The MMO Gamer: As you said, “free game” and “quality” are two phrases which rarely mix together in the average gamer’s mind, particularly when thinking about games from East Asia.
How do you go about overcoming that?
David Hoffman: First of all, we need to look at the game’s quality, and if the game can stand on its own two feet. And, you’re right, “free” and “quality” don’t always go hand-in-hand.
A lot of times we’re looking at games that don’t meet those quality bars. It’s free, but it’s not quality, and we’re not just going to bring it over here because it fits our business model and it might be within our budget to publish. We don’t want to bring over stuff that gamers aren’t going to appreciate, because they aren’t quality.
How do we do that? First, we staff our group with American players that have game industry experience, that have a keen eye, that have successful track records. They come from companies where they’ve done really great things, which we have. We have people from Blizzard, we have people from NCSoft, I, myself, used to be at THQ in charge of the wrestling franchise.
Collectively, we are able to look at titles and make a decision that they could be localized for our market and fit well. Another thing that we do is that we group up with partnerships, like nVidia. We have a contract with them now where we’re actually a partner with them, one of the first MMO publishers to be accepted into the nVidia fold.
Together, they help us look at the game from a graphical standpoint, from a quality standpoint, from a compatibility standpoint, and we pair our resources together to make the game stand on its own two feet.
We’re doing things a little more unorthodox than some of the other free Korean MMO companies are, and yeah, there is a risk to that, but I think it’s a risk that’s going to pay off, and it’s going to put OGPlanet in the forefront.
The MMO Gamer: Another issue with East Asian MMOs is the preconception that they’re repetitive grinds with no content to speak of.
Supposedly, due to the cultural differences, the Koreans, Vietnamese, or Chinese, for example, don’t mind grinding as much as Western audiences do.
How do you deal with that? Do you just import and localize the games directly, or do you go through a process of Westernization on the designs prior to releasing them to American audiences?
David Hoffman: The schedule is usually pretty tight, and it’s hard to do everything I want to do in order to localize a game and make it suitable to North America. I myself, I can’t stand the treadmill grind you just described. I play a lot of MMOs… I played World of Warcraft, I played EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, Ultima Online-the list goes on and on.
And yeah, I sit there, and I’m an errand boy for high-level quest givers. It gets tedious. What I did, this is just an example, I sent my family on vacation over Christmas break, and I stayed home in front of my computer and localized the text file, took a look at all the quests, and rearranged them so there would be a minimal amount of grind and repetitiveness.
I don’t recommend doing that, because it’s not healthy for your family life, but at the end of the day I really want this title to succeed, and I really wanted to change that outlook that you just spoke about.
It was worth it to me to put in the extra effort to do that.
The MMO Gamer: The game is free to play, with cash shop, and supplemented by in-game advertising, correct?
David Hoffman: The game is free to play, and free to download, that’s correct. There will be a cash shop available when we go to commercial service, and we do derive revenue from in-game advertising. However, CABAL has yet to be part of that program.
We’re going to be very careful about in-game advertising, especially with CABAL, because we don’t want to disrupt the world. We don’t want players to be running around and suddenly see a Nike poster. It wouldn’t make sense, and I don’t think our players would appreciate that.
With CABAL, I’m not saying that we won’t do it, but we’re going to be very careful about what we do, and whatever decisions we make we’re going to make sure it’s going to fit within the world. That’s first and foremost.
The MMO Gamer: My mistake. I thought you said it was supported by ads, during the demo.
David Hoffman: Well, our whole business model is supported by ads.