Throne and Liberty will be officially released in Korea on December 7th, only two weeks from now. The development process was long and rocky and the game went through a lot of changes until today. NCSOFT did something that not many studios stop to do, they listened to those who participated in the betas, the players who watched the gameplays and the content creators.
Feedback turned into changes and in general, modifications were welcomed by most of the community. Because at the end of the day what we all want is a game that we can enjoy to the fullest, and when I say everyone I really mean everyone; developers, players and content creators, we all want Throne and Liberty to be the MMORPG we expect, a worthy heir to Lineage 2.
Does this mean everything is perfect? No, there are still many doubts, in particular with the shadow that darkens every MMORPG these days, the monetization system. Will Throne and Liberty manage to escape Pay to Win and remain profitable? And what about the PVP and PVE content? And the growth system? These are some of the questions that NCSOFT tried to answer in a joint interview with Korean media.
It’s a long interview, but quite interesting. Make yourself a nice cup of coffee and read the full interview below, with Producer Ahn Jong-ok, who is in charge of Throne & Liberty, and Planning Manager Moonseop Lee.
Q. You said that cash items do not have ability stats so as not to affect the balance. I wonder if you plan to continue in that direction and not release cash products with stats that affect the character’s abilities in the future?
A. Ahn Jong-ok: That’s right. We are confident that there will never be a charging item that affects the balance.
Q. It seems that G-Star mainly introduced PvE content. When you separate PvE and PvP, what proportion does PvP take up?
A. Moonseop Lee: I think it depends on the user’s preference, but basically we focused on not forcing PvP. So, users who do not want to play PvP can easily reach max level or adjust their equipment just through PvE. In that line, PvP will likely be focused on users who want to do it efficiently. On the one hand, PvE is also one of the core fun aspects of MMORPGs, but I think there is also a sense of accomplishment that comes from PvP-based competition and victory.
Ahn Jong-ok: It seems like a difficult question. There have been many games that try to kill two birds with one stone, but in the end, I’ve seen them go in one direction or the other, but ‘TL’ plans to somehow balance PvE and PvP and take advantage of both.
Q. It was unusual in many ways to sell a package while making a reservation in advance. Was there a special reason?
A. Moonseop Lee: I guess our game was a bit controversial. Since we are not part of the business team, we cannot say that this is the right answer, but when we discussed it internally, we agreed that it would be good to have an item that symbolizes our changed business model.
Nevertheless, there are people who look forward to it and people who see it with skepticism, and I wanted to prepare a gift that I could give to those people. And internally, when we see that users’ expectations have been met, the development team also feels energized and thinks, ‘There are more people looking forward to our game than we thought.’ I understand that this package sale was carried out with these various aspects in mind.
Q. You said that you pursued a dynamic battle to enhance the user experience, but if you look at the demonstration video, the boss fights in the middle almost without moving throughout. It must have changed a lot since moving shots became possible, so I’m curious as to why they demonstrated that type of boss battle.
A. Moonseop Lee: Just because flashy control is possible, releasing it as it is a different matter. As flashy as it is, there are times when it is not easy to see at a glance. Therefore, these demonstrations are often shown statically to convey information. ‘TL’ also made a new attempt at the control method, so it would have been possible to show dynamic battle scenes if all of these were shown, but there was a problem that it might look dizzy. So, as we chose a model optimized for display, this demonstration ended up looking somewhat static. I’m sure it will feel different in the actual game.
Ahn Jong-ok: The boss pattern is the same. There was feedback about the last demonstration video that the boss pattern was monotonous, so we deliberately chose a boss that was easy to show. On the one hand, I believe that high difficulty does not necessarily guarantee fun, so I avoid implementing unreasonably complex patterns.
Moonseop Lee: To add, if the control element is too strong, this can also become a kind of barrier to entry. At the same time as the class is differentiated, it can be a game that is fun only for those who are good at control and boring for those who are not good at it, and most games that divide sides in this way do not end well. Therefore, ‘TL’ pursues the fun of having users attack bosses together, but strives not to make the game too complicated.
Q. Regarding the collection content of Amytoys and Wild Transformation, you said that content rewards were 80%, events were 5%, and paid products were 15%. I wonder if this is just at the time of release or if this ratio is planned to be maintained in the future.
