RPGamer Feature - Sword of the New World: Granado Espada Exclusive Interview
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Developer: imcGames
Publisher: K2 Network
Release Date: 02.2008

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With over half our Podcast crew mentioning the game every week, it's no surprise RPGamer recently sat down with K2 Network about their Free2Play MMORPG, Sword of the New World: Granado Espada. With the first expansion already out for three months, the community being one year older, and some major patches hitting the servers, we scooped the latest from associate producer Jon-Enee Merriex.

Jon-Enee has a new title! Can we hear a little about this new promotion and any new direction Sword intends to take?
I have been put in control of Sword’s operations and production. It is a pretty big step up from GM Lead, but with the help of my team and specifically Jin Hee Park (our AP of Dev Relations) I think we will make some awesome gains in the next year.

My new position is more about getting Sword on track for the long haul not just the quick buck other MMO companies try to get out of their games. That means moving into new markets K2 Network has experience in (such as South America and Eastern Europe), while expanding our current market player base as well as adding value to our players both through and other online opportunities.

One major change we are making is a hard about-face in our botting policy. We ban thousands of accounts a day for botting and most of them are Real Money Transaction Farmers or RMTs. Our new change is specifically targeting non-RMT botters. These are actual players who are not playing by the rules. While our first step to reversing our decision has been made there is much more to come.

We now have a full-time employee who is working primarily on text issues with the game. We are going to make bigger text updates monthly. Another thing I want to get back to is our community. Players may notice that there are now four K2 staff members on the forums. I feel that in the last months of ‘07 and the first few months of this year, we have not been participating with our players as much as we would have liked to. That is changing and it is readily apparent on our forums with the increased activity there and in-game. I am always encouraging my team (GMs, Community and CS alike) to have fun, because at the end of the day, our job is to engage our players in fun.

K2 recently released "Land of the Dead" for Sword - can you give readers who haven't played the game an idea of what the new zone entails?
Well, in a word: insanity. The Land of the Dead (LoD) allows all players to openly attack each other without penalty. There are a number of new quests, 2 new Unique Player Characters (UPCs), a host of new weapons & armor and a LOT of death.

The Land of the Dead is filled with undead (hence the name) from a dirty battle in Granado Espada’s history. Players enter this new zone intent to find the reason for these unfulfilled souls and to help Kurt Lyndon (the abandoned son of another major NPC in the game, Hugo Lyndon) the Queen of Vespanola’s right-hand in the New World.

In the first week we launched LoD, combat has taken flight. On one of the worlds, players actually had a full-day battle to control the area. It’s really fun to see the struggle and more importantly the smack talk.

Can non-cash shop players still access the new content?
Short answer: yes, long answer: yes.

This is kind of a big thing for us - staying true to our Free2Play trademark and staying fiscal. When we launched the Manifest Destiny expansion we definitely were looking at costs and trade-offs. F2P players can access new areas with no need of cash shop items. Gigante Island and Bahamar Bayou are both examples of that.

Land of the Dead however is accessible on our PvP worlds for free (3 of our 4 worlds are PvP worlds). We do understand the concern on our Non-PvP World that the area requires you to pay because you cannot gain the PvP status to enter the area unless you spend a minimum of $5 USD which is how much it costs to purchase a Wheel of Destiny and Otite Perfume for one day to complete the quests to go in.

While this is a major update for us, it is less than one fourth of the content coming to the New World with Manifest Destiny.

The one year anniversary is coming up; while K2 is keeping most of it hush-hush, what one aspect of the anniversary can the players look forward to the most?
Well, we are getting started early. In the second week of April we will be releasing details about our 1 Year Community Anniversary (April 17th my B-DAY) which will include events, prizes AND a 2 week increased drop-rate event!!! Not to mention free gold… everyone loves free gold.

Our 1 Year Launch Anniversary is happening in July. What I CAN say at this point is we will have a special event in the New World for it, we will have a special release for it and of course other events, prizes, free gold and XP/Drop-Rate Boost events.

