Do you remember MapleStory?
Back in 2003, the original free-to-play 2D side-scrolling MMO was hugely popular. Developed by the South Korean development team, Wizet, the game featured tons of grinding and esoteric farming routines that hardcore players fully embraced. However, the optimistic world and fanciful aesthetic that allowed players to create their perfect avatar attracted a casual crowd as well that primarily played to socialize and style their avatar. In 2005, the game was released to Western audiences and, in Runescape-esque fashion, it became a cult classic.
Fast forward to 2015 and MapleStory 2 was released in South Korea. The game was a massive departure from the original grind fest. The levelling curve was made easier thanks to an abundance of quest and players found themselves managing combat resources as opposed to just spam clicking attacks on enemies all day.
However, the most apparent change was the graphics -- gone were the side-scrolling screens and, in their place, stood a fully 3D environment with Minecraft inspired geography. Naturally, an extra dimension added another layer of combat manoeuvrability and, for the first time, the MapleStory franchise felt like a modern MMO.
Sure, it's cutesy charm and emphasis on styling your avatar will turn off some Western fans, but those who manage to embrace the aesthetic might be surprised at how authentically social an MMO can feel when every avatar is a visual representation of the player behind the keyboard. Players are recognized for how their avatar looks, moves and emotes and, I've been told that this extra layer of personality is one of MapleStory 2's biggest strengths.
A Maplestory... Battle Royale?
I had a chance to interview the development team of MapleStory 2 during a launch party of sorts on August, 21st. It was an invite-only gathering of top MapleStory 2 streamers, content creators, and influencers and I am certainly not any of these things.
Initially, it was a bit surreal seeing so much enthusiasm and die-hard fanaticism over MapleStory.
"There are not that many casual MMO games out there and we are very proud to provide one"
In hindsight, it shouldn't have been all that surprising. the original MapleStory, to date, boasts more than 273 million characters created and is easily one of the most popular MMO's of all time. MapleStory 2 has been thriving in South Korea and China for the past three years and, after two recent beta periods for Western audiences, it was finally time to launch a definitively global Maple Story 2 version.
And no game would be complete without a stand-alone Battle Royale mode. After all, MapleStory 2 is trying to attract Western gamers in 2018 and the universe is currently in unanimous agreement that Battle Royales are the way to do it. Not even MapleStory 2 is safe from the seemingly omnipotent genre.
However, in creating their version of the worlds most inaccurate chicken dinner maker, MapleStory developers have made a conscious decision to keep it casual, playful, and not too mechanically intensive.
Lead Game Designer Miyoung Oh elaborates on the decision:
"We know it's a common genre right now and we have played those games. However, in all of them, you use guns. I've always found guns difficult to use but, in MapleStory 2 it's not like that -- attacks are easy to hit with wide areas. If you want, they're even very low level AI you can fight for a very light, casual Battle Royale experience.
It's a very unique mode. It doesn't require you to aim at exact points and we expect players to create something new out of it."
Maplestory 2 developers have already released their separate Mushking Royale Pre-Season client (you can download it on the Nexon launcher) and it will be live until the games full launch (which still includes the game mode) on October 10th. The adorable battle to the death features squad mode, tracked stats, leaderboards and exclusive prizes for the players who manage to gain their regions #1 spot.
YouTuber Jaeky playing Mushking Royale. If Fortnite can pivot from the initial premise of their game and succeed as a Battle Royale, why can't MapleStory 2?
For a casual game (though Korean developers describing their MMO as casual may actually translate to "normal" by Western standards) Mushking Royale can get surprisingly intense. Potentially unfair PvP encounters have a knack for creating that intensity and the "me-against-the-world" allure of the Battle Royale genre isn't completely lessened by adorable Mushrooms and anime aesthetics.
When asked about whether or not Mushking Royale may have the ability to eclipse the core MMO gameplay of MapleStory 2, Lead Designer Oh seemed open to the possibility:
"Sure, it would be great if Mushking Royale mode became really popular but we really want it to be both. We are still focusing on the primary MapleStory 2 gameplay the most."
I'm sure Epic Games would have said the same thing before the wildfire success of their cartoonish Battle Royale. Come to think of it, MapleStory 2 already has unlockable emotes (some of them are dances) and the games dizzying array of their avatar outfits simply can't be matched. Perhaps Nexon America's decision to keep things casual will be the saving grace that distinguishes the game from all of the other Battle Royales being released this year.
Aspiring Mushkin's who download and play MushKing Royal enjoy the added benefit of reserving their MapleStory 2 in-game name before the official October launch, so if you even have a passing interesting in Maple Story 2, checking out their lite Battle Royale seems is a smart play.
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