A. Ahn Jong-ok: That’s the ratio at the time of launch. In the future, Amytoys and wild transformations will continue to be added, and in the case of the ‘Collection Book’, which is completed by collecting Amytoys, we plan to keep it so that it can all be achieved with content rewards and event rewards alone, to avoid creating additional burden.
Q. Even though the weapon combination system was brought to the forefront, it seems that it could not be used properly in the last test. Has this part also changed? In the case of the skill system, I´m curious as to whether it is learned automatically when you level up or unlocked through a skill book.
A. Ahn Jong-ok: A variety of weapons can be used, and as the growth rate has increased, the skill acquisition rate has also increased so that a variety of skills can be used from the beginning. There is actually no item called a skill book in the game. It is a form of acquiring skills through content play such as leveling up. Instead, you need to raise your skill level, but there are separate growth goods needed for that.
Moonseop Lee: We plan to continuously supply new skills by finding the form preferred by users.
Q. As during the G-Star demonstration, the weather affects battles in many ways. How can I obtain skills that affect the weather?
A. Moonseop Lee: There is a skill called transcendence skill that affects the weather. You can get it if you’re at the top of the rankings, but it’s not something you can use often. It must be used strategically.
Ahn Jong-ok: It was designed to be used once or twice a day. From the beginning, it was designed so that changes in the environment and weather would affect play, but instead of allowing users to naturally adapt to the changed environment, it ended up restricting and forcing play. So now its influence has been reduced. Speaking about influence, I think it would be good to see it as a factor that gives you a slight advantage when combat power and skills are similar.
Q. I remember there was a hero transformation system called Guardian Transformation. Is it included in the official build?
A. Ahn Jong-ok: Yes. Seven weapons-related types are being developed, and you can obtain them by simply following the main story.
Q. I bought cosmetic items to decorate my character, but as soon as I run, I turn into a wolf, so I guess people will have different opinions. I’m curious as to why the wild transformation was included.
A. Moonseop Lee: Even within the development team, there were a lot of people who loved having pets, but there were definitely people who didn’t like the idea of turning into an animal. I don’t think there’s really a right or wrong answer. However, we thought it would be a better way to showcase TL’s unique personality, so we decided to go with wild transformations. On a side note, the Western world seems to prefer the wild transformation because they find the existing mounts boring.
Q. I wonder if there is a difference between the domestic version and the global version.
A. Moonseop Lee: Basically, it’s the same. What was interesting was that the feedback was also similar. There are differences in strengths and weaknesses by region on certain issues, but the direction desired by users is consistent.
There was a misunderstanding that the changes were made based on feedback from Western users, but that is not the case at all. It was already decided to make modifications based on tests conducted in Korea before such comments were made from Western users, but I remember being a bit embarrassed by the misunderstanding that occurred due to the time difference.
Ahn Jong-ok: Additionally, we conducted a global test with an improved version of the combat system based on feedback from the beta test in Korea. After seeing the response, we were convinced that we were on the right track and proceeded with it.
Q. The tax transportation content seems interesting, but I am worried that it will cause harm to the outsiders, such as hindering their hunting.
A. Ahn Jong-ok: The tax transport route is basically made to not overlap with the fields and routes that users hunt, so there won’t be any problems like that. The cycle is also not that frequent, about once a week.
Moonseop Lee: Tax transport itself is a content that started from the question of whether competition is all about guilds that occupy specific objects, such as castles, being trapped inside them and preventing invading guilds. It’s content was intended to encourage people to come out and fight more freely, but so far there’s been a lot of response saying it’s unique, it’s fun, and they want to do something with it. As there are many people who want to actively participate, we are preparing internally with great care.
Q. You said that you have strengthened the gameplay by modifying the control elements, but I wonder if you can perform boss battles by yourself if you have good control, and if you have improved the frustrating and slow operation feeling due to the impossibility of moving shots.
A. Ahn Jong-ok: If it’s a content that you can do alone, you can overcome most of it with control. However, facing monsters that require multiple players from the beginning is difficult to overcome due to gimmicks and divided roles. Except for these cases where the gimmick requires multiple users from the beginning, I think controls can be sufficiently covered. In the case of judgment, we developed it as a post-judgment system from the beginning so that we could utilize controls. As an aside, I don’t think it matters much now that it’s mostly a post-game decision.
