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The First Descendant interview with game director Minseok Joo

At Summer Game Fest Play Days earlier this month, I had an opportunity to speak with The First Descendant director Minseok Joo following my hands-on demo. As a fan of other “looter shooter” titles, such as Destiny 2 and Warframe, I was curious about what made the team want to enter such a top-heavy genre dominated by a few long-running games.
It turns out they just really love looting! Well, that was one of the revelations from my interesting conversation about what could be one of the biggest hits of 2024.
If you want to read more of my thoughts on The First Descendant, I also spent some time with the launch preview in late June to get a better feel for the game.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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Q: How much of the game requires cooperative play, and how much can you do on your own?
A: So, we try to balance those two. Since this is a player vs. environment shooter game for some content, we do try to focus on the single-player. We try to recommend doing cooperative play. It’s a grinding game where you have to farm, so this is suitable for single players as well.
Q: Are there other games in the looter shooter genre that were especially influential on The First Descendant and features or concepts you wanted to implement or avoid?
A: As a development team, this is our first time making a looter shooter game, so we reference lots of other looter shooter games: Destiny, Warframe, Outriders, The Division. We also took some of the advantages from those games in reference to our game. And we also try to differentiate our game from those games, with features like the grappling hook, the big bosses, and various playable characters.
Q: There aren’t a ton of successful looter shooter games, so what about this genre attracted the team?
A: Initially, our development team’s main specialty was RPGs, and Nexon stands out in the live service industry. We thought combining those two together with shooting, we could draw the global audience’s attention, and that’s something that Nexon does the best. The reason why we chose the looter shooter genre is because there aren’t that many out there, but we know that there are a lot of players who like these games, and we wanted to draw that audience.
Q: What is the planning process for deciding what to include at launch and what to start working on for future updates?
A: This is our first time doing a looter shooter game, so we did a bunch of tests. We’ve done three public tests already, and more than that privately. Within that process, we receive all the feedback and improve. There is content that we would like to provide to our audience and we are planning on that too.
Q: Nexon has had a lot of success with games like MapleStory and Dungeon & Fighter. How did that success influence The First Descendant?
A: From the success of Nexon, we try to learn what we can from those live service games. Since we’re a development team inside Nexon, we wanted to acquire that knowledge from the rest of Nexon. We still think Nexon is a challenger within the global market – we’re not a skilled expert out there, and we wanted to test whether this game would suit a global audience.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do in the game when you have 20-30 minutes to play?
A: I’m going to collect the requirements for my favorite character. I love looting.
Q: When it comes to live service and online games like Destiny and The Division, they can become overwhelming, especially for new people who are trying to join months or years in. How do you continue to give the fans who are playing plenty to do without creating a barrier to entry for new players?
A: It is a good question! It’s one of my main concerns these days. The design team is continually thinking on how to improve and how to get players to easily join and play our game. We also have to think about post-launch – not just a couple of months from today, but what’s going to happen in the future. It’s also very important to make an environment where new players come in and they won’t have to follow up the players that are already out there and need to catch up. When we’re updating content, we’re continuously thinking: “Who’s our main target?” So, our goal is to continuously update content for the existing users and the new users so they can come together and enjoy the game. I’m very confident that this is one of our areas of expertise. I’m very confident we can make this happen.
Q: What led to using Unreal Engine 5 and what are the advantages of the engine?
A: We wanted to show the most updated graphics out there. When we compare to other games that have been out for decades, if we want to compete with them, we need to have better graphics, so we wanted use the most updated version of Unreal Engine.

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