More than anything, I think players need to clear their schedule for 7/10/08 (1 year to the day that we launched). That date will be big and they will not want to miss it!

When does K2 expect to put out their next expansion? Does it have a name yet or will the players get to name it again?
We have not nailed down an exact release date yet, but will be working with imcGAMES and HanbitSoft this month to make sure we have everything set-in-stone so we can start our PR and Marketing push.

The expansion itself is coming with 3 new UPCs, a new map, new stances, new skills, new items, new raids and a couple of cool in-game features that will be tying into the GamersFirst Portal very well.

We are still toying with the idea of letting players pick the name (The thread to suggest a name is here, with discussion here). We actually felt Manifest Destiny was such a perfect pick from our players that they may get another swing at naming the next one.

Wars have really started to blossom. Could you please explain how this event works? Will there be a reset of the wars soon? Why?
Explaining a FACTION War is easy. In Sword there are 2 Factions that Clans can choose to join: Royalist or Republican. Every month players elect one Player in their Faction to be their Faction’s Leader. Then every Saturday, Clans have the opportunity to take control of 21 Colonies located throughout Granado Espada. The Faction that owns the most Colonies at the end of the Faction War is named the Dominant Faction and their leader receives the tax from the Market Manager for the week (think AH). It is usually a LARGE sum of money. We are planning on making a change to how the Market Manager tax is distributed to be fairer to smaller Clans.

As for resetting the Faction Wars, we do feel that a reset once a Quarter is necessary. Week-to-week the owners of Colonies don’t always change. But, at the end of every Quarter, we do plan to remove all ownership and allow players to start all over again. This hopefully will help new Clans and Alliances to develop.

For those that don't play, can you please explain the "Expert" promotion recently released? How many experts are around? Which server has the most?
In Sword, players level their characters to 100. Once they reach 100 they can purchase (either in-game or through the cash shop) a Veteran Promotion Scroll. This allows them to continue to level their character but it takes a significantly longer period of time to obtain max XP.

Being Veteran allows users to gain additional HP, SP and other stats as well as access to new stances, skills, weapons and armor. When they have reached max XP in Veteran they can then purchase (again, in-game or through the Cash Shop) an Expert Promotion Scroll which works the same way as the Veteran Promotion.

The majority of our player-base is working their way through 60-Veteran right now. We have about 100 players who are Expert on all four worlds. The worlds are pretty evenly matched in quantity of Experts on each.

What's coming up this month new for the cash shop?
April will bring the Land of the Dead Pack which includes 90 Mysterious Powders, a Wheel of Destiny and an Otite Powder as well as some other perks to the pack when it is released. I think that will be our big seller with a price point of $14.95 USD. We also intend to release larger packs of Enchant Boosters and Upgrade Accelerators so players can get them in bulk.

May is going to bring our first real cash shop decay. I have been hinting at this for a while but in May it will happen. Several costumes and ‘other’ items will drop in price as they fade into non-existence. I will say, players may want to pick up those items as they will disappear from the cash shop altogether in June.

Is another cash shop sale in the works?
Always! :) We are planning far into 2009 right now. So another cash shop sale is definitely going to happen this year as well as our first sale on gold.

How does K2 resolve competing with the ever-increasing F2P genre of games?
I think Sword of the New World is in a really interesting spot. It is one of the best made F2P games and even with a couple other F2P games on the horizon it tops them easily. I never really consider Sword competing with them or P2P games even. Sword is here for the long haul. We are driven to give our dedicated player-base new content, new items and new experiences every month while at the same time letting our casual and “drifter” population find a solid home to return to even if they go out and try other games. We are going to be here and we are going to continue to be better than ever.

RPGamer would like to thank all those at K2 Network who made this interview possible. Sword of the New World: Granado Espada can be downloaded for free at the Official Site.

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