WarCry had the honor of sitting down with Dragon Oath General Manager, Martin Tan. Mr. Tan discusses the unique nature of marketing a well-established Asian game in the West and gives fans an insider’s look at Dragon Oath. Keep reading!

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Please introduce yourself and give us your game development history.

Hi, I am Martin Tan, General Manager of ChangYou.com (US) Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of ChangYou.com Ltd., China’s leading online game developer and operator. I’ve been working in the Dragon Oath development team for over 5 years.

Please give readers some background about ChangYou.com. What other games have previously been developed by ChangYou.com and in which countries?

Our parent company ChangYou.com Ltd. (NASDAQ: CYOU) is a leading online games developer and operator in China. We began operations in 2003 as Sohu.com’s massively multi-player online games (“MMORPG”) business unit, before our carve-out as a separate, stand-alone company in December 2007 and subsequent listing on the NASDAQ Global Select Market in April 2009. We now operate one of the most popular MMORPGs in China, and have enjoyed healthy growth in users and revenues for our games. Our leading in-house technology platform includes an advanced 2.5D graphics engine, a uniform game development platform, effective anti-cheating and anti-hacking technologies, proprietary cross-networking technology and advanced data protection technology.

What precipitated ChangYou.com wanting to bring Dragon Oath to the North American market?

Dragon Oath, known in Asia as Tian Long Ba Bu (TLBB), has been operating in China for over two years and has received a number of awards and honors. After 3 years of developments and over two years of continual enhancements through the launch of regular updates and expansion packs, the game is well polished. As such, we think this is the right timing for us to bring the game to the American market. Dragon Oath is comparable to other established MMOs here in terms of quality and content, but at the same time, it offers a unique gaming experience beyond what gamers normally find in other games.

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How does marketing Dragon Oath in the Western market differ from strategies used in the Asian market?

Dragon Oath is adapted from a very popular martial arts fiction in the Greater China Region. When we began to market the game in China and other parts of Asia two years ago, it was already a household name.

On the other hand, most gamers in the United States are not familiar with the story of Dragon Oath, so we plan to put more efforts in introducing and promoting the unique gaming experience and gameplay that Dragon Oath is able to offer. We want American gamers to know that Dragon Oath is a well-developed free-to-play MMO with intricate game features that is comparable to those found in some of the best pay-to-play games in the U.S., including World of Warcraft.

We believe that eventually there will be a confluence of the Eastern and Western cultures that results in people sharing similar beliefs and interests. An example would be the fact that people in both the East and West find dragons mysterious and appealing. You might have heard about “How to Train Your Dragon”, a movie adapted from a popular children’s novel that is going to be released early next year. In fact, our game also has a function that has to do with dragons. In our game, gamers can breed and train their own dragon and go on adventures with it through an ancient wonderland. So I was thinking that this shared fascination with dragons in both the East and West may be something I can utilize for our marketing campaigns.

Tell us about the ChangYou team in the US. How many employees are based in the US?

Our team in the U.S. consists of Western MMO insiders and Chinese staff that have worked on the Chinese version of Dragon Oath. It is a bi-cultural team. Our aim is to combine the local staff’s insights and knowledge of the U.S. market with ChangYou’s management and operation experience gained in China.

What would you suggest sets Dragon Oath apart from all the other MMOs on the market today?

I think it’s a combination of things. We have all the typical features you would expect to find in a game, but also unique elements that players may not find in other games. In Dragon Oath, there are events happening throughout the day that keep gamers engaged. For example, we have automated quest events, trivia contests and Live GM events. If you want to join a game where there is always something going on, then Dragon Oath is for you.

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The most successful MMOs in North America and Europe have been the more traditional RPG-type such as is seen in World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online. How would you compare Dragon Oath to more “traditional” (at least in the West) MMOs?

The game was developed in the East so there are some features in the game that Western players may not be used to, but overall the elements that make good MMOs are in our game. I think Western players that have only played games from the West will find the features that we have added in Dragon Oath to be refreshing.

For those unfamiliar with Dragon Oath, what can you tell us about the game overall?

Dragon Oath is the English version of TLBB (Tian Long Ba Bu), one of the most popular online games in China. It is a free-to-play massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) set in ancient China. Dragon Oath allows players to engage themselves in ancient Chinese folklore and take part in captivating quests that tell the tales of warriors and diplomats from this time period. The game emphasizes teamwork and community and boasts over 300 different martial arts skills, 136 armor sets with up to 116 million combinations of weapons, over 200 pets with up to 80,000 combinations, and 100 automated daily in-game live events 24/7.

Dragon Oath offers many features, but I think what U.S. players will value most about the game is the Community. From the very beginning, Dragon Oath was built to be a community-based MMORPG that promotes players to form teams to complete quests rather than simply moving up levels by fighting. Dragon Oath was designed with features that encourage players to build a Friend-Line or so called a Group. Therefore, players who thrive on interactions and cooperation with others will find Dragon Oath appealing.

What is the background of the name “Dragon Oath”?

The game’s name is taken from the novel on which the game is adapted from. The story behind Dragon Oath revolves around a saga of complex relationships among numerous characters from various kingdoms and sects during China’s Northern Song Dynasty.

