[Game signup] It is rare to have Korean PC MMORPG titles launching in the western market these days, but Astellia was recently announced. Publisher Barunson E&A might be an unfamiliar name, but the Korean company has been around since 1997 starting out as YTV Communication. With Astellia, its upcoming fantasy PC MMORPG, Barunson E&A is looking to make a huge impact in the western gaming market this year. In this interview, we find out more about the company, Astellia, and ambitions for the future. Read on for more info!
Q: Please introduce yourselves to everyone reading this interview.
A: My name is Wes Conner, I am the Studio Producer for Astellia with BE&A out of Irvine, California.
Q: Not many gamers might know Barunson E&A, and some might mistake the company as Barunson Interactive, developer of Dragonica. Kindly introduce your company to our readers ?
A: Barunson E&A is a publishing studio focused on bringing AAA Games to the Western market. We’re a team that’s passionate about creating the best online gaming experience for our players. As a publisher, BE&A is dedicated to bringing players and great games together, while providing industry-best services through a secure account system, well-supported customer service, and a gamer-centric approach to our community.
Q: I understand that Barunson E&A has opened an office in North America. Why the decision to expand now? Which regions will the new subsidiary oversee?
A: Our NA Office has been opened to give us a direct channel into the Western Market and from there we will service both NA & EU Regions, supporting three languages at launch: EN, DE, FR.
Q: With most game companies pivoting towards mobile games, why is Barunson E&A starting a new journey in the English market with a PC title?
A: Astellia is a 6-year long labor of love, and the vision behind this game has been a driving force within the project. We know many studios are shifting their focus to mobile games, it makes solid business sense with lower investments and the potential for large returns on the investment. Astellia is focused on providing players with a return to the classic MMO tenants, and this shift in the market only makes us more firm in our belief that players are waiting for the next MMORPG that is built to last, instead of all these short term projects we keep seeing.
Q: Gaming giant Nexon is the publisher of Astellia in South Korea. Why the decision to self-publish it for the English market?
A: The western gaming community is remarkably different when compared to the Eastern counterpart, with this in mind it seemed obvious to us we would need a Western Office to provide western services.
Q: The development team of Astellia, Studio 8, is listed as an affiliate of Barunson E&A. Could you elaborate on this partnership? Does it mean that changes to the game can be made very quickly?
A: Barunson E&A is the majority owner of Studio8, in Korea, they share a single office building. We view our team as a global operation and coordinate as such. Our goal is to establish a clear channel of communication between the western region and the Dev Team at Studio8.
Q: The South Korean server has just launched a few weeks ago. Does that mean the English version will be very close to the original in terms of updates and content?
A: We have a key list of changes that will be required for the Western Launch, these are based on our experiences playing western games and collecting feedback from the western players who have participated in the Korean version. Westernization of the game has been the main focus of our work for the last several months.
Q: The Closed Beta is announced to be starting this summer. Could you provide us with more details on the current progress of the game?
A: The Korean version is live now, on our side we are working with the developers to prepare the game for western service. This process is in-depth and lengthy but it will give us time to convert various game aspects you have seen in the Korean region to something more favorable in the west. Beyond the content changes, we are also working diligently to process the localization, which requires a large amount of in-house review and revision.
Q: There are many MMORPG players who would prefer each class having both genders. Is this available in Astellia?
A: Currently the KR Build is fully gender-locked, but based on input from the community we are working to make both genders available for each class. We currently plan to have 2 classes un-gender locked by launch with the others following until all classes have equal options. For classes that are unlocked after launch, we will make sure players can change their characters one time for free.
Q: What are the key features or elements which set Astellia apart from other PC MMORPG titles on the market?
A: If I had to pick one feature it is the Astell System. Astellia offers +30 unique Astells who serve as companions throughout the game. Each Astell has its own backstory, skill set, combo’s and roles. These features combine to give players a degree of flexibility that is not common in games. By summoning different astells, up to three at a time, players can create effective combo strategies or have the astel support them as healers, tanks, damage dealers etc.
Q: Obviously Astels play a major role in the game. Could you tell us how can they be obtained, and what kind of support do they provide in battles?
