Bless Online Interview: Early Access, F2P Release and Beyond

So we now know that not only does Bless Online have a launch date, but it’s doing so as a free-to-play game. However, does this really make the game finished? Do the folks at Neowiz think that early access was a mistake? Where does the game go from here? We had the opportunity to speak with the devs once again in a Bless launch interview to see if we could get some answers to these questions.

bless launch interview

So the first and obvious question is: what made you change your mind on the game’s business model?

For the past 5 months of Early Access, we have updated Bless Online with a variety of content and have received a lot of feedback from our North American and European players and collected meaningful data.

With the official release now before us, we have been immersed in preparing an improved player experience and next-level quality service using the data that we have collected during EA as the foundation. We want as many players as possible to experience and witness the completed Bless.

The transition to F2P will be the chance for many new players to easily experience Bless, and we expect that the influx of both new and existing players will enrich the Bless World with a more lively and active atmosphere.

The next obvious question, perhaps: what makes Bless Online’s cash shop avoid being called “pay to win”?

When Bless Online was presented on Steam, we understood that players in North America and Europe tend to value fairness, and accordingly developed a principle to stay away from P2W.

In line with this principle, we avoided having items in the shop purchasable with paid currency that could have a direct impact on the game experience. Instead, we focused on having cosmetic and convenience items for players to buy with paid currency such as costumes, mount skins, and combat XP bonuses. We also implemented a feature that allows players to exchange their content points earned from playing the game into paid currency.

We are doing our best to match our perception of P2W with our players’ and make sure everything is aligned. However, we are well aware of the players’ worries that we may change our minds along with the conversion to F2P. While this is not the case, we are going to work extra hard to both try to avoid any P2W and to correct quickly with patches if we misjudge any new aspects of the game.

Many people accuse Neowiz of using early access as a “cash grab”. Are you concerned that a free-to-play launch will poison the well against anything the game’s cash shop offers?

We believe that the transition to F2P will not have a big impact on revenue growth since it still adheres to the anti-P2W principle and since there won’t be a significant change in the sales structure. The biggest reason why we decided to have the F2P transition during the official launch is because we wanted to provide the best experience possible for players in content that works best with [a] high numbers of players, such as PvP, PvE, Siege of Castra.

What kind of items can we expect to see in the cash shop?

The F2P switch will not change many of the items that are available at the cash shop. We will continue to add new costumes, pet skins, and mount skins just as before.

Has the general negativity surrounding the more vocal people in places like Steam had any effect on the decision to go free-to-play?

Player feedback and comments have played an important role when improving the content of the game during Early Access, however the decision to switch to F2P was not made because of our awareness about the negative comments, but rather because we want Bless to become a game that everyone loves and can enjoy for a very long time.

bless launch interview

Do you think this shift to a free-to-play game will help repair relations with those who perhaps feel disappointed?

We think that the official launch will be a great opportunity for players to see all the progress we’ve made since the start of Early Access. We, of course, hope that those who already purchased Bless during Early Access will also enjoy the founder thank you gifts that we have planned for them, and we hope that they will also enjoy the new content that will be arriving with release. We think all players, both new and old, will be able to experience Bless in a great new way at official launch.

What do you say to those who believe that the game is unfinished and being rushed out the door?

We know that when Early Access began, there was a mismatch between our expectations of EA and many of our players’ expectations. We saw EA as a time of active development where we could work closely with the community, gathering and implementing their feedback as we prepared Bless for its official release later in the year. However, we think that when players experience Bless at launch, they will see just how far we’ve come since the start of EA.

You recently confirmed your selections for the Bless Emissaries. Do you think they’ll help in bringing Bless Online into a new light?

Absolutely! We believe that each and every one of our Emissaries will not only help to bring Bless to new audiences but also to show off the game in their own unique ways. In the program, we strive to encourage not just participation, but creativity as well. The next Emissary activities are planned for the Halloween content, but that will just be the first step.

Has the team had regrets in how they’ve handled early access? Is there anything that you feel could have been done differently?

We felt that, despite some unexpected issues at the start, Early Access was a success. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and we wish that we would have had a better idea of what player expectations of Early Access would be going into it. As mentioned previously, we saw EA as a time of ongoing development and improvement, while many players ended up expecting a fully complete game. Having more knowledge of this would have allowed us to perhaps better set player expectations for EA.

What sort of things do you hope the team will do in order to demonstrate that Bless Online is a completed, finished and fully-realized MMO?

Bless at official launch will be “content complete.” Throughout Early Access, we’ve been continuing to add new content and make improvements, and we think that it is finally in the place that we want it to be for release. With launch comes a whole new raid and afterward, sometime in November, we have an update planned focused around raising the level cap to 50. From launch onwards, players can expect to see brand new content that they would expect to be added post-launch [just as] with any other MMO title.

Do you think that early access was a bad idea? Would things have been different if the game were tested internally or with a select number of outside testers?

Definitely not, we are glad that during Early Access we were able to work closely with the community to gather their feedback and make improvements to Bless based on it. We are grateful to the players that they were willing to share such valuable feedback with us; it was because of player feedback on the combat system that we originally implemented the combat rework for the Steam version of Bless. Having players get a feel for the game in a live environment can oftentimes produce the most useful feedback.

bless launch interview

What features can players expect when Bless officially launches?

Besides of course all the many improvements and content updates that have been added over time since EA began, players can look forward to German localization being added, an assortment of fixes and adjustments, and a whole new raid. We also plan to provide EA users with rewards during the official release as a token of thanks for their contribution in developing the game during the EA period. Soon after the official release, around November, there are also plans for a large scale level expansion update in Bless.

How does the update cadence for Bless Online look post-launch? How frequently can players expect content updates and how big will those updates be, roughly?

There will be a large-scale update around November that includes the addition of new dungeons along with the level 50 expansion. After that, there are updates planned for new dungeons, a restructuring of the Rift of Space and Time, skill expansions, and more. We will be looking at the player influx and player opinion and will adjust update schedules and plans accordingly. As always, we will continue to work hard to bring a new variety of content to Bless for our players to enjoy.

Beyond content, will there be any kind of in-game events or seasonal events to look forward to?

Of course! First up will be Halloween events for the month of October. After that, we will be working hard to prepare seasonally appropriate events for the NA and EU audiences.

We also have the monthly Attendance Check events, with which we aim to provide a variety of rewards that both new and returning users will be satisfied with. We are preparing future promotions as well, such as a Siege of Castra promotion, a Rune Break Prevention promotion, a Dungeon Drop Rate promotion, and a Hot Buff promotion. We think all of these events and promotions will help players to enjoy Bless even more.

Can you offer any indication on what the next big update to Bless Online will be after launch?

Yes, there is a large-scale update planned for around November, after the official release. We plan to raise the characters’ max level to 50, open new areas, and reveal two new dungeons. We hope to give our users more freedom and fun with this update. We’ll have loads of details on it in the very near future.

What final words would you like to share to the Bless Online community?

We can’t wait for official release, and we are so grateful to the community for all the support they’ve shown us and Bless Online through Early Access and beyond. We have more in store for after release, and we’re working as always to make it the best it can be. Thank you!

 

As always, we’d like to thank the developers of Bless Online for taking the time to answer our questions.

Related: , , , , , , , , ,

About Chris Hughes

Chris is a literal wolf who has managed to learn how to use a computer. He enjoys cooking, roleplaying, writing, and reading those who do the same. You can find him staring at Twitter or read more of his attempt at humor at his blog, or in-game primarily on WildStar, Blade and Soul or Final Fantasy XIV.