Mabinogi: More Social with the Same Amount of Game
Mabinogi was Nexon America’s second release in the United States, bringing a different style of MMORPG. Leaving the avatar-focused graphics of MapleStory, Mabinogi was a more recognizable 3D title that still featured a different visual style than other MMORPGs. It also was an evolution of the company’s development direction in terms of free-to-play titles.
Matthew McCullough, Assistant Producer of Mabinogi, answered my questions about the title.
GotGame: Mabinogi appeared to be Nexon America’s attempt at the more recognizable “Western” style MMORPG while maintaining a more Eastern art style. During the design of the title, is this always a specific decision?
McCullough: We really believe Mabinogi doesn’t necessarily fit into a “Western” or “Eastern” design style. The game offers such an open world and expansive options of game play, it’s hard to pin it down. Some players treat Mabinogi like many other MMOs, spending most of their time fighting monsters in dungeons.
But many players focus on other aspects of the game – cooking, crafting, fishing, music-making – are just a few examples. Our catch phrase for Mabinogi is “fantasy life” and it’s hard to consider it Eastern or Western when you take that into account.
GotGame: Mabinogi originally had a free-to-play and subscription model when it released in South Korea, why did Nexon decide to change the model to strictly free-to-play?
McCullough: It never had a true subscription model. It was always free-to-play but there were subscription-like options to enhance the game and access specific features of the game. As the game grew in popularity, it made sense to lower the barrier to entry.
GotGame: The title appears to mesh a lot of social aspects into the title as well as presenting a deep plot for players. Is there a recognizable divide in how players approach the title?
McCullough: It’s hard to say there’s a true divide with so many options for players to enjoy. As I mentioned in the answer to the first question – Mabinogi really offers players such a wide variety of play options. Beyond what was mentioned before – players can be tailors, weavers and blacksmiths – it really offers so many different play features.
GotGame: Since Mabinogi is free-to-play and content updates are released regularly, what is the difficulty in expanding the plot of the title while consistently presenting players with interesting content?
McCullough: When you’ve got an excited, active player base in a game, such as Mabinogi, the hardest part is making sure the players are able to enjoy the new content. The developer of Mabinogi, devCat, is a really veteran group and they’re very skilled at expanding the game in a way which keeps players interested in plot and content. We’ve tweaked the delivery for North American gamers with some of the updates treated more like expansion packs.
GotGame: How has the title evolved from its original release? Has the community driven changes that development didn’t originally plan?
McCullough: This summer is a great example of how we really try to cater to the community with great events. We had a fireworks event for the Fourth of July and are currently watching our players flock in droves to our Ice Capture the Flag event, which is almost like a video game version of freeze tag! The development team might not be able to listen to everything players wants but it really does try to extend the game through answering the needs and desires of the players.
GotGame: The United States release occurred some four years after the South Korean release, beyond localization what changes did the production team work on?
McCullough: The production team also spends a large amount of time testing new versions of the game before releasing the product to North American players. Many bugs can surface even after the localization of each new client, so we thoroughly test the game for inconsistencies between the North American Version and the Korean version. Additionally, we suggest and often implement North American content so that our playerbase feels that this version of Mabinogi is uniquely “theirs.”
GotGame: Regarding all of Nexon America’s other titles, what is the biggest difference that draws new players into Mabinogi?
McCullough: It really goes back to the fantasy life features found in Mabinogi. Players are offered so many different options in Mabinogi. There’s just not a lot of games out there which offer players so many different ways to play.
GotGame: Describe Mabinogi in one sentence.
McCullough: Mabinogi affords players the opportunity to truly have a unique character; from a variety of physical looks, to fashion choices, and even the ability to learn nearly every skill in the game, almost no character will be the same.
Mabinogi feels like a natural evolution to how Nexon America approached the free-to-play model while adding a significant amount of social relationships to the title. I have to thank Matthew McCullough for answering my questions and visit Mabinogi’s site for more information.