Moonseop Lee: Regardless of whether it’s a solution or not, we tried to make sure that it’s not just a matter of ignoring the monster’s pattern and shooting skills, but that it’s better to look at the pattern and counterattack to increase survivability and combat efficiency.
Q. I switched from automatic to manual and was wondering if you think it’s better. Also, I would like to know if you had any difficulties in the process, even though you probably had to change a lot.
A. Moonseop Lee: Personally, I don’t think it’s a matter of right or wrong, but rather a matter of different user expectations depending on the platform. For example, it goes like this. When we were testing internally, when we had automatic hunting, we could test while working, so many people participated in the test, but in the manual version, the test itself was more fun, but we couldn’t do it while working. For that reason, I think it depends on the user’s acceptance. However, I felt that manual was more valuable on the PC platform.
On the other hand, when I switched to manual operation, I paid the most attention to the control scheme. I wanted the controls to feel intuitive, so I made sure to focus on effects and coordination, not just on how to switch cameras and move when pressing the directional keys.
Q. I´m curious if all items can be bought and sold through the exchange. Also, there is a fee for trading, but can you get it as a siege reward?
A. Ahn Jong-ok: Items that can be obtained from dungeons cannot be traded because they are bound items, and most of the materials are also bound items, so it is impossible. Instead, items appearing in the field can be freely bought and sold. Basically, rather than buying items through an exchange, we made it so that users can obtain them by playing directly. We plan to avoid simply catching items until they come out of the field and instead engage in meaningful play by receiving requests and going to specific dungeons or participating in events. .
Moonseop Lee: As mentioned in the previous test, the commission is being designed in a way that redistributes taxes from the exchange to users. However, it is too early to say at this point, and I think we will be able to talk in detail sometime next year.
Ahn Jong-ok: In CBT, the commission was about 30%, but the officially released version will be lower than that, and the winner of the siege is planning to set an additional tax rate.
Q. Does automatic hunting no longer exist?
A. Ahn Jong-ok: Absolutely not. I focused on holding each person sitting in front of the PC.
Q. Can weapons be combined freely without any restrictions?
A. Moonseop Lee: There is no such thing as a separate penalty for wearing equipment, and it was made to think about what kind of synergy the combination of options on the equipment and the selected weapon would create. For example, it goes like this. In ‘TL’, you don’t have to wear plate armor just because you have a sword. Since it wasn’t designed that way, I think there will be endless combinations.
In fact, when we tested it internally, we found that there were no biased combinations. In addition to weapons, you can freely choose armor. If you prefer high defense, you can wear plate armor all the time, but in this case, your options are limited. Depending on the weapon combination, you may need to take off your plate armor to achieve better performance.
Ahn Jong-ok: You said each armor has different options, but plate armor has a fighting spirit option, and cloth armor has a mana option, so it seems that the armor combination will also vary depending on what type of play you prefer.
Q. Is there a system in place to prevent macro users and workplaces?
A. Moonseop Lee: Basically, a company-wide prevention system is in place. However, apart from this, the workshop should also have some benefit, but in that sense, ‘TL’ is not a game where the workshop is easy to operate, and if you obtain items that way, only the items you use will come out, so I wonder if there is any point in doing the workshop.
Ahn Jong-ok: When designing the game economy, I wanted to make it a game where you only raise one character. Usually, you make a lot of alt characters and supply materials through daily quests, but ‘TL’ tries to avoid that as much as possible, so even if a workshop comes in, I don’t know what to do with it.
Q. In the case of Tidal Tower, as moving shots became possible, the battle balancing also had to be overhauled. How did you improve it? I’m also curious about how many floors there are.
A. Moonseop Lee: As it changed dynamically, everything from the pattern, attack range, and timing was completely changed.
Ahn Jong-ok: I had a hard time changing it. As the combat style changes, it won’t be fun if you can’t follow it. As it is a one-person dungeon that requires careful control, a lot of care was taken. Tidal Tower is scheduled to reach the 20th floor at launch.
