Creating a 2D side-scrolling MMO must have been a difficult decision in a genre oversaturated by first- and third-person views. Was this decision made simply to be something different, or another reason?
To be honest, it wasn't the 2D part that was a difficult decision. Ryu & Soft was formed developing 2D games, and it has become our forte. The difficult part was deciding whether or not it would be a wise decision to jump into the MMO space, considering all the time, investment and risk involved. Going in, we knew it was going to be difficult, but we considered it a challenge and the next step in our growth.
Many are calling this "MapleStory 2". How do you react to that?
MapleStory is a great game that helped pioneer the F2P space, capturing an audience that many overlooked. At the same time, we know that there are those who simply view WonderKing as a clone because of its similarities to MapleStory. Both games fall in the same genre, so similarities are inevitable. Does this make every game in the same genre a clone of its predecessor? No, of course not, since the slightest difference in game mechanics can make a different game. Even double jumping (which players can do in WonderKing) can change the way a game plays. And again, we've been in this business for awhile now and 2D gaming has always been our specialty, so we think WonderKing will be able to stand on its own two feet.
Besides the language differences, what do you find as the most difficult challenge with bringing a highly-successful game in the Asian market over to North America?
When you exclude the localization challenges, everything else is pretty petty in comparison. Of course scheduling, meeting deadlines, and fixing issues in a timely manner are always a challenge, but the biggest challenge would have to be simply starting over and trying to reach and surpass all your prior achievements. So we've been hard at work gauging overall interest and doing a lot of research to ensure a successful launch.
With the gradual Western acceptance of RMT and Item Malls in MMOs, do you think these types of games will soon overtake the subscription plan in the West, as they have in the East?
It's possible, but I don't see one model taking over the other in the near future. Both are legitimate business models, just with different approaches, so I see both types of games co-existing in the foreseeable future. The strength of RMT and Item Malls in MMOs is that players will pay what they feel the game is worth, whether that totals anything or not. And there's really no entry barrier for players to play, so while subscription games could potentially attract 10 million subscribers, a F2P can easily surpass that figure, and that's the real appeal of the microtransaction-based model.
WonderKing is said to target the 12-15 year old crowd. Do you see an appeal to older, more hardcore gamers as well?
Definitely! We actually feel that WonderKing has a mass-market appeal and a certain charm that will appeal to both older and younger audiences, male and female, hardcore and casual. There's plenty of depth for the hardcore gamer to do in WonderKing, but most importantly, we offer that fun factor that everyone can enjoy.
Some of the typical MMO-type features that WonderKing has include housing, advanced pets, mounts, castle sieges, crafting and more. Can you tell us about any other major features you have planned for the future?
We're actually reworking two big features that you've listed-Castle Battle and Housing-to add new elements of gameplay. It's a huge work in progress so these features will be coming a little later after the official launch. The Castle Battle feature will expand PVP-play in that it will encourage large scale battles for more player interaction and excitement. Guilds will fight over castles in a game of conquest, with the winning guild gaining access to the castle and the many features it has to offer, such as exclusive items and dungeons. The Housing System on the other hand is being reworked to include private areas for players to remove themselves from the daily battle. Players will be able to decorate their home, use it to rest, or use it as storage for all their items.
When can we expect to see WonderKing launch officially in North America?
WonderKing is officially set to launch late summer of this year, but those who want to get in a sneak peak can test out the beta beginning July 9, 2009.