Alliance of Valiant Arms Global Comeback Announced

Online shooter Alliance of Valiant Arms shut down in the west in 2018 and since then news hasn’t been great for the game’s creator the South Korean studio Red Duck. Red Duck fell on some hard financial times and its assets were made available in a bankruptcy auction. Neowiz bought up Alliance of Valiant Arms, Red Duck’s most prized asset and has big plans for the game. Current versions will continue to be available but an Alliance of Valiant Arms global comeback is also in the works.

Alliance of Valiant Arms

Neowiz is best known for Bless Online but they were also known as the publishers of Alliance of Valiant Arms in South Korea. This is great news for A.V.A fans as it means that the studio taking over is already familiar with the IP. They already have plans for new content for the game though nothing has been announced yet. It was quite a surprise when Alliance of Valiant Arms shut down in North America and Europe considering its global popularity. We will be following this story closely and eagerly anticipating the global relaunch of the game. Though this may be several years down the road. Hopefully, though we will see their progress at one of next year’s conventions.

Did you play Alliance of Valiant Arms before it shut down? Are you looking forward to it coming back or have you moved on to other games? We’d love to know your thoughts on the return of the game. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Source: MMOCulture

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Bless Online Developer Merging with Parent Company

Bless Online developer Neowiz Bless has announced that the independent subsidiary will dissolve and merge with its parent company Neowiz. This is happening as Bless Online didn’t have the success that the company had expected either in their native country South Korea or abroad. The official reason for the merger is to “enhance management efficiency” and “enhance corporate value.” The good news is that this merger is unlikely to have much of an impact on shares. This is because the company was wholly owned by Neowiz. At the moment it isn’t clear what all of this will mean for Bless Online. However, Bless Unleashed which is launching on Xbox One later this year will still be released.

Why Steam Can Be a Terrible Thing For MMO Players - Bless Online

One can’t help but wonder if the immense amount of time in between the announcement of Bless Online and its release had something to do with the game’s trouble finding success. Those who were excited when it was announced found themselves waiting years before the game was finally playable. By which time attitudes had changed and interest in the game had died. On Steam Bless Online has mixed reviews, just 40% of 9,700 views are positive. According to SteamCharts in the last 30 days, the peak number of players playing Bless through Steam has been just 691. When you look at the numbers like that it’s pretty easy to see why this merger is taking place.

There’s no word on how many jobs will be lost in this merger, but hopefully, everyone lands on their feet quickly. The merger is set to take place before June 19th and we expect to find out more about the future of Bless Online in next couple of months before Neowiz Bless shuts down for good.

 

Source: MMOCulture, SteamCharts

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10 Absolutely Shocking or Surprising MMO Events

The video game industry isn’t all about making games; that would be so downright boring. That is why now and then we get a shocking scandal, surprise announcement or surreal occurrence. Here are 10 controversial or surprising happenings that spread like wildfire and in some way changed the industry.

Save the Whales – Lockbox Legislation Around the World

Video Game Industry Scandals Star Wars Battlefront 2 lockboxes

Do you like gambling? Great! So why aren’t you inside a casino? Oh, that’s right, most games nowadays come with some sort of gambling feature called lockboxes. The premise is simple and ingenious: you are promised amazing in-game rewards that will be all the rage. So, what should you do? Purchase more and more of these boxes to increase the odds of getting that rare piece of gear or costume. Go on, put that credit card to use, games don’t make themselves, you know?

That was sarcasm, in case you didn’t notice. Always be responsible with your spending.

The shady thing with lockboxes is that the odds of really getting something worthwhile are incredibly slim and shrouded in secrecy, not to mention that they have this tempting allure that many players aren’t able to resist. It does sound a lot like gambling, right? That is how you end up spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on randomized pieces of loot.

Oddly enough, it was China that first started looking into this matter and demanded that developers publicly revealed the odds of earning an in-game item. Crossfire was one of the first games to come to light and the ludicrous 3% proves that lockboxes are a wonderful deal… for publishers.

Other regions such as Belgium and The Netherlands started investigating lockboxes, with some games such as Overwatch stopping the sale of lockboxes in affected regions. Electronic Arts was involved in this controversy as well, with games such as Star Wars Battlefront 2 and FIFA 18 being mentioned as examples. Of course, other countries aren’t entirely sure about this subject. France and Ireland, for example, aren’t the biggest fans of lockboxes but see this practice as a legally grey area.

Lockboxes are a touchy subject and will surely continue to be discussed during the following years. My advice to you is: if you really like a game and want to support the development team by spending some money, which you should totally do, look at the item shop and leave lockboxes alone.

 

Riot Games Bro Culture, Testicle Flicking and Gender-Based Discrimination

Video Game Industry Scandals League of Legends Riot Games

Riot Games achieved intergalactic fame riding on the success of League of Legends, but by late 2018 it was talked about due to the worst possible reasons: an alleged culture of sexism, a “giant fraternity,” and a “bro culture” where women were not welcome. It was a place where women were discriminated against, as their career progression was stifled as positions went to less-qualified men.

Kotaku created an amazing article with several interviews that dropped like a bomb in the already fragile and scandal-ridden video game industry.

Naturally, this piece spread like wildfire and had severe repercussions, with Riot Games having to undertake some serious damage control. Riot’s COO Scott Gelb was in the spotlight by facing accusations from multiple employees about repeatedly flicking testicles, farting on employees or humping them for comedic effect. Sounds like a lot of fun when you are on the receiving end, right?

To cut a long story short, several former Riot Games employees started sharing their experiences after reading the articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and the least that can be said is that it is some heavy reading. Riot Games eventually apologized, but the damage was done, and the past can’t be erased. How it has affected the studio – and League of Legends – remains a bit of a mystery, but I doubt that it did them any favors. And it’s so easy to apologize after your humiliating studio culture is revealed to the world…

 

A Bad Case of Battle Royale – PUBG Corp Sues Left and Right

Video Game Industry Scandals PUBG

Here’s a lawsuit for you! And you! Everyone gets a lawsuit!

