Massively: What is the biggest thing you've learned from beta feedback?
Patrick Streppel: Since the EU version has been live since March, we have been able to learn a lot from its first months in operation as well as from beta testing in North America. Besides some server optimization, we have also taken player feedback into account and changed a lot of things for the add-on "Episode 1" that is going live along with the US launch. For example, players told us that there wasn't enough content after the story-heavy prologue. So we have added lots of new missions and re-arranged the content so that it is available for lower levels. We've also introduced some early quests that gradually unlock more sectors in the game universe, which will give players a better idea of where to go and what to do. We also got a lot of feedback about the modding feature, which needed real time. This was dropped in the new add-on so mods are now completed instantly. Last but not least, the UI is now fully customizable and the communicator has been reworked to allow e-mail trade.
How has player feedback been for the item shop and free-to-play model?
When we announced that Black Prophecy would be a free-to-play game over a year ago, there was a huge outcry, especially in the European community. Not only has reality changed and many games turned free-to-play since then, creating wider acceptance of this business model, we have also shown gamers our vision for this on the EU servers. Black Prophecy is truly free to play, allowing non-paying gamers to access the same content and same weapons, items, etc. without spending a cent – they just have to invest more time. So far the feedback for this "time vs. money" balancing has been quite positive – while in other games you can buy big ships and even XP, BP is pretty well-balanced, even for PvP encounters.
We've heard about the focus on PvP, in the forms of Clan v. Clan, Faction v. Faction and 1 v. 1, but some of our readers might be unaware of the game's deep storyline. What would you say is the ratio of PvP to PvE gameplay?
I would say the focus of the game changes over time. As in many MMOGs, the prologue – which takes anywhere between 6 to 8 hours and provides more story-driven content than many recent offline games – is focused on PvE and the story. Then as chapter one kicks in and you decide to join one of the two factions, you slowly start to feel the importance of PvP. There are still lots of PvE missions (and we are adding more every month) but of course, unless you want to repeat them, a lot of playing time will go to PvP. With the Episode 2 add-on that will be released in September we will be adding a territory fighting system that will make PvP even more meaningful for all players, whether they are at a low or high level.
It's inevitable that potential players would make the comparison to EVE Online, because of the visuals. Would you say Black Prophecy would appeal to players of EVE Online, or something else entirely?
I would not compare Black Prophecy with EVE except based their setting and gorgeous graphics. Instead I would say that BP appeals to fans of space simulators such as Wing Commander, Freespace and X-Wing. Those that have missed these classics will feel right at home! For the tactical gamer, however, there will also be an announcement in the future...
Where do we go from here? How do you plan to expand the game's content?
As I mentioned above, Episode 2 is just around the corner and that's when the universe really goes to war. Take control of known locations for your faction, get rewards and dominate the universe! For Episode 3, to be released in the fall, we are already gearing up for even more exciting features, though specifics are still being determined. We've already announced an auction house, clan station battles, more story content and the "station walking" expansion in 2012 that will allow players to get out of their cockpits and go hang out in bars or furnish their own apartments. Black Prophecy is just at the beginning of its journey!
Thanks very much for your time!