One of the most popular Asian MMORPGS is poised to make its way to the West. NCsoft has announced that Blade & Soul will launch in North America and Europe this winter. Blade & Soul is, according to the company, ” a game unlike any other, set in an Asian, mythological world where fast-paced combat collides with the visual beauty of a Far-East martial arts massively-multiplayer online universe.” Since its initial launch in Asia in mid-2012, Blade & Soul has attracted tens of millions of players across South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Japan, while emerging as one of the top MMORPGs in the world.

“Blade & Soul is one of the most anticipated online games by Western consumers,” commented John Burns, senior vice president of publishing at NCsoft West. “This is a tremendous opportunity to bring one of the most successful and fun online games in Asia to our Western audience this winter and we can’t wait to deliver this extraordinary and distinct gaming experience to millions of new players across North America and Europe.”

Omeed Dariani

The game focuses on a classic Wuxia story line, set in a fantastic Asian-inpspired world, in which players must fight to avenge the death of their fallen master. Wuxia, which literally means “martial hero”, is a broad genre of Chinese fiction concerning the adventures of martial artists in ancient China. The game is visually stunning, with impressive landscapes and an immensely customizable character creation engine.

NCsoft’s community director Omeed Dariani and producer Nicolas Courant spoke with [a]listdaily about the game, its business model, and how it is than an MMORPG has eSports potential.

NCsoft has many RPGs in its history. What’s special about Blade & Soul, and why bring it to the West?

Blade & Soul is a game that came out in 2012 in Korea. It’s tremendously successful and it’s been rolled out all through Asia. Each place it’s been more successful — when they launched in China, they had 1.5 million concurrent users on the day of launch. There’s a tremendous amount of demand to bring this over to the West.

There’s an 8,000 person petition to bring it to the West. There’s a fan site that has 65,000 people on it. I probably get four or five tweets a day from fans who say ‘Where’s Blade & Soul Please bring it!’ and ‘We need it!” The good news is that we’re doing that. We’re localizing it into three languages — French, German, and English —simultaneously. We’re planning to go into closed beta this fall, and then commercial launch in the winter.

Nicolas Courant

What’s the business model for Blade & Soul?

The game is an action MMO, and it’s completely free-to-play — we’re not going to gate any content. We’ll be talking about that more this summer. The most important piece is that it’s free to play from a content perspective. We don’t want to put anything behind gates, we don’t want this area to be restricted for you because you didn’t give us ten dollars. There’s a steady pipeline for content updates. Since this game has been in development in Korea, and it’s still being updated in Asia, we’ve chosen to bring you in halfway through the story. The perfect point for players — tons and tons of content. There’s six Acts available in Asia right now. We’re releasing the first three, then four five and six will be releasing on a steady cadence. People will feel like there’s tons of stuff to do, and we’ll eventually catch up with Asia.

You mentioned that this game has eSports potential. How does that work for an MMORPG?

There’s really high-level competitive play involved for this game. We already have world championships in Asia — they’ve done broadcasts in Korea. The difficulty level is about how difficult it is to master the class — there’s a lot of action/reaction, move/countermove, parrying and dodging. It’s real-time combat, and you have to be paying attention and aiming. In many ways it has a lot in common with a fighting game.

How does the PvP system work?

You can play the full game without doing PvP at all, but it’s a very fun and important part of the game. At the start of the game you pick a faction — we call them Red and Blue for right now — and you get a costume for that faction. As long I’m not wearing this costume, I can’t be attacked in PvP. However, if I want to, I put this costume on and anyone of the opposing faction who’s also wearing their costume can attack me. There are two forms of PvP. There is a one on one arena PvP where people are just registered in matchmaking and you get into the arena. Then there is open-world PvP, where there are special quests and storylines. It’s not part of the main story, but it’s a nice activity people can do.