A History of Korean Gaming
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포리프 (4leaf) - Windows (June 2, 2000)
Softmax' first experience in the online sector wasn't the epic MMORPG one would have expected from the creators of The War of Genesis, but one of the avatar chatting clients that were all the rage in the early 2000s. Over time it was updated with extensive dress-up options and a couple of games where one could meet characters from former Softmax games.
The first was Changsegi World: Jusawi-ui Janyeong (May 18, 2001 - February 12, 2004), a board game featuring characters from the popular War of Genesis series. Three years later came the fun racer Dream Chase, developed by Artlab1 it was Softmax' first published game from another developer. However, the game was banned into obscurity by the far more popular competitor Cartoon Racer by Nexon, and Softmax quietly abandoned the game on February 17, 200519. It was replaced by Jellyppi Wars, a casual action game suspiciously similar to Bomberman or Nexon's BnB.
In 2004, Softmax' also started putting several flash games on their service, most of which were parodies of existing games: The puzzler 4Leapop (January 9, 2004), the Platformer Cliff Stocker (March 31, 2004), the shooter and Rhapsody of Zephyr parody Rhapsody of Jelly (March 31, 2004) and the Castlevania-inspired Vamper Quillat (June 19, 2004) remained with the service until its end on April 30, 2009. Two further games, Jellyboom (January 9, 2004) and Jaengban 369 (February 13, 2004) weren't renewed when Softmax phased out their original client software in favor of a browser-based interface on August 17, 200420.
마그나카르타 Magna Carta: The Phantom of Avalanche - Windows (December 28, 2001)
The hype for Magna Carta was bigger than any other Korean single player title. An epic, console-style RPG by Softmax, with beautiful real-time 3D graphics (although released vaguely around the same time as Final Fantasy X it couldn't but fall behind), how could that not be incredible?
Then the game hit and disappointed with an overly complicated and incomprehensible stat system, where success in even the most basic battles is utterly dependent on the correct mixture of elemental attribute settings. This makes one feel more like an apothecarian that has to mix medicines with the exact amounts of ingredients than a fantasy hero.
Worse, however, was the QA that turned out more shoddy than ever and earned the game the nickname "Bugna Carta." Softmax even had to recall the install CD21 and angried gamers opened protest sites against the game2, but after the first patch was out, sales quickly recovered, putting it on 2nd place of the sales charts for January 200223.
비엔비 어드벤처 (Crazy Arcade: BnB Adventure) - Windows (September 19, 2002)
BnB Adventure holds quite a peculiar spot in Softmax' portfolio, for better or worse. Not only was it one of the dozens of kiddie platformers that swarmed the market around 2001-2003, but also a spin-off to Nexon's Crazy Arcade franchise of online games.
테일즈위버 (Tales Weaver) - Windows (August 16, 2002 [openbeta]; June 4, 2003), Mobile (January 30, 2008)
Softmax' cooperation with Nexon didn't end with BnB, though. It also brought their first proper MMORPG, based on Jun Minhee's series of fantasy novels Children of the Rune. Almost a decade before Bioware's The Old Republic, Tales Weaver focused on letting players play a story "like in a single player game." Therefore, characters aren't created from a stock of generic fantasy races and classes, but chosen from a pool of 12 meaningful characters.
Tales Weaver has never been released in English, but enjoys constant popularity in East Asia, making it one of the longest-running Korean MMORPGs today. The mobile version was developed by Nexon Mobile.
마그나카르타 ~진홍의 성흔~ (MagnaCarta: Jinhong-ui Seongheun) / MagnaCarta: Tears of Blood / MagnaCarta Portable - PlayStation 2 (December 1, 2004), PSP (May 25, 2006)
Apparently the success of MagnaCarta had convinced Softmax to make the franchise into their new main series, and thus three years later came the sequel as the second major console game from Korea after Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders (originally, a PC version for the Korean market was planned as well24, but by the time the game got released, there wasn't any market left for single player PC games). Other than Phantagram's hit, Tears of Blood wasn't too warmly received in the West, but in Japan it sold 120,000 units in four days25, dwarfing the Korean sales figures (where it reportedly took 3 weeks to turn over 30,000 units26). The game was produced in cooperation with Banpresto, but appointing an additional producer and various supporting tasks apparently were already the extent of the Japanese company's role, judging by the game's credits.
