MapleStory: The First United States Release
MapleStory was Nexon America’s first United States release. Since it’s inception, the title has gone though many updates, but continued to draw new players and keep veterans of the title interested in its addictive gameplay.
Of all the titles, obviously contains the most history, but it is also the pioneer for free-to-play in the United States. Bringing a decidedly different approach to a MMORPG, MapleStory could have been a huge failure, but has proven to be a continued popular title in Nexon America’s lineup.
MapleStory Producer Crystin Cox answered some of my question on the title.
GotGame: MapleStory is Nexon America’s oldest title in the United States, what were the challenges of bringing this title stateside?
Cox: I think we faced the same problems most games face when launching somewhere new; translation into a new language, changes to the controls, small modifications to pop-culture references.
We never wanted to change MapleStory’s core nature; we believed that the game’s charm was universal, so our biggest challenge was finding a way to keep the personality of the game, but also make it welcoming to new players.
GotGame: The title appears to have all the facets of more recognized retail MMORPGs, like leveling, guilds, and quests; but what originally interested players into the title? Was it more curiosity or were players looking for something new?
Cox: I definitely think curiosity played a role. At the time we launched, MapleStory looked very different than anything on the market and the idea of a free MMORPG was still a novelty in the United States. Ultimately, I think that it was our early community that really drew players in. Our community has always been tight-knit and eager to share the game with friends and our success was truly built on word-of-mouth.
GotGame: How did players respond to the microtransaction model in the title? When the Free Market was released, did some players move from actively playing the title to simply becoming a full-time merchant?
Cox: The wide variety of options that the micotransaction model provides is definitely a draw for our players and a strength of the game. Introducing the Free Market did open up the option for players to shape the in-game economy and some have made that their focus. Trading items and competing for prime shop real estate is game in and of itself!
GotGame: How has the title maintained its popularity among other Nexon America titles and other free-to-play titles already released?
Cox: MapleStory has a strong player base in North America and continues to grow, surpassing seven million players in its five years of service. MapleStory remains Nexon’s most popular title, having celebrated its fifth anniversary just a couple months ago. With frequent content updates and additions, MapleStory will continue to expand.
GotGame: The original art style is much more simplistic and avatar-focused rather than manhwa or manga from other MMORPGs, did this design decision come from the desire for a wider possible user base regarding computer requirements? How has that changed with how the title looks now?
Cox: MapleStory’s art style is one of my favorite aspects of the game! The choice to focus on the avatar was more about wanting to focus the game on the player and on customization, rather than about computer requirements. The style has aged well over time.
GotGame: What has been the biggest issue for users in MapleStory and how did Nexon America approach it for a solution? The population of the title must require a large community presence to maintain a positive reaction.
Cox: The biggest difficulty players face on a regular basis is leveling at high levels. When the game was designed, reaching max level was meant to be a huge accomplishment that would require a large time investment, but with such long stretches between levels late in the game, it can be frustrating.
Last year we drastically changed the leveling curve to reduce the time between levels, especially later in the game. We have also released more high-level content and items for high-level players that make leveling late in the game a more enjoyable experience.
GotGame: Have there ever been thoughts to overhauling the title rather than just the content updates?
Cox: Along with our content updates, we do occasionally rebalance our character classes to keep the game fun and fair for all players regardless of their character preference. We recently did a complete rebalance of the Explorer classes and have had very positive responses from the players. We are also working on refreshing the interface for the game and rolling out new control options. Content, of course, is very important but we try to keep all aspects of the game updated.
GotGame: How has the title maintained its popularity? Existing for five years and surviving the strong desire for high-end graphics is a big coup for other MMORPGs, especially free-to-play.
Cox: MapleStory has maintained its popularity by delivering a quality and fun experience to enthusiastic fans. We are really thankful to our players for continuously giving us input on what they enjoy and don’t enjoy in the game. Because of their input, we have been able to deliver a fun and dynamic game to an audience that keeps growing. We definitely want MapleStory to remain popular and will focus on continuing to make the game as good as it can be for as long as players want to keep playing.
Thanks to Crystin Cox for answering my questions on MapleStory. With five years already passed on the title and it still remaining popular, it’s going to be interesting to see where the title goes in another five year.
Interested players can head to MapleStory’s site for more information.