Q. The goal was to release it on PC and consoles simultaneously, but it ended up being released on PC first. Why was the console version delayed and what is the current development status?
A. Ahn Jong-ok: Basically, it is almost the same as a PC. In fact, PS and Xbox users also participated in the global beta test conducted through Amazon Games. The console version it’s almost complete, but the release has been somewhat delayed because the plan was to release a console version while releasing the global version.
Q. In the case of the dungeon, you said it is a seamless structure connected to the field rather than the instance. In this case, it seems inevitable that the problem of monopolizing the space will arise. Users who cannot find a seat are bound to feel a sense of relative deprivation. How do you plan to solve this problem?
A. Moonseop Lee: We can’t explain every single piece of content, but we basically made it so that users wouldn’t be able to enjoy certain content due to any restrictions. The same goes for your position in the dungeon. It was designed to prevent unfortunate events such as someone occupying a seat and a latecomer being unable to hunt because the seat is full.
Ahn Jong-ok: In that sense, control is also impossible. In beta testing, it was set as a conflict zone, but now it has been changed to allow attacks on other users only at night. This only happens 20% of the time, so you only need to avoid it.
Q. The business model of ‘TL’ is different from existing NC games in many ways. Were there any difficulties in the introduction process?
A. Moonseop Lee: Isn’t MMORPG the most fun when many people gather together and enjoy it together? It can be said that the current BM is the result of our consideration of the need for a universal BM that matches the fundamental fun of MMORPGs. On the other hand, as it was a game aimed at global service, there were no difficulties with this BM.
Ahn Jong-ok: As an aside, the ‘TL’ development team, including myself, was a team that had mainly developed PC games before, so we are more familiar with the current BM.
Q. This is a PC MMORPG that has been around for a long time. From the development team’s perspective, what do you think is the competitiveness of manual control?
A. Moonseop Lee: Ultimately, the core of MMORPG is the community. At one time, MMORPGs were thought of as sophisticated, avatar-chatting games, but in reality, many users consider these community elements important. As a PC MMORPG, I believe that ‘TL’ is also competitive in that regard, and I believe that strengthening connections with people is the way to maintain ‘TL”s competitiveness.
It may be different from the market trend, but just because there are delicious restaurants doesn’t mean they are the only ones doing well. You can succeed by targeting a niche that the restaurant can’t fill, and I think ‘TL’ falls into that category.
Q. As a side note, I would like to hear how you felt when the demo version was introduced at G-Star.
A. Ahn Jong-ok: I was really nervous. You never know what might happen, right? Even though I had practiced a lot, I could see that I was making mistakes, so I watched with a trembling heart, thinking, ‘I shouldn’t make any more mistakes over there.’ Still, I think it was very fun. It’s not easy to stand in front of people, but I still wanted to promote our game, and I think I was fortunate to be able to take advantage of that opportunity.
Q. Character collision judgment is useful in siege warfare. Is it still included now?
A. Ahn Jong-ok: In the previous test, we set the collision decision to occur everywhere except villages, but now we have improved it so that it only occurs in conflict areas. This does not mean that there are no collision judgments in the field, but since collisions with monsters do occur, you need to be careful while hunting.
Q. In the previous test, it was said that the main abilities were not reflected every time the weapon was changed, so combinations were limited. I´m curious how this has changed.
A. Moonseop Lee: The primary stat has 4 abilities that match the weapon, but now it has been improved so that damage basically increases regardless of what weapon is used. Now, it’s almost like choosing which area to specialize in. Depending on your preference, you can choose whether to focus on survival, focus on critical hits, or reduce the cooldown if you use the skill often. With this improvement, we were able to see various combinations coming out within the development team, with people saying, ‘It’s good to set it up like this.’
Q. I´m curious as to whether you will grow by following the main quest or by hunting in the field.
A. Ahn Jong-ok: Basically, we made it so that you can grow just by following the main quest. From the development team’s perspective, we wanted users to enjoy the hunting grounds we created more, so we included dynamic events, but from the users’ perspective, they felt that even stopping for a moment during the quest required so-called hard work, so we made sure that they could proceed without interruption. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. I hope you understand that I only did that for the sake of rapid growth.
