On February 1, just months after the release of RaiderZ, Perfect World Entertainment revealed the title’s first free digital expansion would be released on April 3. The expansion raised the level cap, added new maps and addressed a variety of bugs and quality of life tweaks to the action-oriented F2P MMORPG.
Meanwhile, two months later, GameForge, the European publisher, announced that it’d be closing all the RaiderZ servers on August 30. The news led to a mass of confusion, justifiable concern and a constant buzz in the rumor mill. Mark Hill, senior producer on RaiderZ for PWE sat down with Lore Hound to address a variety of questions on the topic. Not only does he assure players that there are no intentions to close any servers in North America, but he touched upon new content, including horizontal gameplay, on the horizon.
Lore Hound: First, please take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the community. Who are and and what are your duties regarding RaiderZ?
Mark Hill: Hi! My name is Mark Hill, and I’m the Senior Producer on RaiderZ for Perfect World Entertainment. I oversee the operation of the game for the North American market, including marketing, community, QA, and customer service activities. Also, I work very closely with the developers on everything from bug fixes to new content, and ways in which we can continuously make a better experience for our players.
LH: RaiderZ was launched in late 2012. Can you provide a quick summation of what Perfect World Entertainment and Maiet Entertainment have added since?
MH: Absolutely. First off, we’ve increased the level cap from 35 to 40, and included new skills for each of our classes. We’ve added three new maps, Epic Mt. Eda, Broken Grand Wall of Silence, and Cowen Marsh which also include additional instances. We’ve expanded on PVP by making ranked matches open to all players after level 10.
There have also been a number of smaller tweaks and feature updates, as well as a revamped anti-chat spam system which cut way down on the amount of spammers in the game.
LH: What are the main discoveries the companies have gathered from the community? How have they been acted upon? For instance, the community felt that early seasonal events weren’t too interesting. Are seasonal events becoming more unique and ingrained into the lore?
MH: One of the main discoveries was that non-paying players felt like they were being a little alienated. To address that we added the Crystal Shop system, which allows players to buy cash shop items with an earnable, tradable currency. So far the feedback on that has been pretty solid.
Regarding the seasonal events, I would agree that they could have been more compelling, so we’ve definitely taken that into consideration for future events. We’re focusing more on the actual gameplay than the lore. Although the lore is major part of the RaiderZ experience, we want to make sure that the gameplay is as fun and engaging as it could be. I feel that’s what mainly keeps players coming back to the game.
LH: RaiderZ was localized by a few publishers around the world. It was announced in July that the European version of RaiderZ, run by GameForge, will be closing on August 30, 2013. This has caused some concern among the North American players. How healthy has the North American community been since launch? Care to share any registration or concurrent user stats?
MH: It was unfortunate to hear that the GameForge team decided to close their servers. I know there are many European players that are very disappointed (believe me; we saw it all over our forums).
While I unfortunately can’t give out actual player numbers, I can say that our servers are still healthy and going strong. There are a few areas where it would have been nice for the game to perform a little better, but that’s the nature of developing and publishing online games. It’s not a “release it and cross your fingers” strategy. Instead, we have to be prepared to continually iterate and improve upon on the game based on data and player feedback, which is what the RaiderZ team here works on every day.
I would also like to take the opportunity to tell our players that we have no plans to close our servers. We believe in the game and want it to continue to succeed, so we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.
MH: Any new players that decide to join the North American servers will have to start from scratch, and due to obligations between us and the developer, we can’t actively do anything to help EU players come over. However, we are more than happy to have them join up with their North American counterparts!
LH: Has the title seen an influx of players ahead of the EU closure scheduled for later this month?
MH: We actually have. Our website, game, and forums have seen increased activity since the announcement of the EU closure. I am concerned about the ping of an EU player to our server, since RaiderZ is an action game and needs a fast server response. We’ll continue to monitor the state of the game for all players and make optimizations if possible.
LH: Have the new players been given any incentive to spread across the servers to level out the populations?
MH: When new players start, they are given the option to choose their server just like everyone else, but most EU players have been choosing to play on the East Coast servers, which should bring some balance to the force.
LH: Posts from the EU community blame a combination of TERA going F2P and GameForge for the title’s downfall. Specifically, poor localization, communication and lack of updates. Even if you can’t go into specifics, what is Maiet and PWE planning to keep the NA community engaged?
MH: While I don’t know exactly what the situation is with the European server, I do know that poor localization can have a hugely negative impact on any game. We have our RaiderZ localization team in-house, and are able to make constant improvements to make sure all patches and new content go our looking good.
As far as future plans – we have a lot. While I can’t spoil anything, right now we are working on a major update that will include a lot of new content that players have been asking for. We also have plans to expand the game to new groups of gamers, which will really help keep the servers full and active. More news on both of those to come.
LH: The first expansion to the world of Rendel, Broken Silence, was released on the heels of the core game in January 2013. Is it fair to assume an aggressive development timeline? Or was the digital expansion released so quickly because the game had been available for so long in its home territory of South Korea?
MH: A little bit of both, I would say. While the content had been available in Korea for a while, we definitely didn’t want to rush anything out (see my localization comment above to know why). However, when the game first released, we wanted players to have some new content to look forward to as soon as it was possible. This went a long way towards retaining our first group of players, because they knew they already had more game coming soon. And, since the content had already been mostly developed, we were able to get it our relatively quickly.
LH: Are there any plans for additional horizontal progress, professions, achievement systems, etc., to give more diversity to farming experience until players reach endgame?
MH: That’s definitely something we are addressing with the studio for future content. We know players want to expand the scope of their characters while leveling up, and we want to be able to provide that to them. We’ll be talking about the upcoming content pretty soon, so definitely keep a look out.
LH: Any final words of encouragement for those EU players mulling a new beginning or those just joining the fight?
MH: I know that RaiderZ players are very dedicated to the game, and we are committed to delivering the best experience we can. If any European players decide to come join up on our servers, we’ll definitely welcome them into the community, and hope they enjoy their time.
Thanks for your time!