There is no denying that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was the game that kickstarted the Battle Royale craze. It remains as one of the most played games in its genre, but it is now trailing behind Epic Games’ Fortnite, and Respawn’s Apex Legends is also proving to be a worthy challenger.

However, if there is one thing that developer PUBG Corporation can’t claim is having invented the Battle Royale genre or its mechanics. That is why suing Epic Games sounded more like a desperate attempt to put a stop to the rising fame of Fortnite Battle Royale than an authentic, credible case. It felt more like a kid throwing a tantrum because someone stole his candy. His delicious, everlasting candy.

But before the Epic Games lawsuit, there was a previous one targeting NetEase. PUBG Corporation wasn’t pleased with Knives Out and Rules of Survival, going to the extent of detailing several game mechanics over 100 pages. Claiming copyright infringement for things such as a pre-game lobby, the air jump, character attributes and much more seems a bit of a stretch. Sure, I’ll admit that the frying pan armor may be somewhat original, but still…

PUBG is a huge success and shady copycats were bound to happen, but it will be a depressing day when a studio is granted the copyright for trite game mechanics or a completely unremarkable game idea. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that the day will never come.

 

Trust Us, This Time It’s Good – Bless Online Western Release Mess

Video Game Industry Scandals Bless Online

Bless Online is the perfect lesson in exaggerated hype and subsequent disappointment. May its legacy serve as a warning for future generations about the dangers of high expectations.

For the lucky few who aren’t aware of the whole situation, Bless Online is a Korean fantasy MMORPG that was several years in the making and had a large budget as well. A few lackluster betas led to a Rebuild project that ended up not changing that much, and the attrition between original western publisher Aeria Games and developer Neowiz was a clear sign that Bless Online wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

Ultimately, Neowiz decided to self-publish Bless Online in the west through Steam, but with a major twist – it was going to be buy-to-play! An unfinished, buggy mess of a free-to-play Korean game that the western crowd was now expected to pay for. Oddly enough, many players cheered this decision because things are always better when you pay, right? With the reality shock and negative feedback stemming from the Early Access phase – because Bless Online wasn’t in development for long enough, you know –, there was a 180º turn and Bless Online’s official launch marked a switch to the original free-to-play business model. Too little, too late?

Apparently, yes. As the original Korean servers shut down, along with the failure of the Russian and Japanese versions. The Steam release of Bless Online is now the sole focus of Neowiz. Unsurprisingly, it is bleeding players and its future is uncertain, to say the least.

But I saved the best for last! Out of the blue, Neowiz and Bandai Namco announced Bless Unleashed, further stirring up the hornet’s nest, a.k.a. Bless Online PC players claiming that resources were being shifted to this upcoming game. This Xbox One exclusive is developed in Unreal Engine 4, is free-to-play and is scheduled for a 2019 launch. How does that old saying goes? Fool me once, shame on you…?

 

Who’s the Parent – Daybreak / Columbus Nova Chaos

Video Game Industry Scandals Daybreak PlanetSide Arena

Daybreak Game Company was in the spotlight for an important part of 2018, and no, it wasn’t due to the massive layoffs (around 70 people). It was because of all the confusion surrounding Daybreak’s alleged parent company, Columbus Nova.

The makers of Z1 Battle Royale, DC Universe Online and PlanetSide Arena, among others, were involved in a tangled web of miscommunication, doubt and unexpected twists. Daybreak has officially denied any affiliation with Columbus Nova, claiming that Jason Epstein, former member of Columbus Nova, is the primary owner of the studio. This conflicts with a 2015 privacy policy which described Columbus Nova as the parent company.

This almost feels like a detective movie, involving a Russian oligarch, billions worth of frozen assets and nail-biting suspense. All that is lacks is a romantic subplot, but let’s not make it more complicated than it already is.

 

Elves on Spaceships – Pearl Abyss Purchases CCP Games

Video Game Industry Scandals Black Desert Online

What does it take for one Korean studio to acquire a hugely reputed developer with a massive hit that has been live for more than 15 years? The answer has three words: Black Desert Online.

Pearl Abyss delivered a stunning MMORPG that is almost unrivaled when it comes to graphics and action combat. It is also incredibly deep and complex – so much so that it’s awfully grindy and requires a hefty dose of patience, and usually money, to become a powerful player. There are reports of players having spent over $5,000 USD on Black Desert Online, and I’m betting that is the tip of the iceberg.

With such revenue numbers, it’s clear that Pearl Abyss had a bit of pocket money. They decided to use it on the acquisition of CCP Games, makers of the intergalactic epic EVE Online. Apart from the upcoming release of EVE Online in Korea, we don’t know what other plans Pearl Abyss has for the Icelandic studio. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t involve spaceships landing in Black Desert Online.

 

A Handful of Nothing – Wargaming Seattle Closes Without a Single Release

Video Game Industry Scandals World of Tanks

Gas Powered Games is a name that brings back some pleasant memories. It takes me to a time when I enjoyed playing the Diablo-like Dungeon Siege, or the complex real-time strategy series Supreme Commander. However, in 2013 the studio was suffering from severe financial issues and ended up being purchased by World of Tanks publisher Wargaming.

Thus, Wargaming Seattle was born, along with hopes of a new “big free-to-play MMO” that never saw the light of day. Five years later, not a single piece of info or a measly screenshot was released to the public, and Wargaming decided to cut its losses. The studio was closed, affecting a 150-strong team and leaving the gaming community oblivious to what kind of project was in development.

However, this isn’t stopping Wargaming’s ambitions. The Belarusian company acquired Edge Case Games in November 2018 and has several partnerships with various developers, one of the latest being Ukrainian studio Frag Lab, which is working on a next-gen free-to-play MMO first-person shooter.

 

Not So Heroic – Marvel Heroes Downfall

Video Game Industry Scandals Marvel Heroes Gazillion

There was once a time when Marvel Heroes merged the best of two worlds: Diablo-like gameplay and super heroes. Sure, it didn’t have the greatest start, but just as it happened with other online games – League of Legends is the perfect example –, it eventually got better as development progressed, gameplay was finetuned and new heroes joined the fray.

