With as many MMORPGs as there are on the market right now it’s not enough for a company to simply make a good game. New entries to the genre need to differentiate themselves from old titles or they’ll quickly wither up and die. Nvius CEO and founder Alex Kim believes that his newest game, Echo of Soul, is going to do just that. Development for Echo of Soul began in 2009 and it initially launched in South Korea in September 2013. Last year the game also launched in Thailand and China while finding success in South Korea; it maintained a top 5 MMORPG spot in the country for more than a year.
CONTENT IS KEY
When a seemingly successful game goes under it’s usually due to a lack of overall content. The audience for MMORPGs is incredibly broad, and in order to maintain a large player base the game needs to cater to a wide range of tastes from casual players to hardcore raiders and PvPers. According to Tom Nichols, vice president of the Global PC Games sector of Aeria Games, Echo of Soul is going to deliver something for every type of player and let them choose how they play the game.
“This game has huge PvE content and huge PvP content. Very early in the game you can decide to level up only PvE or only PvP if you want,” said Nichols. “A lot of MMOs you have to go up the PvE tree until you get to higher level and then you PvP. With this one you start right off pretty much at the beginning with PvP leveling.”
One problem with Eastern MMORPGs is that they usually don’t consider the audience when transitioning to the North American and European markets. An unnecessarily long leveling process and a lack of quests, which leads to grinding monsters, is a general turn off to the casual sector and neglecting PvP is alienates additional players. One major focus of Echo of Soul is on relatively quick leveling so that players can experience the endgame content more quickly. Many games drag out the leveling process due to a weak endgame, but max level can be obtained in a week with moderate play, said Kim.
In order to help players level, and obtain equipment, there are more than 1,600 quests and 60 different, hand-crafted dungeons. These dungeons include solo, party, raid and infinite dungeons so there’s something for everyone. There’s also ample content on the PvP side with duels, 5 vs 5 arenas, 15 vs 15 battlefields, Guild Wars, and the Valhalla Field, which features gigantic monsters and even better rewards. Guilds that declare war on each other can fight enemy members anywhere in the world, but only exclusive war guild members can enter the Valhalla Field.
Nichols believes that Echo of Soul is going to satisfy the Western mentality of quick leveling, lots of content and well-rounded PvP: “The key thing is that a lot of games haven’t as done well because they’re more grindy. You have to go through a lot of PvE stuff and maybe there aren’t a lot of quests. You find yourself farming a lot of mobs and that turns people off over time. Also the North American and European players like PvP more so than in Korea. So that’s why we’re launching with the version in the US and Europe that already has the PvP content in it.”
NO HEALER NECESSARY
The holy trinity of tank, healer, DPS has been the mainstay of nearly every team-based MMORPG recently created. Even Guild Wars 2, which initially promoted itself as not having a dedicated healing class, has more or less adopted that playstyle. In Echo of Soul there simply isn’t a healing class or even a dedicated healing specialization. The five classes consist of the Archer, Sorceress, Warrior, Guardian and Rogue. While each class does have two unique specializations, the only one that fills the support role is the Archer’s Bard specialization, which is more oriented on providing boosts to allies and debuffs to enemies.
“The point of the game is to avoid taking damage,” said Aeria game master Grégoire Rowehy. “You can never go in a dungeon thinking you’ve got a healer backing you up. The entire group has to manage the health of the rest of the group.”
Even though there’s no committed healer, each player has access to potions and scrolls for self-healing or restoring health to other party members. This requires strategic group coordination to minimize damage taken and properly rotate healing scrolls on injured party members. The mobile nature of the classes in Echo of Soul presents more opportunities for players to avoid damage and dodge enemy telegraphed attacks. Combat is still standard tab-targeting, but the active dodge abilities and combo system make it more engaging than the typical MMORPG combat system.
“It’s mostly tab-targeting, but then what makes it really cool is that a lot of skills make your character move and have a lot of mobility actions,” said Rowehy. “You’ve seen the Archer, for example, doing the leap back while shooting arrows. It makes the tab-targeting much more dynamic than what you see, for example, in World of Warcraft.”
NOTHING IS FREE
One area where a new game can make its biggest mistakes is in the payment model. This goes both ways as a poor monetary system can offend players and cause them to leave in droves or it can fail to bring in enough cash to support further development. The key is to find the balance between fair and profitable. Echo of Soul will be a free-to-play game with a cash shop, and the full details haven’t been revealed, but currently there are no plans to sell in-game power for profit. The idea is to sell both cosmetic items and random treasures, but most items will be available to even free players.
Here’s how the system is going to work, according to Nichols: “There will be some cosmetic things that are cash items, but one of the keys systems in the game is called a Magic Lamp, which is essentially a mystery box type of idea where there’s lots of good stuff in there. We will sell that at a low price, but we will also make it available in game for free players as well. Our goal is that somebody who plays the game a lot also has chances at really cool items that spenders would also have access to.”
The magic lamps will be made available to free players by completing certain quests and unlocking achievements. This turns the game into a time vs money scenario instead of one where who spends the most ultimately wins. Although much is still unknown about the Western release of Echo of Soul, it seems like Aeria Games believes it has learned a lot in regards to transitioning games from one region to another. Once the closed beta test is made available, with an ETA around May 2015, we’ll find out whether all the hard work has paid off or not.Related: Aeria Games, Beta, Developer, Echo of Soul, Interview, Preview