The Open Beta for Dragon Oath begins running today and thousands of the early entrants into the Closed Beta are marveling at their initial experiences with the game. With all of the information in the game now available to the general public, we are interested in the users’ responses to its Closed Beta and the company’s future plans to stand out in the crowded MMO market. Martin Tan, general manager of the game’s publisher, takes us through the game’s world and offers his thoughts on the state and future of MMORPGS, especially the free-to-play genre.
1. How were the users’ responses to the Closed Beta?
Gamers have a global community. They share a lot on those online game forums. Some American gamers have heard of the Chinese version of Dragon Oath before, and are excited that the game will be launched in the U.S. so that they can finally try out the game themselves. We noted that our users are especially interested in the huge variety of pets and mounts in the game. Not only can they breed their own pets, but they are also thrilled by the 24/7 continuous live in-game events. These are features they typically will not find in other games. We are delighted with some of the positive feedback received and the momentum we are seeing in the game. Last week we saw the creation of our first guild city, a task in our game that is very hard to achieve given the limited time we have been in closed beta. I even attended a wedding within the game that had a high turnout rate. So overall I would say the players are quite excited about our game Dragon Oath.
2. What in Closed Beta indicates that Dragon Oath’s performance in U.S. will have some comparable level of success to that in China, where it is one of the most popular online games with 850,000 peak concurrent users?
User feedback during Closed Beta indicated that Dragon Oath is of similar quality as some of the best MMORPGs in the U.S. After over two years of developments and upgrades in China, what was brought to the U.S. market is a more developed and mature version. Besides, we believe the game offers players a unique gaming experience.
3. Any major changes suggested by players during the Closed Beta?
As we move into Open Beta and receive even more suggestions from players, we will look at the possible ways in which we can utilize players’ feedback for future releases because we are always interested in creating games with features that players would like to see. With the game having been in operation in China for over 2 years, the current version of our game already incorporates the ideas of many players. For example, when we first launched the Chinese version of Dragon Oath in China, it didn’t have as many pets and mounts as we have in the game today. It was only later, after our users told us what other types of pets and mounts they would like to have in the game that we added these features in. Same for armor sets. We believe players in the US will benefit from all these add-on items that will make their playing experience more fun and fulfilling.
Also, we will be opening up many new features for the Open Beta, such as “Martial Arts Battle”, an event in which every class will choose contestants to represent the class to fight and at the end of the battle, all members of the winning class will receive 3x of the normal quest rewards for a period of time after the event. In celebrations of the Open Beta launch, we will be holding special events both in-game and off-line, and will be giving away many great gifts. For more updates, players are welcome to visit our website www.DragonOath.com.
4. What are the biggest challenges during the Closed Beta?
Translation was difficult for a game this big. Certain Chinese ideas are hard to express in English. So our localization team, which consists of bilingual American veteran gamers, worked really hard on this. For every episode in the game, even small episodes, our team would translate multiple times until our local testers are satisfied. The Closed Beta was very helpful in this aspect. Now we feel we are ready to launch the game.
5. What expectations do you have for Dragon Oath in North America, in terms of player acceptance?
Players that try out Dragon Oath will find something really unique and different in this game from what they are generally used to playing. For example, in our game, marriage is an actual in-game function, so when you head out on adventures with your spouse in the game, you will get the benefit of extra experience points. So if gamers are looking for a different gaming experience from what they have had in the past, Dragon Oath is a game they should try. Dragon Oath also contains familiar concepts found in other games, like questing, guilds, pets, and mounts, but also includes new ways of doing things, for example the experience points you earn through questing can be used to increase your level and stats, or buy new skills. On the other hand, most other online games give you free skills just for leveling up. This change in core concept will really make spending experience points exciting for gamers because it is no longer simply about just getting to the next level. We are looking forward to see the level of acceptance by users to these new ideas and will continue to seek ways to enhance Dragon Oath and future games based on the feedback we get from launching our first game in the US.
