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Interview: Chatting Lost Ark's Second Anniversary With Franchise Lead Soomin Park

Nick Shively Posted:
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Last year there were significant updates to Smilegate’s MMORPG Lost Ark after a smashing NA/EU release in 2022. Player counts fell off a bit throughout 2023, as most MMORPGs do after release, but the game seems to have settled in its niche. I had the opportunity to talk with Soomin Park, Franchise Leader for Lost Ark at Amazon Games, about some of the major changes last year,  some of the game’s biggest hurdles his team is attempting to overcome, and what the future of Lost Ark looks like.

MMORPG: Looking back at 2023, what would you say were the most important changes made to Lost Ark throughout the year?

Soomin Park, Franchise Leader at Amazon Games: 2023 was a big year for Lost Ark in the West and we released four new classes, four new continents, a slew of new raids and dungeons, and more. It’s hard to pick just one update that was the most important, but I think there was a group of updates that were the most important changes to the game and that was the quality-of-life updates and progression system revamps that we made throughout last year. These updates were so important because they allowed us to create an effective system where we gathered feedback from our community, communicated to Smilegate RPG what players in the West wanted, and enabled us to collaborate on changes that addressed what our players were asking for. Last year we made several adjustments that helped reduce the amount of grind and homework players needed to do in order to keep up in the game by consolidating progression tiers and easing gear honing and character setting by adding more rewards and buffs. We were also able to make improvements, like Jump-Start servers, for players who haven’t played Lost Ark in a while but wanted to come back.

MMORPG: In regard to those changes, which ones do you think were the most well-received by players and why?

SP: I would say that the most well-received changes by players came in our summer updates. In July and August of last year, we made several updates to the game’s progression that were released alongside the Korean version of the game. These changes included several that had been requested by our players in the West. Players who were experiencing fatigue from the game’s original progression rate were hoping for changes in those areas, and these updates delivered. Progression was made easier with increased honing success rates for gear, and a consolidation of the first two tiers of gear. The first phase of Tier 3 was also dropped from Item Level 1302 - 1490 to 1250 - 1490. There were also several other updates that improved the speed of progression while easing the feeling of grind and homework, these were things that Western players had expressed a desire to see.

MMORPG: Looking ahead to 2024, the second anniversary for Lost Ark is right around the corner. What types of events and rewards can players expect during the anniversary?

SP: The game’s February update will celebrate Lost Ark’s second anniversary in the West, and players will be able to take on Valtan again in the Extreme version of the eight-player Valtan raid. Additionally players can take part in the Arkesia Festival, where every two weeks players will be able to take on a new co-op quest as they earn tokens to trade in for unique rewards. What I think fans will really enjoy is the Birthday Bash Event where players can go down memory lane and relive some of the most iconic Lost Ark content that was released over the past year. In addition to all of this content comes special second-anniversary rewards that players won’t want to miss.

MMORPG: The release of a new class is often an exciting even that enfranchised players look forward to. In March, the Breaker class will be coming to North America. What sets this class apart and how can we expect it to affect the meta?

SP: Unlike existing gender-locked classes, the Breaker is a different class from its female counterpart, the Scrapper. Most of the Breaker’s skills are different from the Scrapper in terms of mechanics and effects. Breaker will allow players to chain powerful combos together and has a unique mechanic using Stamina and Shock energy. These two energies complement each other - using Stamina skills depletes the Stamina energy while increasing the Shock energy, and vice versa. This gives Breaker fluid combinations of chaining Stamina and Shock abilities back to back. Also, based on class engravings the Breaker can provide an entirely different combat style as well.

MMORPG: Besides the new class, what would you consider the most important change(s) coming in 2024 that North American players shouldn’t miss out on?

SP: As we did in 2023, we plan to share our content roadmap with players in updates that include four months at a time. Late last year we released the first roadmap update for 2024, and while I can’t reveal much beyond that at this point I can tell you that there is definitely more to look forward to in the coming months in addition to the new Breaker class. For instance, in April players will be able to take on the Thaemine Legion Raid. We know fans have been excited about this since it was released in Korea last year. Along with this update, players can participate in the Thaemine the First event where we will be giving the first 10 players to clear special rewards. Additionally in April, players can look forward to the Transcendence Gear Progression System which will give them even more ways to reinforce and enhance their gear to take on newer, more challenging content.

MMORPG: When Lost Ark first released in North America, it had one of the most successful MMO launches in recent years, but player count has tapered quite a bit since then. What is the Lost Ark team planning to do to retain current players and bring in new players?

SP: We’re always monitoring the playerbase closely, and we’re expecting 2024 to be a year of revitalization for the game. We will be consistently updating and adding new endgame content, such as the release of the Thaemine raid in April.  Massive progression boosts are also being prepared along with the release of the new Breaker class in March. We are also looking at introducing a redesigned version of the Jump Start Server paired with a very large content event in the later part of this year. And on top of all of this, we will keep bringing in ways to ease player progression as our end content scope gets bigger this year. There’s a lot for fans to be excited about, and we’re looking forward to players returning to Arkesia.

MMORPG: North American and European players tend to have different playstyles than their Korean counterparts. One of the biggest differences is that many NA players don’t like to play multiple alt characters, but that has been a major focus for progression with Lost Ark. Are there any anticipated changes to reduce the reliance on Alts or address this issue?

SP: This is a major focus for us, and in the last August we made significant changes to reduce the necessary amount of daily play required to keep up. For example, Chaos Dungeons have become faster to clear and Guardian Raids only require one per day. Additionally, we have many progression events planned this year such as a return of the Mokoko Express Pass to aid players in getting to a competitive level.

MMORPG: Furthermore, a lot of players complain about being stuck in lobbies with long wait times due to a lack of support players. Will there be any quality of life changes to improve the support experience or incentivize more players to focus on supporting?

SP: Amazon Games and Smilegate RPG have discussed this and the data shows that the ratio of players choosing to play as a support class remains steady and isn’t in such a low ratio that it requires any immediate or drastic action. Depending on which raid players go to, sometimes there is a lack of damage dealers and sometimes there is a lack of healers. As far as incentivizing players to go with the healer class, compared to damage dealers the healers’ settings are more lenient. There’s also a concern among the team that if additional benefits are given to the healer class, this could cause players who don’t want to play as healers to feel they are forced to play as a healer, and feel left out of their desired experience. With that said, as always the players are encouraged to share their feedback and wishes with our teams. Along with Smilegate RPG, we keep a constant eye on player data and progression so this situation could possibly evolve in the future if the need becomes more necessary.

MMORPG: Is there anything else that you would like to add or address to our readers at MMORPG.com?

SP: Yes! If you’re a reader of MMORPG.com and also a Lost Ark player, we want to thank you for your support as we move into our third year of service in the West. We value our players all around the world and it’s your feedback and engagement that helps us build the game and keep it going. And if you’re a reader who hasn’t played Lost Ark yet, or who maybe hasn’t played in a while, we encourage you to give it a look. For two years we’ve been working with Smilegate RPG to build upon what was already a great game, and 2024 has so much more to look forward to. We’ll be sharing our next roadmap update in April so players won’t have to wait long to see what’s coming up in the summer months. We’re extremely thankful to our loyal player base, and welcome all fans of MMOs to join our community!


Nick Shively