How Lineage put South Korea on the MMO map

ByJose A. York

Sep 4, 2022

Sometimes it’s okay to blow your own trumpet, pat yourself on the back. For those times, a popular Korean phrase comes to mind: 업적을 많이 쌓였어. Does it ring a bell ? It is popular with children. Literally translated, this is player parlance for “I have accumulated a lot of achievements”. It could also be repurposed to describe South Korea’s own contributions to the gaming market, as it is currently ranked fourth in the world. Think of South Korea as a nation: it’s a country the size of Indiana with a population of 51.78 million, 33.8 million of whom claim to be regular gamers.

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But South Korea is doing more than just to play– they also produce, in particular, one of the most prolific and best-selling series of online games: Lineage. They are also mouth watering bulgogibut finish this article first, then call Uber Eats.

MMO IN ROK

In the early 80s and early 90s, South Korean video game production started in earnest with a few Samsung titles like 1989’s not-so-fun-to-play Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (which was available everywhere), and fun from 1992. ie Uzu Keobukseonbut (which was only available in South Korea).

Around the same time in the United States, with the widespread popularity of the AOL “Internet subscription service”, more and more gamers had access to dial-up Internet, which enabled a large number of users to simultaneously play online games. Despite the incredibly shitty bandwidth of the time, the number of multiplayer games grew to a degree that justified a nickname for these kinds of experiences: massively multiplayer online games, of course.

By the time NCSoft Studios was founded in 1997 in Seongnam, Korea, Western MMO games like AOL’s Neverwinter Nights (completely unrelated to Bioware’s 2002 identical game) for and Meridian 59 were gaining momentum rapidly. In 1998, NCSoft’s first game, Lineage, not only established them as the first Korean developers to throw their hats into the online gaming arena, but also as patrons of 만화, or Korean manga.

You see, the original concept of Lineage was based on manhwa artist – and current president of the Korea Association of Cartoonists – the medieval epic of the same name by Shin Il-suk. In an interview, Il-suk recounts his first experience with Lineage at the dawn of online gaming. “I tried the game, but it would freeze every five minutes for a few seconds, and my character would die. People told me it was better in internet cafes, but it was more or less the same I thought the game wasn’t going anywhere unless they (NCSoft) did something about it, and they did something about it.

Shin Il-suk’s comic relies on a few classic medieval tropes involving long-haired maidens, longer-haired princes, blood oaths, and heaps of family drama. There are a few twists, but the biggest sticking point is that in the kingdom of Aden, the young red-haired prince Deporojue is the good guy, who builds guilds and armies to defeat his stepfather, Ken Rauhel, the mean one. The game’s plot is equally basic: good medieval guys fighting medieval bad guys in a medieval setting.

However, NCSoft was far more interested in implementing proven RPG mechanics, such as quest points and character upgrades and grinds. You definitely have your options: elf, dark elf, knight, prince/princess, magician, dragon knight and finally illusionist. When it comes to MMO gameplay, a major advantage of Lineage was its use of PvP (player versus player) combat, but these types of matchups could be diminished by securing “blood covenants” – guilds made up of like-minded players. ideas banding together under the banner of their clan leader to ensure victory in sieges (note: only Princes/Princesses can create a blood pledge. Sorry, Dragon Knights). It was something groundbreaking in the MMO era, and helped set Lineage apart as an innovative title.

The game was played from a top-down 2D isometric view which was the state-of-the-art equivalent of its MMO peers. You had your trusty blood oath guild, money from monster battles and Additional income from castles you previously ransacked in neighboring regions. This tax was known as the “Castle Siege” tax and was one of Lineage’s main mechanics. Once you’ve besieged a castle, you’ve become the lord of that town, giving you the green light to set tax rates on shops in the area. It was a good way to earn money while you fought dragons or other players.

Imagine this: you decided to go with the knight instead of the elf because of his bravery and strength, but you must know that you cannot use magic. As a bonus, the Knight’s alignment is neutral, meaning other players won’t fight you on sight. The scene opens in the lands of Hidden Valley. Your red HP and blue Mana bars are full, a few townspeople are lingering, bunnies are hopping among the rubble.

Here you meet a wizard to whom you bequeath the speaking scroll. In return, he imparts great wisdom and items to aid you in your quest: maps, healing potions, and weapons. Satisfied, you leave the safe haven of the city through its gates, slaying a few goblins along the way for some needed Adena (money). Soon you meet another wizard. This one will give you access to the Hidden Valley Dungeon, where you can moan about gruesome villains, while leveling up your Novice powers. Oops, too late! A vicious Sewer Vakuuk killed you. Maybe you should have chosen the magician, huh?

Later, with a blood pledge, you can align yourself with clans and slay countless armies until you take control of several fortified towns: Diad Fortress, Aden Castle, Dwarven Castle and even Kent Castle. But you resist the urge to smash the urban poor and set the tax at a modest 10%. You will go far, young knight.

As long as the internet cafe had solid bandwidth, life was good, especially for NCSoft, which in 1998 alone raised $1,496,470 (about 2,000,000,000 Korean Won) from gambling, with more than one million users in the first fifteen months. It did particularly well in the Asian market, with Taiwan topping the charts. In the first twelve days of Lineage’s launch, the number of Taiwanese users exceeded 80,000, earning Lineage the title of the best online game in Taiwan.

Besides money, Lineage won the Korea Game Awards 1998, as well as the Korea Game Awards Export Award 2002, as well as the Super Brand Award 2005 organized by the South Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy . Along with loyal gamers at home and across Taiwan, Lineage’s popularity has grown among users in Japan, China, Europe and North America, making it one of the most popular online games. popular in South Korean history.

HEIRS TO THE THRONE

Success often begets another attempt at success. In this case, Lineage 2 was released in 2003 under an eternal cloud, primarily due to the divisive “pay to play” business model, which allowed deep-pocketed players to gain the edge on the battlefield.

In May 2022, Lineage W’s revenue significantly exceeded forecasts, reaching 790.3 billion won (approximately $591 million). However, none of this would have been possible without the initial success of its revolutionary founder.

South Korean games are a bit like ghosts and gravity: they exist, even though you can’t see them. However, in the case of the original bloodline, the game simply did not cause any spot on the map, it devoured the entire globe. It also served as a launching pad for South Korean developers to earn their place among the online giants of the gaming world. knightly kneeling.

In Shin Il-suk’s loving words, “The best thing about it (Lineage) is that you don’t have to be good at games,” which is an oddly comforting feeling. There’s something to be said for those who love the classics, even the low-bandwidth ones. And to that I say, “가재는게 편이라”. Something like “Birds of a feather…”. A token of blood, perhaps.