After a few years of live service, some worrying news came to light, and not all of them involving the game. A sexual harassment scandal concerning Gazillion’s CEO Dave Dohrmann is a major problem, and Disney’s (owner of Marvel) intention to cut ties with Gazillion was a death sentence. It all ended with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2018, meaning that the studio wasn’t paying its creditors and was forced into bankruptcy by the same entities.

Gazillion workers ended up without any kind of PTO or severance, making the entire situation even more dramatic.

 

Worlds Divided – Gamigo Buys Trion Worlds

Video Game Industry Scandals Trove

Trion Worlds was once one of the most prolific free-to-play games publishers and developers. Trove, Rift, Defiance and Atlas Reactor are all their own doing, and you certainly have heard about ArcheAge as well.

While some of these games were moderate successes, they weren’t enough to keep the company afloat. In October 2018, German publisher Gamigo acquired Trion, along with the full rights to the aforementioned games. They even managed to get a few Gazillion assets (makers of Marvel Heroes) in the deal as well.

Gamigo was undoubtedly one of the top players in the free-to-play market when the genre was on the rise. Recently, however, its catalog is more discreet, with the decent shooter Ironsight being one of the latest releases.

 

Guild Lost – ArenaNet Layoffs and a Grim Future

Video Game Industry Scandals ArenaNet Guild Wars 2

For some reason, ArenaNet felt to me like one of those studios that couldn’t do any wrong. Sure, it’s not like they have done much besides Guild Wars and its sequel, but both MMORPGs were critically and commercially acclaimed, thus my appreciation and admiration for their spotless track record.

Nonetheless, there are very few studios that manage to keep going for years without the occasional new release. Founded in 2000, ArenaNet was allegedly working on two new projects, but delayed development and a shift of staff from Guild Wars 2 to these unannounced games ended up being an unsuccessful move.

Reports mention over 100 layoffs at ArenaNet following a restructuring decision by the studio’s owner NCSoft. The future of ArenaNet is now uncertain, and if there aren’t any new games in an advanced stage of development, there is only so much that new Guild Wars 2 expansions can do. I fear that we will end up seeing the talented staff being engulfed and separated by NCSoft in a not-so-distant future.

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Bless Online Developer Interview

Bless Online recently released its level 50 update. To help explain what this update brings, and the future of the game, we spoke with JC Lee, the head of development for Bless Online.

Why Steam Can Be a Terrible Thing For MMO Players - Bless Online

Will there be any changes to the crafting system? New Recipes?

Although there aren’t any changes to the crafting system itself, the maximum amount of crafting materials of the same type that can be stored in 1 inventory slot has been increased, and new crafting recipes for new equipment related to Zeeto’s Laboratory have been added. Aside from that, the crafting recipes for equipment and accessory enhancement materials (Ymir’s Horn/ Sharp Horn of Ymir / Ymir’s Skin / Sturdy Skin of Ymir / Ermekis’ Energy / Power of Ermekis) that can be earned through crafting have also been changed due to changes to the enhancement system.

 

Will new players be able to experience some of the content or is it reserved exclusively for higher levels?

The new raid, Zeeto’s Laboratory, is a level 50 raid, and the new areas and story quests are intended for level 50 players. However, the other improvements and additions we made such as the enhancement system streamlining and the new guild features will be enjoyable for all players.

 

In your news release you mentioned quality of life improvements – could you elaborate more on that?

Probably the biggest QoL change is the streamlining of the enhancement system – we felt that previously it was too complex and not as intuitive for players to use. By reducing the categories for enhancing, we think it will be much more user-friendly for both new and experienced players. We’ve also added new guild features, made UI and UX improvements, and rebalanced some class skills, and fixed a variety of bugs and issues.

 

What new skills can we expect to see with the level cap increase?

There will not be a skill expansion within the level 50 update. It is currently being developed as a separate, future update.

 

Can you tell us a little more about what we can expect to find in the burning desert?

Geographically, there are a lot of interesting areas. For instance, there’s a Sandworm Pit located in the middle of the desert that has a Baraka nest, and players need to jump over the floating stones to get there. Even though characters don’t suffer any damage if they fall, they might get eaten by the sandworms below there. It’s also possible during the daylight hours in the major desert spots and outskirts to get heat stroke, which can decrease Physical Defense and Movement Speed. Players should avoid this area.

The story behind the Burning Desert is also worth mentioning. You can discover Ash-Ruha’s Cradle when chasing Guido and trying to find out about his conspiracy. However, it has been said that one must leave the ruins as quickly as possible since you will be exposed to danger. Players can increase their Movement Speed by getting energy from the Barakas on the floor!

Are there going to be any new features for premium players vs. free players?

There won’t be any changes to the optional premium membership, no. And free players will have access to all the same game content that those who purchased Bless previously do.

 

With this new update, will we see any improvements to the overall game performance and optimization?

We’ve made a great effort to improve optimization, and some performance improvements were added at launch! While we are still actively working on further changes that we hope to add to Bless soon, we don’t have any going into the 11/7 update.

 

How many new areas will the DLC open up?

If you mean how many new areas are added in the Level 50 Update, there are two – Shaqqara and the Burning Desert. It will not be walled behind a DLC, however; it is available to all players for free with the latest update.

 

Can we expect any special events on launch day?

The ongoing Level UP Event will continue even after the Level 50 cap update, and we’re also planning to upgrade the Level 45 Reward Box, which is currently being sold for 1 Lumena, to a Level 50 Reward Box.

In the Level UP Event players can get rewards for leveling up their character from level 1 through level 50 (with different rewards being given out at different levels). Existing characters can get rewards that match their current level. We’ll also have the Daily Attendance Check event ongoing, where players get rewarded for logging in and checking off their attendance.

To wrap this up I’m going to ask the question that’s on everyone’s mind: are we any closer to the release of the Mystic?

Regarding the Mystic, we’ll have more detailed plans to share for its release later, as we want to ensure that it has been sufficiently reworked to fit with the revamped combat system that we brought to Bless on Steam.

 

Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

Just that we hope they enjoy the new update, and that we’re already looking ahead to the next one! Later this year in another update, we’re also planning to add a new dungeon and a new stage 3 to Rift of Time and Space (that hasn’t been released in any region before). There’s a lot to look forward to!

