Questions by Mike Sagoe (Mikedot)
Answers by Jung Eik Choi, Lead Game Director for First Assault at Neople
We were offered the opportunity to interview Lead Game Director of First Assault, Jung Eik Choi, about the game’s development, the publisher’s philosophy, and how the game brings the universe of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex to life.
Mike (MS): For our readers out there, please tell us your name and your position at Neople.
Jung Eik Choi (Neople): My name is Jung Eik Choi, and I’m the lead game director for First Assault. It’s a pleasure to meet you.
MS: Now as some gamers may already know: Neople’s rise to fame started with the 2D arcade style action game Dungeon Fighter Online, and the 5v5 Action MOBA title Cyphers, both of which are very popular in South Korea as eSports titles, but would you care to tell us a little bit more about yourself, as well as details regarding Neople as a game developer company and the company’s philosophy towards gaming?
Neople: Neople’s Team Waffle is a team of people who are working very hard to make games that players enjoy. We believe the best way to create a rewarding game for our players is to respect and reflect their opinions by listening intently to user feedback.
The game we’re focusing on now is an FPS based on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and it’s in open beta in North America, Europe, Oceania and Latin America, through Steam and the Nexon global launcher. Our fundamental goal with this game was to create a new model of teamwork in first-person shooters by fusing the ideas of the IP into an FPS format. If you haven’t seen Stand Alone Complex, I recommend checking it out. The SkillSync system you see in First Assault was a major component of that series and is also our game’s characteristic feature.
MS: Tell us a bit more about the team working at Neople!
Neople: For additional information and a behind-the-scenes look at Team Waffle, you can find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NeopleTeamWaffle/
MS: So for those that aren’t familiar with Ghost in the Shell or First Assault, give us a brief overview for our readers.
Neople: The series tells the story of a Cyborg law enforcement officer in a future where people can fully or partially prosthetisize themselves. This world is overflowing with information, and even memories can be manipulated. The original series explores the profound phenomenon of human deindividuation that results from prosthetification and a cyberbrain network that is susceptible to hacking by malicious forces.
Drawing from the key concepts of the original series, First Assault is designed to offer a new model of teamwork through the Skill Sync system.
MS: What made you and your team at Neople decide to tackle a licensed IP such as Ghost in the Shell?
Neople: To adapt the FPS genre for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, we needed a next-generation teamwork system that would allow for an advanced form of tactics and strategies, but that would also retain the familiarity of the genre. The original series possessed all of the right qualities for such a system and, based on the animation, we designed the game.
MS: When did the opportunity arise when your team was offered to work on such a popular anime title? Was the game first conceptualized as an FPS or were there any ideas to make the game with a different genre?
Neople: The animation consists of many stories, and each of those stories has the potential to branch into many ideas. Before making a game based on the animation, we first took into consideration the essence of the game we wanted to make and tried to give shape to the ideas from the animation in FPS form. We are well aware that our players want and expect us to go above and beyond the animation, and we are doing our best to carry out that expectation.
MS: What feature (or features) in First Assault do you feel stands out from all of the other countless F2P FPS titles out there?
Neople: The game’s characteristic feature is the teamwork model, which relies on skill sharing and is based on the idea of human deindividuation from the animation. We will also be building on and improving the characters and skills in the future.
MS: So a lot of features from the early access version were tweaked and altered with the help of user feedback. With the changes made available in open beta: How is the player’s reception to the game now?
Neople: We have already implemented about 30% of user feedback we received on convenience features. We also implemented more trivial features in less visible areas of the game. The dev team respects and continually monitors user feedback, and plans on implementing at least 4-5 improvements from player responses each month. This will also be reflected in our coming update.
MS: A lot of characters from the main series including Motoko, Batou and Togusa are available as playable operatives, but tell us a bit more about the newly introduced operative “Kuro” and possibility of his connection with Section 9.
Neople: Kuro is an original character designed by Neople to be a part of the Stand Alone Complex world. He has an EMP function that can neutralize enemy skills, which we thought added a lot to the game’s design. As for the character’s personality, our concept was a sophisticated Japanese man, and we’re designing some stylish skins for him, which players will see soon.
MS: What kind of game engine does First Assault run on? If it’s an in-house engine, when and why was it designed for this game?
Neople: Our current team has evolved from a group who worked together for over 10 years.
The Gamebryo engine we’re currently using is the engine the dev team works with the best and we believed it was the most appropriate for the game’s design.
MS: How did you interact with the IP holder for GITS to bring elements from the original concept into the game?
Neople: We have been communicating constantly with the IP holder, and have divided the graphic and game design tasks to allow development to collaborate with ease. For example, we are continuously receiving feedback from the IP holder regarding skins for Maven and Kuro, a process which I think will keep the original content in our game within the canon of the animated series.
MS: Is there any possibility that the game will feature a co-op mode in the future so that players may play through key events from the GitS series?
Neople: We are continuously gathering ideas. Though it may not come immediately, we will do our best to introduce the features our players want.
MS: Would you recommend this game to those that aren’t familiar with the GitS series? If so: Why?
Neople: Yes, of course. We think that anyone who enjoys FPS games would definitely enjoy our game even if they aren’t familiar with the series.
MS: What kind of content is currently in the pipeline for the game’s future? What kind of events does your team have planned to keep players engaged?
Neople: The dev team has a plan that involves 2 larger tasks–improvements and change.
For improvements, we plan to revamp our current shortcomings with short-term projects, whereas for change, we plan to make the overall experience in-game more fun.
During that process, we will communicate with our players, albeit not about specific content, and introduce improvements that are directly influenced by user feedback.
MS: Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close out this interview?
Neople: The dev team is always going through a process of identifying issues and fixing them.
We value your feedback immensely, and encourage users to continue helping us to improve the game.
MS: Thank you for your time!