Granado Espada

The Korean market is constantly flooded by cookie cutter MMORPGs and it was Kim Hakkyu's dream to evolve the genre by developing a new MMORPG geared to fire interest in even the most fickle of offline RPG players. FLAREgamer is here to give readers the first and only english preview of this highly anticipated import game.

Kim Hakkyu Taking a look at all the MMORPGs that I've played, there is one central element in each of them once I take away all the achievements and memories. That one thing is: the character. My character is what I put most of my efforts and self into developing. It's the only extension of the self into the game and oftentimes we create multiple characters as we can't decide, or we feel the urge to try something new due to strategy, or we do it to simply have more fun. After much brainstorming, Kim Hakkyu (Producer: IMC Games Co.,Ltd.) decided to make characters the focus of a new MMORPG.

Enter Granado Espada, a beautiful world designed with 17th century renaissance style in mind. In GE players are no longer limited to their characters and the skills that their character develops. Characters are shared and party play is dynamic, while players are still able to specialize in specific skills. RPG enthusiasts who enjoy being able to control multiple characters with varying abilities in a party can now have it in an online game, and no MMORPG has ever offered it before due to game balance and system load limitations.

MCC (Multi Character Control)
Where offline gaming allows players to take their time in choosing their actions, online gaming is fast and instantaneous. It doesn't allow one to pause the game to think. This is why Artificial Intelligence was needed to make Granado Espada's MCC system possible. There has yet to be an MMORPG game where gameplay AI is heavily used in a 3D environment and with full 3D pathing.

Pathing is the distance travelled by the character from one point to another. It is calculated server side so that characters don't constantly get stuck by obstacles (as they do in other games) and for security reasons. The Granado Espada preview videos show how their own PathEngine (developed in France) automatically has characters move around obstacles. This means less manual clicking is needed to move from one location to the next. Characters can walk long distances without clicking or steering hundreds of times, and can chat freely while travelling.

Players in GE form teams, also known as parties, of 1-3 characters at a time. The leader character is the one which players are in full control of, while the other team members will act like pets who follow and execute predetermined actions. The predetermined AI actions can be set to the fullest details, so players who are worrying about the limitations of AI have one less thing to fret about. Players can also switch between the characters of their team at any moment by one key press (ex: F1, F2, F3). It's not as challenging as it sounds to swap between characters but it does take large amounts of concentration and attention. Anyone who has played multiple characters and skill sets on previous MMORPGs and RPGs should have no problems adapting.

Fighter and Wizard (these are realtime graphics and not FMV) It is still possible to use one character at a time. During solo play, characters may get more experience per monster defeated however it will be increasingly difficult to do so. Simple examples of why a party is needed include: a Wizard needs someone to defend him while casting, or a Fighter needs HP recovery. These are basic gameplay foundations of any RPG game, but should a team want to specialize on certain skills for certain situations, they can do so. An example would be a party of Wizards and Warlocks who combine their magic skills to greater effect.

Players of Granado Espada don't develop themselves through simply fighting monsters, predicting their weaknesses and gaining extremely strong items or equipment. To maximize playing skill, one must know how to fight against the unexpected in PVP (Player Versus Player) and make use of the various AI settings.

One of the settings is Stance, which can be switched by the player using the ALT+1,2,3,4 keys. Stance modifies how the character is being used (ex: offensive or defensive) and the character's skill with a certain stance increases the more they use it. The stance system is not limited to fighting characters, magicians can also use it to access differing types of magic. As well, the positions of characters and monsters on the field do affect gameplay (ex: should one of the characters get knocked back, the other two can start attacking the monster from behind and do more damage).

Normally BOTs (AI controlled characters for quickly leveling up or farming items) and sharing characters are not allowed in MMORPGs for obvious reasons. In Granado Espada, it's how players share characters and manage Auto-Hunt (AI) while actively playing that makes the game enjoyable. Furthermore, this deters players from trying to use BOTs because the characters must be managed outside of one simple loop and adaptive strategy is necessary.

The focus on survival is highly important. Characters are consumable units and have a certain amount of Life Counts that are lost each time they die. Should the count reach 0, the character cannot be played for a certain period of real time. When the period is over, the character will have a count of 1. The main purpose of this is to invigorate the trading of characters among players.

Musketeer artwork and renderThe IMC Games Project Team didn't like how the concept of Job Changing was overdone in other MMORPGs and decided to choose a system that worked with the core of MCC, which is party playing. Instead of changing jobs, they decided upon a Mercenary System. NPCs (Non Player Characters) in cities and even monsters can become party members like in offline RPGs, while not being limited to simple functions (like 'pets' in other MMORPGs). The line between NPC and PC is diminished in GE.

