Warrior Epic is a new free to play online RPG being developed by Possibility Space, a company founded by Gage Galinger and Feng Zhu; a pair that share a wealth of experience between them, from Starcraft to Gears of War.
As a free to play game it comes across as competent and quite polished, and it’s just leaving closed beta. Essentially a dungeon crawler, players own a great hall that stores their characters and serves as a meeting place for quests.
There are a number of different warrior classes (and some that must be paid for), but the hook is a sort of metagame wherein players can choose to harness the spirit of one of their fallen warriors as a power for their next warrior. It’s well scoped and well designed to be a free to play RPG, but what’s most interesting is how they plan to handle paid content and digital downloading.
While the usual cosmetic items are part of the plan, Warrior Epic is taking a refreshing stance towards satisfying both free players and paid players – a problem Flagship’s Hellgate London ran into when they offered paid players better gear, bigger inventories and faster travel times.
Brice Lukas, Community Manager for Possibilty Space had this to say about sustaining that balance:
“In Warrior Epic you cannot purchase power or progress. The best gear and items can only be obtained by playing the game. There is also no exchange of earned items with paid items. So anything that a user buys with real cash cannot be obtained with in-game currency.”
One of the things a player can purchase (for a small price) are buff items that will help players get through dungeons and closer to the real loot.
“Each mission in Warrior Epic is designed to be roughly 15 minutes long, and the number of these buffs you can carry is limited, so they will not unbalance the play.”
Last but not least is Possibility Space's distribution model, what the company has dubbed “Download on Demand”. Players register on the site and then download a small .exe file that will stream content from seed servers. The whole system is similar to torrents and is expected to allow the game to be quite portable. Since account information is stored on the seed servers, players can download the same .exe on any computer, which is run from the folder it’s in rather than needing an install.
We’ll have to wait and see if Warrior Epic proves to be a game that lets players download and start playing within minutes, but it’s safe to say that players will appreciate the lack of usual hoops to jump through. The more players get exposed to a free to play game the better, and with an approach like this there is a good chance that a significant amount of players will at least consider getting involved enough to start paying for items and warriors.
“Our intention is to expose a much larger set of people to the fun of online gaming. We want to take all the fun parts of games that hardcore gamers enjoy, and package those up in a product that everybody can experience. The key behind this is to lower the barrier to entry.”
OnNet USA is the American subsidiary of OnNet Korea a developer of multiple free to play online games. The American branch of the company acts solely as a publisher through their portal site Games Campus.
Today, OnNet releases their newest game, a free to play third person shooter titled Manga Fighter. We spoke to YJ, Manga Fighter's Producer, about the project and the free to play model in general.
What is the relationship between OnNet Korea and OnNet USA?
OnNet Korea is an software developer creating search engines and other similar products. OnNet USA is an online publisher of free to play games. They're two different ideas with two distinct identities.
OnNet USA opened it's doors three years ago with the launch of our golf game Shot Online.
What did you learn from that experience and what has been carried over to Manga Fighter?
We weren't very well organized which was a big challenge so this time out we made sure to have the proper management in place. That's the real risk area with a project like this you need excellent management.
The other important lesson concerning constant content updating. With a free to play game and a virtual goods revenue model you have to make sure that there is always new content for the players. We found that to be the key to player retention.
It's hard to discuss MMOs without mentioning secondary markets for virtual goods and currency. What are your thoughts?
We're very aware of the secondary markets and the emerging issues associated with them. At this point we're taking a neutral stance and kind of waiting to see what the industry trend as a whole is.
Why have the global launch of a manga style game with the virtual goods model in America. Why not use the Korean market where both of those things are more mainstream?
Well in a lot of ways this is a new game for any market. It's a fast-paced third person shooter aimed at a younger audience and there's not much out there like that. We believe the US is a great testing ground for our new content.
Just three years ago, some declared the free to play model wouldn't work. Today it's beginning to get big. It's not quite mainstream yet but we're heading in that direction and America is a huge potential market. There are a lot of gamers in America.
What about the release cycle. OnNet ran two beta tests and a boot camp? What was that?
The Boot Camp was just a term for our third beta. In fact even now that we've opened the game up we still haven't implemented all the commerce aspects of the game. This is more like an open beta and then we'll see how the market responds before launching the money aspect.
What kind of marketing has gone into the launch of the game?
We haven't done any big budget marketing campaigns but viral marketing has worked well for us. We're also mailing collectible cards to players with a code on them. The code unlocks premium content in Manga Fighter and down the road we're looking at getting these cards into retail outlets.
The other thing we're excited about is the possibility of getting some famous faces from the rest of the manga universe in game. I can't release any details yet but we're in discussion with some major publishers.
Thanks for your time YJ and good luck with the launch of Manga Fighter.