MapleStory arguably is the game that brought the concept of the free-to-play, micro-transaction business model of MMOs to the USA. It made game execs sit up and pay attention because of its unprecedented success. MapleStory has grown from four classes and a single zone when they launched in May of 2005 to the 13 classes of today. The game has undergone a total of 50 content updates – all free. MapleStory’s success can be attributed to the ease of play, that the game is totally free to play (despite the grind), the pop culture elements and the “push a button, get an action” reward type game mechanics.
At this point in time, with a massive world and over 40,000 quests, they turned to their players and polled them, asking what they wanted to see / get in MapleStory next. To their surprise, the overwhelming response was for changes to the core game. Players wanted their beloved game updated to 2010 graphical and usability standards. Understandably, as MapleStory grew and aged, the graphics became dated, the UI got crowded with new features that were added over the years and players wanted less grind. To the players surprise probably, Nexon complied.
So for the most exciting update to the game, Nexon presented “The Big Bang” at GDC Online 2010 in Austin. They have refined, redone, basically overhauled the core game, improved the graphics and halved the grind. Yes, you read that right: Halved the grind.
“We have so much content,” said Producer Crystin Cox, “that many players just have not gone through it yet. They love the game and wanted improvements rather than new things.”
The MapleStory Big Bang will be rolled out in three separate updates over the winter, complete with story and events. The Black Mage has unleashed his evil on Maple World and it will never be the same again. Can the heroes of Maple World prevail against this evil? Will they battle the Black Mage himself? Without spoiling anything, Cyrstin would only say that players will be playing through this apocalyptic event over the winter.
Nexon being Nexon could not resist releasing three new classes with this coming update though, and they form the resistance (against the Black Mage) in the town of Elsteam – a steampunk themed town. Happy-happy-Black-Mage-Joy on the surface, resistance fighters underground. As the first town built with the new graphics, it really looked sharp. The three classes are Battle-Mage, Wild Hunter and Mechanic.
The Battle-Mage plays a defensive role in a party with battle auras but has a pet which he can call on to assist him, and this allows the Battle-Mage to play solo, an essential ability of all classes in MapleStory.
The Wild Hunter is a mounted class and is a ranged damage dealer. This is the only class that can fight mounted as he uses the abilities of his mount and calls upon animal companions to assist him.
The Mechanic uses mechs. He has four different mechs to choose from and we watched as he wielded his flame thrower on a variety of mobs. From comments made at the media presentation, it was quite obvious that we unanimously thought this class the coolest.
MapleStory was always the epitome of “cute” but with The Big Bang! the graphics have a painted effect that gives it a 3-D feel although it remains a 2-D side-scroller and platformer. Backgrounds fade back, important elements pop and foreground elements such as environmental effects like mist and vegetation float in front of your character. The resolution has also been increased (from the original 800 x 600) so players can scale the game for larger monitors.
The Big Bang is really a total game overhaul. The list of improvements is long and includes a revamped class and skill system, a better and easier to use partying system, scaling dungeons for a wider range of levels, improved map and quest paths, and an improved UI sytem. Taking out the grind is big. The level cap remains at 200, but as the game really takes off at around level 30, Nexon wants to get players there quickly. Is this the ultimate wish come true for MapleStory players? I’m sure they are waiting with bated breath for the winter updates. After all, how often does a complete overhaul like this happen for an MMO?