Interview: ASDA Story Chapter 3, The Demon's Shadow
Questions by Vincent Haoson, OnRPG Journalist
Answered by Liz Allen, Associate Producer ([GM] Aris)
Asda Story recently released Chapter 3, the Demon's Shadow. The update adds a lot of game system and game feature updates which will provide "a whole new dimension to the gameplay experience". To see if that rings true we talked to Liz Allen, Associate producer of Asda story to get to know the update better.
OnRPG: That you for giving us the opportunity to talk with you guys. Seeing that you just released Chapter 3 I'm sure you have your hands full in tweaking the game. Let me start off with my first question. How has ASDA Story fared since the release of Chapter 3, The Demon's Shadow?
Asda Story is going strong, and we're very excited about the amount and quality of higher level content we've been adding recently, as well as improvements to game systems overall. We've gotten a lot of varied feedback from the players about Chapter 3, and many suggestions about the direction the game should go from here. Overall, the feedback has been positive-even more so than our Chapter 2 updates. But you're quite correct in saying we've got our hands full! There's a lot that still needs to be done. The update itself was actually split into two parts due to the volume of changes being made. The second part will come at the end of October after we finish tweaking and polishing the part we've just released.
OnRPG: Is Demon's Shadow intended for both new and old players? Or is it targeted to specifically?
Most of the Chapter 3 updates have been concentrated on higher level content, such as adding the highest level boss we've ever had, the Grim Reaper, on the highest level map. We've also expanded our repeatable quests up to level 70, and added in the latest tier of character skills and abilities for our 4th Job advancement at level 60. Our focus has been to extend the amount of high level content for a long time, as our newer and lower level players have a large number of quests, maps, and other content systems for them to progress through. This isn't to say that there weren't any content changes with Chapter 3 that affect our low level players. We've made a range of adjustments and improvements to our existing systems, leveling, and items for them as well.
Faction War was updated with the tax system, which we'll get in to later. But another important change is that the war is now split in to 3 level ranges. This is something players have been requesting for a long time. Low level players can now enjoy PvP without getting creamed by players twice their level, while high level players can better enjoy the competition between rivals.
We always try to add some updates to what I'd like to call our "side-content"-that is, content all players can take part in when they don't wish to go in to battle. We added several new titles to our achievement system, where players have always had fun collecting and competing with each other. The Fishing feature was also updated with new fishing areas, rewards, and related titles.
OnRPG: How did the players receive the updates and changes in Chapter 3?
We've gotten a pretty wide range of feedback so far, and fortunately the majority has been quite positive. Overall players enjoyed the concept of the updates and are looking forward to the second half of the major Chapter 3 update in a few weeks. But, naturally, they have expressed their individual concerns and personal opinions about the direction the updates are going in regards to their own favorite aspects of the game.
As can be expected there's still a lot we want to do and will be doing to get as many of their requests and suggestions added as possible. We've been pretty busy ironing out any issues people might be having with some of the changes and making alterations and improvements to the second half of the Chapter 3 update based on their feedback.
OnRPG: Among the game changes included in Demon's Shadow, which do you think is the most applauded by the gamers?
Definitely the most popular thing that we've done so far is the additional high level content. Rather than any single new thing, I think our players are just happy to have more content available when they reach the current level cap's end-game. For a while now we've been seeing the feedback come in about people not enjoying the grinding that had to be done when they got closer to the level cap. We've definitely realized the need for us to get out more quests, bosses, items, titles for our fame system, etc. specifically for our high level players as soon as we were able to get them ready.
OnRPG: Do you consider Demon's Shadow a game changer for ASDA Story?
As far as the new town occupation tax/bonus system for PvP goes, it's a pretty big game changer. Previously, PvP only affected those who participated. Now, the taxes and bonuses are something that affect all players. It changes the game's economy pretty drastically. The faction that owns the town gets to decide the price adjustment to almost all things that cost in-game gold. This encourages people to participate to get the benefits if their side wins, and hopefully form more of a community bond between Faction members that are working together.
