SINoALICE – Interview with Nexon on upcoming dark fantasy mobile RPG

Announced last year at G-Star 2018, gamers were surprised when Nexon announced the global server of SINoALICE. A dark fantasy mobile RPG developed by Square Enix and Pokelabo, SINoALICE is the first mobile game from director Yoko Taro (NieR: Automata) and which has over 4 million downloads in Asia. In this interview, we find out how the publishing deal came about, and how Nexon is preparing SINoALICE for the global market. SINoALICE is launching worldwide on 18 July 2019, excluding China, Taiwan, and Japan.

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Q: Can you please introduce yourselves to our readers?

A: Hello readers, my name is SONG HOJUN. I oversee SINoALICE project at Nexon Mobile Business Department.

Q: What qualities of SINoALICE attracted Nexon to seek out Square Enix and Pokelabo for a publishing deal?

A: We decided to service SINoALICE mainly because it fits with our company’s DNA that values challenges and the creation of innovative experiences for the players. SINoALICE offers a unique world, mesmerizing artwork and omnibus-style storytelling centered around characters, all of which are in line with Nexon’s values. Furthermore, we think these qualities have the power to appeal to gamers from around the world.

Q: What role does each of the participating companies (Nexon, Square Enix, Pokelabo) play in preparing SINoALICE for the global audience?

A: To simplify the answers a bit, Nexon worked primarily on the following three tasks: (1) localize the game, which includes translations, (2) manage operations-side, which includes marketing, PR and update roadmap management and (3) handle tech-side, which includes infrastructure setups, database sync-ups and integration of monitoring tools. Square Enix and Pokelabo developed the game, reviewed our plans and other efforts and gave advices on our update plans and marketing assets.

Q: Could you briefly tell us what is happening in the game in terms of storyline, and why have the fairy tale heroes banded as a team?

A: ‘Library’ is a mysterious place where all the stories in the world are stored. The main characters from classic fairy tales have gathered in this location to fulfill their wish, which is to resurrect one’s author. But, there’s a caveat to the innocent objective: to do so, other characters must all die. What’s interesting about SINoALICE is how the plot develops.

SINoALICE’s main story is unraveled in omnibus style, which helps delineate the deepest desires and emotions that each character undergoes. From time to time, these main roots converge with one another in ‘Cross Stories,’ in which different characters bump into one another. ‘Cross Stories’ create the small interlinking roots, the narratives surrounding the main story, by focusing on the relationships between different characters and by divulging the secrets surrounding the common interest: the ‘Library.’

Q: How many fairy tale heroes are there available in SINoALICE? Are there any who are villains instead of heroes?

A: The eight characters revealed in the pre-registration webpage will be included when the game opens. They are the heroes and heroines of the story to which they belong. Players can acquire all eight characters via various routes and play them all.

Q: Could you briefly describe to us how the job system works?

A: In this game, classes and characters are different concepts. So, a character can have different appearances and fighting styles based on its class. The role a character fulfills in battle, whether it fights in Front or Rear battle formation decides which weapon it wields. The Front consists of Breaker, Crasher, Paladin and Gunner and the Rear consists of Cleric, Sorcerer and Minstrel. When a character is equipped with the weapons that belong to one’s class, the effect is maximized.

Q: What can you tell us with regards to PVE and PVP content? Is there by any chance co-op multiplayer modes?

A: All the PvE contents in SINoALICE including the main story and events support 5-person real-time Co-op. You can join other players, friends and guild members who are playing game modes that allow Co-op play with the press of a button. Moreover, the core of SINoALICE gameplay boils down to ‘Colosseum,’ which is a 15vs15 real-time Guild-versus-Guild battle. A member of a guild can participate in Colosseum once a day and winning it will lead your Guild to better rewards and higher ranks on the leader’s board.

Q: How important is the strategic element in the game’s combat system? Will it be too daunting for new players?

A: There are many strategic elements in the game. First, attacks are divided into two types of damage – physical and magic – and three types of elements, which counter one another – Fire, water and wind. Second, powerful Nightmares can be summoned during battles to change the tide. These elements take a while to get used to, but the learning curve is mild since they only begin to matter in late-game contents such as ‘Colosseums’ and ‘Raids.’

Q: What were some of the toughest parts of SINoALICE to localize and how were they resolved?

A: The most difficult part was the translations. We had to really understand the game and the local cultures. Therefore, many of our Project Managers not only analyzed the game at the level of metadata but also played it until now to obtain the first-hand, empirical knowledge of the gameplay. In addition, we held weekly conference calls with the IP holders and had many frequent conversations to raise the standard of the localization.

Q: Are there any significant changes made to the global version of SINoALICE when compared to the Japanese version of the game?

A: Many of the user-friendly UI and UX functions that have been developed over the period of two years will be provided right off the bat. Furthermore, we plan on mixing content update sequences so that players who’ve tried or are still enjoying the original Japanese version will find the official global SINoALICE anew.

Q: Will there be content which is unique to the global version?

A: We can’t reveal any information at this stage. We are still discussing the details with the IP holders.

Q: The original Japanese version has been in service since 2017. Will the global version be aiming to catch up in terms of content, or will it have its own pace for new updates?

A: We are considering both and are fine-tuning the details with the IP holders.

Q: There has been much talk about gacha (loot boxes) for the past few months. Has the localization effort been affected by potential new government restrictions?

A: We are always on the lookout for government regulations and are reviewing our internal policies accordingly. If there are matters that need regulation, then we’ll make the necessary changes. Right now, however, our efforts are on upping the user experience.

Q: Will the gacha rates for the different rarities of fairy tale heroes and weapons remain the same as the Japanese version’s?

A: We are considering making some adjustments but, as of now, nothing has been decided. We are still discussing the possibilities with the IP holders.

Q: Nexon and many games companies are preparing several new titles for launch over the next few months. Is there any worry that SINoALICE might get lost in the crowd?

A: We are not worried. SINoALICE is a very important title to Nexon and another challenge we are glad to be a part of.

Q: Finally, please let our readers know why SINoALICE is a game not to be missed.

A: Although SINoALICE’s universe is crafted from reinterpreted characters of classic tale, the game is nothing like the original tales. Creative Director Yoko Taro, the director of NieR: Automata, makes sure what’s offered is creative, intriguing and of high-quality. I hope you experience convention-defying game SINoALICE. Thank you for reading our interview.