Most of the 3500 (yes, that's 35 hundred) Perfect World International developers have been working on the project over the last three years. Previous PWI games took closer to a year to release -- so that might give you some idea of the scale of the game. We've been handing out some nice chunks of information lately, but when I sat down with Jonathan Belliss, Director of Marketing, I found out there was a lot more to come.
"It will be an "accessible, but not game-breaking" cash-shop. In other words, don't worry."
One of the most interesting concepts behind the game is what the team is calling a "chronicle server," or a unique server progression system. Every time I hear about community-picked changes on special servers, I worry about heavy-lifters feeling as though they are doing all of the work. The team reassured me, though, that this would not be a case of gathering materials or killing mobs in the thousands. Instead, it would be an example of the server opening new content based upon players behavior. Instead of taking away something to force players to participate, Perfect World decided to go with a "positive reinforcement" type of system -- rewarding players for participating. Each server will be unique in this way, and players might experience a completely different setting, depending on their server choice. I can see the forum competitions now: who will open special new content first?
I had to ask about two important issues -- items that always crop up in any free-to-play game's comment section.
First, what about the cash-shop? PWI has always been balanced in their approach, but then again, they have never had to pay for such a large game. Would we see the cash-shop filled with the best items? Since the game has been in development for quite a while, they have been able to draw upon feedback provided by the current communities. They know that selling "power" doesn't work, and forcing players to spend money doesn't either. While they might "indirectly" sell power, players will always have access to the items in the cash shop -- even if they do not spend money. The items you'll find will be customization and convenience items. It will be an "accessible, but not game-breaking" cash-shop. In other words, don't worry.
So, about that beta? According to Jonathan, most free-to-plays have a closed beta, only to run the open beta a month later. Not so with Forsaken World. Instead, they are looking at running a more-exclusive closed beta for several months -- during which the testing will be broken down into many phases. It's the largest beta in their history, as well -- they already have thousands and thousands scratching at the door to get in.
In closing, the team wanted to give a shout-out to their dedicated fans. They also wanted to emphasize that they are listening to feedback from those fans, and are "trying to change things across the board, in terms of how people perceive free-to-play." I think they're going to achieve that goal, especially with this new release!
If you want, go sign up for an account on their site. While you're there, you can play with some of the tools in their new social network styled system, appropriately titled Core Connect.
We would like to thank the team for taking time out of their schedule for this interview!