In his last article for ZAM, Sam "azerian" Maxted speaks to Community Manager Jorg Koonen about Runes of Magic's launch, and what else Frogster has in store for the game.
Runes of Magic launched back in March, and the game has already topped one million users. With the game doing so well, we decided to track down Community Manager Jörg "Kerensky" Koonen for a chat about what has happened with the game over the last few months, and what Frogster has planned for future updates.
ZAM: Hi Jörg, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Jörg "Kerensky" Koonen: Hello Sam, it's a pleasure for me. I have been reading ZAM as a fan myself for many years now and being able to contribute a bit to the site myself through this interview is a great pleasure.
ZAM: We all know that MMO launches often don't run to plan. What problems, if any, did you encounter when Runes of Magic was released in March?
Jörg: Yes indeed - a smooth launch is rare these days and although we were expecting the worst, we were rather surprised that Runes of Magic was launched with only the slightest of hitches: We had screwed up a couple of permissions on the forums so that our Mentors (volunteer helpers) and Moderators were unable to access the boards for a few hours. :)
But all joking aside, I think from all the launches I've seen during my time in the industry, the Runes of Magic launch was one of the smoothest: the game was in closed and open beta for a few months, we already had the Item Shop up and running, we had already set up a new server and the website and forums were well prepared (except for the user permissions).
Admittedly since then we might have hit the occasional bump in the road, but we are continuously improving both our processes and the game itself. Runewaker has been proven to be a sterling developer in that regard.
Since then we have surpassed the 1 million user mark - so I guess that proves that we got things right.
ZAM: We know that the game has received regular patches since launch, but what have been the main additions to the game?
Jörg: Shortly before launch, Runewaker revamped the whole combat system, rewriting the formulas to further improve balancing.
We introduced a few new zones, instances and features to the game. For example, take Ravenfell with its Treasure Trove instance for level 45+ players. We added guild castles serving as a meeting point for guilds and which will later act as centre-points for guild vs. guild wars. We've added unique Elite skills for all available dual-class combinations, introduced the Icedwarf and Minotaur instances and added the first Public Encounters to the game.
Then, of course, we added several in-game holiday events like the Spring Rain Event and the Music Festival. Also new to Runes of Magic are the mini games like the Windrunner horse race, a "kart"-like racing game on horseback, not to mention the countless smaller changes to improve gameplay and such.
The next time you ask me it will be much easier to come up with a list, because we are now switching to a 4-week cycle and will publish new content on a monthly basis instead of bi-weekly, making it easier for me to point to a particular feature or piece of content.
ZAM: To what extent have players embraced Runes of Magic's micropayment system, and what sorts of things are they buying?
Jörg: As you know, Runes of Magic is a Free-to-Play game, meaning we do not sell the client or charge a monthly subscription fee but only rely on players using our in-game Item Shop, where we sell potions that can help our players travel faster, save them from accumulating experience debt when dying or give them bonuses on their level progression. We do not sell any weapons or armour or such - all of this has to be collected by the players through the game.
We also offer alternative means to acquire things from our shop by means of the so-called Phirius Tokens that players get as rewards from certain daily quests.
From that motley collection of items players mostly chose to buy mounts and selected potions.
In terms of the shop's performance I can say that it is doing well and that it exceeded our previous expectations - so well indeed that we and Runewaker were able to start hiring new staff to support the game and its players even better than before.
ZAM: Taking a look at the game's message boards, we can see that some players are concerned about the usefulness of non-micropayment currencies in RoM. What would you say to players who claim that their Gold lacks any real value at the moment?
Jörg: We first introduced the option of trading items and gold for Diamonds to give all of our players the opportunity to acquire items from the Item Shop.
When we did so, we got plenty of valuable feedback from our community that we took into account when we decided to try a different approach.
Now, on Wednesday, 27 May, we changed this feature temporarily while leaving the option to trade Diamonds for gold and vice versa. With this we aim at broaden the number of potential uses in-game gold has.
Alongside this we are running a big online survey to gather additional data to improve this feature further and then can, depending on the feedback, introduce other measures if necessary.
ZAM: As with other games, Runes of Magic has its share of spammers in the public chat channels. What steps are being taken to clamp down on them?
Jörg: Spam is one of the most annoying things every game has to suffer from. As soon as a game has reached a certain popularity, third-party sites (gold sellers, farmers etc.) will definitely try and advertise their "services".
At first we had GMs actively patrolling the servers randomly to kick and ban spammers. As "slaying the Hydra" is a time-consuming and almost Sisyphean task, in addition to this continuous effort, the patch due next week will introduce an automated spam-prevention system.
I cannot go into any detail, as this feature has not yet been released, but I can safely say that we are doing whatever we can to stop these parties from bothering our community.
ZAM: We've seen various content updates already, but what does Frogster have planned for Runes of Magic's future?
Jörg: Like I said earlier, we will be adding more content and features on a regular basis. Once a month we are going to release content and feature updates, and every 4-5 months we will release bigger add-ons that will expand the game, introduce new features and continue telling the game's story.
Among other things, the next update will add a new high-level area to the existing Icedwarf instance. I have also seen one additional zone that will be visually different from our existing zones, and has a kind of Native American feeling to it.
For the first add-on we are working on a new race and two new classes which are exclusive to the new race. Of course, they will come with their own starting zones, story-line, quests and equipment.
Other plans encompass PvE and PvP improvements and features that are still in development, so I can't say anything here at the moment.
I can, however, say that we are working on a number of new language versions - our Russian and Korean partners have already announced going into, or have actually launched their Betas. Two more European language versions are on their way and will be announced soon, and we are hoping to launch more different language versions on top of these.
ZAM: Thanks again for talking to us, Jörg. Is there anything else that you'd like to add?
Jörg: Just let me say that I really enjoyed this refreshing interview. Please let me know if you or your community has any more questions - I'd gladly be of service any time.
Sam "azerian" Maxted