Game On! A Lineage 2: Revolution Research Story

Hey there, I’m Christian Pirnie, and this is my Lineage 2 Revolution story. We’re going to explore how I got into the game, and why I decided to do a personal research project about it. Before I start rambling about myself though, let’s get some…

CONTEXT

Lineage 2: Revolution is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed for mobile platforms. Developed by South Korean developer Netmarble under license from fellow South Korean developer NCSoft (who created the original Lineage II for the PC), the game was first released in South Korea in 2016. In November of 2017, the game was released in America, Europe, and Oceania. The discussion in this article will be based around the North American version.

According to Netmarble’s 2017 Q4 Investor Relations report, Lineage 2: Revolution made up 39% of their overseas revenue, earning 25% more than their 2nd most profitable game. Definitely a positive, and it makes sense given the game’s release globally

Okay, let’s fast forward to the end of 2020 and see how things look.

Lineage 2: Revolution is a little bit harder to find on this chart, as its overseas revenue as of Q4 2020 dropped all the way to 8% (a 31% decrease in 3 years).

Wow, quite a drop. Why?

I’M CURIOUS

Okay, allow me to insert myself back into this story again. I played Lineage 2: Revolution from the time it launched until around the beginning of 2020. I gave my toon away, and thought I was done with the game for good. I eventually got it back, but that’s a story for another day.

Anyways, I kept hearing that the game was dying, but I still continued to see people come back and talk about playing day after day, despite the frustrations. The numbers show that there is not as much engagement with the game as well, so I wanted to find out why people kept coming back to a game that often left them not feeling satisfied.

Curious. Very Curious.

THE PLAN

My initial plan was to conduct interviews with 20–30 players over the course of a month and compile the data from that…well, it just didn’t work (you can read more about that experience here). Basically, it was really hard to gain the trust of players due to the nature of the game and the alliances that formed over the course of the game’s lifespan.

With two weeks left, I went to my previous guild for answers, as I was still a member of the Discord server. I had played with many of the players, but never had a chance to really sit down with them 1 on 1 and listen to their own personal game stories.

I was able to get 6 willing participants, all of whom played the game for 2+ years. I conducted all the interviews via Discord.

With each interview, I hoped to find out:

  1. What was the player’s motivation for starting Lineage 2: Revolution?
  2. What was the player’s thoughts on the current game experience?
  3. What was the player’s motivation for continuing to play the game?

HYPOTHESIS

My hypothesis going into this discovery phase was that the main reason players continued to play today was the social environment rather than the game content.

Everyone has to answer the question “What is rewarding for me?”

THE DISCOVERY

Through interviews, I discovered that even though players had different backgrounds with gaming prior to downloading Lineage 2: Revolution, they came to similar conclusions:

  1. In the early stages of the game, they were engaged with the excitement of a new game and the prospect of growing a character. The game was also viewed to be more of a level playing field in terms of competition and managing to progress without paying.
  2. In the game’s current state, most players look at the cash shop available in game as a big negative part of the game. According to players, it is way too expensive, and the shop just makes it feel like the game became a cash grab, with players who can afford to heavily spend as the only beneficiaries.
  3. The most important factor that keeps players coming back to the game is social interaction. Without that, most would have quit the game by this point.
  4. Players used the game to fill a void of boredom, loneliness, or needing to escape in some way (or a combination of the above).

FINAL THOUGHTS

Although it’s great that my hypothesis proved to be correct, the most important part of the process was actually being able to sit down and let current players express their feelings about the game.

Everyone experiences the game in a different way, so I feel it’s important to know about all the different perspectives and pain points that players experience in order to design a better overall game experience.

That being said, if I could go back and change the way I did research, I would definitely:

  1. Try to reach out to more players. Most of the players I interviewed were low to moderate spenders, so I would really be interested in hearing the differences and similarities in perspective from someone who chooses to spend a lot of money (known affectionately in the gaming community as a “whale”).
  2. Run something like a diary study that brings in and chronicles the experience of players who have never played the game before. From there, I could compare a new player experience to the information I have from current players.

From putting together the script to actually having the conversations, this whole process was very enjoyable. I’m glad that I was able to give the players space to articulate their motivations, frustrations and desires without any fear of judgement. Also, it’s good to know that people felt comfortable enough with me to answer some pretty personal questions.

Open minded + curious UX Designer. I like taking deeper dives to understand and summarize topics so that other people don’t have to do as much work (hopefully).

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