Lost Ark – Interview with Smilegate RPG Director on stunning new game

Smilegate sprang a major surprise at this year’s G-Star event by announcing Lost Ark, and revealing 2 incredible trailers during the few days. Korean media outlet, ThisIsGame, sat down with the RPG Director of Smilegate (gentleman in the middle) to talk about this incredible in-development game.

Lost Ark development team

Q: When the first trailer was revealed on 13th November, how did you feel?

A: Lost Ark has been in development for some time now, and I always felt the game is missing something. The enthusiasm and positive feedback from gamers really encouraged me, so thank you all. This made me determined to show gamers a more complete game during next year’s Closed Beta.

Q: Based on the first trailer, some players thought that Lost Ark is a MORPG, without the “Massively”. What are your thoughts?

A: Lost Ark is indeed a MMORPG (laughs), and the misconception is probably due to us showcasing more of the dungeon content in the first trailer. Some of the effects are hard to showcase without having to focus on the dungeons. But of course, there are spectacular views and effects as well in the game’s open world areas.

Q: What can players expect from the open world areas? Will the action in these areas be the same as those in the dungeons?

A: The action in Lost Ark is similar between the dungeons and open world areas, and interaction is high in the open world due to having more number players. We also concentrate on having more battle content in the open world areas to prevent players from getting bored while exploring.

For example, Lost Ark depicts a world being invaded by demons. There is this feature known as Chaos Gate in the open world areas which will open randomly with hordes of demons streaming through it. Players near the Chaos Gate will be sent a signal. Such an event is a “world class crisis”, and require players working together to defeat them.

For open world bosses, players must make use of the surrounding items to effectively defeat them. There is also a open world battlefield where guild points can be won, and a PvE arena feature where players battle elite monsters, requiring strategies and team members’ cooperation.

Lost Ark - Chaos Gate

Q: How is Smilegate looking to solve the problem with game content, as hack & slash games tend to get dry and boring very quickly.

A: Playing a hack & slash game does not mean one character must be strong enough to take on anything in the game. Lost Ark works like a MMORPG, which requires players to think. An example will be the Guardian Raid feature, showcased in the first game trailer released on 13th November.

In the trailer, it can be seen that a player is blocking an ice breathe attack from the Guardian Monster, while the a character is pulling a team member up from the ice lake. There are several cooperative mechanics available, and tends to be more similar to Monster Hunter and Mabinogi Heroes.

cinderboy note: NCsoft stated in its interview that such a system (active blocking and shielding team members) is something which they have ditched, as it was too technically challenging and will be too difficult for players. Looks like Smilegate might have found the formula to make this work.

Lost Ark - Player interaction features

Q: What about players who are looking to play Lost Ark alone?

A: This is a tough question! Lost Ark is essentially a hack & slash game, and we are working hard to make sure it feels that way. Each class has different play styles and can only use 8 skills at any time, so I expect players to try various builds for every class.

Q: During the announcement event, it was mentioned that Lost Ark intends to exceed all quarter-view games, with the core introduction of dungeon features such as changing maps. But being a MMORPG, most of the action will take place in the open world. What do you have to say about this?

A: While the open world might not have that earth-shaking effects found in dungeons, we have cut-scenes in the open world game which will show players a different view of the surrounding area. For some major events, a certain area will become an instanced zone as well. And for some open world areas, we deliberately added puzzle elements and make navigation difficult. These features are to make sure players are not bored easily.

Lost Ark - Cut scenes

Q: Making use of the dead angle advantage of the quarter-view camera, will there be hidden items for players to find?

A: We do not exactly have items hidden out of view from players. Like in real world exploration, we hope for players to explore any places which might be interesting to them, or think about how to get to other locations. As showcased with our naval exploration system, players can discover new islands, or even take control of them. Unlike the land areas, there are no “roads” to follow.

Q: It was mentioned that there will be life skills such astronomy and archaeology. Are these linked to the world exploration mentioned previously?

A: They affect not only exploration, but affect the whole Lost Ark as well. For example, as an archaeologist, you can obtain and read treasure maps which will bring players to undiscovered places, such as a hidden dungeon or secret island. There will also be a NPC relationship system, where secret quests can be unlocked. Life skills can also produce items which aid in battles.

Lost Ark - Hidden room

Q: If secret content can only be found using life skills, doesn’t that mean content is actually restricted for players?

A: Every life skills will have their usage in Lost Ark, and archaeology is not just about treasure maps. Archaeologists might be required to use the NPC relationship system to proceed, or even finding items to craft a key before able to enter a hidden dungeon. There is no life skill which is perfect.

We do not want Lost Ark’s end game content to be about PvP and killing bosses. Personally, I feel that the highest value of a MMORPG are the interactions between players. There are some who prefer combat, other who prefer crafting, some who prefer exploring. Why not make them dependable on each other?

Hence, in Lost Ark, everything is linked and rely on each other. And for game progression, the high level players will meet up with low level players, which will cause interaction between two groups of players. Other than combat and being strong, these interactions are what we are aiming for.

Lost Ark - Town map

Q: Is it safe to say that there are still much content not yet revealed?

A: Yes (smiles), but this is what we want to do now, and we have always been laying the down the foundation. Much of the content in Lost Ark are linked, hence there will be minimal content being consumed at too fast a pace or being ignored. Of course, the process of interaction between each part of the content will be designed to feel more natural to players.

Q: It seems difficult to announce so many features in such a short time.

A: Development has been smooth so far, and everything is on course, hence the time took to make the content is fast. For the Closed Beta next year, at the minimal we will be able to test the combat system. For the others such as world exploration, it might have to wait a while.

Q: In a current market where big client games are prone to be closed down, are you mentally prepared for the worst?

A: It will be a rough time for the gamers (when games close down), and even though there are many good games now, it is getting easier to find a new game to replace them. For Lost Ark, we are in the loop as well, but our development team members are gamers too, and hopefully will make a MMORPG which will satisfy everyone.