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Bless Online Interview: Early Access, F2P Release and Beyond

So we now know that not only does Bless Online have a launch date, but it’s doing so as a free-to-play game. However, does this really make the game finished? Do the folks at Neowiz think that early access was a mistake? Where does the game go from here? We had the opportunity to speak with the devs once again in a Bless launch interview to see if we could get some answers to these questions.

bless launch interview

So the first and obvious question is: what made you change your mind on the game’s business model?

For the past 5 months of Early Access, we have updated Bless Online with a variety of content and have received a lot of feedback from our North American and European players and collected meaningful data.

With the official release now before us, we have been immersed in preparing an improved player experience and next-level quality service using the data that we have collected during EA as the foundation. We want as many players as possible to experience and witness the completed Bless.

The transition to F2P will be the chance for many new players to easily experience Bless, and we expect that the influx of both new and existing players will enrich the Bless World with a more lively and active atmosphere.

The next obvious question, perhaps: what makes Bless Online’s cash shop avoid being called “pay to win”?

When Bless Online was presented on Steam, we understood that players in North America and Europe tend to value fairness, and accordingly developed a principle to stay away from P2W.

In line with this principle, we avoided having items in the shop purchasable with paid currency that could have a direct impact on the game experience. Instead, we focused on having cosmetic and convenience items for players to buy with paid currency such as costumes, mount skins, and combat XP bonuses. We also implemented a feature that allows players to exchange their content points earned from playing the game into paid currency.

We are doing our best to match our perception of P2W with our players’ and make sure everything is aligned. However, we are well aware of the players’ worries that we may change our minds along with the conversion to F2P. While this is not the case, we are going to work extra hard to both try to avoid any P2W and to correct quickly with patches if we misjudge any new aspects of the game.

Many people accuse Neowiz of using early access as a “cash grab”. Are you concerned that a free-to-play launch will poison the well against anything the game’s cash shop offers?

We believe that the transition to F2P will not have a big impact on revenue growth since it still adheres to the anti-P2W principle and since there won’t be a significant change in the sales structure. The biggest reason why we decided to have the F2P transition during the official launch is because we wanted to provide the best experience possible for players in content that works best with [a] high numbers of players, such as PvP, PvE, Siege of Castra.

What kind of items can we expect to see in the cash shop?

The F2P switch will not change many of the items that are available at the cash shop. We will continue to add new costumes, pet skins, and mount skins just as before.

Has the general negativity surrounding the more vocal people in places like Steam had any effect on the decision to go free-to-play?

Player feedback and comments have played an important role when improving the content of the game during Early Access, however the decision to switch to F2P was not made because of our awareness about the negative comments, but rather because we want Bless to become a game that everyone loves and can enjoy for a very long time.

bless launch interview

Do you think this shift to a free-to-play game will help repair relations with those who perhaps feel disappointed?

We think that the official launch will be a great opportunity for players to see all the progress we’ve made since the start of Early Access. We, of course, hope that those who already purchased Bless during Early Access will also enjoy the founder thank you gifts that we have planned for them, and we hope that they will also enjoy the new content that will be arriving with release. We think all players, both new and old, will be able to experience Bless in a great new way at official launch.

What do you say to those who believe that the game is unfinished and being rushed out the door?

We know that when Early Access began, there was a mismatch between our expectations of EA and many of our players’ expectations. We saw EA as a time of active development where we could work closely with the community, gathering and implementing their feedback as we prepared Bless for its official release later in the year. However, we think that when players experience Bless at launch, they will see just how far we’ve come since the start of EA.

You recently confirmed your selections for the Bless Emissaries. Do you think they’ll help in bringing Bless Online into a new light?

Absolutely! We believe that each and every one of our Emissaries will not only help to bring Bless to new audiences but also to show off the game in their own unique ways. In the program, we strive to encourage not just participation, but creativity as well. The next Emissary activities are planned for the Halloween content, but that will just be the first step.

Has the team had regrets in how they’ve handled early access? Is there anything that you feel could have been done differently?

We felt that, despite some unexpected issues at the start, Early Access was a success. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and we wish that we would have had a better idea of what player expectations of Early Access would be going into it. As mentioned previously, we saw EA as a time of ongoing development and improvement, while many players ended up expecting a fully complete game. Having more knowledge of this would have allowed us to perhaps better set player expectations for EA.

What sort of things do you hope the team will do in order to demonstrate that Bless Online is a completed, finished and fully-realized MMO?

Bless at official launch will be “content complete.” Throughout Early Access, we’ve been continuing to add new content and make improvements, and we think that it is finally in the place that we want it to be for release. With launch comes a whole new raid and afterward, sometime in November, we have an update planned focused around raising the level cap to 50. From launch onwards, players can expect to see brand new content that they would expect to be added post-launch [just as] with any other MMO title.

Do you think that early access was a bad idea? Would things have been different if the game were tested internally or with a select number of outside testers?

Definitely not, we are glad that during Early Access we were able to work closely with the community to gather their feedback and make improvements to Bless based on it. We are grateful to the players that they were willing to share such valuable feedback with us; it was because of player feedback on the combat system that we originally implemented the combat rework for the Steam version of Bless. Having players get a feel for the game in a live environment can oftentimes produce the most useful feedback.

bless launch interview

What features can players expect when Bless officially launches?

Besides of course all the many improvements and content updates that have been added over time since EA began, players can look forward to German localization being added, an assortment of fixes and adjustments, and a whole new raid. We also plan to provide EA users with rewards during the official release as a token of thanks for their contribution in developing the game during the EA period. Soon after the official release, around November, there are also plans for a large scale level expansion update in Bless.

How does the update cadence for Bless Online look post-launch? How frequently can players expect content updates and how big will those updates be, roughly?

There will be a large-scale update around November that includes the addition of new dungeons along with the level 50 expansion. After that, there are updates planned for new dungeons, a restructuring of the Rift of Space and Time, skill expansions, and more. We will be looking at the player influx and player opinion and will adjust update schedules and plans accordingly. As always, we will continue to work hard to bring a new variety of content to Bless for our players to enjoy.

Beyond content, will there be any kind of in-game events or seasonal events to look forward to?

