Bless Online interview: Soft launch plans, why Gamigo bowed out, and avoiding pay-to-win

Bless Online is one of the biggest MMORPGs we’re expecting to launch in the west in 2018. Over the last six years, we’ve watched it blossom in South Korea, switch publishers, and even go back to the drawing board for a revamp before Neowiz pushes it westward. That’s left a lot of gamers, including us, with questions about the game’s future. And to get answers to those questions, we spoke with Game Director Jae-hoon Jeon all about the game’s planned monetization, early access, and just what sets Bless apart in a field of high-quality import MMORPGs. Read on for the details!

Massively OP: We recently looked back through our oldest coverage of the game and found that we first started talking about Bless in 2011, with our first interview (with Jacob Han) coming in 2012! That means that by the time the game finally does release formally here, it will be a mature game indeed. How do you folks think it stacks up against games like Black Desert – or like incoming competitors like A:IR?

Game Director Jae-hoon Jeon: One key area where Bless differentiates itself is in our combat system. Depending on the player’s choice, Bless characters can have their own combat style and combat mode, even if they wear the same equipment and have the same level. Your class dictates your skills and abilities, but how you approach combat and what equipment you wield can vary greatly. In addition, almost all monsters in the game can be tamed as a pet or mount.

What cannot be missed in Bless MMORPG is our large-scale War content. Bless has field RvR content that encourages players to fight in the open as groups as well as an instanced 100vs100 battlefield where players can easily access and participate in huge fights. There will also be a large-scale PVP system that takes place battlefield in the Sea and the Sky. We will share more on this soon.

So how was everyone's weekend?

When the game hits early access, are you folks thinking of that as a de facto soft launch, or will serious testing be going on? Will the early access be wiped? How early do you think the average MMORPG player, who just wants to play and not test, should jump in?

EA is going to be the soft launch. EA data will not be erased, so players can join and play freely without fear of losing progress.

Do you expect to be in the same position as Black Desert and Blade & Soul, with tons of Korean content built up and ready to localize and deploy here at a faster pace?

The Steam version will include all the content that is available in the Korean version and will also have contents and features that are significant improvements to the game that will not be reflected in Korean version yet. So some of the features on Steam version will be exclusively available for our global audience before we implement them in Korea and Japan versions of the game. Our goal ultimately is to bring all versions of the game to parity in terms of content and features some time after the launch on Steam.

We have a couple of articles from early last year about servers needing to merge in Korea. How has the revamped combat system gone over in Korea? Are Korean players demanding a different sort of experience from what western players demand, or do you find we’re all mostly on the same page?

Although there may be differences in the gameplay styles in different cultures and countries, we don’t think they demand different sorts of experiences. What makes the combat system and the other content of the game fun appeals to all players regardless of their culture or where they come from. In short, the revamp has gone over quite well so far, and we think the western players will be very happy with it as well.

We know you’ve been against pay-to-win, but we don’t have any other sort of info on the game’s monetization to date. Can you talk business model and monetization yet? Does the game fall more in line with free-to-play imports or buy-to-play?

We haven’t finalized our monetization plan, but we understand your concerns about P2W. Of course, that isn’t going to happen and we will share our plans once they’re finalized. We are leaning more towards the B2P model, but a final decision hasn’t been made. Once we have all details in place, we’ll be sharing it with everyone.

You might not be able to answer this one, but we have to try: We recall that the Neowiz/Gamigo partnership fell apart over “quality standards.” Can you explain what specifically was lacking in that version of the game, knowing how much the do-over set the game back in terms of a launch window?

We worked hard with Gamigo because we both wanted to ship a high-quality game with Bless Online. However, we felt that we should spend some more time in development to make the game better, but our timeline didn’t align with Gamigo’s business milestone. That was the main reason we agreed to mutually terminate our contract. We wanted to take the time to get it right, so we are. Gamigo is still a partner and they are wishing us well with our self-publishing effort for Steam.

Thanks so much to Jae-hoon Jeon for speaking with us!