It’s been just over a year since Lost Ark launched worldwide, and the Korean-developed game has proven itself as one of the best new MMOs on PC despite a series of teething issues including server troubles and waves of bot accounts. As the second year kicks off, PCGamesN talks to Soomin Park, franchise leader at publisher Amazon Games, about what the team has learned, its future plans, and closing the gap between Lost Ark’s regional versions.
PCGamesN: After one year of the worldwide release, how does the team feel about the differences between the Korean and worldwide versions over the first year? Have there been any notable changes you were forced to make, or areas where you felt the worldwide release saw benefit from things you learned on the Korean release?
Soomin Park: After the first year of release in the West, we feel great about the differences between the Korean and Western versions of the game. Our policy is to stay as close as possible to the source material for Lost Ark, unless we feel there’s a benefit to adjusting something for the Western audience.
Most of what we’ve changed, aside from localizing text, is game systems where we felt an adjustment would make them feel more comfortable to Western audiences and what they expect from a free-to-play action MMO. That means minor adjustments to monetisation aspects and some game mechanics that we feel help Western players adjust to a game like Lost Ark.
I think the Western release benefited greatly in general from the Korean version of Lost Ark in how much polish Smilegate put into the game’s content before it comes to our region. Lost Ark players in the West were able to benefit from years of refinement and improvement of content and balance by the time those updates came to the West.
Is there a drive to bring over new classes to worldwide servers at a faster rate? Are there plans to push to close that gap to eventual update parity, or are you happy with the difference in cadence between the versions?
Because we monitor players’ progression on the Legion Raids and continents, and because it does take time to localise content, catching up with the Korean build is challenging, to be realistic.
However, I can say that we are planning to greatly reduce the gap between the Western build and the Korean build in our second year of live service compared to that of our first year. The speed of reducing that gap will be faster than what players expect, and new classes will be released at a faster pace than that of new continents and Legion Raids. We will soon have an official announcement that sheds more light on this positive news!
There have been a number of improvements since release to both general quality of life as well as speeding up the grind to move up the endgame tiers. What improvements is the team prioritising as year two begins? Are there any particular areas you’re hoping to address soon, or new ways for players to catch up?
It is true that as the game enters its second year of live service, new users to the game can feel some pressure to “catch up,” given the large amount of existing high-level content. We are continuously discussing this with Smilegate, and will soon have an announcement on an update that will allow new and returning users to catch up a bit faster aside from the existing tools like Power Pass and Hyper Express, which will continue to be implemented. We’re excited to share this news, so stay tuned!
Further to this, Lost Ark has a real focus on its endgame content. How are you encouraging new players to pick up Lost Ark in its second year? Are there plans for more features like the Punika Power Pass and Hyper Express events to help newcomers catch up to speed quickly, or ways to encourage long-time players to help those newer players through earlier content the way some games like Final Fantasy XIV do?
As mentioned earlier, we will continue to build upon and expand tools like Power Pass and Hyper Express to ease the burden of new players coming to the game and want to progress quickly. And, as mentioned before, we will soon have news to share on a new event that will allow new and returning players to catch up faster.
We are always looking for new ways, along with Smilegate, to help the onboarding process for new players, be that through items that accelerate progress or through special events where players can have access to important materials key to advancing their characters.
The Witcher crossover was a really fun collaboration – how does the team feel it went, and are you looking to do more such projects in the future? Any ‘dream crossovers’ you’d love to see (even if they’re not in the pipeline)?
We feel The Witcher crossover was a successful event and we’re glad that we were able to bring it to players. Given that [The Witcher] is so popular in the West, it felt like a great collaboration for our audience especially, since it was a combination of two well-loved RPG franchises. Amazon and Smilegate are always talking together about future content and things we can bring to audiences in both Korea and the West, and crossover events are something that we will evaluate for the future.
Lost Ark has suffered quite a few issues in recent months – bugs and exploits that led to server downtime, stability issues that were causing disconnects in raids, and of course the issue with inactive player accounts being mistakenly banned, which was later reverted. What has the team learned from these to help smooth out and minimise such issues in the future?
As with any live service game, there are some hiccups and things to be ironed out. Our first year with Lost Ark saw some growing pains, but one big positive to take away from those challenges is how well Smilegate and Amazon worked together to remedy them for the community. Many severe issues were fixed in a couple of days, and the community was compensated for the issues.
Some issues have persisted, like the situation with bots, but have improved over time. Smilegate and Amazon remain committed to improving on these issues for Lost Ark’s second year to create the best possible experience for players in the West.
Further to this, there’s a lot of discussion around compensation offered following such problems – what goes into determining the appropriate amount to hand out, and who should get it?
This is a combined decision between Amazon Games and Smilegate. Smilegate or Amazon Games will bring up a proposed compensation package and distribution strategy, and the two teams will discuss it and come to an agreement on compensation. The decision is always a collaborative effort.
You’ve done a lot of work recently to try and combat bot accounts. Have you seen tangible improvements from this rollout so far? How are you working to continue to improve the experience for players and ensure there aren’t as many bots disrupting gameplay and the economy?
Bots are one of those issues mentioned earlier that still persist in the game to some degree, but the situation has improved greatly from where it was last year. With every tactic we deploy, we learn something new and we get better at getting bots under control. But solutions that work today won’t necessarily work in a year, that’s the evolving nature of this problem. It’s a bit of a moving target, but one that both Smilegate and Amazon remain committed to working on for our players.
What’s the one future update the team is most excited for players to see?
There’s some great content coming to the game this year, but I don’t want to spoil it for fans! I encourage you to keep an eye on the Lost Ark website and social media channels for updates.
Interview with Soomin Park conducted by PCGamesN via email.
See what’s up next for the RPG game in our look at the Lost Ark Tulubik Battlefield, which features grand-scale factional warfare with up to 96 players at once. If you’re looking to jump in and try the game yourself, take a look at our Lost Ark class tier list and handy guide to finding all Lost Ark Mokoko Seeds in the game.