In celebration of Ether Saga Online's open beta debut today, WarCry takes a first look at ESO and talks with Product Manager Craig Beers. ESO is in development by Perfect World Entertainment and we also have a trio of never-before-seen screenshots from ESO. Keep reading!
Please introduce yourself and give us your game development history.
Hello, I'm Craig Beers, the Product Manager for Ether Saga Online. I began my career on the opposite side of the videogame industry - journalism. I worked at GameSpot for seven years covering videogames and working on the website as a product manager. More recently, I was with Curse where I led production on tools and services for MMO players.
For those unfamiliar with ESO, what can you tell us about the game overall?
Ether Saga Online is a free-to-play MMO that's very story driven. ESO has a rich, vibrant world to explore with an anime art style. It has a ton of content and deep gameplay layers for experienced MMO players, yet is accessible to people new to the genre. All classes in the game have pets; in fact, you start with a pet at level 1. There's this Pokemon-like aspect to the game where players are encouraged to capture new pets and use them in combat. Some unique aspects of the game are an auto-route system with smart path-finding, mounted combat and a transformation system to adopt a monster's appearance and gain attributes & abilities.
Has ESO been released elsewhere? If so, how has it been received?
Yes, it was originally released in China as KDXY about six months ago. Its release was well-received and it is very popular. We are still producing new content for the game, so we are committed to supporting and expanding the game in its US release.
What is ESO's setting?
The mortal realm is at peace. However, the mortals are becoming lethargic and are losing their religious ways. A banquet for the Gods in Heaven is called to find a solution to this mortal problem. During this banquet, things go terribly wrong. A powerful and feared General is banished from Heaven to Earth and then disappears, a holy chalice is broken and its pieces scattered to the mortal realm and a sacred ark that protects the heavens goes missing. Each of the game's races is assigned a task to resolve one of these problems to set the world right again.
Why was this setting chosen?
The story is a prequel to the Chinese classic, 'Journey to the West.' It is a well-known piece of literature in China, so it was something that was easy to relate to when it was first developed. Characters not only solve one of the heavenly crises, but also join the legendary Journey.
What is the background of the name "Ether Saga Online"?
It's the localized name we chose for the game. Ether/Aether is a term for heaven, so it fit perfectly for our game since Journey to the West's story focuses on the interaction between Heaven and the mortal realm.
Do you plan any cross-platform development?
Not at the moment.
What classes and races are included in ESO?
There are three races in Ether Saga Online: the Ren, who are the stereotypical human race; the Shenzu, the demi-god race; and the Yaoh, the animal race who evolved into human-like form.
9. Which of the above is your personal favorite and why?
I'd have to say the Yaoh. They are like the red-headed stepchild of the races. They are looked down upon as inferior, so their storyline has fun text to read.
Are there any 'rideable' mounts in ESO? If so, what are they?
Yes. There are three types of mounts in the game:
- The first type is a cloud, which you can obtain early in the game. It is a flying mount and increases your movement speed, but it also requires mana to ride.
- The second type is ground mounts. We have everything from a horse to a motorcycle that players can ride. Mounts purchased from vendors can be upgraded to increase their movement speed. The fully-upgraded form is combat enabled, meaning that players can fight monsters while mounted.
- The third type is flying mounts. These mounts can fly in the air without consuming mana. They can also temporarily get a boost in speed. However, you cannot engage in combat while riding flying mounts.
Your FAQ indicates that ESO is 'free to play'. Will it have a 'cash shop'. What types of items will be available in the cash shop and what is the price range?
Yes, ESO is completely 100% free-to-play. We will have a cash shop that will fashion items, mounts and inventory expansions, amongst other things.
Mounts purchased in the cash shop will already be combat-enabled.
What is your favorite premium item?
It's definitely a toss-up between the boarcopter (a helicopter that looks like a giant pig) and the motorcycle inspired by Ghost Rider. We are only limited by our imaginations since this is a fantasy universe.