KOG Games on Bringing Manga & MMOs Together
Elsword is a unique title with its blending of manga and the MMO genre into a seamless (and fun!) game. We had the chance to chat with Director Dong-Shin Lee to learn how developers manage that precarious bridge between two seemingly disparate groups of players.
MMORPG: Elsword is based on what essentially boils down to the combination of an anime series packaged in an MMO world. Where did the idea originate at the get-go?
Dong-Shin Lee: Elsword was originally created with a specific design concept, to capture and then emulate an anime-like action gaming experience. Elsword’s unique combo system and in-your-face, brilliant skill aesthetic didn’t exist in the game industry when the game first launched, and we tried hard to create an action-packed combat experience with core RPG elements. We ended up developing on the cornerstones of anime, action, and RPG; later molding it into the unique Elsword experience we have today. So, in that respect, Elsword is an episodic tale of teens that are out to save the world; an MMORPG game that then grew to incorporate its own anime series years later.
MMORPG: Fans of both anime and MMOs can be pretty exacting and picky. How do you manage to balance the two when designing new content or revamping older content?
DSL: Ha! That is very true. But, as anime fans and hardcore gamers ourselves… we are just as picky, maybe more so. Elsword players are comprised of both anime and online MMO fans. However, they are Elsword fans first and foremost. The awesome look, feel and smooth playability has been a draw for global Elsword players for years now. Fighting the power creep of MMO game development and new character design has been a big issue for many MMOs for a long time. However, with the recent 3rd Job updates, we’ve revisited, and updated every character in the game to refresh and make them epically relevant. Because of this design approach and careful consideration, this update has become one of the most popular update series to date. With that in mind, we are doing our best to balance Elsword from the community’s feedback.
MMORPG: Do you as a team spend time analyzing anime characteristics to ensure it is adequately represented in Elsword? What about typical “pillars” of MMOs?
DSL: Good story, presentation and character development extend well beyond anime, but we do agree that there are some key, core elements that make anime and MMO development special. We’ve tried to make Elsword unique in many ways, but of course! Our fans would tell you happily that Elsword plays to anime and timeless MMOs with plenty of genre homage and influence that we do well: Anime styled Elves, edgelords, epic and otherworldly weapons, yandere, martial arts and baddies with colossal attack effects, that once executed, feel like they’re powerful enough to destroy a planet!
MMORPG: What have been the most difficult challenges to overcome when developing Elsword?
DSL: The single, greatest challenge has been to design a game that plays to the tastes of the global audience. Elsword has been in publication globally for almost 10 years, there are players who have been with us since the beginning and those who are just now joining us. So, from that aspect alone, there is already a big gap in what the two different player groups may find appealing, players from different countries, they can have immensely diverse backgrounds and tastes. Though daunting, it’s always been the worthwhile challenge for us to get various types of users play together and have fun.
MMORPG: Conversely, what have been the most satisfying and / or surprising moments?
DSL: We are most satisfied about the current 3rd Job updates.
Our whole team poured their hearts and souls into what seemed like an impossible task for over a year. Because the 3rd Job update impacted every Job path, of every character, it was a project that required us to make over 40 different characters. So it was both physically and mentally taxing. At one point, we were afraid that all of this work wasn’t going to meet the expectations that our players had in regards to what the 3rd Jobs should be. But after the update, Elsword players around the world were very happy with the results.
To overcome that challenge, we had to be confident in our experience; that we’ve watched Elsword evolve over the years, in so many ways, and watching players from around the world enjoy what we pour our hearts into was the proof we needed.
It hasn’t always been fun and sunshine, but we’ve learned so much over the years, and our players don’t just tell us that they love what we do… they’ve shown us by jumping onboard and playing with us for all these years.
MMORPG: Has the design philosophy for the game changed over the years?
DSL: Of course! As you guys may well know, trends in online game design and the online industry in general ebbs and flows; sometimes slowly (allowing for a slow, dedicated evolution); sometimes violently. We’ve all seen online MMO games come and go. We’ve done our absolute best to design some great and innovative content for Elsword as well as implement constructive, positive suggestions from our players. We put a high value in the expectations and satisfaction of our players by asking ourselves “How can we best design a game that encourages players to have fun, keep them satisfied and engaged in the long run, and look forward to future updates?”
Even from a promotional standpoint, we watch the trends that span the game and pop culture industries, and do our best to keep Elsword relevant and in the spotlight! We know that we don’t have to have the best in bleeding edge graphics or tech to cater to those players that love what makes Elsword unique and fun.
MMORPG: Where is Elsword headed next in broad terms?
DSL: It may sound optimistic, but we are going to constantly try our best to see that Elsword is serviced globally for another 10, even 20 years. There’s a reason for that… We, as a dedicated team, can’t look out at the horizon and think that what’s been done is enough. We’ve made it this far based on an unwavering level of dedication and fortitude. We already have a game plan that consists of new, core game content, new and expansive story elements, and new game systems that will create an environment or foundation that allows gamers around the world to continue enjoying Elsword for a really long time.
But, that being said, we aren’t on hard rails; we will continue to listen to player feedback and make adjustments along the way.