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The Complexities Of Launching Aion

October 1, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

You talked about how you've expanded your localization efforts and your writing efforts. Did you guys have to staff up for Aion?

BK: Yeah. It's been a long process with our writing. We've re-written the game a few times, actually, to make sure we got the highest quality. We started with a few people in Austin, and then we added three or four people in Europe, and finally we all kind of -- I don't know if we met in the middle -- picked the location of Seattle and came here.

Now, I think we're up to 15 writers. Our lead writer, Marti McKenna, she had a lot of experience from Guild Wars. She was able to bring in a lot of quality writers from both Guild Wars, as well as from some published fantasy authors.

We really took the approach of treating this game -- when it comes to writing -- as reading the translation as the guideline for the main points of the stories. But that doesn't mean we just correct it for grammar and re-arrange the sentences. It's like we've read it, we got the idea, okay, rewrite it. With that approach, I think our quality has crazily increased.

So, the primary text generation is taking place in South Korea once the plot has been agreed on, and then you guys take the raw English translation and work with that?

BK: Yeah. I've talked to some of the people at other companies. A lot of times, what happens for the writing groups is there will be a mission designer, they'll design a mission, they'll write some quick garbage text, and they'll throw it at the writers and say, "Here."

Really, that's not that much different than just giving some translated text for our writers. It's actually almost the exact same process. It's new for us to take that approach of treating this as kind of like early design and actually redoing it all with the writing team. Because before, you'd sit there and say, "Well, I have all this English. I better just keep it exactly the same and polish it." But that's not the same as actually rewriting the content.

Do you worry that inconsistencies could potentially crop up down the road? Do you have a strict bible?

BK: We definitely have a bible. We definitely have tons of documentation. We have a few people here where if they passed away, we'd be in trouble, especially right now. It's a lot of just knowing a lot about the game.

At the same time, we run everything back by Korea and say, "Hey, we're going to be talking about this here. This is the bit that you guys are going with. [We need to make sure] we're not spoiling anything that you had planned." There are some secrets within the story and lore that were intended to be that way and for the player to experience, and we want to make sure that those types of things are revealed at the same pace with our audience as it is for other audiences.

The one mantra that we've all kept through localization is very few people read. We want to keep things short and sweet in all our writing, and we really want to make sure the cutscenes really hammer home the story and the identity of the world and get the point across very fast.

I would say on average, most players are clickers, right? They just click click, "What am I going to get?" I think the cutscenes make people click click, and then a cutscene starts, and they're like, "Oh!" So, if they want to watch that, unless you're doing it for the second or third time, you're going to watch that cutscene.

That emphasis on story, is that something you had all decided teritorially? That does seem to stand out to me for MMOs. They're not that heavily story-focused usually.

BK: I think it was very important to us. We have a new IP, right? So that by itself means we need to put more emphasis on creating this world for the players. For instance, when our beta started and some of our alpha testing, you'd create a character, you'd be in the world, and some dude was telling you to do something, and you were like, "Why?" So, it was a big question of why.

We created the CG videos, really kind of laid the story and the groundwork, but we also have the prologue videos that introduce each race. We've actually spliced in some more 2D animation within the game that really gives some history and really drives home the purpose of why.

I think that when you have a new IP that is a little different -- it's not your orcs versus elves type of game where everybody kind of knows -- you have got to kind of identify your side, your people, your world, and what place you're taking.

I thought your statement that very few people read was an interesting one. Is that research on player behavior that you guys have collected over the years?

BK: Yeah. It's definitely player behavior from what we've collected and what we've seen. Especially with the core audience of MMO gamers, you can kind of start dividing up the types of players. There's a whole bunch of studies on "Are you a killer, or explorer, or adventurer?" and all that kind of stuff.

I would say that the majority of players, they want to kind of know the basics, but they certainly don't want to have to click through four pages of text. They want to see a few key names, kind of see what the point is, and be able to move on. For us, we've been going with kind of the one-page rule. If we can keep it all on a page and users don't have to scroll through, we think we have a lot better chance of telling a story and getting through to the users about the world than we do if there's just gobs and gobs of text.

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