Back at GDC I had the opportunity sit down with David Hoffman, executive producer for OGPlanet, a company specializing in importing East Asian titles into the North American market.
We were supposed to be talking about their new game, CABAL Online… but, I largely (and inadvertently) ended up steering the majority of the conversation to the importation and Westernization of Korean titles in general, a subject of great interest to me.
A few years ago, it was rare to see an Asian MMO reaching American shores with any great amount of fanfare (FFXI and Lineage 2 not withstanding). By and large, the developers back then seemed content to do nothing more than run their titles through the Korean to English translator on Babelfish and call it a day.
That’s changing now, with the advent of American companies being founded with the sole intent of localizing and distributing titles originating in the East; Gravity, L5, K2 Network, and Nexon, just to name a few.
But, are they too little, too late? Did the earlier flood of low-quality, Engrish-ridden “Asian Grindfests” poison the well for this new generation of “Americanized” titles? Hoffman didn’t seem to think so. Read on for his assessment of OGPlanet’s future prospects:
The MMO Gamer: To get the ball rolling, for those among our readers who may be unfamiliar, please introduce yourself, and tell us a little bit about OGPlanet.
David Hoffman: My name is David Hoffman, and I’m the executive producer for OGPlanet. The company is located in El Segundo, California, and we specialize in bringing free-to-play, free-to-download MMOs to North America.
Primarily we’ve done this through Korea, by selecting high-quality Korean titles with a track record that have done well there, which also fit our marketplace here. We’ve been able to deliver those through our website.
The MMO Gamer: What are some of the titles you currently have on offer?
David Hoffman: We’re trying to make a variety of genres available.
We have a golf game called Albatross 18, which has done phenomenally well. We have a fighting game called Rumble Fighter, Gem Fighter I believe in other countries. We also a title called BB Tanks, which is a combat-oriented title.
And, our latest title is called CABAL Online, which is an MMORPG.
The MMO Gamer: Tell us a little bit about CABAL Online.
David Hoffman: CABAL Online is an MMORPG that’s set in a world that’s had a modern-day civilization much like the one that you and I live in, but it’s been decimated by wars, by riots, by insurgencies, situations of that nature, and it’s all been revolving around a magical talent and ability that every citizen has.
There have been certain agencies and certain governments who have wanted to control and stifle that, there have been underground organization who have wanted to enhance and expose it, there have been schools formed in the land to study it… basically, the top dogs couldn’t agree, and ended up in their disagreement becoming physical and destroying much of civilization in the act.
Now, it’s time to rebuild. There are built-up colonies now that are your starting point, and you’ve been given the ability to control the magic force in different ways. The way that you control it, the way that it helps you achieve your goal is different depending on the class you play, and it changes your gameplay experience, as well.
That’s really what CABAL revolves around, in a nutshell.
The MMO Gamer: Why did you decide to get into the traditional MMORPG market? Looking at the rest of your titles, it seems that they’re geared more towards the casual sector.
David Hoffman: You’re right, Steve, they are geared towards the more casual sector. But, MMORPGs can be both hardcore and casual, and stretch across that demographic.
What we ultimately want, our goal, is to be the web portal that people go to when they want a free online experience, and when they want a quality online experience.
In order for us to do that, in order for us to cater to all the different gamers out there, we also have to cater to all the different genres. We’re looking at adding to our existing library in different genres, and we’re looking at making our existing games high-quality.
We felt that the MMORPG market, specifically, had enough dynamic range and success that it would be almost a no-brainer to bring it here, and to deliver a quality, free game, and change gamers’ perspectives that with free there might be a catch, or something of that nature.
I used to believe it myself, until I actually saw the game and saw the quality, and said, “Hey, this is a great business model.”