Of course! First up will be Halloween events for the month of October. After that, we will be working hard to prepare seasonally appropriate events for the NA and EU audiences.

We also have the monthly Attendance Check events, with which we aim to provide a variety of rewards that both new and returning users will be satisfied with. We are preparing future promotions as well, such as a Siege of Castra promotion, a Rune Break Prevention promotion, a Dungeon Drop Rate promotion, and a Hot Buff promotion. We think all of these events and promotions will help players to enjoy Bless even more.

Can you offer any indication on what the next big update to Bless Online will be after launch?

Yes, there is a large-scale update planned for around November, after the official release. We plan to raise the characters’ max level to 50, open new areas, and reveal two new dungeons. We hope to give our users more freedom and fun with this update. We’ll have loads of details on it in the very near future.

What final words would you like to share to the Bless Online community?

We can’t wait for official release, and we are so grateful to the community for all the support they’ve shown us and Bless Online through Early Access and beyond. We have more in store for after release, and we’re working as always to make it the best it can be. Thank you!

 

As always, we’d like to thank the developers of Bless Online for taking the time to answer our questions.

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Past and Future of Bless Online: Why the Western Release Was Doomed

There was a time, not too long ago, when the prospect of a western release of Neowiz’s Bless Online seemed like a good thing. A very good thing, in fact, considering that we are severely lacking new MMORPGs of undisputed quality. I’m going to take a look at the past, present and future of Bless Online, and I can tell you right away that there are quite a few clouds looming on the horizon. It’s obvious that expectations were set too high, but in no way does this serve as an excuse for the current state of the game, or any game, for that matter.

For some reason, our minds had been tricked into thinking that Bless Online could be the game that we needed to quench our thirst. When the official announcement dropped, it caused quite a stir. Could this be the next big thing?

Future of Bless Online - bless online lupus

Unbeknownst to all but the most attentive player, red flags were raised everywhere. There was something that just didn’t feel quite right about this game – is it as good as we were making it out to be? It’s a mystery how the hype surrounding Bless Online managed to remain incredibly high and squander all suspicions, right up until the day that this MMORPG landed on Steam, self-published by Neowiz. Clearly, this was because no publisher dared to pick it up. If this isn’t a huge ‘caution’ sign, I don’t know what is.

Time is the best teacher, and we have indeed learned a serious lesson with Bless Online. I don’t like to point any fingers, but you are to blame. Yes, you, the player who has decided to spend $29,99 on a broken mess of a game, ignoring all the blatant signs that pointed to a rushed release. And let’s not even talk about those Founder’s Packs, which could go right up to $149.99 – I mean, how badly did you want that temporary mount skin?

Don’t get me wrong, you are not alone in this, my cherished and deluded Bless Online fan. I am as well to blame for the occasionally deafening hype that placed this MMORPG on top of other, worthier games. MapleStory 2 comes to mind, although its chibi style may not be suitable to everyone’s tastes but at least with this one you know what you are getting right from the start.

Future of Bless Online - bless online boss

Perhaps Bless Online’s biggest problem was a matter of misinterpretation from its target audience. The fact that it looks good, with its original medieval European setting and airs of grandeur – that were quickly shattered by the likes of Black Desert Online – made us think that this would equally play like a dream. This was despite all the previous warnings from the Korean version and all the drama surrounding Aeria Games’ initial attempt to bring Bless Online to western shores. Graphics can be deceiving, and indeed all the eye-candy wasn’t enough to cover what was fundamentally a rough game, in need of further development.

If you missed out, here is a quick recap on the Aeria Games-Neowiz stranger than fiction soap opera. Aeria Games, a publisher of several free-to-play titles, signed Bless Online for a North American and European release. However, as time went by and news was slim to none, the deal was effectively canceled due to “quality concerns.” Seeing that Aeria Games isn’t exactly worried about having a few run-of-the-mill MMO games in its catalog, this sounded like a huge red flag if ever I’ve seen one. This eventually resulted in Neowiz taking action and deciding to self-publish Bless Online in western territories through Steam – Gabe Newell’s digital distribution platform can be a blessing, but also a curse, as you surely know by now.

Personally, however, the one thing that made me scoff and look the other way was Neowiz’s business decision to put a price tag on Bless Online. This felt like a mistake, a disaster waiting to happen, a misconception of huge proportions and, above all, a complete disrespect for a large part of its potential player base. Attaching a price tag to a game that was free-to-play in every other region (Korea, Japan, and Russia) felt like a colossal disregard for the western market. It felt like – and let’s not be afraid of words – a blatant cash-in, a way to earn a few bucks while the Bless Online name still has some zing to it.

Future of Bless Online - bless online dragon

Once again, we are to blame as well. There is this ethos, this weird notion that free-to-play games are inherently bad, they smell funny, and pick their noses. But if you pay for a game, then it suddenly starts to smell like roses and has silky smooth hair. As if by magic, the cash shop is a lovely place to be, everything is cosmetic, and you can even get a free pup for your trouble! It doesn’t work like that, and many full-priced games already include shameless micro-transactions (Middle-earth: Shadow of War is a perfect example before changes were made), so there really is no excuse to turn a game that was originally designed around the in-game store into a buy-to-play title. Players everywhere need to stop asking developers to put a price tag on their games; this isn’t going to improve your experience whatsoever.

Even worse was Neowiz’s reasoning behind this decision: “we decided against F2P to prevent us, the developers, from being tempted into P2W.” Really? To me, this shows a huge lack of confidence in your game, in your ability to provide players with a fair cash shop that doesn’t break the delicate balance of your game. What transpires is the urge to sell both the game and its virtual items while they’re hot and then we’ll see what the future of Bless Online brings.

Early Access can’t be an excuse for everything. This label is being abused left and right, with broken games asking for players’ money to grant them an early entry into… well, a bugged, unfinished mess in most cases. How can a game such as DayZ remain in Early Access for five years? Isn’t this enough already? Bless Online’s situation isn’t very different, to the most observant of you. The first closed beta took place in South Korea during 2014 and early on we had reports that the combat was dull, bland and needed a lot of work before the game could fulfill its potential. Years passed, and the announced changes were slight – Bless Online still felt like the same game: the same flawed but beautiful MMORPG that was unable to keep up with its promises.

