Granado Espada 2.0

Community Manager Hrin Danielle Kuek tells us everything we ever wanted to know about the latest Granado Espada client. Also in an exclusive interview, Hrin will address beta tester concerns and show us what else is in store for the MMORPG's English premiere.

Infocomm Asia Holdings Ltd. (IAH) is a Singapore-based online games investment company that will be publishing and operating Granado Espada in English. They are handling their own localization while constantly sending feedback to the Korean developers at IMC about the game. Thanks to their efforts, the game will be developed to better serve the whole South East Asia region and the rest of the world. Their motto is 'One Market One Asia'.

To get the goods, Sheila went head to head with Hrin. Hrin's goal as Community Manager of Granado Espada is to break the barrier between gamer and publisher. Unlike most MMORPGs where gamer concerns are ignored, Hrin manages a community that encourages players to take their own initiatives and ask questions.

Hrin's Granado Espada Profile
HrinFamily Name: Hrin
Location: Kings Garden
Team: Wizard | Scout | Elementalist
Fave NPC: Catherine, Andre Janzur

Hrin loves Kings Garden because you can watch the sunset and clouds roll by slowly (yes the clouds actually move in-game)! She also likes Catherine the Summoner for her puppets and Andre Janzur for his charismatic personality.

Hrin's Dream Team

Sheila's Granado Espada Profile
SheilaFamily Name: Heartilly
Location: Port of Coimbra
Team: Wizard | Elementalist | Musketeer
Fave NPC: Lisa Lynway

Sheila's family is often found sipping tea at the quiet restaurants of Coimbra's side streets. Lisa is Sheila's favourite because of that speedy Dobala Corte stance and gorgeous tan (a rare sight). Lisa also makes great chocolate, 'nuff said!

Heartilly family and friends at the restaurant

Hrin and Sheila Go Head to Head!
Sheila: Hey Hrin, most of FLAREgamer's readers already know what a Community Manager for an MMORPG is. So how about you tell us something that we don't know, like any interesting things you experienced as a CM?

Hrin: There were so many in-game events that the gamers themselves organized during the course of CBT that really stood out in my memory. It was interesting to see how the different genres of gamers organized various types of events that appealed to different tastes. From the very first event when someone organized a hippy-type hug chain to the intellectual "Who wants to be a GE vis-illionaire" quiz.

One of the more hilarious events entitled, "Elope with me, Hrin" was actually inspired by a GE faction chat conversation. Then there was a 'clubbing' type event with a dance competition entitled "The Last Dance" as a celebration to end the CBT (Closed Beta Testing) period. One of the players even recorded part of the event and posted a video on YouTube.

Sheila: I remember the hug chain! Posing and goofing around was one of the main things I did with my time in the game, so many possibilities!

Hrin: The thing is, GE is more than just a game to us at IAH キGE is a lifestyle! Other than just in-game events, we also organized a real life Community Service Event involving the GE community - A real life quest to babysit some kids with special needs. After all, we do hope to extend the in-game chivalry and heroism of Granado Espada's setting into real life as well, making both the virtual world and real world a better place!

Sheila: The community work idea is awesome, I hope IAH inspires other gaming companies to do the same. Since you are in the game on a normal player account, this means you have to grind and work as hard as the other players. How do you feel about the amount of grinding it takes to gain levels and vis (money) in GE?

A huge GE poster lurks behind an IAH building window

Hrin: Using a normal player account enables me to be 'in the frontlines' so to speak. I experience life in the world of Granado Espada as any average explorer from Vespanola (normal GE player) and this enables me to understand the community better since I am an equal part of the community. We brave the same obstacles together and experience the same rollercoaster ride of emotions and adventures together. It also serves as a constant reminder to me as my role to be 'the voice of the people'.

As for earning vis, it is not tough at all if you consistently harvest the loot dropped by mobs. However, if you choose to AFK train, you will have a huge problem earning vis which will result in it being almost impossible to train at higher levels since you do not have enough vis to buy the necessary equipment and armor.