Where players have goals of expanding their items and equipment collections in previous MMORPGs, GE focuses on collecting characters. Since characters can be traded like items between players, GE hopes to overcome problems of stolen account details or RMT (Real Money Trading) which are problems currently plaguing the MMORPG market. There is no one solution to those problems, however GE is trying to stop them where they start, through creating gameplay which focuses on what is enjoyable for a player and by limiting what is gained into things which can only be useful through actively playing the game.

The current character jobs unveiled for GE are Fighter, Scout, Wizard, Warlock, and Musketeer. Possible future jobs may include Alchemists, however the beta has been delayed. Although the jobs seem self-explanatory, it would be interesting to note that some of the classes are not what they traditionally seem to be. The Scouts are actually a class that can use curative and trapping items, and they tend to stay away from battle. The Wizards have the ability to use strong psychokinesis and weakening magic while the Warlocks manipulate the elemental magics. Combining the right jobs with the right stances when building teams will yield stronger results as it opens up abilities not normally available to the characters on their own. Combined with Stance, the possibilities of skill combinations seems endless.

BarracksThis is essentially a beefed up character selection screen. Think of it as a house for the player's (up to 12) characters. Characters from the house all share a last name, which is the equivalent of a username and cannot be the same as anyone else on the server. The character's first names are what differentiates them within a player's Barracks. When characters are traded between players, they adopt the new last name.

Within the Barracks, players select up to three characters to form a team or create characters in the dressing room before logging in. Unlike other selection screens where characters stand like lifeless dolls, GE has characters assume poses that fit the scenery and their personalities. Since time is of the essence, it's also not necessary to watch the full animation of the characters walking to and from the team formation.

NPCs and enemies may also join a player's Barracks as Followers through recruitment. Certain conditions must be met for this to happen, it could be through quests or game money. It's most likely going to remain a 'rare', first-come-first-served basis as they tend to have jobs and abilities not available to player characters.

Further Details
Instead of a typical MMORPG back story which is clearly laid out with history and mythology, random excerpts of the GE story are introduced through epistolas, recollections of scenes in history through various points of view. Players take the role of European settlers arriving in this New World as it's being colonized and their rivals are other settlers and it's inhabitants.

We have yet to see more of the world. As of now, many locations around and within Reuboldoeux (the main city which has a Prontera feel) have been used while demonstrating the game. The only other field that has been shown is Tetra Ruins (which has a dry and desolate, Moroc feel) and a generic dungeon where 15 teams (45 characters in total) took down a monster simultaneously.

Much of the game is meant to be handled by the players within it. It seems in-game politics and trading of characters will be a large focus, instead of constantly leveling and visiting NPCs to finish quests. It's possible through the Vote System for players to become elected as GMs and have similar powers so that actual GMs do not have to intervene as much in lesser affairs, while players still get support. Players who have actively participated in Team Versus Team tournaments are offered this opportunity. How this unfolds in game has yet to be known.

Currently MMORPG players can only screenshot what happens ingame to save and show their progress. Within Granado Espada, they can record scenes and movement with the Replay Function. The possible uses for this are endless, think of watching huge scale events such as TvT and TvB to note strategies, or recollecting most memorable moments.

Finally, all that has been released of the closed beta shows no character customization outside of name. Whether physical appearance, equipment or statistics can change outside of the five sets of default character jobs has yet to be revealed. Considering the level of detail and ability to zoom in on characters more than in previous MMORPGs, it's a strong possibility.

Two Clients
High-End and Low-EndThere are two clients simultaneously in development. This is to accommodate players with high-end and low-end PCs. The clients are made separately from the ground up, unlike those of previous games. Instead of working from the high-end spec and stripping off details until it's low, each client has a specific look to it and different textures or details. Take a close look at the screenshots, and note the care put into making the low end client look good on it's own yet still quite similar to the high-end client. By having both clients render environments more naturally instead of using fog to hide popup, environments look more realistic.

Beta Status
Hanbit Soft signed an agreement with Hitachi to enter the Japanese market. Granado Espada has also been sold to The9 Limited to enter the Chinese market. Granado Espada is in closed beta and all interface screens are also subject to change.

Producer: Kim Hakkyu, known from Ragnarok Online
Sound: Sound TeMP, known from Ragnarok Online
Artwork: Limha Lekan, known from SOULLESS

More Information
Granado Espada Official Site
digitalFLARE beta discussion and how-to

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