Future of Bless Online - bless online pvp

There is no way that Bless Online should have released in Early Access. For a game that was in development for so long, already had three previous launches in other regions, this was telling that something wasn’t right. The development team didn’t seem able to change the core of the game (Rebuild Project and all) to make it rub shoulders with the big boys – Black Desert Online, Elder Scrolls Online, Final Fantasy XIV and so on. The game was rushed out of the door with a price tag to profit on the western hype, as the North American and European markets that were dying to play something new, something grand. How naïve of us.

There are a couple of things that you can’t escape in life. Death, for one, awaits us all; and Steam reviews, which are going to haunt a game for all eternity and beyond. The future of Bless Online is grim, mirroring the troubled past and disquieting present. It’s nearly impossible to see a game making an astounding comeback from ‘Overwhelmingly Negative’ reviews just as No Man’s Sky miraculously managed to do. There is only so much that Neowiz could do to improve on the game, and even fundamentally changing the combat mechanics and squashing tons of bugs wouldn’t do much good if unnecessary rollbacks keep happening and characters keep on being accidentally deleted from existence, never to be seen again.

Maybe I’m being too harsh; Neowiz deserves some credit, after all, and the Korean release is still going strong, so there is hope for… wait, what? The Korean servers were closed on September 2018, you say? Well, that is a bit worrying, right? What should be, allegedly, the foundation of any game – the original release – is a thing of the past, and the studio is now solely focusing on the Steam version of Bless Online, with all their efforts going into “making it successful for years to come.” I can’t help but feel somewhat doubtful of this plan.

Future of Bless Online - bless online fight

I really want to believe that the future of Bless Online is shiny and medieval, but when I glance over past decisions, I can’t help but feel that too much damage has been made. It feels like this once ambitious MMORPG is damaged beyond repair, and no amount of PR talk and patching is going to restore its good name. Even if 2019 eventually brings the official launch with a switch to a free-to-play model – as it should have been all along – the brand is tarnished, possibly beyond return. Bless Online definitely needs players urgently, but no player base boost is ever going to hide its flaws.

The final nail in Bless Online’s medieval European coffin is called Bless Unleashed. The announcement of this Unreal Engine 4-powered Xbox One exclusive stirred the hornet’s nest, with PC players crying foul, unable to cope with the prospect of an improved version of Bless on console, while the original version trails behind. I can’t say that I don’t understand the outrage, as the timing for this reveal feels less than ideal, undermining the already flimsy faith that any player may have for the future of Bless Online. Oh, and the worst of all – the Xbox One version is going to be free-to-play.

It’s almost as if Neowiz is doing its best to sabotage its own plans.

Future of Bless Online - bless online mounts

I really wanted Bless Online to succeed. After all, competition breeds quality and fosters better designs, encourages developers to push for better games, to aim higher, to win a slice of the ever-important and very profitable MMO market. However, decision after decision, it just didn’t feel right. It was never going to compete with the current heavyweights of the genre, and the price tag meant that many players wouldn’t even feel tempted to try it, which means less cash shop sales, in my opinion. “It’s better to wait for the initial reviews,” many of you said, and rightly so.

As someone who has followed Bless Online since its announcement in 2011, I feel a sense of disappointment as I look back on the years. The early excitement was replaced by utter disbelief as the game failed to evolve, culminating in an underwhelming Steam release. I can say that I am curious to see what Neowiz is going to deliver with Bless Unleashed, but this time my expectations are set to low, and no amount of beautiful medieval architecture and furry fighters are going to change that.

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Bless Online Adding 70 vs 70 Siege of Castra

It was announced today that the next major update to Bless Online will feature a 70 vs 70 PvP mode. Siege of Castra will be a three-lane battleground with the Purifying Tree being the main contention point in the middle of the map.

Bless Online siege of castra

 

Once players reach level 25 they will be able to access the Siege of Castra through the System Menu under the War option. Each battle will last approximately 30 minutes and victory is claimed by slaying the enemy team’s commander. If neither commander is killed then the match will end in a tie.

The battleground is broken down into three lanes: right, left, and middle. The Middle Road is home to the Purifying Tree and taking control of it will release a Vindictive Spirit that will attack the enemy’s base. If a team claims the Purifying tree then a Guardian Stone will appear in the right or left lane for the opposing team. Taking out the Guardian Stone will also cause the Vindictive Spirit to disappear. Additionally, each base has 4 mobile artillery units in front of the faction’s headquarters.

Bless Online siege of castra map

Rewards for Siege of Castra are determined by the outcome, player activity points, and medals earned. A victory will reward 400 Combat Points and 100 Quest Performance Points while a tie or defeat will award 150 Combat Points and 35 Quest Performance Points. Completing the Siege of Castra Quest will award 700 Combat Points and 30 Crystallized Magical Power.

The release date for Siege of Castra has yet to be determined.

 

Our Thoughts

Despite the rocky start that Bless Online has had, it’s clear that the developers are dedicated to adding new content to the game. We still think the game was released a bit prematurely, and hopefully it will feel like a fully functioning MMORPG within a few months.

Source: Steam

Articles Related to Bless Online

Bless Online Early Access Preview
Bless Online to Address Nerfing Added in v1.0.0.4
Bless Online Adds a 15v15 PvP Battleground

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Why the Bless Online Launch Disaster Isn’t a Surprise

Right now Bless Online is in Early Access and many people are calling it the worst MMORPG ever. Steam is offering refunds past the usual 2 hour gameplay period and reviews are pretty evenly split between good and bad. The game’s producer has now apologized for the mess that the Early Access is in. We’ll get into all of that in more detail further down but first, it’s important to take a look at where we’ve been with Bless Online so far.

Bless Online was first announced way back in 2011 when it was announced it would be made using Unreal 3. At that point it was almost complete silence about the game for a year when they announced BLESS as it was known then, would be shown at G-Star 2012. While there they showed over 80 minutes of gameplay and were hailed as one of the most gorgeous MMORPGs ever seen.