The story doesn't pick up from the original game, but some of the characters have similarly designed counterparts. The hero is even named Calints in both games, although he's definitely a different person. While the first game centered around a slightly arrogant aristocrat fallen out of favor of the powers surrounding him, the Calints here is the typical peasant kid turned mercenary after his village was destroyed by some unknown evil force.
New was a slight action element that allowed to catch a slash at enemies on the field map, gaining an advantage in the acutal combat. The main combat, though simplified, ist still quite unintuitive, but at least this time the developers had the decency to include an (optional) tutorial. In concept it is quite interesting: All characters share the same ATB bar, only their chi-elements (of which theere are 8) discourage from using the same character all the time. When using attacks of a certain element, it gets depleted from the area, rendering the attacks useless. Often the environment factors heavy into the distribution of chi (fire is strong in a magma cave, etc.). The combat runs in an aggravatingly slow pace, though, and the system only works until the main hero turns out overpowered as hell. There is also a lot of filler stuff, as many of the same events have to be played trhrough twice with two different parties. Its biggest problem in the West, however, was the horrendous English dub.
In 2006, the game was ported to the PSP, but this version was only released in Japan.
SD건담 캡슐파이터 (SD Gundam Capsule Fighter) - Windows (February 27, 2007 [open beta])
Another licensed MMO, an action game starring the super deformed versions of the ever popular Gundam mechas.
MagnaCarta II (마그나카르타 2) - Xbox360 (August 6, 2009)
As far as story goes, Softmax' Xbox 360 debut feels like a big melange of tired Final Fantasy tropes - a protagonist who is just as mopey and angsty at times as he is annoyingly upbeat at others? Check. With amnesia? Check. Princess that leads a rebel army to win back her conquered kingdom? Check. Living magical weapons from an ancient civilization? Check. Embarassing English dub? Check.
The combat in this action RPG is actually more resembling of Secret of Mana, or more precisely it's direct sequel, Seiken Densetsu 3. Characters charge up energy with ordinary attacks, which can then be used for powerful specials. The elements from the previous game are now down to four and appear as residue of magical attacks. The player can switch between the three active party members at any time during combat, and often this is required to keep combos going - characters get tired with subsequent attacks, and only a well-timed take-over special can instantly recharge their stamina.
The character designs were once again done by Kim Hyungtae, although he wasn't as involved in the art direction as in previous games, which may be the reason the in-game models differ more from his illustrations than ever. The game looks reasonably good, although the dialog "cutscenes" that just juxtapose two idle characters on the screen without any dynamic movement or editing are pretty lame. Despite being exclusive to a non-Japanese console, the game was once again reasonably successful in Japan - reportedly it sold 25,000 units on day one27.
이너월드 - Android (July 11, 2013)
A trading card game for smart phones. Aside from lots of original art, there are also card packs with ilustrations from earlier The War of Genesis and Magnacarta games.
창세기전 IV (Changsegijeon IV) / The War of Genesis IV - Windows (TBA)
It had been a long time coming, but in 2010 Softmax finally announced the MMO revival of their former flagship series. Development started already in 2008 as "Code G Project". First screenshots and a trailer have been revealed in January 201228, but the game is still in development. Part of the trailer looks like a reenactment of the intro to Rhapsody of Zephyr.
할로윈 캡슐 (Halloween Capsule) (1994)
아마게돈 (Amegedon) (1994)
제워아워 (Zero Hour) (1997)
19. PhilipHikaru's Blog 4/26/2009
20. PhilipHikaru's Blog 4/28/2009
21. Gameshot 1/3/2002
22. Gameshot 1/2/2002
23. Gameshot 2/6/2002
24. Gameshot 7/4/2002
25. Gameshot 11/19/2004
26. NewsWire 12/21/2004
27. Gameshot 8/10/2009
28. GG Game 1/18/2012
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