ChinaJoy 2012 – A true cultural melting pot

Personally, I started getting serious into China online games sometime in 2008/ 2009. 1 of my earliest game was NetEase’s TianXia 2. Before that, I was just simply observing the China online gaming market as an interested audience. In previous years, ChinaJoy did not really impress me, but starting from the 2011 edition, all the new game concepts started to make me believe again.

A gathering of companies from all around the world, from Korea, North America, various parts of Europe and Asia, ChinaJoy 2012 is truly a melting pot for online gaming cultures. Even E3 or G*Star is not so multicultural. I am seeing some American-made online games being ported to China, while some China-made games being signed to all parts of the world. Hopefully, China will continue with its self-development efforts and offer more varieties for the Free to Play market (getting tired of Korean cookie cutter myself).

This year, here are some of the MMO companies which impressed me with their self-developed titles.
1. Perfect World
Heck, how can anyone not be impressed with what Perfect World is doing in their development studios? All 3 games are using self-developed engines, something which is rarely seen from its competitors until major players such as Tencent Games started marketing what their in-house engine could do recently. Yes, Swordsman Online and Legend of the Condor Heroes may be similar in terms of the martial arts design, but I wouldn’t bet on Perfect World developing 2 game similar in most aspects. Even Saint Seiya Online’s in-game footage stunned me, it really looked like the comics came to live!

And that is not all, Perfect World will be publishing Neverwinter and Torchlight II in China as well. Neverwinter had a nicely localized Chinese version demo for the crowd to play at ChinaJoy, and I am amazed at the speed they are doing things. Players may rant about how Perfect World’s games being “Pay to Win” at higher levels, but which company isn’t? Perfect World has been my favorite China MMO company, and ChinaJoy 2012 affirmed that status in my heart.
2. NetEase
There was only 1 game which caught my eyes from NetEase despite having a couple of new self-developed titles, but it is enough. I am referring to Dragon Sword, which others may see it as a “Blade & Soul clone”. Actually, after seeing the in-game videos, I was delighted to see “real action combat” being implemented.

Non-target, full action combo sequences… It is just like what I had in my mind, a Devil May Cry-style open world MMO (nevermind the different settings). The character models may still seem to be “borrowed” from Blade & Soul with glitchy and out-of-tune animations, but nonetheless, there are still a couple of months before launch for things to be made right. NetEase is a solid no.2 for NetEase in my books.
3. Tencent Games
China’s biggest MMO company by a far fetch, the only reason why it wasn’t in the top of my list this year was due to all the major titles being shipped from South Korea. Blade & Soul, ArcheAge, Kritika, Sura Online and some sports games… And the only reason why Tencent Games is no.3 is thanks to the self-developed Asura.

Yes, Asura may be seem like yet another Diablo III clone, but hey, there are good ones out there as well. Based on an alternate storyline of Journey to the West, the latest Dragonette race/class showed how good character design should be done to give each a unique identity. If you are doubting me, ask yourself, when was the last time you played a Diablo-kind of MMO with similar traits?
4. Shanda Games
The biggest “shocker” at ChinaJoy 2012 was probably Shanda Games publishing Ghosts ‘n Goblins Online. The game itself was announced in Korea a few years ago, so it was never really a big-enough title to impress me. Still, I am looking at the company’s efforts to self-develop as well, with titles such as World Zero and Age of Dawn looking promising.

World Zero, revealed in 2010, allows players to create their own maps and designate mobs, infrastructures and shape landscape, which is definitely a first in China. Age of Dawn may not seem impressive now, but hopefully they can further improve on the “Diablo III” concept and improve the action genre even further with the Unreal 3 Engine.
Games ranking list, only for self-developed China games:
1. Swordsman Online
2. Dragon Sword
3. Asura
4. Saint Seiya Online
5. Black Gold Online
6. World Zero
7. DayBreak
Honorable mention: Legend of the Condor Heroes (doubt it will be released any time soon)