Q. In Lineage, the Death Knight was treated as a symbolic monster in many ways, but I´m curious if there is such a monster in ‘TL’ as well.
A. Moonseop Lee: I think the Arc Boss falls into that category. However, I don’t think saying that we have symbolic monsters makes them symbolic. It becomes a symbol as users hunt monsters, and fortunately, in a global test conducted by Amazon Games, hundreds of people found the process of catching an arch boss interesting, so it seems like it will become a symbolic monster.
Ahn Jong-ok: Not all bosses are revealed from the beginning. As it is called chronology, content is unlocked selectively depending on the server status, so the first Arc Boss will not be released until about a month after the official release.
Q. Is it possible to change gender or appearance later?
A. Ahn Jong-ok: It is possible.
Q. You said that the core of MMORPG is the community between users, but even so, there are bound to be users who enjoy the story. I wonder how extensive that history is in TL.
A. Moonseop Lee: There are hundreds of short stories or things to read. No one on the development team has collected them all yet. In some cases, the user plays an active role at the center of the story as the main character, and in other cases, the user encounters events that the user has never experienced. However, as MMORPGs believe it is more important for users to create their own stories in the world, they focus more on allowing users to enjoy them naturally rather than forcefully injecting them with stories.
Q. Worldwide, there is a feeling that MMORPGs have entered their twilight years. What do you think?
A. Moonseop Lee: I think that as the way people enjoy games has changed, they have become somewhat neglected, and the market itself has become wider than in the past. In that sense, the ultimate goal of ‘TL’ can be said to be global. Of course, it is true that it is a difficult market. However, if you look at it differently, it is also true that unlike in the past, competitors have also decreased. So, I think that if you work hard, you can achieve good results.
Q. In the end, global success is indispensable, but to be fair, NC has never been successful globally. I’d like to hear how you plan to go global.
A. Ahn Jong-ok: First, we looked back at why our games have failed so far. Rather than developing a game that would work globally, we studied why our games were not accepted globally and tried to eliminate the reasons, and as a result, we found that it was because the worldview and story were not faithful. Western users like these things, but our games lacked them, so we made ‘TL’ with the worldview and story in mind from the beginning.
Moonseop Lee: One of the goals we set internally for going global was to build visuals that would work in both the East and West. Luckily, we were able to see that Haeyoung also appreciated our visuals. They were interested even before we announced our global ambitions.
Next, we needed a partner who was familiar with overseas markets. We thought about how to enter a new market without global service know-how and still achieve results, but in the end, we decided to go with a partner who knows the market best, so we went with Amazon Games.
Q. To what extent are you considering optimization?
A. Moonseop Lee: The goal is to be able to enjoy it with a laptop. Since there are many different classes and specifications depending on the country or income level, the art team is working hard to ensure that anyone with the lowest specifications can enjoy it.
Q. How are you preparing for global service?
A. Moonseop Lee: In the past, I think I only focused on making games. I was of the mindset that if I made it, the publisher would take care of it, but my thoughts have changed a lot after recently working with Amazon Games. When revamping the narrative and the current system, I sent the content to Amazon Games and asked for feedback on what they thought, and I received detailed information ranging from parts that Western countries might find uncomfortable to the changed system. We are working more closely than before, and through this, we plan to improve the completeness of the global version.
Q. Amazon Games has restructured twice this year alone, and I´m curious as to whether there will be any problems with communication as the company is about to launch globally.
A. Ahn Jong-ok: I was still most worried about that part, but we are organizing it in a way that gives more strength to our side, so I don’t think there will be any major problems.
Q. In Korea, many people enjoy playing games in PC rooms. Are there any benefits exclusive to PC rooms?
A. Ahn Jong-ok: I know they are preparing, but it won’t be big.
Q. It seems like the battle system has been completely overhauled and the focus has been on the user in many ways.
A. Ahn Jong-ok: That’s right. The goal is to become a game loved by users. It is the goal of ‘TL’, but it is also an important part of NC’s company. Due to the nature of MMORPGs, the more users there are, the more things to enjoy. I plan to fight until the end to achieve this goal, and I plan to maintain my original focus so that it can be a game that many users can enjoy without the stress of paying for it.