Bless Online Launch Disaster bless online media preview

The first closed beta was held in January 2014. That year though they skipped G-Star which was somewhat of a worrying sign, but it wasn’t too big of a deal since they were right in the middle of getting ready for their next closed beta event which would happen in December 2014. Both of these and other closed betas were limited to Korea only. The final closed beta, as they were calling it at the time at least, was at the end of September 2015. In November 2015 the game was delayed indefinitely, though it was said that small focus groups would be scheduled for the following month. So, while the game was put on hold not all hope was lost.

Fast forward to January 2016 and Bless was back in the news with a new website and an announcement about open beta. That open beta was anything but smooth. Almost as soon as the servers came on they went down and remained down for a 5-hour maintenance. Steparu, who had also taken part in the closed betas said they had been hoping for an improved combat system but it didn’t actually seem like there had been any changes. They also went on to quite damningly state, “I suppose I’m enjoying it just a little bit, but not overly. I mainly want to progress to explore the PvP aspects of the game and see some end-game dungeons if any. It doesn’t seem like a game I would stay up 24 hours and play non-stop unless I have nothing to do.” Ouch. In February it looked like Daum would be publishing Bless in the West but this wasn’t to be the case. In April it was announced that Aeria Games had signed on to publish Bless Online in the west. Of course, this wasn’t to be either.

In June it was announced that Bless Online would be published in Russia by 101XP. At the same time though the Korean version of the game was having a hard time and they merged servers for the second time. This brought the game down to only 2 servers. Despite those troubles in August Founders’ Packs went on sale in Russia. In September Aeria announced that the test schedule for the west would have to be postponed because…the project was bigger than expected. Meanwhile Russian closed beta testing was announced and started in October. In November Aeria Games announced that some of the reasons for the delay were the fact that Neowiz was working on improving the game and adjusting the combat system. 2016 finished with rumors that the western release of the game had been canceled since the teaser website had gone offline. It was a long, hard year that Neowiz was almost certainly happy to see behind them.

However, 2017 didn’t start off on a great foot. One of the last two remaining Korean Bless servers was taken offline. Another was opened however so the actual number of servers didn’t change. In April they were holding an event to try to entice players to come back to the game. Meanwhile in the West people were still asking when it would be our turn. That was just the start of their April though. Within the same month, they announced a Japanese closed beta and that the Russian beta would shut down indefinitely, for more development.

In June 2017 Neowiz and Aeria Games announced that they had canceled the agreement between the two companies and Bless Online would not be published in the west by Aeria. At the same time, Neowiz said that they were going to focus on the Japanese testing and made no comment about looking for a new publisher in the west. Jens Knauber, the COO of the Gamigo group who owns Aeria said this, ‘Together with Neowiz we have come to the conclusion that the technical difficulties cannot be overcome, so we agreed not to complete the game for our respective markets. This has not been an easy decision for us and we put a lot of thought into this step. On the other hand, we have a number of interesting new releases coming up to complement our already strong portfolio, so our players can look forward to several new games in the near future.” Just a few days later Neowiz announced that they would self-publish the game in the west.

Before they would release the game in the west, however, Neowiz announced they would be giving the game a heavy overhaul which they called Rebuild Project. The goal of it was to gut many of the game’s systems and start from scratch. Just a couple of months later though they announced that they would start testing the rebuild in Korea. At the same time, Japan was getting a second closed beta, though there was no mention of the rebuilt version of the game being used there. By the end of 2017 we knew it would be coming out on Steam in 2018, but still knew nothing of the monetization plans.

bless online interview

All of this finally brings us to this month, May 2018. The bad news started with a leak of the Founders’ Packs which ranged from $40-$200. Neowiz was then forced to come out and say that the game would be $29.99 at launch and there would be a subscription option. This subscription option, which Neowiz REALLY doesn’t want you to call a sub got called out for being pay to win. To make things even worse, the monthly subscription wasn’t priced for different regions so it will be a lot more expensive in some areas than others. Around this same time, members of the games media were invited to a press preview of Bless.

In response to the negative press around the Founders’ Pack and subscription service, Neowiz quickly made a few adjustments. In a Q&A they announced that pricing would be different for each country and the $200 founder pack would cost $149.99 instead. They also got rid of the Premium customer service which had previously been part of the collector’s edition.

Then Bless Online’s Early Access (soft launch) went live and everything went to hell. To begin with, there weren’t enough servers made available, a problem pretty much every large MMO has at launch. Queues were massive with some people waiting more than 40 minutes. To make matters even worse the servers were having to be restarted multiple times, meaning you could wait in the queue for 40 minutes only to get in for 5 minutes before the server goes offline and you have to do it all again.

When players were finally able to play they found that when you get into a dungeon you can bypass travel for cash shop currency. There was a mighty uproar about this. Many people were saying this was the sort of thing you’d only see in mobile games.

bless

Players also got through all the content in the game very quickly and when they hit level 45 they realized that none of the endgame content from the other versions is in the game. One streamer actually broke down in tears over it all.

We also can’t forget that there are market duplication bugs plaguing the game as well.

All of this lead to Executive Producer Sungjin Ko issuing an apology and promising they’re working on the problems. On the missing content, he had this to say: “We know that there is end-game content missing that many of you expected in this first Early Access build, given what’s available in the other versions of the game. Additions like the 15v15 PVP and new high-level dungeons will be added in 1-2 weeks’ time, with more to come soon after.” All founders who haven’t gone for refunds have been given 2450 of their premium currency, with which they can teleport from that dungeon 32 times. According to Steam Charts over the last couple of days, Bless Online has peaked at 34,288 players, with the same time the next day only having 1,000 fewer players online.

Looking back at the last few years Bless Online has been in development it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that things haven’t gone smoothly. It will be interesting to see how the game progresses from here but it looks like a very vocal group have been turned off the game and Neowiz still has a lot of work to do.

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Bless Online Interview With the Devs

With the announcement that Bless Online is finally launching in the West through Steam Early Access as a buy-to-play title, we had a few questions for Neowiz on all aspects of the MMORPG, and here’s what they had to say!

 

So perhaps the biggest reveal with this recent announcement is the decision to go buy-to-play. Is this something you feel will sustain Bless Online at launch, or are there plans for added content like an in-game shop or loot boxes?

