In an interview with the Korean media yna, just a few days before the launch of Throne and Liberty in Korea, NCSOFT talked about the MMORPG and the new projects the studio is working on. Choi Moon-young executive director in charge of new game development answered different questions about Throne and Liberty and the present and future of NCSOFT. You can read the full translated interview below.
Throne and Liberty release a week away: “We will build trust through honest service”
“It has been six years since we started development, and we are happy to release it before the end of the year”, Choi said about the imminent launch of TL. He also declared that the number of pre-orders exceeded expectations, so they expanded the server by the end of last week. The number of characters created through pre-character creation alone exceeds 150,000.
TL had many twists and turns during the development process. It was initially planned as a sequel to the ‘Lineage’ series, but then pivoted to a new worldview, and the combat method, which is the core of MMORPG, also changed several times.
About this topic Choi said: “At first, we designed it to prevent attacks while moving to emphasize the strategic elements of battle between users, but as a result of domestic testing last May, we received feedback that immersion was low. We modified the game in a way to preserve dynamism. We also reviewed the operation method from the beginning to emphasize action.”
The TL production team has repeatedly stated that it will avoid pay-to-win, removing probability items from the game and adopting a battle pass that provides rewards based on progress as the main business model (BM). However, some remain skepticale this promise.
In response, Choi said, “We have been actively explaining things through our ‘Producer’s letters’ if there are any questions or misunderstandings among users, and we plan to continue communication in various ways even after the launch of the service.” However, he emphasized, “In the end, I think we need to build trust one by one by showing sincerity during the service process.”
Project E and NCSOFT’s ambition is to turn TL into its new IP
“We have an ‘IP Bible’ that deals with the direction of the entire world view within the company and a ‘Game Narrative’ that expands on it, but the stories covered in Throne and Liberty are only a part of it.” said Choi, and continues: “In addition to TL, we are producing various new works based on the ‘IP Bible’. We plan to establish NCSoft’s own new IP through this.”
One of them is ‘Project E’, an oriental fantasy game that released a teaser video early last year. Project E is a game that shares a worldview with Throne and Liberty, and there has been no news for a long time, leading some to call it a ‘cancellation’.
Regarding ‘Project E’, Choi said, “A small number of people are at the stage of planning key elements, including the genre. The story and settings have been completed together with the TL, and we are also preparing in the form of a media mix other than the game.”
NCSOFT is preparing a number of unreleased new works and actively introducing AI into game production
The company also revealed that it is preparing a lineup of new games to be released over the next five years, including “LLL” and “Battle Crush,” which were unveiled at G-Star.
“LLL is currently in the process of validating its core elements, and the version we demonstrated at G-STAR included most of the major gameplay,” said Choi. “We plan to release Battle Crush after the second round of testing early next year, and while we’re still cautious, we have high hopes that it can evolve into an eSport. We have a number of unreleased projects in development across a variety of genres, and we have a plan for the next five years or so that we’ll be able to roll out gradually.”
There’s also talk of Project M, an interactive movie-esque game that’s had only bits and pieces of information and a trailer.
“Some people compare it to games like ‘Detroit: Become Human’ but it’s not just a game that focuses on story branches based on options,” said Choi. “It will be key to reconstruct the space through deduction and exploration, and for the protagonist to actively create the story through action elements.”
Late last month, NCSoft announced a strategic partnership with Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) to collaborate on future businesses and game IP.
“In addition to SIE, we are also looking to collaborate with various domestic and international partners to expand our IP,” added Choi.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will dramatically change the game development process in the coming years. In August, NCSoft unveiled Barko, its own large language model (LLM) that can be used in games and services.
“We are already actively using AI in the art department, and I think it can be used in stories and dialog in the future,” said Choi. “People who can use AI to streamline their work will be the ones the game industry will look for in the future.”
NCsoft’s performance has been deteriorating since the beginning of the year due to the decline in sales of the “Lineage” series. The company will have to rely on the new games it will release later this year.
“The internal and external environment is difficult, but looking back, NCsoft has always overcome the crisis with good games,” said Choi. “I think next year will be a year when we can show the outside world the ‘different’ results with TL, Battle Crush, and ‘BSS’ coming soon.”