ChangYou can be counted as one of the newest MMO publishers to set foot in the western market, who primarily focus on the development and publishing of Free to Play MMO titles. The company is no “newbie” to the MMO industry though – its China headquarters has been in the business since 2003 and is one of the largest and most successful entertainment companies in the world. Blade Wars is one of the company’s latest titles, an F2P martial arts MMO which puts players in a mythical world of martial arts and myriad wonders. How will the game set itself apart? Let’s find out.
OnRPG: Hello, I am cinderboy from OnRPG. Can you please introduce yourself?
Hi, Po! My name is Angie Canary, and I’m the Assistant Producer on Blade Wars. I’ve been playing games for as long as I could hold a controller and officially entered the video game industry in 2004 as an in-game CSR at Mythic after deciding to leave a career in law enforcement (yes, that’s right, I’m a former police offer, behave yourself!).
Since then I’ve worked for EA’s Pogo Online studio, EA’s Sims Division, and in 2008 I got my first job as a game designer at Trion World. More recently, I worked at Sparkplay Media as the sole content designer for Earth Eternal, a F2P browser-based MMO. I’ve journeyed extensively in Azeroth, Norrath and Camelot and have a weak spot for any game that involves women who kick ass.
OnRPG: Let’s start off by learning more about the company, ChangYou. The company is one of the most prominent MMO companies back in China, why the decision to enter the English market instead of letting other Free to Play companies publish your titles?
Chang You believes strongly in its games and wanted to create a top notch US team to help localize their titles. Over the last few months we’ve brought on top talent from many of the leading free to play & pay to play companies. We’re already an internationally recognized company with the backing, game titles, people and resources to take our games world-wide and, as you know, if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.
OnRPG: What were some of the difficulties faced when starting out as the new kid on the block?
Most of us employees are veterans of the industry. What is new is the opportunity to bring our games directly to the American market, and the challenge there is just in getting western consumers used to the idea of not having to pay for game downloads or monthly subscription rates, and also in approaching eastern games with a genuine understanding of what Americans consider exciting and fun and being creative enough to work those elements in.
OnRPG: Let’s talk about the game. What is the main objective for players to achieve in Blade Wars?
Like all MMOs, Blade Wars takes place in a persistent world that grows with the community. The objective is to have fun and kick ass-there’s no end game but rather, as in real life, ever expanding opportunities to master new skill sets and explore new territories.
OnRPG: What is the learning curve like for players who are new to the MMORPG genre?
We’ve attempted to make the introductory process move as smooth as possible. The game is also unique enough that those experienced with MMORPGs won’t be too far ahead of those who aren’t-everyone is invited to come in and experience the world of Blade Wars, and we’ve tried to make sure that the game is accessible to anyone who’s interested in playing. Additionally, a huge amount of information can be found without having to leave the game at all. All players have access to a list of quests in range of their level that never force them to scroll through a massive list to find something specific. The guide covers almost everything possible – shortcuts, guild help, and monsters to kill….
OnRPG: Which way will players be able to level faster- mob killing or questing?
Questing will probably get you there a little faster, if your goal is to power through. But there are lots of different ways to earn experience in Blade Wars. For example, we have an exclusive Music Skill development path called “Maestro.” The Maestro system in Blade Wars allows players to make music through use of mouse movements. There are ten instruments and over 30 songs to play. Following a series of colored lines across the screen, players can begin to play pre-set tunes and then customize them with horizontal mouse movement to change the duration of selected notes and vertical mouse movement to change the pitch. If the player does well, their character earns combos and gains experience toward the next level in Music Skill. Nearby characters may enjoy the music and even join in. Extra experience and coins can also be earned by playing with other adventurers through Mentoring, teaming with friends, and teaming with guild members.
OnRPG: Other than open world PvE, will there be instances for players to group up and conquer?
You bet! We’ve got an Arena Duel system, mentoring and also Guild Battles aplenty! Groups of adventurers can form guilds, allowing for greater adventures. Continual cooperation between guild members increases the prosperity and standing of their guild, allowing the guilds to evolve into larger and more powerful entities. As a guild grows, it will gain enemies from other guilds who, you know, come to envy its power. Once a guild declares war on another guild, huge battles can occur between them, with the outcome affecting the guild structure itself. Powerful guilds can become infamous through too many losses, while small guilds can rise up with continued victories.