Sheila: Personally, I found a hard time earning vis because of the drop rate キand because I like to spend vis on things other than armor, like presents for friends! I was hoping GE would have other ways to make income and other items to buy for people キlike the sweets or flowers I saw at the shops. An example of other ways to make income would be items or drops that players can hunt which sell well, but not necessarily giving much exp.

Hrin: Wow that's really sweet of you Sheila. Yes, I've seen players mentioning this in the GE forums and I will be sure to bring it up to the team.

Sheila: Usually when someone puts a lot of effort into farming and reaching their goals in an MMO, they're told that they have "no life". Do you think there is worth in reaching goals with other people in a virtual environment?

Hrin: There is this common misconception that people who play online games have "no life". But I totally disagree with that. After all, where there are humans, there is life. The online gaming world is a portal into a world of REAL people. Except that these people are represented by lines of text and pretty graphical images! WE ARE REAL! Every last pixel of each graphical image represents a real face, with real life stories and backgrounds.

I always tell my non-gaming friends that they should get out off their real lives for a change and explore life in the online gaming world. The people you meet in the online gaming world come from such diverse backgrounds, cultures and countries! It gives you a lot of insight and exposure in the shortest time possible about what is out there in this world, which is something that you would not be able to achieve in that same time span in real life. Some of the GE gamers even travel abroad to meet up with their overseas friends that they met in-game!

Promotional GE swag at IAH

Sheila: That's so true, I also noticed that a lot of people are learning languages through MMORPGs nowadays. Playing a real time game is a good motivator. GE is obviously not your first MMORPG and you seem very familiar with Kim Hakkyu's work. Have you ever played Ragnarok Online?

Hrin: Yeah! I played it many years ago when it first came out. It was one of the more long-running MMORPGs due to its immense popularity. Hakkyu Kim designed Ragnarok Online in a cartoon and fantasy style because of graphical limitations but it was ultimately his dream since young to create a game like Granado Espada. Thus after he left Gravity upon the completion of Ragnarok Online, he established his own company, IMC, and finally created the game of his dreams: Granado Espada.

Sheila: Players have compared you to the elusive 'GOD_POING', who was the sole GM of Ragnarok Online's open English beta (2001). GOD_POING was also female and had a following among the players. One player even made artwork of an imaginary 'poring God'. What do you think of that?

Hrin: Well, I think it is great that the community has taken such a great liking to IAH and the role they have placed me in. I really do love the GE community - they are such a spontaneous and fun-loving bunch! Tons of jokes both on the GE forums and in-game as well. They are the kind of community that any Community Manager would be proud to have! After all, all of us at IAH strongly believe in Granado Espada and we work hard together to stay true to Hakkyu Kim's vision of what his dream game should be like. We hope to bring together a community that not only enjoys playing under IAH but also enjoys playing and interacting with one another as well.

Granado Espada's Beta Phases
Sheila: Now let's talk about the GE beta. What kinds of issues will be addressed between closed and open beta?

Hrin: On a very brief note, 28,000 lines of additional text had to be translated and localized. Just the other day, we went over to the studios to do the voiceovers for the additional characters in v2. Our QA department is currently in the process of bug testing the v2 client.

From the technical side, we are getting our server hardware ready, conducting various stress tests and also server installation of the client. The web team is also working on restructuring and revamping the website and forums and oh! and not to forget, our marketing team is also planning a huge POBT party in June 2007 to be hosted at one of the best clubs in Singapore. Gee, there's a lot more going on at IAH as we work towards POBT. There's no way I can finish talking about all the behind the scenes action going on! ;)

Sheila: There's a lot of confusion over the beta phases. Can you clarify? What is pre-open beta, who will get to play on it, and when?

