Following the resounding success of "Ace Fishing: Wild Catch" in the global market with over 70M downloads, the new title "Ace Fishing Crew" utilizes the beloved IP of its predecessor, bringing players an immersive 3D underwater exploration experience with diverse marine life, oceanic environments, and, of course, the joy of fishing. While retaining the essence of the original's satisfying fishing mechanics, the controls have been streamlined to allow for one-handed gameplay. As the subtitle "Crew" suggests, assembling a team of distinct crew characters with unique traits is set to become a central gameplay feature.
Amidst the anticipation of its global release, we had the privilege of interviewing Netmarble Fishing Studio's lead producer, Moon Jung-hwan, and creative director, Cheon Seung-jin, to uncover the distinct elements of "Ace Fishing Crew" that promise to captivate players worldwide.
You two have teamed up once again to develop a new fishing game, "Ace Fishing Crew", leveraging the success of the previous hit title, "Ace Fishing: Wild Catch". With a long history of collaboration in the same genre, what motivates your enduring partnership?
Moon Jung-hwan: Back in 2014, we released "Ace Fishing: Wild Catch", and now, after about nine years, we are introducing a new game to the global market. There isn't a specific driving force behind this collaboration, but it all began when I joined a company that developed a fishing game called "Angling the Giant". That initial connection has continued, allowing me to carry forward my expertise in fishing game development, eventually leading to the creation of "Ace Fishing Crew." This new game marks my fifth direct involvement in a fishing game project.
Cheon Seung-jin: I have quite a long history with Moon Jung-hwan. Among the five fishing game titles Moon Jung-hwan has been involved in, we have collaborated on four projects together. In a way, I feel like a fish caught on Moon Jung-hwan's line, or you could say a "bound item". Even before entering the gaming industry, I had a great affinity for fishing games, particularly "Angling the Giant". So, the fact that I can create a game with the developer behind that game was deeply touching. The memories of that time remain vivid in my mind. Now, with "Ace Fishing Crew," we see new hires who are enjoying the game to the fullest, and together, we are passing on the legacy of fishing games across three generations.
Please introduce "Ace Fishing Crew". What’s different from the previous game?
Moon: Most fishing games tend to focus solely on the act of "fishing". When we first developed a fishing game, we pondered how well we could realistically incorporate the art of fishing, making an effort to include various fishing terminologies and real-life experiences. However, the more we tried to faithfully replicate real fishing, the more we realized it became dull, static, and lacked mass appeal. That's why, in our new game, "Ace Fishing Crew," we incorporated a significant amount of RPG elements and features that allow players to experience a sense of growth within the game. Some may wonder, "Is this really a fishing game?" But by integrating growth elements and contents that appeal to general gamers, we aim to create a fishing game that is accessible to a broader audience and becomes a more mainstream experience.
One of the distinctive and defining aspects of "Crew" lies in the attention to detail within the fishing expressions. In typical fishing scenarios, as time passes, the bait may pierce the fish's mouth, causing wounds, or the fishing line could wrap around its body, inflicting scars. We made sure to incorporate these nuanced wound expressions in "Crew," adding to the authenticity of the fishing experience.
Cheon: Incorporating detailed expressions into the fish's movements during the fishing process was a priority for us. For instance, when a fish takes the bait, it may get startled and swim towards a hiding spot deep beneath the water. These actions are accurately represented in the game. During testing with real fishing enthusiasts, we received feedback such as "The fish really seems to be firmly stuck to the bottom" and praises for the game's immersive experience. Capturing the realistic actions of the fish is indeed one of the captivating features that sets "Ace Fishing Crew" apart.
The previous game, "Ace Fishing: Wild Catch", is still active in the global market. Weren’t you concerned about overlapping user pools?
Moon: From a thematic perspective, both games fall under the fishing genre, but when players experience "Ace Fishing Crew" and the original "Ace Fishing: Wild Catch", they will quickly notice that the two games have different directions. As mentioned earlier, "Ace Fishing Crew" focuses on the enjoyment of growing a team of crew members. The post-launch updates are also oriented towards enhancing this aspect. The content involving crew growth, their stories, and events are among the most substantial in any fishing game.
Cheon: "Ace Fishing: Wild Catch" has received overwhelming love, with over 70 million downloads globally. Each country has distinct preferences for artwork styles, and the original game was praised for its fish expressions that almost felt like real-life photography. Unlike character designs, fish expressions are most convincing when they resemble real-life counterparts. We emphasized this aspect in the new title, "Ace Fishing Crew", and the character designs also feature realistic depictions resembling photographs.
We also differentiated the charged content elements. Due to currency exchange rates, prices may vary in different countries. To address this, we implemented a generous and forgiving model that doesn't feel burdensome regardless of the country. It revolves around the concept of "buying time", allowing players to alleviate concerns about spending money by investing time in the game. Everyone can enjoy the game without excessive pressure from having to spend money, and this stress-reducing model is a distinctive feature of "Ace Fishing Crew".