Dragon Oath is adapted from one of the most popular martial arts fictions, “Tale of Eight Demigods”, in Chinese communities around the world. It is set in the Song Dynasty in 960 AD. The main storyline is based upon the mythology of the eight races of non-human deities described in Buddhist cosmology.

Read on for more information about races and classes, PvP and more!

What classes and races are included in Dragon Oath?

Dragon Oath has nine classes:

Pyromancer:

Description/Bio: Pyromancer Kung Fu is characterized by preemptive attacks; they give up defense for a short while in order to have the most powerful attack among The Nine Classes. Pyromancers believe the Holy fire will bless them to be reborn and will choose to die in combat rather than flee from battle.
Location: Fire Palace.
Weapon Type: Spear & Falchion.
Slogan: When hungry, eat rice. When tired, close your eyes. When being attacked by murderous enemies, keep fighting.

Lotus Order:

Description/Bio: The Lotus Order apprentices usually study the personal virtues of the Buddha to pair with their Kung Fu. Their studies have given them abilities and skills to not only absorb damage, but also to heal as well.
Location: Mt. Emei.
Weapon Type: Single and Dual One-Handed Swords.
Slogan: A violent man does not die a natural death.

Royalty:

Description/Bio: Royalty Kung Fu prefers to use the finger instead of the sword and is most famous for the ‘Six Veins Divine Sword’ which attacks the bodys vital points to stun the target or reduce the target’s magical power. It is said that Royalty Kung Fu is the bane of magic users.
Location: Royal Temple.
Weapon Type: Fan & Chakram.
Slogan: Don’t think. Feel! It’s like a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you’ll miss all that heavenly glory.

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Minstrel:

Description/Bio: The Minstrels are often depicted as na-er-do-wells and charlatans who prefer not to meet challenges head on. They rely heavily on traps and devices to confuse their enemies. Their devices normally implore the aid of magic and fire elements.
Location: Minstrel Cave.
Weapon Type: Fan & Chakram.
Slogan: Running, he saves his own life and that of the tiger. This is not cowardice. It is the love of life.

Taoist:

Description/Bio: It is believed that the Taoist philosophy, which is ingrained in their training and promotes going with the flow and living simply and in harmony with nature, cultivates leaders of men.
Location: Mountain Wu Tang.
Weapon Type: Single and Dual One-Handed Swords.
Slogan: The man who focuses on the balance of power becomes the most powerful.

Voodoo:

Description/Bio: Voodoo Kung Fu is the weakest of the martial arts and relies heavily on the use of poisons to inflict damage, in most cases before the battle has even begun. The Voodoo have developed a strong defense against magic.
Location: Voodoo Sea.
Weapon Type: Single and Dual One-Handed Swords.
Slogan: Time is a predator that stalks us all our lives.

Assassin:

Description/Bio: The Assassins Kung Fu is so well known for its mystery that its apprentices are regarded as wraiths. Assassins are masters of the physical and ice attacks, dealing quick powerful combos, but the most terrifying skill is their ability to move unseen.
Location: Assassins Peak.
Weapon Type: Fan & Chakram.
Slogan: Men do not beat drums before hunting tigers.

Beggars Alliance:

Description/Bio: Every good general that goes into a war has a plan; the same can be said of The Beggars Alliance Kung Fu. The fighting style is based on a series of moves that build and increase the strength of their next attack. The apprentices base their attacks on the physical and the use of poisons milked from venomous snakes & insects.
Location: Dragon Temple.
Weapon Type: Spear & Falchion.
Slogan: When you see a worthy person, endeavor to emulate him. When you see an unworthy person, then examine your inner self.

Shaolin:

Description/Bio: Shaolin Kung Fu has a long history and is trademarked by its legendary iron body skill providing both tremendous offensive and defensive power.
Location: Shaolin Temple.
Weapon Type: Spear & Falchion.
Slogan: Avoid, rather than check. Check, rather than hurt. Hurt, rather than maim. Maim, rather than kill. For all life is precious, and none can be replaced.

Which of the above is your personal favorite and why?

I love “The Pyromancer”. I just like mixing it up in hand to hand and the ability to summon huge gouts of flames to destroy my enemies! Lotus is also very popular as it has healing abilities, and I also like the poisons offered by some of the other classes. There should be a class that will suit each and every player’s play style.

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Will there be ‘rideable’ mounts in Dragon Oath? If so, what are they?

Dragon Oath has a large variety of mounts, over 40 different types and all of them are rideable.

Why did ChangYou opt for the “free to play” model versus a subscription model?

This is the model that has proven successful in the gaming markets of several Asian countries. Dragon Oath has been a “free to play” game from the very first day it was launched in China and we intend to offer the game permanently for free to gamers. Our game is one of the leading games in this genre in terms of users and revenues in China. In recent years, the free-to-play model has been steadily gaining ground in the U.S. and many F2P MMOs here have performed quite well. This further boosts our confidence in the potential of this market segment.

What types of items will be available in the cash shop and what is the price range?