Hrin: Pre-open beta is open to everyone. It's the phase before we begin our Open Beta Testing. We decided to call it Pre-Open Beta Testing because we will be launching v2.0 during this phase and thus, will still be doing intensive bug fixing. Since v2 is essentially a new client, we needed to have a short stress test on the new client prior to having an official open beta. We also didn't want to confuse the users by using the term 'Closed Beta Testing 2' because we do not intend to have any character wipes once this phase is over.

Tentative Schedule
March 2007 onwards
Registration for Pre-Open Beta Testing (POBT) begins.

2 days before POBT
Exclusive preview for contest winners & special guests.
Characters will NOT be wiped.

17 May 2007
Pre-Open Beta Testing (POBT) begins.
Open to everyone & characters will NOT be wiped.

June/July 2007
Open Beta Testing (OBT) begins.
Open to everyone & characters will NOT be wiped.

Sheila: I can't wait to play with the new content in 2.0. Why didn't the closed beta use the most recent client release of GE?

Hrin: At that point in time, we were already localizing v1.8.23 while v2.0 was just being released in Korea. We did not want to delay our timeline any further since there was already a huge pool of GE fans who were eagerly anticipating and anxious to play GE. So we decided to go ahead and gratify the fans first with a preview of v1.8.23. After all, v1.8.23 is but the teasing prelude to v2.

V2 is a huge jump from v1.8.23 and is a more accurate picture of what Hakkyu Kim had in mind for GE when he first started out creating it. There are 156 new maps, 323 new quests, 826 new items, 7 new RNPCs (Recruitable NPCs), and 98 new NPCs! Other than that, there are so many new game mechanics in v2! There are things like colony wars where factions can fight to claim territory for themselves, treasure chests, auction house, veteran level upgrades (upgrade your levels beyond lvl 100), new stances, skills, NPCs, and quests.

Katovic Snowfield, a new area in GE 2.0

Sheila: After the open beta, Will GE go free to play (players buy items for the game with real money) or pay to play (monthly fee)?

Hrin: LOL! Sorry but I've gotta give you the typical 'PR' answer on it: The management is still in discussion over this. We will release a public announcement when we have come to a decision. ;) Well Sheila, in all honesty, we really are still in intense discussions and debates about this. There are so many pros and cons to consider regardless of whatever decision we make.

Ultimately, we do want to have a business model that goes further than just creating revenue but also creates a community that enjoys the game and enjoys one another. We are also observing the kind of community that GE attracts and aligning our business model on what suits this community the best.

Sheila: I completely understand not being able to answer but thanks for letting us know how seriously IAH is considering the options and listening to their players concerns. On the one hand, FTP can bring in a lot of potentially interested players but it also brings in an equal amount of "flash in the pan" troublemakers who come and go. P2P leads to a dedicated community that's easily moderated but it's costly for casual players who only want to play once in a while. Here's to hoping IAH comes up with something that works for everyone.

Hrin: Thanks for your feedback Sheila. Appreciate it.

IAH'S Localization of Granado Espada
Sheila: What do you think of the player response to IAH's GE's closed beta so far?

Hrin: Despite the fact that there was going to be a character wipe after CBT, we were pleasantly surprised how hardcore these GE fans were. Some of them were actually online 80% of the entire CBT! Others took the time during the CBT to 'experiment' with the various combinations of classes and RNPCs. The players were also extremely helpful in submitting bug reports as well as discussing difficult quests and helping one another out on the forums.

We were greatly encouraged by the fact that even though GE is only in its CBT phase, yet the community took the initiative to organize their own in-game events for the rest of the community to enjoy. At the same time, everyone seemed happy with the way we localized the game and many mentioned that they were pleased with the fact that we did a lot of real life research on the Baroque era, various real historical events and other aspects in order to localize it as realistically as possible.

Labyrinth of Silence, a new end-game dungeon in GE 2.0

Sheila: Has there been any decision made on how the servers will be divided during commercial release?

