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Fast forward to this summer, when the launch of the free-to-play Hellgate Global here in North America took a lot of us by surprise. Between the new auction system, new set and mythic items, and never-before-seen Abyss Chronicles quests and bosses, the game has successfully reignited a spark I assumed had long-since burned out. And to sweeten the deal even further, the promised Hellgate: Tokyo expansion pack just hit the server earlier this morning for the ridiculously low price of $2 (or in-game palladium) for an entrance ticket.
So, in order to better understand what type of reception the resurrected game has received since its launch and what the development team has planned for its future, we went straight to HanbitSoft project manager Namo Kang for a quick Q&A. And while there was a bit of a language barrier between us, Namo does let loose quite a bit of interesting information - including the fact that a Hellgate sequel is in active development:
GB: When HanbitSoft acquired the Hellgate IP from Flagship Studios, what assets came into your possession? Are there any assets (portions of the source code, areas/monsters/items that were planned for a future patch, and that sort of thing) that you were never able to obtain?
Namo: Everything (source code, monsters/items for a future patch) became our asset.
GB: How successful has Hellgate been for HanbitSoft in Korea, Japan, and North America, and has the reception you've received since relaunching in North America surprised you? Are you able to give us any specific population numbers or revenue figures for each territory?
Namo: We can't give you the specific population numbers and revenue figures. When we launched Hellgate Global, we were surprised at how many people were trying to access the Hellgate Global server. To keep up with user expectations, we have been working tirelessly.
GB: Despite the fact that you now own the IP, is there anything stopping you from opening servers for the game in other territories, such as Australia or Canada?
Namo: Some Asia territories are not in service. (For example, China, Singapore, etc.) But we can provide almost all the countries including Australia or Canada with Hellgate service.
GB: Hellgate: Tokyo is the only expansion pack you've created since acquiring the game from Flagship, and it's finally hitting the North American server this week (today, in fact). Do you have plans to release more expansion packs in the future?
Namo: Currently we don't have plans to release more expansion packs. If we develop the expansion pack, we will notice about that.
GB: The modding community has uncovered other classes and skills within Hellgate's code that Flagship never implemented prior to their closure. Do you ever plan to add these or other classes/skills to the game?
Namo: Those things are being considered in the close future.
GB: How many people are actively working on Hellgate at HanbitSoft, and are they primarily working on bug fixes or new content?
Namo: Developers are about 20 and operating personnel is about 10. They are working on bug fixes and new contents.
GB: Do you plan on readding DirectX 10 support to the North American version and allocating more time to translating? For example, there are several items that still read "Needs Translation" within the game, the game refers to the end Abyss boss as Berial/Belial/Bellial at different times, and some skills and items are even misspelled.
Namo: Many users send us their opinion and bugs. Our developers are still working on fixing them.
GB: Can you explain how your development process currently works? Do you patch in fixes and build new content for the Korean version, then send it to another team for translating before sending it out to other territories? Is the Korean build considerably ahead of the North American build in terms of fixes and new content?
Namo: We send it to another local team for translating before sending it out to other territories. We've finished the development of Hellgate Global. Korean build is fixed considerably. So these fixed core things are reflected. Currently we are launching the new contents of Hellgate sequentially.
GB: North American and European gamers haven't traditionally been as receptive to microtransactions that increase a player's power in the game, yet you've added skill points, powerful pets, and other unobtainable items to the in-game store. Are you worried that adding too many of these types of items will cause some dissent among its fans, who might feel it's becoming more "pay-to-win" than "free-to-play"?
Namo: We just developed game item for users to play Hellgate easily. We don't think these types of items will cause some dissent because if users don't want to buy the items, almost all the items are made for convenience. User can play Hellgate without the items.
Just when users want to be high level faster than other users, some items help them grow up fast. Even skill points is for people who are difficult to grow up. Just playing longtime, they can obtain the skill points as the level goes up.
GB: Hellgate's unique blend of third-person shooter combat, RPG mechanics, and numbers-heavy item and modding systems have given it a very devoted fanbase over the years. Have you ever considered developing a Hellgate sequel, either in-house or contracted through a third-party developer? If so, what are the odds that a sequel will eventually become a reality?
Namo: Of course we've considered developing a Hellgate sequel in-house. Now the developing is ongoing. For more information, we'll notice about that over time.