Preview: Trion Worlds' Devilian Online And Interview With Scott Hartsman
Stop me if you've heard this before: Trion Worlds goes to Korea, finds a game it likes, and brings it back to North America.
Right now, the "ArcheAge alerts" are probably going off in your head, and for good reason. ArcheAge has endured a rocky road here in the West, with many of its issues being addressed by Trion with "nothing we can do” shrugging as the game chugs along, garnering bad press at nearly every turn, even when it's not Trion's doing.
With that serving as a backdrop, now there's Devilian Online, a horror-themed action RPG by Korean developer Ginno Games, that Trion will be bringing to North America later this year. The game features four classes: the evoker (spellcaster), shadow hunter (whip-using melee), cannoneer (traps and explosives), and berserker (dual-wielding plate-armor-wearer). Each class has its own equipment and can specialize in one of three skill trees, to customize one's play style. Also, every character can transform into “devil mode” and unleash a souped-up suite of powers for a limited time.
In addition to the typical three-quarters view offered by ARPGs, you can go into third-person mode if you're more comfortable with a typical MMORPG viewpoint. In fact, Devilian is an MMORPG in most every way, with a wide open world where you can encounter other players, dynamic events, giant world bosses, and dungeons and raids for three or nine players, respectively. Players can form guilds and guild alliances, and go to war with other guilds to satisfy their bloodlust. Or, if you're in a friendlier mood, every day you get a limited number of gifts you can send to guildmates, and the more gifts you give the more affection you get with that player, making your gifts better.
So Devilian is a hack-and-slash ARPG in a Diablo mold with a few extra bits sprinkled in for flavor. That's neat, but why is Trion so interested in the game? I posed that question, and a few others to Trion Worlds CEO Scott Hartsman:
"The core of Trion Worlds" mission is not just to make our own games but use the tech we've made to bring their games here. We became friends with the dev team in Korea. They'd spun out of a big company and were making their dream MMO. The more time we spent with them, the more we liked them. They really convinced us that they understood what was going to keep a game valuable in the long term.”
But what about that initial question, of how the Devilian experience will differ from the less-than-stellar ArcheAge one? I asked Hartsman what his team learned from its ArcheAge experience, and he didn't shy away from that inquiry:
“ArcheAge was our first time going out of the gate as a partner, as opposed to being a developer. I think there were two things that were the foundational things we need to do better. Originally, with ArcheAge, a lot of the consternation came around because our alpha servers were really busy and by the time we went to beta and live, people felt like there was a big change because from their perception, it was. That was us not having enough time to iterate in front of our live audience. All the store/platform integration stuff came late in the schedule. With Devilian, we've frontloaded that and we're trying to make it a more consistent experience. The beta should be more like what people see in live.
"Also, as you'll probably recall with ArcheAge, we had such a huge massive blast, we wound up using every live server and had to buy more. I made the risky call to use our public test server hardware as a live server. So for six weeks, we didn't have a test server. There will be a full-time PTS for Devilian."
That's fine on the technical standpoint, but it's mostly an issue that Trion itself has complete control over. As for how the company will work with Ginno Games, and what kind of influence it will wield when changes need to be made, Hartsman offered another example later in our conversation. In particular, if you look at the Korean Devilian site, and the depictions of the cannoneer class, they evoke memories of TERA's little-girl-like elin and the controversy that surrounded them and their too-skimpy-for-America outfits.
Hartsman knew that would be an issue (in part because one Trion employee had been on the TERA community team with the elin issue was at the forefront), and brought it up early with the Ginno Games team. "We've been offering cultural feedback with the dev team. For example, here in the West, it's fairly common for young women to bare shoulders/upper arms and it's exactly the opposite in Korea. But extra-short skirts are totally socially acceptable there. We actually sat with them and talked about the age of the model and character. It's been on us to understand that there's a real-world cultural difference driving some of their art choices." From what I briefly glimpsed of the character select screen, yes, the cannoneers wear pants.
As for the cash shop, it will contain the usual convenience items, XP potions, costumes, and some mounts. The game is open enough that Hartsman said he didn't feel like buying anything until he reached level 30. There's also an alternate currency, Arc Gemstones, you can get at all levels (though you get more at max level) that let you buy items equivalent to those in the cash shop.
There's still a lot of trust that needs to be rebuilt, but Trion Worlds is at least cognizant of the issues facing the team. Beta signups have already begun, so if you're in the mood for a new ARPG, give Devilian a look.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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