3. Cultural Differences Matter
Cultural differences between the dev team in Korea and marketing team (and audience!) in U.S. took some work, especially for a game that uses humor so much. Humor can be very regional and this is an ongoing focus for improvement. Do the jokes carry over? That's a hard one to objectively gauge at times.
We also have to look at player expectations. In Korea, a certain amount of grinding is viewed as absolutely proper, but here in the US players view this gameplay style as boring. So that's another thing we have to watch out for (and we did get dinged for having repetitive gameplay, which we are working on improving through increased variety in our battle quests).
One example of cultural differences was the cute look for the turtle monsters in the game. North American players expressed they were not comfortable killing cute turtles, so we made them more mechanized and "bad" looking to alleviate this concern. Interestingly, players had no problem with the cute frog enemies -- perhaps people just care more about turtles!
Turtle evolution after feedback from U.S. players
We also now have a U.S. team that gives us feedback on our story and text assets and assists with text localization -- you have to go deeper than just translation to make sure the humor carries across. Our Canadian external QA team will also give us a second opportunity to note cultural issues in localized text.
This sounds obvious, but it's something we should have focused on earlier in the cycle for best results.
4. Money on the Table
We focused on gameplay at the expense (no pun intended) of monetization. Our goal was to make the game fun first and worry about optimizing monetization later. This isn't an issue that players are complaining about, but our approach did leave dollars on the table. For instance, we originally made it harder to level up, requiring players to have better weapons and armor that would take players more work in game unless they wanted to take a shortcut and buy them outright. But we decided this approach made non-paying players work too hard, making the game less fun, so we adjusted to make it easier to level up.
As a first-time developer in this marketplace, we had to choose our priorities, and that was a factor in deciding to focus on making the game fun first and foremost. The best monetization techniques will not help if you haven't attracted players and given them a good experience in the first place. So wanted to build an audience, and we've had success in that area.
Going forward, we are seeking to find effective ways to monetize play without unbalancing the game. This sounds great, but the hard part is doing it right! For instance, right now you must choose your health and mana potions before a battle, using a limited amount of slots (more slots can be purchased). Allowing players to purchase more potions if they run out in the middle of a quest could provide revenue. Right now, players are essentially being punished if they don't plan ahead. Providing a quick mid-quest purchase opportunity that could help them finish their quest rather than failing and having to load more potions in inventory and start over is a valid option. We want to find these optional opportunities where he can help paying players without impinging on the game flow for everyone else. We are sensitive to the 'pay to win' perception of F2P games and we always want to err on the side of caution in that regard.
Another area we plan to work on is adapting our premium weapons and armor in line with expectations from the community. Humor has always been a big part of KA and this is reflected in our premium items. You can buy an umbrella or a giant fork to use as a weapon, for example (and it does look funny when a big knight is whomping monsters with an umbrella). We have to be creative, though, because we cannot offer a huge variety of items due to the memory constraints of mobile devices.