Dragonica Online is a free-to-play MMORPG that stands out for being one part epic fantasy quest and one part Saturday morning cartoon.
We talked to Executive Producer Chris Lena about the game’s new server, the positive effects of online gaming, and the challenges currently facing many MMOs.
CGM: What led you to so openly court a younger gaming demographic with Dragonica Online?
CL: During testing, we discovered that a lot of the players that were sticking with the game were falling into a 13 to 21-year-old age range. That is a younger demographic than a traditional MMO, but it also covers some very battle tested MMO players. Dragonica Online lives at the crossroads of cute and epic and I think our player base reflects that.
CGM: Video games, and MMOs in particular, have recently been blamed for fostering a generation of anti-social youths in North America. What is it like to release a new kid-friendly MMO in this political climate?
CL: Dragonica Online has a lot of social features and we do everything we can to foster community spirit. The game has a strong guild system, a couples system, and content that encourages interaction and increases social behavior in our younger players. Never forget that playing online games, as opposed to watching television, is a hobby that is both active and social.CGM: What does Dragonica Online have to offer for older gamers?
CL: I like to describe Dragonica Online as chocolate-covered bacon. When you first play the game your experience is that the graphics are cute and the combat is fast. That’s the chocolate. Once you play for a while you realize that there is a lot of depth and skill to the game. You have to be able to jump onto a moving platform while avoiding a falling spike trap and still be able to pull off your air combo. The game also has a great list of features and a fabulous community.
CGM: Could you talk about the challenge of maintaining your player base?
CL: No matter how good your game is there is still a struggle to keep your players’ interest. We always have to be providing new content, new features, and in-game events. In January, with the opening of our new server, Dekard, we also released two new dungeons. We are also releasing a new themed Mission Map in February.
CGM: Why is the new Dekard server worth all the recent hype?
CL: I think that for a lot of people the idea of jumping into an existing community can be a little daunting. A new server gives players an opportunity to all start at the same time without any advantages.
CGM: Many MMO releases (like Star Trek Online) are based on pre-existing media properties, while Dragonica Online takes place in its own world with its own lore. What kinds of creative obstacles did you face while developing the land of El Grego?
CL: An existing property gives you immediate recognition and an existing fan base to pull from; however, you also lose flexibility. You have to try to live up to everyone’s pre-existing expectations, and those are usually based on a totally different medium that may not be easily transferrable to gaming. Creating your own world gives you nearly limitless freedom to use your imagination and create a world that is seamlessly tied to gameplay.
CGM: Online game forums can be notoriously unfriendly places for the uninitiated. How do you ensure that Dragonica Online’s community remains welcoming to players?
CL: We have a forum set up specifically for introductions so new players have a chance to become part of the community. Since it is separate from Dragonica Online, veterans that go there are going there specifically to help welcome people to the game. As for the rest of the forums, they can get heated but we are very strict with moderating out negative comments made toward individuals. Everyone is free to say whatever they want about the game but not the people that play it.
CGM: Could you talk about the recent Dragonica Apprenticeship Program?
CL: The basic premise is that veteran players run through certain Mission Maps with new players and both receive in-game prizes. We want to do whatever we can to encourage our existing players to help the new ones into the community.
CGM: What distinguishes a successful in-game event from a bad one?
CL: The number one criterion is positive player feedback. If players don’t like an event then there is no point in doing any similar events in the future. Second to that is how feasible it is for us to put on an event. Players may like an event that includes giving everyone a free item but that is just not possible for us to do. The ideal event makes players excited to log into the game and has a positive impact on the game as a whole.
CGM: Are there any discarded event ideas that readers might find amusing?
CL: Well, there was the idea for players to submit live action videos of themselves acting out scenes from the game… or maybe that is a good idea.
CGM: One last question: warrior, magician, archer, or thief?
CL: Archer, then Thief.