Yes, Bless Online will have a cash shop. In it you’ll find cosmetic equipment, skins, awesome mounts and pets, consumables and boosts, and more. However, you won’t find any loot boxes there.

 

Are you concerned about gold spamming, botting and other behaviors? What sort of actions will you take against these activities, and do you think a buy-to-play model will alleviate that somewhat?

We think that the buy-to-play model will alleviate this to a certain extent. Being unable to quickly make many new accounts for free will cut down on some of these kinds of negative behaviors. In addition, gold spam will not be tolerated. We are coming up with content and operation related ideas in order to prevent this. Bless Online will fully compensate players for their time and efforts, and we hope that this will minimize the gold spamming in the game. It is very important for the Devs to prevent it, but also for players to not gold spam on their own.

 

What makes you think that early access is the right way to go?

We really want to get feedback from the community and players on both the changes made and what still needs to be improved or modified for the new audience. We felt that starting with an early access period was the best way to get immediate feedback and make changes quickly.

 

What sorts of things do you think will make Bless Online stand out from other early access MMOs?

Depending on the player’s choice, Bless Online’s characters have their own combat style and combat mode, even if they wear the same equipment and have the same level. We have a very free-form character development system that allows players to personalize their characters. In addition, almost all monsters in the game can be tamed as pets or mounts.

What cannot be missed in Bless is our large scale war content. Bless has RvR content that encourages players to fight in the open as groups as well as in instanced 100v100 battlefields where players can easily access and participate in more even battlefields. There will also be a large-scale PVP system that takes place in the sea and the sky.

 

We suspect the devs have been silent due to lots of hard work, but we’re seeing updates and discussions open up more via the game’s Steam page. Does this indicate more communication on a regular basis between the team and fans?

Yes! As we approach EA, we’re planning on sharing more and more information with the community. Everyone will be able to look forward to regular news and updates about both EA and Bless in general. We’re also planning some fun things to increase community involvement with the development of Bless.

 

What sort of community measures will Bless Online take in order to foster fair play and combat toxicity?

We hope that Bless Online would become a game that grows with its players through the Emissary Program. By recruiting Emissaries (community and in-game moderators) we aim to work together with our players to create a fair and collaborative environment for all.

 

Will there be anything that delineates types of players such as PvP-specific or RP-specific servers, or are you hoping to mesh as many players in the world of Bless as possible?

We aren’t planning to have separate servers for PvP and PvE. We’re hoping to create an amazing experience for players of all kinds within the world of Bless; there will be plenty of content for both PvPers and PvEers.

There will not be separate PVE or PVP servers, but we understand that many players do not wish to partake in PVP until it’s on their own terms. To help with this, there will be a consumable item that players can buy in-game to make them non-PVP enabled. This will work all the way to the level cap, last for a time, and has no cooldown. At the level cap, the item will still be obtainable, but via the Cash Shop. A large part of the later game content is PVP oriented (like our sieges), so we’re hoping players will try to engage in the conflict between the two factions then. Still, if they wish to avoid PVP, they’ll be able to buy the consumable in the cash shop, and you will also be able to earn cash shop currency via in-game activities as well.

 

One of the chief factors that saw Bless delayed was issues with the game’s combat. Do you believe this has been appropriately fixed now?

We’re working towards it for EA, and we think that already major strides have already been made towards that goal. However, we’re still working on some aspects (these changes include the reworks of the Mystic and Assassin classes’ combat and balance tests). We hope to get some great feedback about the combat system during EA as well.

 

The classes of Bless Online appear to fit into some expected fantasy archetypes (ranger, paladin, etc). What sort of things will make them unique to similar classes?

The reworked skill system that will allow players of all classes to build on and modify their class skills to fit their own play style will make each class experience feel unique.

 

Are there any classes or races that stand out as favorites among the team?

It’s hard for us to pick any favorite race or class as they each have their own charm and characteristics. It’s cliche but we think that they are all appealing. Due to personal preference all of our team members have different favorites but since each race’s stories are different we recommend that players try out different classes and races to find the one that really sticks with them.

 

Your website once mentioned the ability to tame creatures as mounts or pets. What sort of insight can you provide about that system?

The taming system is massive! Almost any creature players encounter in the game can be tamed as pets or mounts. Pets and mounts that can be tamed will also give special bonuses to their owner. Choose your adventure companions of Bless Online.

 

You’ve invited players to explore the world of Bless. Will exploration feature as a gameplay mechanic, or are you hoping players will become awed by the game’s world?

A bit of both! The natural progression through the quests and stories of Bless will require exploring the vast, beautiful world. We also hope players just enjoy the landscape on their own as they create their stories and adventures!

 

What region or area of the Bless Online world was the most enjoyable to design and create?

We’ve put in a lot of effort in creating every single area. We worked especially hard on researching, designing, and actually developing all the concepts. All Bless locations are inspired by and based on real-life stories and historical events. It depends on personal preference so I hope you will experience it for yourself.

 

How will progression work in Bless? Are we looking at hub-to-hub questing or more sandbox gameplay elements and natural questing mechanics?

It’s closer to hub-to-hub questing, which is more appropriate for Bless Online’s exciting and immersive storyline.

 

Will PvP have impact on the wider world of the game or will it be battlegrounds-based?

In both ways! Players can play PVP in the open field as well as in various battlegrounds.

 

How do you see Bless Online’s end game content working? Will there be a treadmill to run or are players going to steer world events?

Even though some aspects might be a bit more repetitive than directly steering the world events, we will keep coming up with different and interesting content updates. We’re also working hard on creating a system where even repeated content can be connected to all sorts of fun so that players can be rewarded for their efforts.

 

How much will Bless Online cost?

We haven’t announced the pricing of Bless yet. We’ll be sharing that at a later date!

 

What is the part of Bless you’re most eager to see players experience?

We hope that players can see and experience Bless Online’s brand new changes. You will be able to enjoy more in Bless Online with your friends as a party than any other game you have experienced recently.

 

Thank you once again for taking our questions and continued best of luck to the entire Bless Online development staff!

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