Q. How would you describe ‘TL’ in one word?
A. Ahn Jong-ok: I think it’s really difficult. A while ago, when I said it was an MMORPG for everyone, people asked me what I meant. I’ve also heard that it doesn’t have a target audience, but the goal is truly to be an MMORPG that everyone can enjoy.
Q. Since automatic is missing, it seems difficult for users who started late to catch up with users who started earlier.
A. Ahn Jong-ok: No. Since there is a maximum level, even latecomers can catch up. Moreover, the leveling up speed is very fast in the beginning, making it easier to catch up. So, they are not even considering the Express Pass or the level-up jumping ticket.
Q. Is it because of how fast it is?
A. Ahn Jong-ok: As early as 3 days, if you are an office worker who works 2-3 hours a day, you can reach full level in 3-4 weeks. But everyone knows that, right? Max level in MMORPG is not the end but the beginning. From then on, as there were more things to do, such as item farming, siege battles, and conquest battles, it was designed so that you could reach full level quickly from the beginning.
Q. Pre-character creation was completed in 1 hour. I would like to hear your thoughts.
A. Ahn Jong-ok: It ended sooner than expected. I think this is a meaningful achievement in many ways. Although the number of people that can be accommodated on one server for both manual and automatic games is the same, there is bound to be a difference in the number of users playing. For automatic games, you probably have to turn the game on auto and do some work, but for manual games, don’t you have to focus solely on the game? Even though there were more things to pay attention to, I was surprised to see that more users than expected participated in pre-character creation.
Q. In direct contrast to the dark fantasy background, Amytoys have a cute design. Was this intentional?
A. Moonseop Lee: To some extent, this was intentional. Just because it was a dark fantasy setting, I wondered if something so dark would actually be fun. I think of MMORPG as everyday life, but isn’t every day dark and difficult? Even if things are difficult, you can solve them by comforting them. I thought it would be good to have something interactive in ‘TL’ that comforts and helps users in that way, so it can be said that Amitoy was born as a result of that consideration.
Ahn Jong-ok: In North America, the likes and dislikes are very clear. Some people liked it a lot, while others disliked it, saying it ruined the dark fantasy atmosphere.
Q. Can I enjoy Conquest War and Siege War from the moment of release?
A. Ahn Jong-ok: The first occupation war will take place a few days after launch, and the Siege will be available after about a month and a half. The areas that can be captured are at different levels and will be opened slowly from the start.
Q. I´m curious about the update plans for each seamless dungeon and instanced dungeon. And I wonder if there is a gap between the two.
A. Ahn Jong-ok: When updating a region, seamless dungeons will also be added, and instance dungeons will be updated when the region updates become empty. Instance dungeons are easier to update because you don’t have to attach them to the field. There is no such thing as which one is superior between the two dungeons. However, if we have to be specific, the highest score is higher in the instanced dungeon.
Q. I can feel that there is active communication. If we limit it to the TL camp, how is this communication affecting development?
A. Moonseop Lee: In the past, the development team had no way to check whether we were moving forward properly. Testing used to be the only thing, but now it’s different. The number of communication channels has increased, and users’ reactions can be seen right away, which allows us to know whether we are heading in the right direction. Above all, I think the biggest advantage of this type of communication is that it allows users and the development team to look in the same direction. Moving forward together. This can be said to be the most positive change.
Ahn Jong-ok: In that sense, I think we did really well in the last test. There were a lot of harsh criticisms, but even internally there was conflict about whether this was right or that, but I think I was able to gain the strength to push forward because the users made a clear decision on such issues.
Q. Do you plan to continue communication through the live service?
A. Ahn Jong-ok: We plan to do so, but there are no specific plans yet on how to communicate.
Q. The release date is just around the corner. Please tell us a word about your aspirations.
A. Moonseop Lee: The more people look forward to it, the more responsibility I feel, and I’m working hard to fulfill their expectations. I’m nervous as the launch is just around the corner, but I hope that more users will be interested in ‘TL’ through this interview.
Ahn Jong-ok: Personally, I’m glad to be in this position. It was great to have a place to talk about the game after always looking at data, and we will continue to organize many such events.