There are countless MMO’s that come out every year. While most of these games are a flash in the pan, never having a real impact, there are a few that mix up the formula, bringing something special to the table for gamers to enjoy. This is the case with Swords of Legends Online (SOLO), a new MMO from Gameforge, that has had a successful existence in Asia. Now, with Gameforge doing the work and localizing the massive experience, a new range of players have a chance to play one of the most stunning online games currently available.
Built on Chinese myth and legend, SOLO brings with it rich lore and concepts, great graphics, and years’ worth of content for new players to explore and experience. While many MMO’s hit and die out from lack of content—or just no end-game experience—SOLO does not have that problem, with potentially too much content to experience which can overwhelm some players. With this in mind, CGMagazine talked to Belen Banos (SOLO Product Manager at Gameforge) and Jason Xue (Vice President at Aurogon) about Swords of Legends Online, localizing the game, and what players should expect when they dive into this new MMO.
CGMagazine: Tell us about the process of bringing Swords of Legends Online to the west.
Belen Banos: It has been quite challenging, but also very exciting!
We partnered up with Wangyuan Shengtang a while ago to bring Swords of Legends Online to the west. Since then, we have been working together in multiple aspects, preparing for the western release and live support of the game. From the server infrastructure to the localization; from the creation of assets and trailers to the revamp of the release version for the west. Along the way, different tools and processes have been put in place to allow for the post-release operations and the implementation of the vast amounts of player feedback we received during the Beta tests earlier this year. Our community has been growing steadily, and players are super positive and hyped, so we have been working extra hard to make sure the game is everything they expect, and more.
The actual release has only been the beginning though. With the first content updates just around the corner, there is still a lot more to come.
CGMagazine: Were there any major challenges with the process?
Belen Banos: The obvious one: the pandemic. Throughout the past year, we have been working from home. Though, honestly, looking back, we have adjusted well to this and continued giving our best to the tasks at hand.
But when it comes to the process itself, one of the biggest mountains to climb was the localization of the game. SOLO is a story-rich game, and not only does it have an incredible number of words but also a unique narrative style which becomes a part of the setting.
Translating the game into three languages was already quite the task, but also trying to strike the balance between maintaining the essence of the game through the narrative style and making it accessible to western audiences.
CGMagazine: What about Swords of Legends Online should western audiences be excited about?
Belen Banos: There is something for everyone to be excited about. If you enjoy PvP (player versus player) we have a variety of modes and activities for you, from arenas to the massive battles which should arrive in a future update. If instead, you are more the PvE (player versus environment) kind of player, you will also get the content to focus on, with dungeons and raids in multiple difficulties. If you, instead, like to kick back and enjoy more relaxing activities, we have a bunch of mini-games to play, or you can choose to decorate your own housing island in ways you might not have thought possible before!
CGMagazine: With such a stunning game visually, was there ever an issue to ensure it would run on the widest range of hardware?
Belen Banos: This is always a trade off. There are so many tricks you can use to keep the quality of the visuals and the effects while maintaining a lower system requirement, at some point, there is a limit to be reached.
There are several options in the client to help improve performance for the lower spec PCs, though many of these do rely in reducing the number of objects and effects on the screen.
On this note, the developers have already announced that they will make the switch to Unreal Engine 4, which should also come with improvements in this area. Though we currently have no schedule available for this; so, until then, if you are hardware does not meet the system requirements, you can also play the game through GeForce Now, as we’ve recently announced.
CGMagazine: How will expansions and updates work moving forward? Will they be delayed long after the original releases?
Belen Banos: We aim to have a frequent schedule of updates, and we have just recently revealed the road map for the following three months after the release, including several raids as well as in-game and seasonal events.
There will be, of course, bigger content updates further down the road—think class releases and new maps and storylines. For these, we are planning to follow a similar schedule to the original release, though with a more condensed timeline so that western players do not have to wait as long.
CGMagazine: How will monetization work in the final product?
Belen Banos: Barring the Battle Pass, which was not available at that time (but we announced and explained during the early days), we have put the monetization model out there for everyone to see and try out during the Betas. This is the same as it is going to look for release.
Swords of Legends Online is a Buy-to-Play title. There is a cosmetic in-game shop, and a Battle Pass (where the premium lane includes, once again, only cosmetic items) which will start soon after release. There is no subscription or membership.
CGMagazine: What about Swords of Legends Online makes it a great entry point for new players? Does it offer enough to draw them away from other MMO’s currently on the market?
Belen Banos: SOLO has a lot to offer in terms of different content.There is a variety of things you can do! Be it in the open world, or instanced activities, or in player housing, you are free to choose what is more fitting to your playstyle or do it all if you’d like. The beautiful environments are obviously a plus, and you can take that all in while flying around the world freely, starting very early in the game.
CGMagazine: What about Swords of Legends Online makes it so unique, and why will western audiences want to jump in and experience what the game has to offer?
Belen Banos: The game has a unique identity, which has been carefully crafted. From the environments, the features and the class design, everything is tied together to bring the Xianxia setting to life. However, while the setting might seem unfamiliar to many, at the core SOLO has very familiar systems and features from the MMORPG genre combined with improvements to make it a more coherent experience overall.
CGMagazine: What is the biggest challenge bringing a game that is very popular from the east to the west?
Belen Banos: In this case, it is not only Swords of Legends Online which is popular in its home country, but the whole GuJian series and franchise share the same popularity (it even includes books and TV adaptions).
Along the way, it has been important to keep true to the elements that define it, while still making it accessible to broader audiences. Though rather than a challenge, it has been a combined effort together with the developers Wangyuan Shengtang and Aurogon to understand their vision and their design goals and bring them to a new international scene in a way that is fun and makes sense to players in these new territories.
CGMagazine: The game is visually stunning. What was the design process like, how long has the game been in the works?
Jason Xue: It all starts with the art team taking real live scenery as inspiration for the various assets you can find in Swords of Legends. Combined with elements from the Chinese fantasy setting, a unique look is produced. This way, a lot of different 2D drafts are created which will then be checked for consistency within the game world.
Once refined and satisfied with the outcome, those drafts are forwarded to our 3D modelers, which will take care of converting those ideas into the final assets, including mapping and fine-tuning. To ensure the best visuals in-game, we are using a custom render engine which was developed by our own tech team. It can do Physically Based Rendering, as well as real-time lighting, DLSS and other graphic enhancing features.
The whole development and production process until today has taken eight years, and we are continuing to improve the visuals by further optimizing our design process and tools.
CGMagazine: How does the team decide on costumes and is there a process to ensure they will hit with western audiences?
Jason Xue: The fashion design in this game is quite complex. Like asset creation, we are inspired by the latest real-life fashion trends which then are paired up with the fantasy theme. Originally striving for a more traditional Chinese style, we have qipaos, hanfus and other traditional wear which are in line with the game world.
At the same time, we try to introduce designs which incorporate a more Western aesthetic, such as wedding dresses, swimsuits and so on. We will also continue adapting to a broader variety of styles in the future, especially since Swords of Legends Online has come to the West.
Generally, we hope to bring all different kinds of fashion to players under the premise that it fits into the game. So, we are very much looking forward to any ideas and suggestions by the western audience to make the game’s design more diverse and colourful.