It was introduced that the global version would include P2O (Play to Own) elements. Will "Ace Fishing Crew" be operated separately with different features between the Korean and global builds?
Moon: As "Ace Fishing Crew" is released as a global one-build, it won't be launched with features removed separately. However, due to various regulations in the Korean market, there will be content that users in Korea won't be able to access. We were deeply concerned about the fairness issue that might arise between players who utilize P2O and those who don't. Currently, we are working to ensure that even without utilizing this feature, players won't face significant disadvantages, discrimination, or gaps in the game. Our plan is to provide a seamless experience to users during live service, making sure they don't have any concerns about this matter.
Then the Korean build still includes the P2O element. How is it operated in Korea?
Cheon: The exchange button exists in the game for the Korean build as well, but when the button is pressed, there will be a message indicating that the specific feature is not available. We found it challenging to understand why all the mining points earned through mining couldn't be utilized for in-game growth but were instead exchanged entirely. We considered it a violation of the game's rules to gain profits without utilizing them for growth. In "Ace Fishing Crew", we have adopted a different approach where shards mined in the game will be rewarded through an airdrop of a higher-grade material based on the amount mined. This means that the resources obtained through mining will be used as they are, and based on the quantity acquired from simply enjoying the game, separate rewards will be provided. We are currently developing ways to utilize these rewards in other forms even in the Korean version where the P2O function is not accessible.
It seems that you would enjoy fishing in real life as well. Are there any aspects of real fishing expertise that have been incorporated into the game?
Moon: Despite having developed fishing games for a long time, I'm not particularly skilled or passionate about real-life fishing. If I had a deep love for fishing, I might have infused more personal passion into the game. My limited experience with actual fishing allowed me to incorporate a lot of imaginative and enjoyable elements into fishing games. Even though the game differs from real fishing in some aspects, many players have given feedback like "Playing this game makes me want to go fishing." With the release of "Ace Fishing Crew," I hope it will ignite an interest in fishing among even more players.
Cheon: I do enjoy fishing in real life. However, each fishing trip comes with challenges like weather conditions and other environmental factors that can be a bit daunting. This made me wonder, "Would people who have never experienced fishing in real life have fun fishing?" As a game, we aimed to reduce the difficulties and discomforts that might arise in real fishing and focus on highlighting the truly enjoyable aspects of fishing. Our new game, "Ace Fishing Crew", revolves around the thrill of battling with fish, and we put efforts into capturing the excitement of catching slightly larger fish, even if it's the same species, to leave a lasting impression on players.
You've been making fishing games for a long time. Have you ever wanted to create games in other genres?
Moon: Since I started my career with fishing games, there has been a sense of continuity in this genre. While it may not be the mainstream genre in the market, fishing remains a steady genre. Having dedicated nearly 19 years solely to fishing games, I believe this accumulated experience played a significant role in the success of titles like “Ace Fishing: Wild Catch”, which achieved global popularity. Such experience has also been carried forward into our latest release, “Ace Fishing Crew”.
Cheon: I find myself becoming more contemplative. In reality, I personally enjoy and indulge in RPG games quite a lot. After spending over a decade developing fishing games, I had many thoughts. When creating “Ace Fishing Crew”, I had a strong desire to become the face of fishing games — to be a legendary figure in the world of fishing games. I truly wish that “Ace Fishing Crew” would surpass its predecessor and achieve even greater success.
What is the scale of the launch build, and what are the plans for future update cycles?
Moon: One of the regrets we had when launching the previous title, “Ace Fishing: WIld Catch”, was that the update cycles couldn't keep up with the pace of user growth. That memory stayed with us, so for “Ace Fishing Crew”, we have already prepared a considerable amount of content, including post-launch region updates. We are fully prepared to release them and plan to assess the users' growth speed to determine stable update intervals.
Cheon: The region updates are already prepared, and the location configuration is similar to our previous title. We'll start with four regions, from Hawaii to Minnetonka, Mariana, and the Amazon, and then move on to the Mediterranean. While it may give a sense of familiarity in many aspects, there are distinct differences and nods to the original while playing. We are planning to introduce competitive content like guild battles and challenging content in a way that is unique in “Ace Fishing Crew”.
The point of differentiation from the previous title lies in the Crew system. Is there a concept that you considered essential for the crew character design?
Moon: In the previous title, there were NPCs, but they didn't have a prominent role. In the new game, “Ace Fishing Crew”, we put a spotlight on the individuality and background stories of the crew members under the subtitle “Crew”. To achieve this, we hired a professional web scenario writer to create background stories for each character, and we even developed a separate Story Mode within the game. Usually, players tend to skip dialogues and move quickly through the game, but for “Ace Fishing Crew”, we paid great attention to this aspect. I hope players will take their time to enjoy the conversations and background stories because it will help them develop affection for the crew and make the game even more enjoyable.
