Sword of the New World Putting Gamers First

Sword of the New World is an extremely unique MMO that's had its share of unique problems. We spoke with GamersFirst Producer, Jon-Enée Merriex about some of the mistakes that were made in the past.

Sword of the New World is an extremely unique MMO that's had its share of unique problems. We spoke with GamersFirst Producer, Jon-Enée Merriex about some of the mistakes that were made in the past. "We've made mistakes, no doubt. The biggest being a lack of clear communication to the players letting them know where we are and what we are doing." Merriex mentioned during the interview before informing us that ZAM has the "hardest interview questions on the net".

In addition to a very thoroughly sincere explanation we managed to prod some information about future updates and even the possibility of an exclusive GamersFirst UPC. Make sure to check out the full interview after the jump.

ZAM: Thanks G1Neume for sitting down to chat with us about Sword of the New World: Granado Espada!

Jon-Enée Merriex:
It's my pleasure. I always love a chance to talk about Sword of the New World.

ZAM: First of all, as a quick introduction to those who have not played Sword of the New World, what do you think are the three most unique and important aspects of Sword of the New World?

Jon-Enée: Well the most striking aspect would be the Multi-Character Control. In Sword of the New World players can control up to 3 characters at once while fighting their way through the wilds of Granado Espada. They can also create up to 54 characters giving them a plethora of options and configurations to choose from.

Second would be the graphics, even with Sword of the New World's low system requirements it looks gorgeous on the lowest settings and down right stunning on the highest settings. When we launched a reviewer said that is was "Candy for the eyes" and 2 years later it still is.

Finally, I would say the third "unique" feature of Sword of the New World are the Unique Player Characters (UPC). Initially in Sword of the New World you create a character choosing from one of 5 base classes [Fighter (a melee type), Scout (a healer/melee type), Musketeer (a ranged dps type), Wizard (a ranged dps/buffer type) or Elementalist (a ranged dps type). As you level up and progress through the story you meet NPCs who will ask you for your help. Some of these NPCs will eventually join your family, basically giving you access to a whole new class to combat foes with. Some Unique Player Characters are easy to obtain and you can complete their quest line in minutes. Others require patience and timing. A handful require true dedication that few possess (making them the rarest UPCs in the game).

ZAM: How would you gauge the involvement and population of the Sword of the New World community?

We have a fiercely dedicated player base who love the game through thick and thin. While other versions tend to open new servers frequently we have found that our players enjoy staying together on a few servers. Since Sword of the New World's server hardware can allow tens of thousands of players to connect to a single world we've never really had to open a new server. Some see that as the game isn't growing but in truth our player base is growing every day.

This past week there has been a big burst of players coming back to check out the new patch. So there is a lot going on in the little game that could ;). We plan to follow up our recent patch by releasing the 3.0 update patch by 9/9/09 so we anticipate our population to continue to grow.

In other topics, it's been noted that while there has been communication between community managers and players, updates for the North American version of Sword of the New World have been very slow (taking up to six months and beyond for a single patch). Is this indicative of a lack of communication between the Korean developers and implementation in North America, or are there deeper problems at hand?

Jon-Enée: This is a hard question to answer. Basically we had myriad issues combine that led to us being unable to update. The biggest issue was a major hardware update that caused the test world to fail. It took about 2 months for us to correct that issue. As soon as we had that corrected we had a major cheating issue on 2 of the servers that resulted in an almost 2 week down time. It took us about 2 months of updating to correct the issue. All the while we were in deep contract negotiations with the international publisher (HanbitSoft). This can lead to a lot of tension on all sides. Ultimately we put a lot of time and effort into the game in the past 9 months that players tend to underrate.

Truthfully, we have been hard at work keeping the game balance in check. I'm not sure many players would have agreed with us ignoring the cheating situation to release a content patch. So when you see the issue from a bigger perspective you realize there was not choice we could have made that would have made the community happy. So we chose to ensure they had an environment that was fair before updating the game.

I will say there were several mistakes that were made after I left that I wish I could have fixed at the time. Communication from the Sword Game Team to the players should have been better and we should have been much more open about the situation. I tried to be, but realistically I was only around for about 2 months of the issues.  No one is more upset with the situation than our CEO who has basically restructured the company so we can better support our players. We're going to make this right.

One of the golden rules of Public Relations is to never admit that your company has made a mistake. In looking back at the past half year development of Sword of the New World, do you think that there have been any 'bumps' in the development of SotNW, or do you think that you put forth your very best effort in making this MMO the best it can be?

That's another hard question. Personally I prefer honesty over towing the company line. Many players know this about me, as do my higher ups. We've made mistakes, no doubt. The biggest being a lack of clear communication to the players letting them know where we are and what we are doing. We have a team of over 50 people working on Sword of the New World every day (and that's just GamersFirst, it doesn't include the hard work WiseLogic, HanbitSoft and IMCGames are doing daily). Unfortunately most of the work those people do players are unable to see. So that means we (as a company) need to go the extra mile to communicate exactly what we are doing on a daily basis.

I feel we are now in a place to correct mistakes of the past. As players know I don't mince words if I don't have to. We're going to make this right. There has been a failure in the past few months. We've "restructured" the team that was operating the game so that now we have people in place who can execute the player's needs. We now have plans in place far into 2011 regarding Sword of the New World and we're returning to our company motto: GamersFirst. I think the previous team strayed far from that motto. I won't.

