level are the ones who have passed the trials so to speak and are willing to really get deeper in the game. These players become a community and having a godlike character is the requirement to get in. Hence the reason why people spend truckloads of cash buying heroes/accounts and why gold selling is such a big market in Asia.

Unfortunately for CoH, the game lacked depth at this stage and when presented with the opportunity to start over with a fresh character the reaction would be "Do all that again? For what?" People who loved CoH would say "you can collect badges and do PvP" But these are quite individual and not really community-focused and PvP had no real point to it nor rewards to go with it. These systems were improved I think later on but users started leaving the game towards the end of Open Beta and by the time the game was commercialized only a handful were left. Do note that at the beginning of Open Beta the game is said to have 30,000 concurrent users which for an MMORPG is like mind blowing incredible.

Interested to hear what you think Curate (and anyone else following this).

Cheers... time to go back to work hahaha...

This Side of the Pacific: First Post

Posted by Darthhamster Friday September 26 2008 at 12:08AM
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For my first post I figured I should share a bit about why I decided to start this blog.

I'm currently working for a Korean online game developer as their Global Business Development Manager. Far from being just a salesman for our games to overseas publishers, it's part of my job to bridge the gaps between Korean business and gaming culture with that of the West. Sound easy? I remember a few days back when I popped a blood vessal trying to explain tabletop gaming like Warhammer and pen&paper RPGs to my boss. I get to talk to a lot of my colleagues working with other Korean developers and we share the kind of experiences we have when we try to bring our games overseas.

I spent my entire life in Toronto and I'm much more familiar with gaming the way you guys understand it. But after spending a long time out here in Asia I had a lot of opportunities to get inside the heads of game design specialists discussing why they make games the way they do. I came to realize that the simple argument that "they make people grind because they're lazy" isn't entirely accurate.

My goal isn't to defend everything Korean or to convince anyone that it is the future of gaming or whatever. I think there are a lot of people genuinely interested in this very different style of game design and want to gain a deeper understanding. I don't pretend to be THE authority on these matters but I am exposed to Korean gaming at a deeper level. Heck, I'm in a country with offline gaming newspapers, two pro-gaming channels, game FMVs are displayed in the subway like movie trailers etc... I think I can offer a fresh perspective to people who are interested to hear it.

Until I get any indication that anyone is reading this blog and gives two sh*ts about what I write about, I'm probably going to come up with my own topics. Most likely they'll be whatever I'm pondering at work haha. I'm more than open to receiving specific questions, but we'll see how it goes.