Cheon: First, I need to explain the meaning of “Crew” in the game. While it can be translated as a crew member, in “Ace Fishing Crew”, the term refers to the concept of a team. There are a total of 54 crews with diverse nationalities and stories in the game, and the scenario unfolds centered around these crews. Among the crews, some act as fighters in fishing, while others serve as supporters. We have created a system where players can collect crews with complementary skills and discover synergies by combining their abilities. The stories of crews with different backgrounds coming together and finding common goals will be one of the main enjoyable elements that represent “Ace Fishing Crew”.
Regarding the approach of letting users have a say in update content or direction through a voting system, how do you view the idea of users taking the lead in the game?
Moon: We already have a voting system in “Ace Fishing: Wild Catch”. We planned to launch a sequel when we reach a certain amount of users who purchased wrapping cards, and as that goal was met, we were able to. However, we haven’t yet discussed how we will utilize player voting in “Ace Fishing Crew”.
In “Ace Fishing: Wild Catch”, you had an issue with damage hacks. How do you plan to address such issues in the new game?
Cheon: Hacking has been an enduring problem not only in “Ace Fishing: Wild Catch” but also in any game. In the case of “Ace Fishing: Wild Catch”, since we used an analog calculation method, it was not easy to filter out damage hacks among the regular data. However, we have found ways to deal with this issue and continue to respond to it. Hacking is an act that undermines the enjoyment of ordinary players and involves irrational behavior, so it will never be tolerated. We plan to continue our efforts to prevent hacking in the future.
You mentioned that the new game emphasizes RPG elements. Specifically, what aspects are emphasized?
Moon: It’s nothing like the typical Korean-style RPGs. Normally, fishing games tend to focus solely on catching fish, but in “Ace Fishing Crew”, we have incorporated elements where players can catch fish, sell them in the market, or use them for cooking to grow their crew. This aspect highlights the fun of growth. As players form a team with their crew, the emphasis is on the content of their growth.
In the previous game, there were many unique terms that were unfamiliar not only to the general public but also to experienced anglers, which affected its accessibility. Has the new game become more accessible to people unfamiliar with fishing?
Cheon: While creating fishing games, we encountered the challenge of using fishing-specific terminology that would be unfamiliar to the general public, while also risking confusion among experienced anglers if we used purely gaming terms. To address this, we tried to use ambiguous expressions that could be easily understood by both sides. An example of this is the term "잡아채기 (Yank)".
The control method in “Ace Fishing: Wild Catch” is different from that of typical fishing games. After adopting this control method, many other fishing games followed suit. In order to continue the satisfaction of the fishing experience, we incorporated this control method in “Ace Fishing Crew”. If players grasp this aspect well, they can experience a level of excitement beyond that of “Ace Fishing: Wild Catch” in the new game.
The importance of crew collection and growth seems to be a significant aspect. How does this connect to the game's business model?
Cheon: Like other typical games, crew members can be obtained through gacha draws. In addition, players can collect them through the resources they can gain in daily challenges, advertisements, and in-game content. As I mentioned earlier, we considered global exchange rates and values and set up a generous and beneficial system to avoid causing stress. While this feature may not lead to substantial revenue, we believe that games should offer enjoyable experiences that match the investment made.
With each new region update, we plan to introduce three new crews that represent the scenario. We will continue to add new crews in future updates as well.
Recently, the popularity of fishing has increased through various entertainment shows. Are there any events prepared specifically for real anglers?
Cheon: We haven't planned any offline events at the moment. However, we recently collaborated with six influencers, including YouTubers, to shoot special content related to the game. If Ace Fishing Crew gains popularity among many gamers after the official launch, we may consider preparing offline events as well.
What significance does “Ace Fishing” hold for Com2uS?
Moon: When “Ace Fishing: Wild Catch” was launched in 2014 in 170 countries worldwide, it achieved record-breaking milestones. Instead of being just a title responsible for sales within Com2uS, it can be seen as a game that guides and facilitates global gamers to easily access and enjoy without financial burden.
Lastly, do you have a message for users who are eagerly waiting for “Ace Fishing Crew”?
Cheon: The most crucial thing is to release the game and see how users respond. However, I am confident enough to say one thing even now. During the development process, I felt excitement while testing the game, and I can't wait to enjoy it as a player on the live server. Of course, we will have to see the actual results, but we created the game with the confidence that it can surpass all the records set by “Ace Fishing: Wild Catch”. I sincerely ask for your high expectations.
Moon: It's already been about three years since we started working on “Ace Fishing Crew”. The production period was longer than the previous installment, and the team size has grown, making it a substantial game compared to other fishing games. All the team members working on this project have responded exceptionally well, and working with them made me think that creating games is a joyous task. While we can't guarantee the full extent of the market's evaluation of the passion and efforts of the entire development team, we have high hopes that there will be a significant response. We ask for your interest and love for “Ace Fishing Crew”.