Shaiya Interview – 3 Years Ain’t Old
Questions by Chen Fo Po (cinderboy), OnRPG Journalist
Answered by Josh Sell, Senior Producer of Shaiya
Aeria Games has been hosting the North American server of Shaiya, developed by Korean studio, Sonov, since its introduction in 2007 (which is almost 3 years back). The game has come a long way, but the question is: What major changes has the game gone through? Has it gotten better? How is the game holding up against waves of other new MMO titles? Let’s find out.
OnRPG: Hello, I am Fo Po (cinderboy), OnRPG’s journalist. Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Josh Sell and I’m the Sr. Producer for Shaiya. I joined Aeria Games about 7 months after launching our first game over 3 years ago. Joining me is Spencer Tucker, Associate Producer for Shaiya.
OnRPG: Aeria Games has hosted Shaiya since 2007. Your thoughts on this achievement?
With MMOs coming and going seemingly every month, this achievement is amazing. Of course, one of the largest reasons we are able to keep going is by offering the game as a free to play MMO by allowing anyone to check out the game with no obligation whatsoever. The fact that we’re able to continue growing even after 3 years is simply amazing. It surprises even us sometimes and we are immensely proud of what we have been able to accomplish.
OnRPG: What were some of the difficult challenges the team encountered during the past few years?
Whew – this brings back some good and bad memories. One difficult challenge that was ‘bad’ includes a virus that hit our servers, bringing them down for 3 days over the Christmas season in 2008. We were able to reformat the machines, add some extra security measures, and get them back up with bonus events running. Other challenges are considered ‘good’ – one example being that we have so many people interested in the PvP elements of the game, how do we keep the game interesting.
OnRPG: What are some of the most significant changes made to the game?
Shaiya has undergone many content updates, gameplay improvements and usability upgrades over time. We are constantly working with SonoV to improve the user experience and use player feedback to guide us in what changes we feel add the most value to our player base. The addition of a linked PVP server, the auction house system, re-balanced skill system, improved UI and 4 major content expansions are just a few examples of this. We are currently working on our largest content release since launch; this new content will introduce new gameplay elements, such as the invasion system and add more new quests, content, maps and gear than any previous content update. We feel that with these changes, Shiaya retains attractiveness and adds something new for veterans and new players alike.
OnRPG: How has the number of active players been holding up?
Shaiya is still at its peak in terms of active players and this should continue for quite some time. The userbase itself is at a very stable state. Not only that, but we expect the upcoming content release to bring back a lot of old players that may have left at one point or another and mix the old blood with new blood. It’s going to be interesting seeing how it shakes things up within the community!
OnRPG: How do you think Shaiya is performing against the waves of various new MMOs?
I get the impression that we are doing extremely well. Shaiya is Aeria Games’ largest game and we offer it in over 8 languages covering the US, South America, and parts of Europe.
OnRPG: In an age where MMO titles come and go at an amazing rate, can Shaiya be considered as an “old” game?
Personally, I wouldn’t consider Shaiya an “old” game at 3 years. While the graphics aren’t as good as some of the new stuff coming out, they are still considered good. Where Shaiya really shines though is the gameplay. The strong PvP and PvE mechanics still give newer games a run for their money and are very unique, which is further supported by the growth we’ve experienced as well as the fact that we still have tens of thousands of players playing each day. The bottom line is that the game is fun.
OnRPG: Are there any features in Shaiya do you think are still better than the newer games?
Absolutely! For one, the game has amazingly active RvR and PvP elements. Players have objectives that truly impact the entire gaming experience for characters of all levels. When your faction controls a RvR area, the entire faction gains increased upgrade chances, better drops, more stats, and better experience gains. The result is a non-stop tug-of-war for these benefits. It’s not set up so that factions have all or nothing – it’s like a rope that inches one way, then the other, and it’s a struggle the whole way. The second is the structure of our PvE. There are a variety of quests, old school world bosses, zoned bosses, and more. The variety and how everything comes together is really what makes the feature shine.
OnRPG: There are 2 factions players can choose from, The Alliance of Light and Union of Fury. Will Aeria Games do anything to balance the game if either one of the faction is simply too strong during continent wars?
Absolutely, the PVP elements that make Shaiya so appealing as a PVP MMORPG largely depend on a semi-even balance between the two factions. We have previously made several changes ranging from a faction change process to incentives for new players geared at maintaining a balance between the two. We will continue to look forward and if we see an imbalance, we are committed to working with the community and our Devs to develop ways to more evenly balance the factions on each server should the need occur.
OnRPG: One of the more unique features, even now, is the different difficulty modes players can select. Can you briefly explain to readers who have not tried the game before?
The difficulty modes help bring a different experience to different types of gamers. There are four difficulty modes: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Ultimate. Easy Mode is basically for anyone who has never played an MMO before. You level very quickly but are limited to level 30 as the maximum. Normal Mode is where the game really starts and where the majority of players will remain. This is the baseline for leveling up and the level cap is 60, the maximum. Hard Mode gets a bit trickier. You have to unlock Hard Mode by leveling a character to 30 in Normal Mode.
Leveling up is slower, but as a reward you get extra stat points and can use more equipment. Ultimate Mode is for the hardcore gamer. A player must level a Hard Mode character to 30 in order to unlock Ultimate Mode. Leveling up is a challenge, but the player gets a lot of stat points and can use any item appropriate for their class. The kicker: if you die and are not resurrected within 3 minutes, your character gets deleted.
OnRPG: Why the decision to implement this difficulty system in the game in the first place?
There are two considerations for implementing the difficulty system. The first is gameplay. This has to do with the sense of achievement, progression, and overall challenge (especially for Ultimate Mode). Difficulty Mode is an extra element one must consider in PvP and when dungeon crawling. The other, quite honestly, is the business model. Being a free-to-play MMORPG, Shaiya must generate revenues in some way to keep the game running. A big source of this is from the Ultimate Mode characters that use our resurrection runes to prevent permanent deletion. This method circumvents the “freemium” model in a way that allows everyone to experience all content within the game on similar terms.
OnRPG: How bad is the economy inflation within the game due to the influence of gold traders?
The gold inflation late 2009 and 2010 was a bit out of control. There were a variety of exploits that gold traders used to wreak havoc in the economy. Since spring of 2010 however, we have seen the economy stabilize and we are keeping a close eye on items, gold, and exploits to avoid this from happening again. We’re always working to stamp out gold sellers and buyers we catch and compile regular reports tracking the offenders down. Thankfully, with the first ever level cap increase releasing in August, the economy will be revitalized and fresh again.
OnRPG: Any new in-game content players can look forward to in the near future?
Glad you asked! We are on the verge of releasing our largest content update since launch, The Relic of Mystra. This new content will add for the first time, a new level cap of 70, as well as over 300+ new quests, over 250+ new weapons/armor and 2 new entirely new maps for players to explore. These new content additions will be accompanied by a new skill system revamp consisting of over 200+ new skill tiers and a brand new game mechanic called the invasion system. We will continue to work with SonoV to implement future content releases and add even more depth to the Shaiya as time goes on.
OnRPG: Shaiya 2 was teased by SonoV a few months back. Any comments on the sequel?
SonoV is still very tight-lipped regarding Shaiya 2. We’re looking forward to seeing more about Shaiya 2 ourselves. The success of Shaiya 1 means a lot of potential for Shaiya 2, but even we don’t know anything beyond what was teased.
OnRPG: Thank you for your time!