ZAM: You've just recently managed to launch the latest 2.9 patch for Sword of the New World, with promises of the 3.0 patch coming soon after; do you plan to keep up this kind of release cycle, or should players expect to see a 3.1 patch sometime in 2010?

We are planning to release 3.0 on 9/9/09 or sooner. After that will be the Fall launch of 3.4 and then something BIG in the first half of 2010. So no, players won't need to wait until 2010 for 3.1. We'll have WAY more information on this *soon*.

ZAM: Some players note that there isn't much to do in Sword of the New World, aside from levelling new UPCs and making money for more gear. Would you agree with this, or do you think that the game has more depth than players give it credit for. Alternatively, are there things in development to increase the number of endgame activities for players?

Jon-Enée:  I think many players get stuck in a "rut". There is more to explore than just levelling, crafting and buying gear. We have raids, daily PvP events, a full on Political PvP system (where players vote for their representatives in-game), GM events, weekly mass scale PvP and more. That said, we do agree there are some things we need to improve.

Specifically we're looking at the levelling curve and hope to smooth it out (especially levels 20-80).  Also we're working to add more, valuable instance experiences. Instances that drop good loot and are worth the time. We have several instanced raids currently that were initial tests and we are planning to get more out there. We feel the Jorgmund and Secret Tower raids really are the best way forward for the title. So players should expect to see more of those types of raids. Also we're looking at smaller instances for low, mid and max level players alike.

We're also taking a close look at several PvP events. Specifically Faction Wars, which is a massive PvP battle that takes place once a week and involves capturing colonies all over the game world; and Andre's Ultimately Fabulous Competition (aka: Andre's UFC), this event pits player against player against monster. It's the ultimate test of skill.

For Faction Wars we want to see if we can make it harder for large clans to hold onto colonies while making it easier for smaller clans to grab one or two. We also are planning on adding a few more colonies to the map and adding certain incentives to encourage some in-fighting in the Factions over Colonies and control over the Political Faction as a whole.

In the case of Andre's UFC, we're going to try to "spice" up the player vs player combat so that more players take a chance to go after each other. One idea includes adjusting awards so that it is almost required you get rid of anyone else trying to encroach on your territory. We may also add a "Master" version of this event.

ZAM: What about new UPCs and other developments? Do you have any news about future patches?

Jon-Enée: I would love to talk UPCs to death. But at the moment there isn't a lot I can release. We do anticipate getting 2 new UPCs with 3.0 and another with 3.4. Anything after that I can't yet talk about, I will say we are currently working on an exclusive UPC for the GamersFirst version of the game.

Our current concept right now requires that the character(s) be a Western view of Western culture. So much of the game now is an Eastern look at Western culture we think this change of pace would be an interesting mix to the game.

ZAM: What aspect of Sword of the New World are you most proud of, and why?

Jon-Enée: Ok, officially you guys have the hardest interview questions on the net. Lol. There is so much about this game I love I don't even know where to start.

I guess I'm most proud of the community we have. So many games have amazing game play but are completely ruined by poor communities. With Sword of the New World we've gone out of our way to foster a sense of family in the community. When a new player logs in it's not odd to see players handing them free gear of giving them game play tips. It's like playing in an old school MUD. Everyone is working together to achieve a common goal (well… until Faction Wars when it's 2 hours of every man for themselves free-for-all murder fest).

I know that may be an odd choice but its true. It's the reason I still play Sword of the New World today. I couldn't have asked for a better player base than the one we have.

ZAM: Finally, is there anything you have to say to your community, and what would you say to players who have either left the game in its earlier incarnations, or have not tried this game, but are unsure if they should give it a shot?

Jon-Enée: We know we've had issues in the past and we've spent the past 2 months charting a clear course forward internally, with our international publisher HanbitSoft and our developer IMCGames. I know there is nothing I can say here, or anywhere to take back what's happened in the past few months but I promise to make the future better. We're going to deliver the service that players have come to expect from the Sword Game Team and GamersFirst as a whole. I know that talk is cheap but give us time to prove to you how serious we are. The 2.9b Update was just step one on a long road that we know you're going to love.

We have a host of great things coming down the pipes and we are going to do everything in our power to make this right for each and every player. If you haven't had a chance to come back and check out the changes, now is the time to do it. We're giving free stuff away all month! If you haven't tried Sword, I encourage you to give it a shot. It's a great game steeped in lush graphics and rich game play.

ZAM: Well, thanks once more for chatting with us, and good luck with Sword of the New World!

Jon-Enée:  Thanks for the grilling. Lol!


Post Comment
Thanks for the Great Interview
# Jul 24 2009 at 8:51 AM Rating: Decent
Thanks Pwyff,

I have to say I usually don't get Media outlets asking the tough questions, I have players for that :). It was great to discuss the real issues though!

Impressive interview.
# Jul 24 2009 at 12:20 AM Rating: Excellent
I was actually expecting more corporate talk and rose coloured answers from the SotNW team, but I was very impressed by the fact that they owned up to their mistakes and have decided to move forward, instead of denying everything. Thanks a lot Neume, and hopefully you guys will have a lot of growth to show in the next year! I'll certainly be keeping around in-game as well.
Impressive interview.
# Jul 24 2009 at 11:11 AM Rating: Decent
Good PR on their side IMO. Now we see if they deliver as promised.
Post Comment

Free account required to post

You must log in or create an account to post messages.