GDC09: Tinkering around with Neo Steam and Atlus Online


The World of Gatheryn isn't the only steampunk MMO on the block this year at GDC09. While Gatheryn certainly appeals to the Victorian steampunk crowd, Atlus Online's upcoming MMO Neo Steam will be bringing in those who like more fantasy mixed in with their brass and gear-driven inventions.

Atlus may be a newcomer to the world of MMOs, but they're proving that they're no newbies with their initial offering. Our look into Neo Steam was quite informative and surprising, especially considering that this will be the second time Neo Steam will be releasing in North America. Atlus is putting a large amount of effort into making Neo Steam resonate with North American audiences, and not just putting out a rehash of the same game you've already seen.
What is Neo Steam?


The whole idea driving the game is a conflict over resources. The Kingdom of Elerd and the Republic of Rogwel have both unearthed powerful ancient machines that are driven by a scarce resource produced by the land -- the magical neo steam. Both countries have turned to war with one another, desperately trying to secure as many sources of neo steam as they can while upholding their traditional ways.

Elerd is the fantasy based group, entrenched magic and mysticism. While they use inventions, they don't place as much value on them as their neighbors, the Republic of Rogwel, does. Their machinery fuses magic and technology into their trademark elegant devices.

Rogwel is the more steampunk based country, using technology and inventions to form the basis of their society. Metal and gears form the foundation of their architecture as they seek to use technology to further themselves. Rogwel places a high emphasis on science and invention, forsaking magic as they progress forwards.

The game seems to be taking elements of casual free-to-play MMOs and combining them with elements found in "hardcore" Korean MMOs. The game will be using a class progression scheme, where you start off as one class and slowly evolve into more "advanced classes" as you level up. Neo steam is a player resource -- one that is used in almost all aspects of gameplay. Neo steam can be used in guns as bullets, used to power mounts like steam balloons, or used as part of some special abilities. This stuff is a limited resource, however, and players can only get limited rations of it from their government per hour.

On the other side, Atlus is making sure that the game is approachable for people who have never played an MMO before. Quests are clear and easy to understand, markers are used to show players where to go to complete their objectives, and the game makes sure to guide the player closely by the hand for levels 1 through 11.

The Atlus touch, very similar to the Midas touch

If anything makes this game stand out from other Korean MMOs, however, it's having Atlus localize the project. Atlus is no stranger to game localization, already performing many successful transitions for games like Persona 3, Digital Devil Saga, Odin Sphere, and others.

Atlus is taking their time with Neo Steam, putting just as much effort into it as they do their console projects. Neo Steam has been translated from Korean, to English, and then to "Atlus English" to make sure that all of the appropriate emphasis placed on dialogue and plot development carries over.

Similarly, Atlus Online is going beyond just the translation with their localization. Atlus has implemented a WASD movement system instead of the Korean point-and-click movement, to facilitate ease of gameplay for Western audiences. In addition, the game's leveling curve has been heavily adjusted to remove the heavy grind that is common to Korean MMOs.

All in all, Atlus looks to be shaping Neo Steam into an approachable, yet intricately designed MMO. While there's no word yet on the beta test, you can jump in on the growing line by simple signing up for Atlus Online's games portal, found at www.atlusonline.com.%Gallery-48931%
This article was originally published on Massively.