God of Arena – Localizing a Chinese-style Game for the Western Market

In this episode of LocaLAIse This!, we interview the Community Manager (CM) of Firevale Games about the challenges of adapting and recreating a Chinese-style game for the western market.

Below is the transcript of our interview content. Click here to listen. Enjoy!

Michelle:   Hello, everyone! Welcome back to LocaLAIse this. My name is Michelle Zhao, and I am the Managing Director for the Greater China area here at LAI Global Game Services. Our guest today is Rory Schussler, gaming community manager of Firevale’s new mobile game: God of Arena. What is unique about this team is that they are a Chinese company that achieved success in western mobile market. Today they are going to share their experience and insights about this new game. Now let’s welcome Rory.

Rory:   Hi, Michelle. It’s nice to be here! I am Rory, Community Manager for God of Arena from Firevale Games. Thank you for having me on to talk about our game.

Facebook Community Organic Growths –
The 1
st month after Community Manager took over – a tremendous growth on the 3rd week

1. Michelle:  Could you tell our audience about your company and your new game, God of Arena?

Rory: Firevale was founded by some industry talents from EA, Ubisoft and Zynga. Now we are based in Beijing and we have offices in ShangHai and HongKong.

As a startup in 2012, our first game was a social game. We spent 6 months building the game and then launched the game on some social networks in China. However, the game was unfortunately not successful due to some design mistakes and the downward trend of the social game market.

On Dec 2012, we decided to cancel the social game project. We reformed the company and kicked off our first mobile game – KongFu House. We released the first version of the game on May 2013. It brought us our first income and we were pretty excited at that moment. Later on in July 2013, we started to launch the game with our publishing partners in more territories. We were so lucky. The game had great success in China Mainland, Taiwan, HongKong, Macau, South Korean and Thailand. It ranked in the top of the AppStore for all of those countries. We reached Number 1 top grossing in China, Taiwan, HongKong, Macau, and Thailand. We were Number 4 top grossing in South Korea.

2013 was our lucky year. In early 2014 we started looking into the mobile game market of North America and Europe. We wanted to make games for the world. As the first step to the West, we decided to bring our successful game (which had proven itself successful in Asia) to the western market. However, our game – KongFu House – is an eastern culture game, and to make it a western game, we would have to have changed the game background to western culture. This is no easy task. But Firevale is always like that; we get an idea and we go for it. We chose our best designers, artists and engineers and told them that there is only one goal for this project: make the new game a much better game than KongFu House. To make this happen, our team put in a lot of effort working on it, and a few months later, the western version of KongFu House, God of Arena, was born.

Now God of Arena is launched on AppStore and Google Play. Our team is continuing to work on the game, add new features, and collect feedback from our players. We are confident that we will definitely continue to improve this great game.

2. Michelle:   After you decided you wanted to go for a western story and target market, how did your team decide on the theme for God of Arena? What are your team’s strengths and advantages that you used to make this happen?

Rory:  The reason for choosing this story is pretty simple. Like a lot of people around the world, we like the historic setting of Rome and we think the gladiators of Rome are very cool. That’s what motivated us to build a gladiator game. If you want to make an idea become real, you have to be excited about the idea first.

Our team is a proven fighter in the industry. There are no doubts about our strength in game design, art and engineering. And since a gladiator game is definitely a western setting, we want to serve our target market in North America and Europe.

3.  Michelle:    We’re interested to hear about some of the great ideas your team came up with during development.

Rory:   There was a lot of great creativity during the development. For example, when we started writing the story, we decided we wanted it to be something original. Then someone from the team suggested that we should add the great men from the history of Rome into the story, such as Caesar, Spartacus, etc. and let our players challenge them and even recruit them as fighters. Another idea came when we started building our competitive PVP feature, the Brave Tower. We thought about how to make a top player really feel like they are a champion. We came up with the idea of building a tower as a visual metaphor for this feature. The champion stands on the top and accepts challenges from everyone, while everyone else fights to climb up. There are a lot of great ideas that came from our team.

GOA’s Wiki pages

Michelle:   What about moving to a different market? Could you share with us about your localization experience?

Rory:   It was also challenging moving between two very different settings and deciding on what to do with thematic elements that don’t translate precisely. In a wuxia setting, it’s typical for all of the characters to use supernatural techniques in combat, so we made that an important gameplay element in Kongfu House. However, you don’t usually see warriors in the western classical era stories using the same kind of magical powers. We didn’t want to take it out of the game, though, so we worked hard to come up with titles and descriptions of the combat skills that didn’t seem out of place in a game about gladiators.

In terms of characters’ names and in-game dialogue, we worked with LAI’s localization team and we really like how they can come up with Greco-Roman flavor names to align with the style and setting of the historic time period. Their creative writing and translation makes the story and environment more immersive for the gamer.

In the end, I think we struck a good balance. Characters still use attacks that can strike through a line of enemies in one blow, but it doesn’t clash with the aesthetics or take you out of the grim and brutal atmosphere that characterizes combat in the setting.

4. Michelle:     On the subject of translation, localization and international publishing, I am curious, did you meet any issues during the development and publishing phases?

Rory:    Yes, we met a few more challenges in the publishing phase.

First of all, user acquisition is much more expensive than in Asia, so it’s more challenging to get people to try your game.

Secondly, there is more for the development team to learn about the preferences of western players. We needed feedback to understand what they like about the game and what they don’t like in order to serve our players better.

5. Michelle:    How are you dealing with those issues?

Rory:   Currently, we’re using the power of Facebook. We have integrated Facebook social features into the game. We have more features based on social systems in store on our production roadmap.

Our Facebook fan page is also an excellent way for us to collect feedback from players and to help us serve western players better. We’re also working on expanding our social media presence and using a game Wiki to help get players the information they want.

6. Michelle:    Are there any other interesting developments related to the game?

Rory:   There is one more thing makes all of us very excited. About 10 days after God of Arena was launched, we got an email from Apple informing us that God of Arena had been chosen as a featured game. And just before Christmas, our game was featured in Best New Games on Australia’s AppStore.

7. Michelle:    What is next for God of Arena and Firevale?

Rory:   For God of Arena, we plan to keep updating the game and bringing more fun to our players.

For Firevale, we will keep trying our best to build great games. Now we have stepped out from Asia, we will continue to learn from the world’s great game developers such as SuperCell, Kabam and Machine Zone. It’s our goal to make games for the whole world.

Michelle:   Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us, Rory! Hope Firevale will bring many more great games to our western players. 

Rory:   Oh, thank you, Michelle.

Michelle:   Back to our listeners, hope you enjoy today’s discussion with our friend Rory from Firevale Games. And as always, if you have comments, suggestion or questions for us here at LAI Global Game Services, please feel free to email us at podcast@lai.com, or you can even twit us at LanguageAutoInc.

 

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