Ascendant One – Korean media interviews developer devCat on new MOBA title

Developed by Korean studio devCat using the powerful Unreal Engine 4, Ascendant One took many by surprise when teasing some awesome character models which could be on par with those found in the recently ceased MOBA, Paragon. However, another surprise turn took place when it was revealed that Ascendant One will instead use a top-down camera angle, similar to other MOBA titles such as Dota 2 and League of Legends. The Korean media held an interview with devCat recently, and here are some of the translated text.

Q: Many other game companies have been focusing on mobile games for a while now. Why introduce a PC game?

A: Our parent company Nexon has been focusing on mobile games as well. devCat is currently developing several projects on different platforms and methods, including some mobile games which are not revealed to the public yet. We saw an opportunity in the market, hence we started working on Ascendant One.

Q: Can you briefly introduce yourself, game director?

A: I entered the gaming industry in 2002 and started working on Mabinogi. Since then, I have been the director of Mabinogi and Mabinogi Heroes. Ascendant One is the first project which I am leading from the beginning.

Q: Why create a new MOBA title when the market seems to be saturated now?

A: It is the same situation as any MMORPG, online shooter, or battle royale games. There are always difficulties if you enter as a latecomer. For MMORPG, questions will be asked on how to overtake World of Warcraft or Overwatch for online shooters. The challenge is to bring new approaches to existing genres.

Q: Industry watchers are saying that battle royale games are overtaking MOBA titles at the top. What is your opinion on this?

A: Currently, it seems that the global online market is split between MOBA and battle royale. I think that both genres are fundamentally different in characteristics and fun factors, and cannot completely replace each other.

Q: What position is Ascendant One placed in the current list of popular MOBA titles on the market?

A: Dota 2 has the longest playtime, and there is much to do in terms of character growth during each game. On the other hand, Heroes of the Storm is the polar opposite. League of Legends is somewhere between these 2 MOBA titles. We positioned Ascendant One in the middle of League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm. We are not saying that Ascendant One is a “light” game, but there are sophisticated features as well. The team is making sure while competitive, the barrier of entry will not be too high for most players.

Q: Are you aiming to go beyond what League of Legends can offer to players?

A: This is a sensitive subject. Since the MOBA pie is very big, I believe that there will be users who like our game, and we want to make our own small area.

Q: Is there a reason for using the spherical vertical camera view?

A: There was this sense of purpose that Nexon needed to develop a MOBA itself. However, if we just use the same template like everyone else, it makes no sense. By adding the night and day cycle, we could showcase that strategies are not fixed since changes happen during different times of the day during each match.

Q: With the current camera view, all the colors seem to get mixed up and cause players to be unable to spot certain objects while playing and other visibility issues.

A: We don’t focus on graphics when we make games. We started out planning a quarter-view MOBA with a spherical map back in 2014, and it just happened that Unreal Engine 4 just launched. We were attracted to the physically based rendering (PBR) feature it has. But we understand the visibility issues, and will continue to work on improvements. We are also continuing to test to reduce motion sickness and provide a more pleasant viewpoint.

Q: Why choose a combination of sci-fi and Greek mythology theme for Ascendant One?

A: As a latecomer to the MOBA market, we needed to differentiate ourselves from the very first impression. The easiest way is to use a famous IP. However, if we use existing IPs such as Marvel, users would already have expectations of what each character like Spider-Man and Iron Man could and could not do. As developers, it will be hard to balance them. Hence, we decided to go with my favorite sci-fi genre mixed with ancient Greek mythology.

Q: There are now 19 Ascendants in the game. How many will there be at launch?

A: We are adding a new Ascendant every 2 weeks, and will most probably launch the game when we hit 30 Ascendants. I think it is a good number to start running leagues without having a lack of diversity. We think it is important not to have too few characters at the beginning.

Q: Is the business model confirmed?

A: At this point, heroes and skins sale will be the main part of the business model. Of course, there will be nothing sold which can affect the game balance.

Q: How will the skin system work?

A: Character costumes are divided into several parts and can be decorated with different colors and materials, just like in MMORPG titles. We have not decided on how to sell or price them.

Q: What feedback have you received during this Early Access phase from the players?

A: We have received feedback about having no background music (BGM) and character voices, which we are planning to update soon. We do keep track of all statistics and trends in the game. There are also issues with the matchmaking system which we are looking into, which includes taking too long to find a game or mismatching with skilled players. The penalty system of punishing errant players is also inadequate and will be addressed soon.

Q: What are the current plans for Ascendant One in the short term?

A: This Friday (October 13th), we will add a new balance adjustment patch, along with a 5-player AI co-op mode. Later this month, a new Ascendant will be introduced followed by League Rankings. In addition, background music, character voices, spectator mode, viewing of historic matches, and character customization are all about to go live.

Q: As a MOBA title, Ascendant One definitely cannot miss out on esports. What are your plans on this?

A: We are not ready at all for esports. We do hope to eventually have a professional league, but right now it is too premature. Ascendant One needs to find its place in the market first and settle down, and competitive events will soon follow.

Q: Is Ascendant One still launching this year? Will we be able to try the game out at G-Star 2018?

A: The plan was originally to launch this year, but we cannot confirm that anymore. We feel that we are not ready, and the current priority is to further perfect the game than to stick to the schedule. There are no demo stations at G-Star 2018, but there should be a new video. 10 people are required to sit together for 30 minutes, so we felt it is not viable.