Fourth job and the skill changes that came with it were also pretty big. Previously, all skill points were available to be used in any 1st through 3rd Job skill if the requirements were met. Now, only 110 skill points can be used in those skills, while the rest are to be spent solely on 4th job skills. This really causes players to have to think and be careful where they place their skill points. It adds further distinction between the different classes and the skill tree builds that can be made with them, rather than having all characters of the same class choosing the same hybrid builds. It's definitely increased the strategy in building your character, and added a great deal of variety to the specializations we've been seeing people make.
OnRPG: According to GM Aris in the feedback post at the ASDA Story forums, you guys are going to drive the developers to fix the game bugs of Demon's Shadow. How has the bug fixing gone so far?
We've gotten a few major issues patched up, but it's been pretty tough overall due to scheduling. The first half of the Chapter 3 update was implemented on 8/17, and since then many things have happened. One of our GMs left to go back to school, and at the same time I left for a week on personal leave. This left our new GM all alone (poor guy!). We're getting caught back up though, and we recently opened up a better bug tracking system which should help our efficiency in all our bug-blasting. It's going to be a long battle, but slow and steady wins the race!
OnRPG: Does this mean that the developer's left a lot of bugs in chapter 3 that were "overlooked" before implementation?
A lot of things can be overlooked with any significant content update. While not necessarily always technical problems, with an update this large there are wide ranging effects across all of the game's systems that can have unintended results. Updating a new skill could unintentionally become unbalanced in combination with other skills to the point of needing to be revised once the issues have been identified. Other changes could alter how level progression, farming, and the in-game economy function in certain ways that were not intended and therefore have to be addressed. One issue with bug-checking new content is that you're a small team doing things in a test environment on a tight schedule. To be able to fully identify and resolve some of those problems sometimes requires hundreds of people using those functions in their real situations on the live server before they are even seen to be properly documented and fixed.
With the help of our players we're getting through them with a lot of improvements and revisions continually being made. We'll be ready with more of a clean slate to monitor the effects of the second half of the Chapter 3 update in a few weeks. Because it is more focused on PvP, balancing issues are likely to continue to surface and be worked on. We really appreciate the patience the community has shown while we continue to focus on it. The feedback they've been giving us has been incredibly useful.
OnRPG: Speaking of player feedback, will you be addressing the requests of the players to change the taxation system that was included in the update? Would you leave it be or would you remove or change it?
From a personal standpoint, I feel the tax system does bring something interesting to the game. But, I do agree with players who feel it's unfair to have a system which is purely based on PvP that negatively affects players who don't want to participate in the Faction Wars. That being said, we're definitely considering changing how it works. We're currently trying to compromise with our development and game design teams to see if there's a better way to continue giving perks to the winning factions, but also removing the negative effects, at least for players who choose not to belong to a Faction. This way players that enjoy PvE exclusively by their own preference won't be forced to participate in something they simply don't find fun.
OnRPG: The game's faction war system seems to be getting a lot of flak from players in the forums feedback aside from the tax system. How are you guys handling this and will you be changing the current faction war system?
We'll continue to modify the details and requirements of the system. For example, adjusting the number of players that can enter a war at one time so that larger teams don't have an overwhelming advantage. With tweaks we want to make to the town occupation system and a "Mining War" system coming in a few weeks, PvP should become even more fun and focused on rewarding participants, rather than punishing individuals for being on the losing Faction or not participating.
Besides working to address issues with Faction balancing and feedback we've been getting from players about the new tax system, there are still a number of individual bugs with the system that we intend to get fixed before the second part of the Chapter 3 update. Those things are a bit easier to fix than the balance, but we understand that they're equally important and we're taking the opinions of both avid and non-PvP'ers to heart with the improvements we want to make to it.
OnRPG: What made you guys push with the changes that were included in Demon's Shadow?
The main changes we pushed for with the first part of the Chapter 3 update were the high level content additions, such as getting more quests, the 4th job and skills update, adding more rewarding and challenging bosses, etc. Before I was hired and began working on Asda Story, I had actually been a high level player of the game myself which is what interested me in getting onto the team. I had gotten to a point where there was not much left to do for me in-game at the time, so I know what the players were going through. Reaching that point in a game is frustrating for players, and not everyone likes PvP, so we're always pushing for the next step in content to keep players seeing and experiencing new things and enjoying the game.