Hrin: Tentatively, our servers are hosted in Singapore and are open to everyone, regardless of country, to play. Gamers can choose any of the servers they wish to create their families in.

Sheila: This is great news because many players prefer to stick to a localization of the game that is close to the original. Will North American and European players be able to continue playing on IAH's servers when beta ends?

Hrin: There are no plans for IP bans currently. When we do our localization, we try to adhere as closely as possible to the true essence of the original game. We wanted to re-create their vision in English such that it does not get lost in translation. Granado Espada is Hakkyu Kim's dream game after all, which was why we respectfully chose to remain faithful to the original name of 'Granado Espada'. We wanted the English version to be as true to his and IMC's vision as possible. A deeper insight into the text localization process can be read here.

The Faction Colony Manager

Sheila: Do you have any idea who voiced the characters and why certain accents were used in the English client?

Hrin: Oh yes! The voiceovers were part of our localization process. Our localization manager, DG, went through so many sleepless nights to coordinate the voiceover process. The IAH team felt very strongly that we wanted Granado Espada to be as authentic and true to the background story as possible, so a lot of efforts went into out localization process, right down to the voiceovers. We auditioned various voice talents and had countless debates about who was the best talent to choose before finally selecting the voice actors and actresses who we felt would be the most appropriate for each of the NPCs.

Then there were the many nights after work, when the team would go down to the voice recording studios to work with the voiceover artists. We talked to them about the background stories of each of the NPCs as well as recorded videos of each of the NPC's skills so that they could better immerse themselves in their roles as they voice-acted out each of these NPCs.

GE is a cosmopolitan place, where people come from different parts of the old world of Vespanola to explore which is why we chose to have the voice actors and actresses use different accents. You can read a more in-depth article about the voiceover process here.

Sheila: I'm glad the IAH team used a lot of accents for a game set in this era. Several years ago I put voices to a game and casted people from around the world with varying voice textures and accents. The voices were so popular and memorable because each sounded so unique.

Which brings me to another issue... Players are baffled that we must have unique first names for the characters when the family name seems to be the only means of differentiation. With players each having so many characters, the amount of first names being used up is large. Why aren't players allowed to choose any first name they wish?

Hrin: This is because in future versions, there are plans to allow players to trade their characters amongst one another which might result in conflicts during trading if first names are non-unique. For example, let's say you had a character named "Jane Sheila" and I had a character named "Jane Hrin". If you traded your character to me, I would now have 2 "Jane Hrin"s since your character will take on my family name and this would result in a naming conflict.

Sheila: I see. I worry because the English alphabet only has so many names. We might end up with names like "DBZGoku69" which doesn't really reflect the character or the user behind it, most especially the Baroque setting.

Hrin: Yes, this is something we are aware of and are in the midst of exploring if there are any other options we have and whether it is feasible to still make changes at this point in time.

Baron mode, a new feature in GE 2.0

Sheila: Will we eventually be able to use our own usernames on the official forums? It's hard to differentiate between posters when they all are ge####.

Hrin: Yes, you will be able to use your own usernames in the official forums for POBT and beyond. After you sign up for POBT at the IAH passport website, you will be able to log into our newly revamped forums and choose your own display name for the forums.

Sheila: Cool. Players have expressed the desire for separate channels being split off into different modes of play. For example, can PVP/non-PVP channels be implemented?

Hrin: Yes, some of the players have talked to me about this and we are exploring that issue to see if it can or should be done.

Diego the Carpenter, a new NPC GE 2.0

Sheila: Good, because I'm not feelin' the whole MMORPG PVP and/or losing my weapons! Now for my final question: Why do you personally think GE will stand out above other MMORPGs?