6. How has the ChangYou.com (US) Inc.’s background as the U.S. subsidiary of China’s leading online game developer and operator contributed to the launch of Dragon Oath in U.S.?
One of the most important factors differentiating the free-to-play game industry in the East and in the West is people. In China, there is already a large population of online gamers playing our game. As such, we are experienced with managing games that have large number of people, which will allow us to provide better customer support and live game event management to our US players.
7. What should players be looking forward to in Dragon Oath Open Beta?
We are opening up many new features for the open beta:
Martial Arts Battle. The Martial Battle opens every Thursday from 7:00pm to 8:00pm and every Sunday from 3:00pm to 4:00pm. Every class will choose contestants to represent the class in the battle. All members of the winning class will receive 3x the normal quest rewards for a period of time after the event.
Kung Fu World Soccer Game
On the first Sunday of every month from 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm, the Kung Fu World Soccer game is held in the Luo Yang soccer field, and in celebration of Open Beta, there will an additional game held on September 8th.
There are 20 examiners in Da Li, each with 10 questions. Players can find the next examiner by following the directions given by the previous one. By joining Trivia, players have the chances to gain experience points as well as special items when they answer correctly. If the player makes it into the 2nd round, the player will also have the chance of winning other awards and items. The first 3 winners in the 2nd round will be granted titles and awarded in-game items.
Fight for the Treasure Map
Players who reach level 30 can accept the Treasure Map quest. By defeating gangsters, players will gain experience points, gold, and possibly a treasure map.
Players can join the lottery by talking to Da Li’s (266,127) Lily White for a chance to win the Platypus, Luxury Blue Capsule, Luxury Red Capsule and Little Donkey after collecting all four word papers items which are “Master, Disciple, Happy, and Strong”. In addition, both master and disciple can team up and get nice awards from Da Li’s (266,127) Lily White if the disciple levels up to Lv 30 and Lv 45, and if the friendship points between the two reach 500 from just this quest.
Pet Island Monster Patrol
There are flying cats, pigs, puppies, eagles, and tigers in the Pet Island! Oh my! Players should beware.
8. Do you allow players to keep their open beta characters after the launch of the game? Do you have a planned level cap for the pre-launch participants?
We will not delete any characters at the current stage, and we will have a level cap of 70.
9. Should we expect a major update to the game within a few months after launch?
You can look forward to monthly updates and expansion packs typically every 3 to 4 months. Also, we will have special in-game events for certain festivals and holidays throughout the year. A lot of fun and surprises to come!
10. There are perhaps some stereotypes about free-to-play games – mainly that if it costs nothing the quality can’t be as high as something like World of Warcraft. How does Dragon Oath challenge these assumptions?
Results will tell us in time. We have been doing this in China for over two years – offering a quality game free of charge. I understand many gamers think that “free-to-play” means low quality graphics, a lot of bugs, and endless tricks to have them spend a lot of money. But with Dragon Oath, gamers will notice that the whole game is highly developed and we believe our game provides intricate game-play that is comparable to some of the best pay-to-play games out there in the market. We believe Dragon Oath will provide gamers a different playing experience from what they find in World of Warcraft given the unique characteristics of our game as I have introduced earlier.
11. In terms of the business model of Dragon Oath – micro-transactions, are you different from other free-to-play games which are funded the same way?
Many free-to-play games require their users to buy virtual items like special weapons or armor that isn’t available through normal game-play, if they want to stay competitive or access all available content. Dragon Oath doesn’t do that. For example, we don’t sell armor sets in the Token Shop. Also, some of the items we sell in the Token Shop can be gained through normal game-play. We strive to offer various features for different types of players so that even players that do not have deep pockets can enjoy the game, such as various community-building features and team-based activities. Ultimately, our aim is on building long-term loyalty from players.
12. Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Come play Dragon Oath and experience “Nine Destinies and Infinite Possibilities”. We’re ready for you to prove yourself and become a Kung Fu master.
Dragon Oath started their Open Beta Nov. 5th, with the commercial launch coming soon. To register an account, head over to the game’s official site.