OnRPG: The main feature of Blade Wars is no doubt the combo system, which adds both thrill and excitement into the game. Can you explain in detail what makes this feature stand out?
First of all, Blade Wars has set a new standard for martial arts MMOs with the hiring of Liu Hailong – the famous Chinese Sanda (Sanda = freestyle) champion. The motion capture system “Eagle4” was used to capture Liu’s best moves and animate them as Blade Wars fighting styles with nearly 100% accuracy. The game features 99 individual real motion-captured martial arts moves that can be used in the combos we’re about to discuss.
Do you know about Liu? His rise to fame as a Chinese Sanda champion started in 2000 during the King of Sanda tournament. Liu not only won his weight class, but went on to win a grueling one-night open weight round-robin tournament against much bigger fighters! This earned him the title Sanda or “King of Kings”. Liu has always been a fan of Chinese Kung Fu and has developed a very unique view on martial arts during his time as a Sanda fighter. As the choreographer for Blade Wars, Liu ensured that the highly exaggerated martial arts moves in close combat look as real as possible.
Above: Famed Chinese Sanda champion, Liu Hailong doing the motion capture process for Blade Wars
So what do we do with all these amazing moves? We feed them into a build-it-yourself combo attack system. Our system allows players to chain a series of attack skills together to form special combination skill attacks. Combo strings can be set and tailored to suit varied attack scenarios. The best players have been able to create combo strings that result in a chain of up to 99 uninterrupted hits! So this gives you the chance to do more in combat than just press sequential buttons (or “mash”). The most formidable heroes use strategy to build the best Combo attacks possible, and switch between different variations based on the situation.
For example, you would want to try different variations against monsters in PvE than you would want to use on other players in PvP. We also have an “Occupation Combo Skill Recommendation” button. This will give you a list of recommended Combos for your particular character type. But if you want to make your own combos, you’ll need to pay close attention to each skill and follow the tips listed in their descriptions. Some skills need to be preceded by one specific skill, or followed by a specific skill, or even sandwiched between two different skills. It gives players a lot to think about and encourages some really inventive, amazing-looking attacks.
OnRPG: The PvP aspect is also what makes a good MMORPG. How are players encouraged to engage in more PvP duels in Blade Wars? What are some benefits for being a regular PvPer?
The combo system is really what makes our PVP system stand out. Two players with identical characters can duel and have a completely different style. The challenge is in creating the right mixture of moves to exploit your foes weaknesses before they find yours!
OnRPG: What other features from Blade Wars will make it unique in the Free to Play market?
In addition to the real mo-capped Kung Fu, the combo attack system, and Maestro, we have a unique Weapon Creation system that allows adventurers to collect and create their own special weapons out of pieces of long discarded weapons dropped throughout the world over the eons. Every class has its own special weapon handle and weapon head, and each piece can be different from other similar types of pieces. Once a weapon handle and a matching headpiece are collected, players can travel to a Weapon Forger in any major town and pay him to assist in the creation of a new weapon. The new weapons contain the combined benefits of the individual pieces, allowing flexibility in choosing which items to forge.
We also have thematic environments set in a bright palette to give Blade Wars a vibrant feel. A combination of 2D and 3D graphical elements viewed from an isometric perspective immerses players within the world with dizzyingly spectacular quality. Snow, rain, lightning, swooping birds, and highly detailed environments create a universe that is defined by beauty. Additionally, each major town has its very own theme, and surrounding each major town are wild areas that mimic the town’s prosperity. The wild areas share similar traits to each other, allowing for a smooth progression from luscious green land to desolate wastelands.
Blade Wars also includes great Guild Battles and exciting Arena Challenges, as well as tons of life skills and fun adventures, both PvE and PvP.
OnRPG: How big will the gap be between players who spend more on the cash shop compared to those who spend little or none?
We’ve worked really hard to keep this balanced. You can get up the highest levels without ever visiting the cash shop, or you can have fun purchasing unique costumes, potions and items that will enhance your character customization and improve your success rates for certain tasks.
OnRPG: Are there any major changes made from the Chinese version when localizing the game for the English market?
You mean aside from the story, the quests, the names, the conversations, the items, the mobs, the in-game events, the players and the support? Not much. ;-P
OnRPG: Is there any new content or improvements players can expect in the near future?
There are, but get in the Beta first-then we’ll talk!
OnRPG: Any last words to the readers out there to end this interview?
Open Beta has began – visit Blade Wars to join us!
OnRPG: Thank you for your time!