Many free-to-play games require their users to buy virtual items like special weapons or armor that isn’t available through normal game-play in order for them to stay competitive or access all available content. Dragon Oath doesn’t do that. For example, we don’t sell armor sets in the Item Mall. Also, some of the items we sell in the Item Mall can be gained through normal game-play. We strive to offer various features for different types of players so that even players that do not have deep pockets can enjoy the game, such as various community-building features and team-based activities. Ultimately, our aim is to build long-term loyalty from players.

What is your favorite premium item?

I am very excited about the Open Beta Gift packs. These gift packs contain all of the items currently available in the item mall, but it is being offered to gamers at a discount. In addition, if you are one of the first 30 people to buy the gift pack, you will get a second one for free.

Many MMO players complain about the “grind” in games. How much “grind” will be involved in Dragon Oath?

Well, with Dragon Oath, you aren’t going to reach the current level cap of 70 in a few days like some other games. The key is Dragon Oath gives you lots of options other than grinding to get the XP you need to level up. Quests, Group missions, and trivia are just some examples of other options available.

Will there be adequate challenges for high-level players?

The level cap is 70 for the moment in the US, but new levels will be made available as players reach the cap. We have already developed additional content that is waiting to be released over time to keep players engaged. In addition, even if you max out your level, you can always use the extra experience points to improve skills, so there is always something you can do in the game.

Will there be a PvP component in Dragon Oath? How would you compare it to other games and PvP systems?

Many guilds were set up for the purpose of PvP, and some events are also PvP driven. I would say the game compares to the early days of World of Warcraft pvp, open PvP combat.

What is your favorite aspect of the PvP system?

We have a pretty extensive system that factor in morality and crime points. Without going into too much detail, you can basically choose to be a good guy or bad guy in the game. The bad guys are marked in the game so that players are warned, and can opt to stay away from them if they are not in the mood to fight.

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Will Dragon Oath lean more to the hardcore player or the casual player? What will be the best features for each type?

It depends on how you define casual gamers. This is a game that you can pick up, find something to do for half an hour and put back down. It is also a game that you can spend a whole weekend playing by exploring the vast details of all the systems we have in place in the game.
Dragon Oath is a game with rich content but not a game that is hard to learn, so it attracts both casual and hardcore gamers. Each feature is also designed in such a way that benefits both casual and hardcore gamers. For example you can just collect pets and have a good time or you can delve deeper and find out how to capture and breed them.

What is your favorite in-game area? Describe it to us please.

I like the Pyromancer Class Fiery Temple, It fits the Pyromancer class so well, and it’s like a combination of the Batcave and a Volcano. Great place to hang out and exfoliate your pores.

What have been your most rewarding moments in the development of Dragon Oath?

There are a lot of rewarding moments in the two-year development of Dragon Oath. For us, the most rewarding is when our users recognize our efforts to better serve them, to give them unparalleled gaming experience and to meet whatever requirement they have.

What have been the most challenging moments in its development?

Translation was a challenge when we modified the game to cater to the U.S. market. Certain Chinese ideas are hard to express in English. So our localization team, which consists of bilingual American veteran gamers, worked really hard on this. For every episode in the game, even small episodes, our team would translate multiple times until our local testers are satisfied.

Dragon Oath is currently in open beta. How’s that going? What type of feedback have you received from players and how have you implemented their suggestions?

Dragon Oath has been doing quite well in Open Beta. The number of registered users nearly tripled from last week when we started the Open Beta. The feedback we have got from users so far is that Dragon Oath is of comparable quality as some of the better MMORPGs in the U.S. Gamers have a global community. Our users are especially interested in our huge variety of pets and mounts. Not only can they breed their own pets, but they are also thrilled by the 24/7 continuous live in-game events. These are features they typically will not find in other games. We are delighted with some of the positive feedback received and the momentum we are seeing in the game.
As we moved into Open Beta and received even more suggestions from players, we will look at the possible ways in which we can utilize players’ feedback for future releases because we are always interested in creating games with features that players would like to see. With the game having been in operation in China for over 2 years, the current version of our game already incorporates the ideas of many players. For example, when we first launched the Chinese version of Dragon Oath in China, it didn’t have as many pets and mounts as we have in the game today. It was only later, after our users told us what other types of pets and mounts they would like to have in the game that we added these features in. Same for armor sets. We believe players in the US will benefit from all these add-on items that will make their playing experience more fun and fulfilling.

Also, we will be opening up many new features for the Open Beta, such as “Martial Arts Battle”, an event in which every class will choose contestants to represent the class to fight and at the end of the battle, all members of the winning class will receive 3x of the normal quest rewards for a period of time after the event. In celebrations of the Open Beta launch, we will be holding special events both in-game and off-line, and will be giving away many great gifts. For more updates, players are welcome to visit our website www.DragonOath.com.

When will Dragon Oath hit “retail” release?

Very soon. Our item mall will be open at the end of November. We will make further announcement on that.

Please add any other information that you’d like.
Come play Dragon Oath and experience “Nine Destinies and Infinite possibilities”. We’re ready for you to work to become a Kung Fu master.

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