A: Astels are primarily obtained through normal gameplay progression such as, completing main storyline quests, and fighting your way through dungeons. Each Astel obtained expands a players arsenal of tools that can be used in combat.
Ranging from tanks holding the attention of monsters so you can get off your biggest AoE attacks. Support providing life-sustaining heals and buffs from the back lines. To damage dealers making short work of unwary enemies, or preventing escape with crowd control abilities.
Q: It seems that the team is not bashful about Astellia using the “holy trinity” combination for its combat system. Does it mean that players must rely on certain classes to defeat dungeons with no alternate solutions?
A: One of the core aspects of early development plans for Astellia involved removing some of these limitations by opening up new avenues to experiment with through the Astel system. In short, players should feel that their class still fills a specific role within a group, while removing many of the usual shortcomings that often came along with it.
With the introduction of Astels, players are able to summon battle companions that can either augment their classes strengths or offset certain weaknesses. Which provides a lot more flexibility in group dynamics. For example, attempting to speed clear a dungeon by picking up an extra DPS in place of a Tank, while making careful use of Tank Astels. We expect to continue seeing a lot of interesting and unique ways players make use of this system to explore content their own way.
Q: With the “holy trinity” system, it seems traditionally players favor DPS classes. Is there any potential solution to incentivize players to go for support classes?
A: Each player is able to summon a maximum of three astels at a time, and in the astel pool there are +30 astels which offer a wide array of abilities to players. A Warrior Character can choose to summon healer astels if they are taking heavy damage, or a dps astel if they want to push more damage etc. The key to this system is thinking ahead and preparing for your encounters, with the proper meta build players will be able to overcome many difficulties.
Q: Is Astellia geared more towards PVE or PVP? Will players be at a disadvantage if they favor just one?
A: Between Avalon for PVP, Legendary Dungeons for PVE and offering both PVE & PVP Arenas I sincerely believe Astellia is in a unique position to cater to both. We do not want to exclude one player type for the other, and participating in both content types will yield the highest rewards.
Q: Could you introduce some of the PVE and PVP modes to our readers?
A: Avalon is a persistent PvP map where three factions vie for control on a weekly basis by PVP’ing and completing objectives. Avalon is designed to allow both large scale combat but also allow for small teams to contribute, and play a meaningful role in the warfare. Outside of Avalon we have multiple dungeon types, solo, group, and legendary. Then for arenas, we have group and solo variants, both of which have your standard pvp setup as well as a pve arena where the player/s defend their crystal from wave after wave of monsters against the timer.
Q: The big topic these days for games are loot boxes. Will they be in Astellia? And what should players expect from the monetization model in the game?
A: Astellia will be Buy to Play with micro-transactions in game. We have embraced the motto of “Play to Win”, what this means is the Pay to Win mechanics you see in other regions are going to be adapted into rewards for our build. As an example, instead of paying for full heal potions, you will earn them through time played or achievements etc. In our current business model, we do not have plans to sell Loot Crates for money, but they may be available as some form of in-game reward for in-game activity.
Q: Other than text localization, are there any changes being made for Astellia?
A: Most definitely changes are being made for the western market; we are unlocking genders, addressing Pay to Win mechanics, reviewing the progression, and considering content that is more popular in the west.
Q: Will there be IP restrictions for access to Astellia? And will it be available on Steam?
A: Currently we do not plan to block countries that are outside of the serviced regions, however we are still working on those finer details. We don’t want to leave anyone behind, but we also must respect any of the licensing contracts other publishers may have.
Steam is always an option as a possible distribution channel, but for the time being we plan to self-publish.
A: Barunson has many projects running behind the scenes, including the mobile games you have listed, but our current priority is to focus on preparing and launching Astellia. Then, from there we can consider additional titles and opportunities.
Q: Please say some final words for this interview to our readers and gamers! ?
A: It was a pleasure to have this Q&A, I hope my answers provide some insight into the Astellia project and I look forward to communicating with the community more as we approach this summer. As always make sure you keep an eye on our website & social medias channels! Teaser Website Facebook Twitter