Massively: Why make Hailan Rising when the F2P MMO market is already so saturated with fantasy titles? How did the game come to pass?
Well, honestly, this game has been pinging around in the back of my head for about six or seven years now, ever since my EverQuest
days. I lost a ton of time playing that game, but I always hated the PvE leveling process. I'm also a huge fan of fighting games, Mortal Kombat
especially. I compete semi-professionally whenever I get the chance under my CaliMaestro persona. As good as game AI is, it'll never be as fast, creative, and reactive as another human player. I really wanted to create a game that combines the social activity of an MMO game, the ability instantly jump in and start fighting other players, and a way for player's creativity to be rewarded, all wrapped in a fantasy world that didn't require "the grind."
I was lucky in a few ways. I'd been working at GamersFirst
as a producer for another fantasy MMO that was developed in Korea. At the time, GamersFirst was looking to get into the development side of the industry and was in the process of buying the APB
franchise. I ended up having a meeting with Bjorn Book-Larsson
(current CEO of GamersFirst) and poured out everything that I'd been thinking about and working on in my spare time. He liked enough to let me create a new team and start development. It's a little-known fact that my small team was the very beginning of Reloaded Productions. We'd been in development for about nine months before GamersFirst secured the rights to APB
So how exactly are you planning to remove the grind from a fantasy MMO?
We looked to several areas for inspiration, and we decided that we wanted to make our game as intuitive as possible. Fighting and lobby-based FPS games reward players for their skill and creativity within the game mechanic. Anyone who's played a fighter, say like Mortal Kombat
, can easily pick up another fighter, like Tekken, and already know what he's got to do to win. Same is true for shooters, but RPGs and fantasy MMOs can vary wildly. I mean, anyone who's played World of Warcraft
can pick-up RIFT
, but there's still a learning curve for controls, where to go, what to do, and all of that. Then there's the whole class structure you need to learn, as well as character roles and the best way to defeat certain game mechanics. And all that is great for the PvE player or the raider type, but for PvP players, it's all just in the way. So for Hailan Rising,
we scrapped all of that. Leveling? Gone. Rigid classes? Not here. Hours-long FedEx questing? No thank you.
In its place, we've created a system in which players initially can go out and find Etherea Shards, which are skill-based drops that come from mobs in the start area, kind of like instruction manuals. They teach the player how to do combat: buffing or healing spells or skills they'll need in the large-scale battles. They're also ranked one through five, so you can upgrade your skills to become more powerful. But you have to do it in sequence; there's no jumping from level one to level five.
How are the shards not just a different sort of grind?
They're not tied to the character. In fact, nothing really is tied to the character in-game until it's used or equipped. So you can literally go to the in-game auction house or a vendor and just buy the shards you want. The same is true for gear. If you don't want to wait, you can buy both in-game currency and starter-rank shards right from the cash shop too. So yeah, if you want, you can literally create a character, purchase his abilities, and head into the fray. Or you can spend a little time farming shards, sell them on the AH, and make money to buy the skills you want or the gear you want. It's really a case of do you want to spend time or money to get there. However, once you're on the battlefield, it'll be up to your skills to pay the bills.
How do class roles work? If I wanted to play a healer class rather than a damage class, how would I do that?
That comes out of the Etherea System's tablet and is tied to the shards I mentioned before. So if you want to be in a support role, then you'd want to get Etherea Shards in the support section. Same goes for all the traditional roles. The difference with Hailan Rising
is that you're not stuck with that if you don't want to be. You can mix and match, making you a healing class and a damage class if you want. We've even extended this to the gear in game. If you want to make a Mage Knight who wades into the thick of battle and then casts AoE spells, you can throw on some plate gear and increase your survivability at a minor spell potency cost. The Etherea System is designed to let players be creative about their character builds, adding to the challenge of the PvP.
Surely it won't take long for players to figure out a flavor-of-the-month build. How will the team balance a free-for-all system like that?
Well, we've done our best with the data we have on-hand, and that's why we've moved to open beta. We're planning on tracking all the players' kill stats closely, and if we find a combination that is overpowered, then we'll place limitations in the form of how many active Etherea Shards a build can have, or limit the rank of one ability if you pair it with another. But we're excited to see what our players come up with.
What's in store for the game long-term?
We really want Hailan Rising
to become a new e-sports title. We think that it has all the elements that make it addictive to the PvP enthusiast as well as small and large maps that force creative play. We're planning on hosting player tournaments in the near future, with cash and in-game prizes as we grow. And for the game itself, we want to expand the battlefields to include sea and air combat, new zones, and co-operative challengers too.
Thanks for chatting with us!
When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!