MapleStory gets an extra life with a mobile game
For now, the beta versions of MapleStory M and MapleStory two are bot-free and trading between players isn't allowed yet, so there's no possibility of being scammed on a deal. Rather than having to use the entire QWERTY keyboard and memorize string combos for characters, you just have to press a few buttons. As is the case with many other mobile games, your character moves by itself to quest destinations and even automobile hunts monsters so you can level up without a lot of effort. Worst of all, the old MapleStory had a pay-to-win series through a feature aptly called the Cash Shop. I was guilty of spending nearly $4,000 on this match over the course of a year playing with my character Mercedes, an elf queen that wields dual bowguns. Each apparently minor update to my wardrobe and combat stats added up over time, leading in that hefty sum. And I wasn't alone. Players who invest real money in the game are at an extreme advantage compared to unfunded players. Challenging bosses like Lotus, who can shoot lasers from all angles, while stones fall from the sky, require multiple players with funding to team up and defeat. (Luckily, I managed to re-sell a good deal of that equipment, recouping close to half of what I invested in the game.)
The problem was that while South Korea received MapleStory 2 back in 2015, it has not yet come to the US marketplace. The original release might be waning, but these two games hold the promise of having an old but beloved franchise. They may even inspire a new generation of MapleStory fans. Lee admits that this was an issue with the original game. "We have earned a reputation for publishing pay-to-win games," he says. "With our upcoming slate of titles developed specifically for the Western audience, we're attempting to turn over a new leaf, creating games which are really free to play." Despite the shift to 3D, MapleStory 2 smartly retains key elements of the game and storytelling that made the original so distinctive. Certain towns like the mushroom-filled, cheery huts of Henesys, and the trendy, urban burglar hideout that's Kerning City, are kept and their theme music plays when you enter, bringing back a strong sense of nostalgia. The storyline has evolved and added dozens of new characters, but the center of the tale remains the same: it's the evil Dark Mage versus the beautiful goddess. The ever-popular thief class is still available and so are wizard, knight, priest, archer, heavy gunner, and assassin. There's also a chance for important changes that Nexon can introduce in its mobile and 3D iterations of MapleStory. The developers for MapleStory M have stated that, while the game currently doesn't let you marry other players, if marriage is added there will be support for LGBTQ weddings. That's a step up from the first Maple, which did not allow same-sex union, paralleling South Korea's real life refusal to legally recognize gay marriage.
Similarly, particular jobs and classes are no longer sex bound, even though the game still only offers two genders. These shifts are as meaningful as upgraded graphics, helping to move a 15-year-old game into the modern day. Logging onto MapleStory back in 2004 was like entering another world, one full of magic, community, and ridiculously adorable child-like avatars. Now there are dozens of games offering a similar, and often better, experience. But in the early 2000s, the free-to-play, casual multiplayer MapleStory was singular, attracting fan videos, artwork, and afterwards on YouTubers. From 2009, MapleStory had reached an incredible 92 million gamers. A notable 36 percent of these players were under the age of 18, and many of them probably grew out of the game over time. MapleStory M and MapleStory 2 will still have certain features that are eased by premium currency, such as getting special haircuts and eyes, quicker transportation across towns, and extra skill pages. But players are not at any substantial disadvantage if they don't cover those features. People have debated on Nexon forums whether the Korean variant of MapleStory two is pay-to-win and they have not come to any real consensus. It's hard to predict where MapleStory 2 goes, whether it is going to capture that same dedicated crowd as its predecessor, or whether it is going to fall into the same traps that led to its demise. Some of the things that plagued the original game, such as DDOS attacks during a winter and random lag, are a consequence of age and outdated infrastructure. The game also has a limited amount of purposeful end-game content, which may bore veteran players that burnt through the primary story. The game emphasizes individuality and customization over generic defaults. It has an obsession with asking if you want to screenshot any portion of the game, and it automatically saves screenshots in a designated folder in your computer. I never noticed that while playing the original game, but old Maplers are essentially nomads.
MapleStory 2 fixes this problem by providing you with a massive old house so that you can craft your own little corner of the match. According to Lee, the group realized grinding on mobile wasn't perfect so that they made the auto play mode"so that players can still enjoy MapleStory mobile even after many hours of playing with a smaller display." Still, once you're in the game, a lot can be forgiven, given how it is the community that really makes the experience enjoyable. In its heart MapleStory is an online destination for friends to gather, similar to Club Penguin or Neopets. I unexpectedly met my current boyfriend of nearly 3 years through MapleStory when an idle summer drew us both back into the game, and have met several Maple buddies in real life from throughout the nation. We keep in touch, even though none of us play the old game much anymore. The people of MapleStory 2 seem nice enough for today. When I died and got pinned by a tombstone, I typed in chat for help, and someone actually walked over and revived me, before telling me he hadn't helped me sooner because he thought I was an non-playable personality as a result of my suspiciously easy username. Nexon America President Jungsoo Lee tells The Verge in an email interview that the long delay for MapleStory 2 coming to the US market was due to the time involved with"testing and localizing the game through a series of closed betas for each region." It may seem odd for such an old game to receive this sort of attention from a large company like Nexon, but Lee says that his company knows"the power of playing the long game." MapleStory 2's closed beta began on May 9th, but there is not official launch date yet for it MapleStory M. As the original MapleStory aged, its daily active users were overtaken by cheaters and spammers. If you stroll in the town called Henesys where many characters stand idly while their real-life counterparts get up for a walk or to receive a drink, or into the Free Market where people trade, you are going to find that spam takes up the majority of the general conversation, and it is tough to get a word in edgewise. When hunting bosses that drop rare items, you might find cheaters running third-party programs to automatically take the items before you can reach them. These two unpleasant occurrences, which grew more common as the match got older, led to MapleStory's steady decline.
If MapleStory M seems like Nexon just ported a more manageable form of the original game onto mobile, then MapleStory two is your company turning the match into an entirely different animal. The manager of the MapleStory 2 staff, Minseok Shin, says that"MapleStory two is not simply a 3D conversion of the first MapleStory. While both games share some similarities, for MapleStory two we actually went back to the drawing board and reimagined the game." Today, a cult after 14 million players stays, and Nexon, MapleStory's parent company, has failed to lure in new recruits and retain them. However, the players who remain can actually spend money and help the game remain lucrative. The vast majority (70.3 percent) of the user base is now aged 18 through 30, meaning many of them now have jobs and can fund their characters' stylish clothes, gear, and battle prowess through purchasing prepaid cash cards or swiping their credit cards, which is exactly what I did for a spell. Recently, I log on MapleStory 2's key city, Tria, and the square looks so bustling with life, it lags each time a person jumps. But it's the good kind of lag that shows the server is alive. From that vantage point, MapleStory is looking the furthest from dead that it's been since 2009. Like many other recent massively-multiplayer role-playing games coming out of Asia such as Blade and Soul or Twin Saga, MapleStory 2 has beautiful graphics, an overwrought narrative about saving the world from evil, and distinct classes to play. The sequel also takes away the original game's gender-locked courses and limited choice of appearances from the character creation page. (If you chose to play with a demon slayer in the original, you would have to spend real money or searching for a wonder coupon in the event you wanted to take out the character's natural gray skin and red eyes.) I chose to create a warrior-type Berserker, a dude that has a pretty angry and aggressive backstory, but I was able to customize his look to be female and wear pink curls and multi-colored eyes.