We’re going on two months since Kakao Games and Bluehole held the first closed beta test ahead of the NA/EU launch of Korean MMORPG Elyon. I personally enjoyed what I saw during the first Closed Beta Test, spending as much time as possible during the extended weekend trying out different classes and such. Like many of the CBT1 participants, I had some lingering questions, so when we here at MMORPG were asked if we had any questions for Kakao Games and Bluehole, I was ready with questions about the CBT1 and the upcoming CBT2. Jim Lacorte, Project Manager, Kakao Games Europe carved out some time to answer our questions, filling us in on some of the results coming out of CBT1 and what we can expect from CBT2 when it arrives.
MMORPG: Like many other beta tests, and full releases for that matter, there were some troubles when the Elyon servers opened up for CBT1. Has the team figured out the root cause of the problems, and what have they done to mitigate issues for CBT2?
Jim, Kakao Games: There definitely were issues, especially on day one. We actually started noticing hiccups on the launcher for some time prior to the CBT1 opening time, which we attributed to the natural increase of traffic as we approached the big moment, but by the time the clock turned to :00 the launcher was not responsive at all. The whole situation came as a surprise at first as we had made sure to scale up our infrastructure enough to accommodate the CBT1 playerbase; in the heat of the moment we started adding even more web server instances, all while investigating why our already set up infrastructure was not keeping up. In the end it was simply a software-level setting that was misconfigured, and after fixing it we saw a sharp decrease in total response time. A small mistake with a big impact - and if anything, we're glad that we made it during a beta phase!
MMORPG: As you’ve had time to go through the data from CBT1, was there any difference between the KR player preferences and the NA/EU players that really stood out for you? Most popular class? Speed of leveling? Were players focused more on PvE or PvP content? Anything else that the team found surprising?
Jim, Kakao Games: The build we were on during CBT1 was a localized copy from the Korean service back in January, so progression and content consumption was relatively similar considering this was a short testing period.
An interesting point that the data did show us is the imbalance between the two factions (Vulpin as blue and Ontari as red) - be it to join friends, follow their guild, or because they are AMD fans, people's preference weighed heavily on Ontari (and yes, the last reason is taken from actual survey responses). We've given this a lot of thought internally, and while we believe outright locking people out of a faction is not the right way to go, we're looking for some less intrusive adjustments that will hopefully make the numbers a bit more even.
MMORPG: You’ve already mentioned that CBT2 will use an iteration of Elyon that is much closer to the current in-house build. What changes or additions can players that participated in CBT1 expect when they log into CBT2?
Jim, Kakao Games: CBT2 will be based on an early-June build from the Korean service so there's a lot to go through; our community team will be making short summary posts which you can find on our website. Apart from the overall content updates we'll also be making EUNA-specific adjustments, some of which were inspired from feedback we have received from during CBT1.
One of the biggest changes is on the Marketplace. The price of each item will now be dynamically adjusted based on its marketplace demand, and the available +/- price range an item can be listed at will be capped to combat marketplace manipulation. It's a system that we haven't tested on a large scale before, so we're looking forward to your feedback in CBT2.
Battlefields will now be available 24/7 - if this works out during CBT2, we'll apply it on release as well. Dimensional Portals will nonetheless still only be available during set times.
The ability to scale the UI and move certain UI elements around will be implemented, and we'll also be addressing the slow loading complaints - for CBT2 we'll be toning down file compression, which will result in a client size increase of around 10GB, for a loading speed increase of roughly 35%.
MMORPG: CBT1 took place over a long weekend. Will CBT2 follow a similar time frame, or will you be giving players a longer period to explore Elyon this time around?
Jim, Kakao Games: We're looking at a similar timeframe for CBT2 - our intention with the betas is to collect feedback on the core parts of the game and test our infrastructure, so we're keeping them short.
MMORPG: Will players have to start at level 1 or will there be any level boosts available?
Jim, Kakao Games: Players will start at level 1, though similarly to CBT1, we'll be offering items through daily login rewards to speed up progression a little bit.
MMORPG: I know many players are concerned about whether there will be cash shop changes between the KR and NA/EU versions of Elyon. Will we finally get the chance to see the cash shop in CBT2?
Jim, Kakao Games: Yes, the cash shop will be available for preview in CBT2, along with free Rubies (paid currency) so that you can try the products out. We've been working with the developers for a long time now to figure out how to implement the adjustments we want, and we're very close to finalizing the behavior of paid products in our version. We'll be making a standalone post in the upcoming weeks that gives you more insight, we're looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
MMORPG: When will we be able to preorder Elyon? Will there be multiple tiers available for purchase?
Jim, Kakao Games: Pre-orders will open later this month. There will indeed be multiple tiers available, and among the rewards you can expect exclusive weapons, armor, and a cute knight cat!
MMORPG: Will preorders be the only way to get a CBT2 code or will you still have other avenues to acquire access to CBT2?
Jim, Kakao Games: Pre-ordering will grant you guaranteed access to CBT2, but our teams will also be doing a lot of key giveaways and events to give everyone a chance at participating. Similarly to CBT1, there will be a short open-for-everyone application process but this time applicants will be picked randomly.
MMORPG: After launch, do you expect the NA/EU servers to lag behind the KR servers in terms of content, or will they eventually be on the same release cycle?
Jim, Kakao Games: Our goal is to operate on a global build content-wise. At launch we'll naturally be a bit behind (one or two months), but we're aiming to catch up as soon as possible.
MMORPG: Speaking of launch, is Elyon still on target for a 2021 release?
Jim, Kakao Games: Yes. Elyon will be launching this fall. I think this is also a good opportunity to answer a commonly asked question regarding platform availability - Elyon will be available through our Kakao Games platform and Steam on release!
Well, there you have it. Kakao Games and Bluehole are hard at work preparing the CBT2 client, and although we still didn’t get a firm date, it looks as though we can still expect our next chance to test Elyon in August. In addition to marketplace changes focused on curbing price manipulation, we’ll finally get our first look at the NAEU cash shop, something that Kakao must get right for Elyon to flourish in the West. These aren’t the only changes we’ll get to check out in August, with changes like 24/7 Battlegrounds and an adjustable UI being tested due to player feedback.
What did you think about Elyon’s first closed beta test? Are you planning on picking up a founders pack to guarantee access to the next test in August, or do you still have some questions that need answering before you’re ready to buy in?