Hrin: Oh man! Where do I even begin? In Granado Espada, you don't just create characters キyou create a family. Other than just the 5 basic classes of Wizard, Elementalist, Fighter, Musketeer and Scout that you can create initially, you can also Recruit the NPCs (RNPCs) in the game to join your family after you have successfully completed their quests. Once these RNPC join your family, they take on your family name. These RNPCs have their own special set of stances and weapons and the interesting thing is that some of these RNPCs have a really funky combination of the basic classes, like being able to learn melee stances AND be able to cast magic at the same time!

As you proceed in the game and recruit all these different RNPCs, you can expand your barracks (think of it as your house where all your family members live in) and house up to 36 characters! The exciting thing is that in future versions of Granado Espada, there are plans underway to allow players to trade characters amongst themselves.

Furthermore, other MMORPGs on the market only allow you to control only one character at a time. Yet with Granado Espada's unique MCC function, it allows you to choose 3 members from your family to form a team. In this way, you are able to control up to 3 characters at any one time. You will have access to all their stances and skills, and can choose to either control all three of them individually, as a team, or leave it up to the XAI (Xtreme Artificial Intelligence). The great thing about it is that the possibilities are so endless! I mean, think about the THOUSANDS of different types of combat strategies (regardless of whether it is PVP or PVE) that can be adopted, adapted and re-invented through the interplay between your 3 characters' skills and spells!

So you can imagine what happens when your family forms squads with other families in the game! Just think about it キdifferent families with different classes and different RNPCs, all showcasing their various abilities and magic at the same time. The battle scenes are awe-inspiring!

One of the dozens of NPCs in GE

To top it all off, Granado Espada is set in such a romantic era! That of the Baroque world, and many such elements can be seen throughout the game, such as the building architectures, interiors, costumes and towns. The level of intricate graphical details, the breath-taking sceneries... Oh! And the soundtrack is just amazing! It contains music from various world renowned DJs and even contains an exclusive track by world's No.1 DJ Tiesto! I don't even know where to start, let alone end. You just have to see it for yourself and be blown away!

Gee... and all that I've mentioned is but the tip of the iceberg! There are tons more amazing stuff I would love to go on talking forever about but I'll leave you to explore that on your own. ;)

Sheila: Thanks so much for your time Hrin, we'll see you in the game!

Granado Espada v2.0 Features
New Maps
Added to the CBT version are over 181 new maps (v1.8.23 had 25). These include the barren Katovic Snowfield and three end-game raid dungeons, such as the dark Labyrinth of Silence.

New Quests
395 new quests were added to 2.0. These include mini quests, mission rooms, and quests that can be picked up in combat zones, giving players more to do, other than levelling up.

Baron Mode
In 2.0 players can PK other players in combat zones and enter Baron Mode. When in Baron Mode, the Baron's icons will show above their party in red. Baron Mode level can be increased by executing successful PK, or decreased by killing normal monsters. Baron Mode gives a player an increased attack bonus, but also generates a possibility the player will lose an equipped item if they are killed.

Auction House
GE 2.0 incorporates an Auction House feature for players to trade items and Vis (the game's currency) with one another on a mass scale. You no longer have to leave your characters idling all day and night to sell your items!

Faction Colony War
Got a problem with another guild? Do something about it! In 2.0, Factions can actually declare war on one another and rage extreme battles for territorial and political control at Faction Colony Manager sites found in major map sections. Because each player has 3 characters under MCC, the Faction Colony Wars almost mirror a multiplayer RTS in their magnitude.

New Items
Almost 1000 new items are available in v2.0. Also added are treasure chests found in dungeons and combat maps as well as an item mall where players can exchange marketing or event materials for rare items.

Item Crafting
Players will now be able to use the raw items they gather (such as iron and coal) to create their own items. Created items are always a better source of income than selling raw items.

More Recruitable NPCs (RNPCs)
Among them is Diego the Carpenter. 100 new NPCs were also added, who knows, maybe the popular ones will become recruitable! You can check out video previews of all the new stuff on youtube.

More Information
IAH Granado Espada Official Website
Registration for Pre-Open Beta Testing
Granado Espada Blog

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