The second part of the Chapter 3 update is intended to revise the PvP end-game content and make adjustments to the feedback we've gotten, and it's what we're focusing on most in the next few weeks until the second half of the Chapter 3 update is implemented and polished.
OnRPG: Has the update achieved the goal in terms of adding "a whole new dimension to the gameplay experience?"
Apart from the gameplay changes previously discussed such as the additional jobs and skills, I wouldn't say this half of the two part Chapter 3 update necessarily achieved that goal on its own. The first half was intended to extend and fill the later stages of gameplay for our high level players alongside some system revisions that affected general gameplay overall. The second half of the Chapter 3 update, which is targeted to arrive towards the end of October, is what we feel will bring that "new dimension" to the table with a fairly in-depth new type of resource-controlling warfare and deeper Faction-oriented conflict systems. After we've implemented them we'll be working on something new for our non-PvP lovers of all levels.
OnRPG: With the changes made in ASDA Story care of Demon's Shadow, how do you think ASDA story will hold up against other MMOs out right now?
Comparing Asda with other MMORPGs is always difficult for me, and I tend to never compare P2P with F2P games. Don't get me wrong, I do look to some great P2P games for ideas for new systems, but their budgets and manpower make them a world of their own. It prompts us to focus more on our ability to interact with our community in a more direct and meaningful way than they can just based on size differences.
Asda Story has been steadily improving in its available content and systems for some time now, and I'm still confident it has a lot of room to grow. It's very hard to beat Asda's visual charm and community, and we definitely intend to work more towards bringing out its unique features and a style that is entirely its own.
OnRPG: Aside from the gameplay changes in Demon's Shadow, did you guys include any story-related changes in Demon's Shadow?
We're working towards implementing new storyline quests, especially to flesh out the "Elite Field" maps and encourage parties to form together to go through them. The game has a lot of background story, but we'd like to make it come across in the gameplay a lot more than it currently does. The newest update related to the backstory is the high level map Inferion, ruled over by the high level boss, the Grim Reaper.
OnRPG: Why did you name the update as Demon's Shadow?
Inferion is our latest map, and the back story for Chapter 3 revolves around it and its boss monster, the Grim Reaper (a.k.a. the demon). The story is that Inferion was ruined during an ancient war, and warriors who pass through today would feel its presence nearby like the shadow of the demon was looming over them. The "demon's shadow" has been implemented visually in the game pretty well. When walking up to the summon location for the Grim Reaper, he will appear for you to catch a menacing glimpse, and then vanish into the darkness of the map until he is summoned to fight. It may seem small, but it's one of the more interesting things that has been done visually in the game. The design and development has really improved over the original concepts we saw in earlier builds.
OnRPG: For the last question, what's in store for ASDA Story players in the upcoming months?
As previously noted, the Chapter 3 main updates are in two parts. Our players are currently anticipating a new type of faction war called the "Mining War". We haven't released many details about it yet, but basically the factions will fight to take control of resource-rich mining grounds, where they can drill up special items to create powerful equipment. It will be very different from the current type of faction war, as the three teams will be battling over a single area, perpetually and en masse, instead of running around capturing bases during limited individual wars. The second and final part of the Chapter 3 update is scheduled for release at the end of October 2010 alongside a huge number of in-game Halloween events we have in store.
Other than that, the game is to the point where we feel we've at least covered the basics of the game systems we want implemented, and would like to continue work improving and enhancing the depth of the currently existing systems and functions. We feel there's a lot we can do with polishing and extending the content we have, and that it will profoundly improve the quality of Asda Story. We're currently working on everything from updating our original translations and storylines, working on proposals to change the game's balance and pacing, the reward systems, functions, UI, etc. It's a long road ahead, but we're excited to continue improving things and look forward to our players' reactions when we unveil the changes in the months ahead.
OnRPG: Thank you for your time!
Thanks! It's been a pleasure!