Q&A With MapleStory Lead Producer Crystin Cox
These days, extreme makeovers seem to be all the rage in the MMO genre. Azeroth recently went through some earth-shattering changes (literally) in World of Warcraft's third expasion, Cataclysm. Now, Nexon's free-to-play MMORPG MapleStory is experiencing a rebirth of its own thanks to a big bang. The massive, three-part "Big Bang" update is bringing major changes to the long-running online game. In addition to a graphical overhaul, players can expect to see all-new stories, classes and locations, as well as an easier leveling system designed to reduce the grind so familiar to MMOs. GameZone recently had a chance to ask MapleStory Lead Producer Crystin Cox a few questions about what it's like to rebuild a MMORPG from the ground up. GameZone: The Big Bang update brings sweeping changes to Maple Story. How did the decision to revamp the entire game come about?
Crystin Cox: After seven years of creating new content for MapleStory, it was definitely time to take another look at the game as a whole. We went to the players and asked them what they most wanted to see next in MapleStory and they told us loud and clear that what they really wanted was a refreshed game. This was actually the most exciting answer we could have received from our players. Getting the chance to rework the game from the ground up was a dream come true for many of us that have seen the game grow and change over the years.
CC: The Black Mage, the ancient evil that ruled over Maple World hundreds of years ago before being defeated by a group of legendary heroes, seeks to return. With the help of his followers, the Black Wings, his evil magic has begun to seep into Maple World causing massive destruction and changes. Players must first deal with the changes to the world they know, and then join the resistance to battle the Black Wings before they can succeed in bringing the Black Mage back into the world. GZ: How much of an impact did player feedback have in the game's changes?
CC: Big Bang came directly from player feedback. We receive hundreds of messages from our players every week and we take that feedback seriously. Suggestions from players of all versions of MapleStory were taken heavily into consideration when the original plan for Big Bang was created. Once we had narrowed down the areas we would focus on, we launched a campaign to poll players on what was most important and we used that information to shape our decisions. There was a ton of work to do and everyone involved had strong opinions on what direction the game should go, having the feedback from the players to guide us really helped us stay on track.
GZ: What was the biggest challenge in recreating the world of Maple Story?
CC: The biggest challenge of Big Bang was rebalancing the existing classes, enemies, and quests. There were 12 classes and thousands of enemies and quests that had to be balanced. All that content was added gradually over the course of seven years, so very little of it really fit together when we looked at the game as a whole. Keeping the big picture in perspective and creating a single, cohesive experience for players was difficult, and I don’t think that we did a perfect job, but anyone that has played MapleStory in the past and returns now will definitely feel the difference. GZ: When will the third installment of the update be released?
CC: The third phase of Big Bang will be released on January 19 and will feature an additional class, the Mechanic. The Mechanic attacks from within an advanced mech that is capable of devastating melee and ranged attacks that often hit multiple targets at once. The Mechanic is the final and most powerful member of the Resistance, an organization that opposes the Black Wing’s hold on Edelstein.