NetEase is a big player in China’s gaming market, and they’re poised to make a splash here in the west with a host of MMOs for mobile platforms later this year. We caught up with the Eternal Arena team and its Content Designer Brad O’Farrell to talk about the unique hybrid of MMORPG and MOBA his team is creating.
MMORPG: Eternal Arena seems poised to capture both MOBA fans and MMO fans, by making the PVP portion a MOBA, and the PVE portion traditional instances. Where did the idea for the game come from?
Brad: Eternal Arena is based on NetEase's Battle to the West, which was massively successful in China, due in large part to its fusion of Action RPG and MOBA elements. There are a lot of players out there who find those games difficult to learn and play; Battle to the West and Eternal Arena prove that by making simple, accessible systems, anybody can have fun with those mechanics. And we love fantasy games and stories, so it was fun to bring some over-the-top fantasy archetypes to life.
MMORPG: The trailer mentions characters you collect and use. Can you level them up too? Do they have their own skill trees?
Brad: Heroes level up and become more powerful the more they are used in battle. Additionally, each hero has a star ranking. If you randomly draw a duplicate hero, you won't get two copies of the same hero, you'll just improve its star ranking. As a hero's star rank improves, it will unlock new passive abilities and status boosts. But all of a character's core attacks are carefully balanced and unlocked by default.
MMORPG: One part of Action RPGs that really draws people in is the loot. Will there be a focus on collecting and upgrading weapons and armor in Eternal Arena?
Brad: Yes! Eternal Arena has a deep armor upgrade system. You can use old gear to synthesize new gear and upgrade your gear at the blacksmith. You can also backtrack to specific areas to find rare loot. But we don't force players to grind just to find loot. Instead, they can use the 'raid' function to clear an area that's already been cleared normally at least once. Raids consume more of the character's energy but save the player's time.
MMORPG: How will gear affect PVP? Will it be normalized to make things balanced?
Brad: Matchmaking pits players against other players who have a similar overall power level. The minute to minute strategy is more about where you focus your attacks in real time, and less about how far you've gotten in the single player campaign.
MMORPG: What’s the story of Eternal Arena? Lore-wise, what will players be focusing on?
Brad: Eternal Arena is set in an original fantasy world called Etryna where powerful warlords are constantly overtaking one another. The single player story mode focuses on a young man or woman (the player may choose their name, avatar, and gender) with psychic powers who is on a quest to rescue their kidnapped sister. The protagonist will recruit heroes into their party and gain new abilities as they progress through the story. They are working against a mysterious figure called the Master who wants to put an end to all the fighting by ruling the world with an iron fist.
MMORPG: Are there plans to continuously add more dungeons, PVP maps, and heroes?
Brad: We have a lot of exciting new features in the pipeline but we can't publicly commit to anything until the game launches and we see how players react to what's in there already. But, yes, those are definitely some things we would love to add in time.
MMORPG: What is the monetization model?
Brad: Like many free-to-play games, we have an optional currency system that lets the players access features they would normally get for free by waiting. For example, you can get one new hero for free every day, or you can spend a gem to draw as many new heroes as you want without waiting. Players who buy gems will not have an unfair competitive advantage over players who choose not to buy gems.